International Reviews: Chicago White Sox
Top signing: OF Josue Guerrero, Dominican Republic, $1.1 million.
Total signings: 20.
The White Sox have never gone over their international bonus pool since the pools began in 2012 and a new hard cap kicking into place when the 2017-18 signing period opens on July 2. However, the 2016-17 signing period is still in progress until June 15. One of the most interesting stories to follow leading up to that date is where Cuban outfielder Luis Robert will sign and whether the White Sox will bust through their pool to sign Robert, if he is indeed cleared to sign during this signing period.
When the White Sox signed Fernando Tatis Jr. for $750,000 in 2015, they were much higher on Tatis compared to the industry consensus. That signing looks good in retrospect, as Tatis made a strong impression in the Rookie-level Arizona League and ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the league in his pro debut, with the White Sox trading him and righthander Erik Johnson to the Padres in June for James Shields. Like Tatis, the White Sox were higher than the rest of the industry on 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Josue Guerrero, who they signed for $1.1 million on July 2. Guerrero is a nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, the brother of Reds outfielder Gabby Guerrero and a cousin of Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Gregory Guerrero. Josue trained former major league outfielder Wilton Guerrero, who is his uncle. The White Sox have given seven-figure deals to power-hitting outfielders Micker Adolfo and Franklin Reyes, and while Guerrero doesn’t have Adolfo’s athleticism, he is another strongly built corner outfielder whose best tool is his raw power. He’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with good strength now and the frame that suggests potential to become even more physical. It’s not huge raw power right now, but he has good bat speed from the right side and the ball jumps off his bat with good exit velocity when he makes contact. Scouts were mixed on Guerrero’s natural hitting ability, as he has an aggressive approach and can get big with his swing, especially when he fishes outside the strike zone, but the White Sox saw a short swing with impact at contact and better breaking ball recognition than other clubs saw. Guerrero’s speed and arm are both below-average, but given the arm strength that runs throughout the rest of his family and how their arms got stronger after signing, it wouldn’t be surprising if the same thing happened with Josue. His skill set has similarities to his cousin Gabby when he signed with the Mariners in 2011. The White Sox have pushed their top international signings to the AZL in recent years, with Guerrero likely following that pattern.
After Guerrero, the White Sox added a pair of promising Dominican outfielders to their class on July 2, including Luis Mieses for $428,000. Mieses, a 16-year-old who trained with Christian Yrizarri of Athletes Premier, is long, lanky lefty at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds with intriguing offensive upside. His frame is highly projectable to add good weight and strength, already showing he can launch the ball for power in games, with a chance for plus or better power. For someone with his long arms, Mieses does a good job of staying inside the ball with a quick stroke, though some clubs did have concerns about pitch recognition and staying in the strike zone. He’s fairly athletic for his size and does things easy, especially throwing with his plus arm. The White Sox even saw Mieses improve his speed, going from a below-average runner to an average runner, though that could change as his body matures. He projects as a right fielder, with a lot of work to do to improve his jumps and routes, though his athleticism should help him make adjustments there.
The White Sox also added Anderson Comas for $425,000 from Christian Batista (known as “Niche”) in the Dominican Republic. Niche is the trainer who had Gregory Polanco, and Comas is built like a young Polanco as a lefty with a tall, skinny, long-limbed frame lacking strength at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. Despite being tall and physically underdeveloped, especially in his lower half, Comas has a consistent, repeatable swing that’s calm and easy. It’s a sweet, smooth swing with good plane, enabling him to put the sweet spot to the baseball consistently in games and use the whole field. He shows a sound understanding of the strike zone for his age. Mostly a line drive hitter right now, Comas doesn’t have power yet like Mieses does right now, but that should come eventually once he fills out. That will be important, since Comas is a corner outfielder who doesn’t run or throw well yet, though like they did for Polanco, it’s possible those tools could improve with natural strength progression too.
The top pitcher the White Sox signed last year was 17-year-old Dominican righthander Jendersson Caraballo, who got $350,000 on July 2. He’s 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a three-pitch mix to potentially remain a starter. Caraballo touches 92 mph with his fastball and his best pitch is his power slider. The White Sox saw feel for a changeup and a repeatable delivery that allows him to throw strikes as well. Caraballo trained with “Ray.”
Some scouts considered 17-year-old shortstop Lenyn Sosa, who signed with the White Sox for $325,000 on July 2, to be one of the better 2016 hitters out of Venezuela. He’s 6 feet, 180 pounds with quick bat speed and hand-eye coordination from the right side of the plate, showing good bat-to-ball skills in games. He’s a line-drive hitter with occasional gap power, with his hitting ability driving his value more than his power. Sosa is an average runner with a strong arm, but a lot of scouts expect him to eventually move to second base. Some teams looked at Sosa’s skill set and hard-nosed mentality and wondered whether he could transition to catcher, but the White Sox plan play him at shortstop and think he has a chance to stay there. He trained with Alex Gonzalez.
Venezuelan outfielder Anthony Coronado signed with the White Sox for $150,000 on July 2. Coronado is 17 with solid tools and a chance to play center field. He’s 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with above-average speed and a fringy arm. He’s a righthanded hitter with gap power now but the physical projection to hit 12-15 home runs down the road, though there is swing-and-miss in his game. He trained with Juan Moreno and former major league catcher Ramon Hernandez.
Among their lower-dollar signings, the most recognizable name is Dominican righthander Ramon Piñeda, the 19-year-old brother of Yankees starter Michael Piñeda. Despite having a brother who pitches in the major leagues, Piñeda was an under-the-radar signing who got just $10,000 in October. Piñeda, who is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, had previously worked out for teams as a third baseman, but didn’t get signed and moved to the mound around seven months before joining the White Sox. He throws with surprisingly little effort, easy arm action and reaches 91 mph with sink. Piñeda is a strike-thrower who already shows tilt on his slider and a sinking changeup, making him a potential starter.
The White Sox also signed another conversion arm, 18-year-old Brayan Herrera, for $70,000 on July 2 out of the same program as Caraballo. He’s 6-foot-2, 185 pounds with a fastball up to 95 mph and a hard slider. Herrera has a four-pitch mix with a curveball and changeup too, though he might fit best in relief.
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Kleyder Sanchez, who signed for $50,000 on July 2 out of Venezuela, is also learning a new position. Sanchez, a 17-year-old from the same program as Sosa, had been showcasing as an outfielder, showing a strong arm from right field. As a hitter, he had a simple approach from the right side of the plate, but at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, his power projection looked light for a corner outfield spot. The White Sox asked to put him behind the plate, liked what they saw there and signed him as a catcher. He has good hands, quick feet and an average, accurate arm.