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Rookie ball in Arizona will be known as the Arizona Complex League for the second consecutive season. Play begins on tonight in the 18-team league and the squad will be constructed with many of the youngest players that are stateside in the White Sox’s farm system.
The “Fire League,” as it’s often called due to scorching hot temperatures, is interesting in the sense that games are sparsely populated with mainly scouts, front office personnel and family members of the players in attendance. The games are free to attend and there are generally no concessions due to games being played on back fields.
The White Sox’s affiliate plays their home games at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, which doubles as the franchise’s spring training home. The league is of the rookie-level variety and is played at the spring training facilities of member clubs in the Cactus League. Unlike spring training, this is a league with official score keeping and recorded statistics.
There are currently 32 players on the first iteration of this roster, but more will be joining the club after the 2022 Draft concludes in mid-July. The club comprises 14 pitchers, five catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders. The ACL White Sox will be managed by first year skipper Patrick Leyland. Leyland; the son of longtime major league manager Jim Leyland, served as the bench coach for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers in 2021. Mike Gellinger has been a fixture in the organization for decades and he will serve as the bench coach in Arizona. Drew Hasler and Devin DeYoung will take on the roles of pitching and hitting coach, respectively. Scott Johnson will be the athletic trainer and Daniel Cobian will be the performance coach.
- Brandon Bossard (24)
- Cameron Butler (19)
- Anthony Espinoza (20)
- Javier Mora (21)
- Layant Tapia (20)
- Elijah Tatis (20)
- Victor Quezada (18)
The most promising player in this group is 18-year-old Dominican Victor Quezada and he’ll be making his stateside debut out in Arizona. The 6-1, 185-pounder signed in last year’s international period for a total of $525,000, which is a significant bonus in the marketplace. The right-handed hitter and thrower is very physical and possesses huge raw power. He projects as a power-hitting third baseman.
In 49 games in the Dominican Summer League last season, Quezada hit .250/.353/.436 with six homers. The strikeout rate was high at 28.3%, but he walked at a 14% clip as well. He paced the club with home runs and also posted a 120 wRC+. He’ll come stateside with power as his carrying tool and he could have a similar ascent to Wilfred Veras, who was solid in rookie ball in 2021, and has followed suit with Kannapolis in 2022.
Cameron Butler was a bit of a popup prospect in the 2021 draft and Perfect Game ranked him as a top-70 high school player in the state of California. Baseball America slotted Butler at #210 overall on their top 500 prospects list in the lead-up to the 2021 draft. The 6-0, 175-pounder showed tools and athleticism with a plus arm and plus speed while playing all over the field for Big Valley Christian High School in Modesto, California. The right-handed hitter possesses bat speed and strength to develop power, and while he played a very low level of competition in high school, high-level decision makers were in to see him late in the process.
White Sox amateur scouting director Mike Shirley pushed back against the notion that Butler was a late riser, stating that his staff was following him for a long time. He was selected in the 15th round and signed for $125,000 after turning down his scholarship to Cal Poly. He struggled in the Arizona Complex League last year in 18 games but walked at a 19% rate. Lauded for his work ethic and makeup, Butler was announced as an outfielder despite playing infield during extended spring training. He’s an intriguing player to watch this summer.
Brandon Bossard, Anthony Espinoza, Javier Mora, Layant Tapia and Elijah Tatis round out the group on the infield. Bossard is the son of The Sodfather and bounced around multiple colleges after starring at Nazareth Academy in high school. He signed with the White Sox as an undrafted free agent last year. The 6-1, 185-pounder posted a .485 OBP in Kannapolis in 2021 during his 18-game stretch. The infielder struggled after a promotion to Winston-Salem and will be back in rookie ball to begin 2022.
Espinoza was signed as a glove first shortstop of Venezuela a few years back and the 20-year-old displayed those defensive skills in Arizona last summer but struggled at the dish, posting an OPS of .567 on the season. Tatis has famous bloodlines but the shortstop had a really tough time offensively over the course of 32 games in the desert last summer. Mora is a 19-year-old infielder who struggled in the DSL last year. Tapia is another Dominican and he posted a .715 OPS with a .378 OBP in the Dominican in 2021.
- Ãlvaro Agüero (19)
- Dario Borrero (18)
- Anderson Comas (22)
- Johnabiell Laureano (21)
- Ben Norman (24)
- Caberea Weaver (22)
Butler could theoretically slot into the outfield mix as well, but Darío Borrero is the most interesting name in this group as is. The 18-year-old Venezuelan only played in five games for the DSL White Sox last year, where he dealt with some injuries. The 6-5, 190-pounder hits and throws left-handed and profiles in an outfield corner. There is huge raw power potential here and he should receive the bulk of his playing time in an outfield corner. The recent international signing possesses a loose and easy swing and posted a .866 OPS in a tiny sample in 2021.
Anderson Comas was signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2016 and the 6-4, 190-pounder has struggled offensively across the board. He hits and throws left-handed and launched four homers in the ACL last season, but he was overmatched 13 games in Low-A. He’s been at the complex participating in extended spring training. Caberea Weaver was selected in the seventh round out of South Gwinnett High School in Georgia in 2018. The 6-3, 180-pounder can’t get over the A-ball hump. The 22-year-old provides speed and defensive skills, but his offensive production is going the wrong way in A-ball, including 18 games at Winston-Salem this year, in which he struck out 31 times in 69 plate appearances.
Johnabiell Laureano has bounced around the lower rungs on the system for a few years now, and he’ll return to Arizona to start his 2022 season. The 21-year-old Venezuelan posted a 167 wRC+ with six homers in 246 plate appearances in the DSL back in 2019 but has mostly scuffled at the dish since. The 6-0, 180-pounder can play center field and has posted solid walk rates whenever he’s played. Laureano really struggled in 15 contests in Low-A with the Cannon Ballers in 2021 and he wasn’t much better during a 41 game jaunt in Arizona.
Agüero is another fairly recent international signing and the 19-year-old Dominican can also stick in center field as a defender. The 6-0 160 pounder hit just .246/.302/.383 in 52 games in the Dominican last year. The White Sox also signed former Iowa Hawkeyes’ outfielder Ben Norman this offseason. Norman went undrafted but posted some solid numbers while keeping his career alive in independent ball. Playing for the Great Falls Voyagers, the 23-year-old hit 13 homers and drove in 59 in 40 games. The 6-2 200 pound outfielder hit .356/.418/.675 in 182 plate appearances in Montana.
- Rubén Benavides (20)
- Jhoneiker Betancourt (22)
- Manuel Guarimán (18)
- Daniel Millwee (26)
- Luis Pineda (20)
Catchers that are signed in the international market generally come from Venezuela and they often take awhile to develop as well. The White Sox will have four such players handling the receiving in Arizona. The most noteworthy being 2021 signing Manuel Guaríman, who inked for $475,000. The 6-1, 200-pounder projects as a power-hitting catcher but he’s been lauded for how he handles pitchers. The 18-year-old slashed .317/.378/.366 in the Dominican Summer League in 2021, posting a 116 wRC+ over the course of 31 games.
Benavides is a 6-1, 180-pounder that hit very well in the DSL back in 2019. The 20-year-old posted a 15.8% walk rate with a 82 wRC+ in Arizona last season. Pineda has been known for his defense but really struggled at the plate last year in the ACL. Betancourt posted big numbers in the Dominican back in 2019 and was also really good in an eight game sample; posting a 20% walk rate in the Arizona Complex League last season. Daniel Millwee was a 30th round pick in the 2019 draft and he’s bounced around rookie ball and A ball the past couple seasons.
- Axel Acevedo (21, RHP)
- Erick Bello (19, RHP)
- Dylan Burns (25, RHP)
- Homer Cruz (22, RHP)
- Carlos Hinestroza (19, RHP)
- José Jiménez (19, RHP)
- Matthew McGarry (25, RHP)
- Yohemy Nolasco (18, RHP)
- Johnny Ray (23, RHP)
- Jose Rodulfo (21, RHP)
- Jake Suddreth (25, RHP)
- Emerson Talavera (19, RHP)
- Manuel Veloz (21, RHP)
- Frander Veras (23, RHP)
Anything can happen with the pitchers and players can succeed and become prospects to watch seemingly out of nowhere. Many of these hurlers were fairly low-dollar international signings from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and this will serve as their introduction to stateside baseball. While it’s not really known how to classify these pitchers as starters or relievers, there are a couple that stand out rather quickly.
Yohemy Nolasco, an 18-year-old righty out of the Dominican Republic, has really stood out during extended spring training. and Baseball America recently ranked him as the No. 28 overall prospect in the system, tabbing him as “one of the highlights” of their team. The 6-3, 160-pound right hander has drawn physical comparisons to Triston Mckenzie of the Cleveland Guardians due to his tall and slender frame. Velocity can be added here but he’s already sitting 92-96 mph with feel for a breaking ball as well. Nolasco threw 23⅔ innings in the DSL last year and posted a 5.32 ERA with a 3.81 FIP but his recent reports are definitely promising.
Another right-hander that projects as a future starter is Bahamian Carlos Hinestroza. The 19-year-old righty was signed out of Panama last year and Ben Badler of Baseball America called him a “low-dollar sleeper.” He’s a former third baseman that has been transitioning to the mound. The veteran prospect writer noted that he throws his fastball around 91 mph but there’s a chance to throw a lot harder. Hinestroza has a slider and a changeup in his repertoire as well. In 36⅔ innings in the Dominican Summer League last year, the righty posted a 2.45 ERA.
Erick Bello is a 19-year-old Dominican reliever who threw 26⅓ innings in the ACL last season. The 5-11, 170-pound right-hander posted a 5.47 ERA but he did strike out 30, but he also walked 28. Homer Cruz is a 6-0, 175-pound righty who struck out 11.2 per nine in 44⅓ innings in the ACL last year. He posted a 2.23 ERA, but Kannapolis proved too ambitious an assignment earlier this year. Axel Acevedo is a former Dodgers’ farmhand out of the Dominican Republic and he’s 21 years old.
Emerson Talavera and and Manuel Veloz are both Venezuelan righties who have had some success already in their brief careers. Talavera is a 5-10, 160-pounder and the 19-year-old posted a 2.47 ERA with 47 strikeouts and a 1.137 WHIP in 51 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2021. He’s making his stateside debut. Veloz is a 6-2, 185-pound 21-year-old with two years of experience in the Dominican. In 2021, the right hander-posted a 4.08 ERA in 46⅓ innings with 47 strikeouts and just three walks. He also posted a 0.91 ERA with a WHIP under 1.00 in 2019.
Jake Suddreth and Dylan Burns were both signed out of independent leagues recently and they’ll make their season debuts with the White Sox in Arizona as well. Suddreth is a 6-3, 215-pound righty who actually pitched one inning in Arizona last year already. The 25-year-old finished his college career at West Texas A&M and the White Sox signed him out of the Northwoods League. Burns is a 25-year-old that originally pitched at South Florida but was signed out of Winnipeg this offseason.
José Jiménez is a 19-year-old righty who struggled in some brief action in the DSL last year and he’ll be pitching in Arizona this season. The 6-3, 195-pound righty out of the Dominican Republic posted an ERA over 12 in just over five innings in 2021. Jose Rodulfo pitched for the ACL Dodgers and for Great Lakes in A-ball in 2021. The 21-year-old Venezuelan was signed in the offseason. Matthew McGarry was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Santa Clara as a 6-3, 205-pound 25-year-old.
The Arizona Complex League White Sox start the season pretty thin overall and won’t receive an influx of talent until the July Major League Baseball draft at the earliest. On the positional side, infielder Victor Quezada, catcher Manuel Guarimán and outfielders Cameron Butler and Dario Borrero are the most intriguing prospects to keep an eye on. Caberea Weaver and Anderson Comas will try and make the most of their rehabilitation stints and get back out to an affiliate.
The pitching staff is more of an unknown but Dominican right hander Yohemy Nolasco could pitch his way to a full season affiliate sooner rather than later with a solid start in the desert. Carlos Hinestroza needs to pitch and the jump in competition from the Dominican Summer League should provide a glimmer of what the right-hander could become. Johnny Ray throws really hard and he should head back out to an affiliate once his rehab is completed.
The draft takes place from July 17-19 this year and this squad should get an infusion of talent over those three days. With the organization taking more and more chances on younger, athletic talent of late, more help is assuredly on the way. Adding more prep bats in the early rounds similar to the strategy in 2021 could really add some excitement to this team later this summer.