Wrangling 2021 White Sox prospects: International signings

It’s prospect week at Sox Machine, but thanks to the pandemic, I have to rethink my format. In previous years, I’d throw a number of prospects into a category called “big hurdles,” covering those players who had (at least) one significant issue preventing them from making greater progress.

This year, you can lump dozens of players into the same boat. It’d look something like…

GAVIN SHEETS: DIDN’T PLAY

Sheets wasn’t invited to the alternate training site, so he had to attempt to make progress outside of the system. I guess we’ll see how that went.

JAMES BEARD: DIDN’T PLAY

Beard, a prep pick in the 2019 draft, hadn’t advanced enough to merit consideration for the alternate training site, so he didn’t play. We’ll see whether he was able to make any strides in the interim.

LINCOLN HENZMAN: DIDN’T PLAY

Henzman, the 2017 fourth-rounder…

… so back to the drawing board we go.

The plan this year is to size up the farm system from the bottom up, starting with the players furthest away from their possible big-league futures and ending with the guys expected to contribute in 2021, capped off by rankings that will feel even more speculative than usual.

Today, we’ll assess progress reports for recent signings from Marco Paddy’s department, which is a bit more robust than in recent years thanks to some high-profile Cubans and some long-overdue success stories from the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Rookie League.

Yoelqui Céspedes

The only signing officially announced by the White Sox was the No. 1 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s international board … and No. 12 on Baseball America’s list. The discrepancy can be explained for any number of reasons — he’s 23, his Cuban League performance wasn’t anything to write home about, and he’s supposedly added a whole bunch of power since he was last seen. Either one, he’s still the highest-rated traditional (aka non budget-busting) international signing by the White Sox since Micker Adolfo, who will be covered in another post.

Norge Vera

For whatever reason, the White Sox didn’t announce him with Céspedes, even though the team’s agreement with Vera was reported months ago, and Paddy gave a detailed scouting report to 670 The Score. Paddy’s reports tend to emphasize what a player can do, and not what a player normally does. Just like Céspedes, Vera is rated more highly by MLB Pipeline (No. 15) than Baseball America (No. 26), but even the lower end of the scouting reports puts him in the Matthew Thompson/Andrew Dalquist range of interesting arms. That guy throws 90-94 with two projectable breaking balls. If he can stay at 94-97, that’s a different guy.

Yolbert Sánchez

Sánchez symbolizes an issue with hinging an entire international approach on older Cuban talent. The headliner of the 2019-20 draft class signed for $2.5 million and hung out in the DSL for tax purposes. A pandemic later, he ranks in the back part of Baseball America’s Top 30 list for conditioning reasons heading into his age-24 season.

SCOUTING REPORT: Sanchez reported to instructional league in Arizona and looked particularly rusty. Internal and external evaluators saw a player who’d gotten thicker during the shutdown, lacked an approach at the plate and showed a willingness to chase. Scouts also saw a player who will not be able to stick at shortstop because of below-average speed and fringy arm strength. The White Sox are optimistic he’ll be able to regain some of what they saw when they signed him once he gets more consistent reps.

Lenyn Sosa

He’s almost too advanced for this list, what with his .251/.292/.371 line at Kannapolis at 19 in 2019. As mentioned last year, that line belies what appeared to be legit strides at the end of the season. He’s not the most projectable of players, so much so that BA left him off its top 30 entirely. He either has to stick at shortstop or get stronger, and both are questioned.

WHITE SOX INTERNATIONAL SIGNING RECORD

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Jose Rodriguez

Rodriguez followed up his intriguing pro debut in the DSL with a dynamite stateside arrival, hitting .293/.328/.505 as an 18-year-old in the AZL. That’s put him on the radar, with evaluations ranging from 26th (Baseball America) to eighth (FanGraphs) on organizational lists. He’s a high-energy player who can impress from a middle-infield spot, but his plate discipline numbers (nine walks, 45 strikeouts over 200 plate appearances) highlight ways that aggression can be exploited as he moves up the ladder. Considering he signed for just $50,000 during the Luis Robert Penalty Box Era, it’s hard to complain about the results thus far.

Benyamin Bailey

Bailey’s limited results as even more impressive, as he went from signing for $35,000 to hitting .324/.477/.454 with 52 walks against 40 strikeouts in the DSL at age 17. His 2020 season was one I was most intrigued to see, and Chris Getz said Bailey will likely get a full-season assignment out of the gate in order to make up for lost time.

Bryan Ramos

Ramos has them all beat in terms of age against level. He made his debut in the AZL at 17 and handled himself admirably, hitting .277/.353/.415 in 2019, with a plate discipline vulnerability that isn’t critical (19 walks, 44 strikeouts over 218 plate appearances). He’s got a long way to go, but it’s a good third baseman starter kit, especially since reports are encouraged about his ability to stick at the position.

Luis Mieses

The White Sox keep advancing Mieses, even though he’s yet to conquer any of the three levels he’s played over his first three years in pro ball, most recently posting a .241/.264/.359 line at Great Falls in 2019. Eric Longenhagen noted that Mieses didn’t get invited to the instructional league, but put him at the back of his top-34 list because he makes a decent amount of contact for somebody with such a big frame.

Yoelvin Silven

Silven relies on a mid-90s fastball, but he did some damage with it in 2019, racking up 59 strikeouts against seven walks over 51 innings between Arizona and Great Falls. That he’s 20 years old and gave up six homers in the AZL means he still has a whole lot more proving to do, but he’s the most accomplished international signing on the pitching side, so he gets a nod here.

Elijah Tatis

It’s hard to know if Tatis actually has any promise, or if people just keep bringing him up since his brother Fernando made such easy work of the minor leagues, and the major leagues for the most part. All he’s shown is a .187/.300/.213 line in the DSL, with 13 walks over 90 plate appearances the biggest attraction. Paddy also buys into Tatis as a shortstop, but Tatis will probably have to stand out more in order to draw real scrutiny from the third-party evaluation sources.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Eagle Bones

That report on Sanchez, woof. Sounds like all of the previous negatives with none of the positives. If those changes persist, he’s basically a non-prospect, no?

Sosa’s report in Longenhagen’s write-up of their system (link below if anyone missed it) was one that caught me by surprise for the last point you mention Jim. He seems to have him as a poor fielder (one who can only play a fringy 2B and 3B), but with above average hit and raw. That’s the first I’d seen of that kind of projection on his bat. Will be interesting to see how he develops.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/top-34-prospects-chicago-white-sox/

Right Size Wrong Shape

It’s disappointing, but I never had high hopes for him anyway. Didn’t he have a ceiling of Yolmer?

Yeah, my read was something like SS capable version of Yolmer which, to your point, wasn’t great to begin with. He at least seemed to have a high floor though (which is what I assumed drove the price for him) and it sounds like even that might be much lower now. Bummer.

tommytwonines

Josh Norris of BA was on the FutureSox podcast and they seem bullish on Sheets. Apparently he’s trying to up his stock by playing some corner outfield. How well? We won’t know until he, presumably, starts playing in Charlotte.

I noticed Alec Hansen was “promoted” from Birmingham to Charlotte about three months ago. Did they movie him because he’s found something or do they need to create space at the lower levels and are putting the 26-year-old into a more age-appropriate if less desirable position? I dunno.

Greg Nix

My impression is the pre-season assignments don’t really matter. It may be an excuse to get him into camp early, because I believe February/March is only open to major leaguers and AAA this year.

tommytwonines

That makes sense.

Of course, Katz will fix ‘em. He’s the greatest pitching coach on God’s green earth.

So I’ve been told (no offense to you, Ethan).

asinwreck

Our 7th starter is secure!