The Caribbean winter leagues’ regular seasons have ended, with a number of White Sox minor leaguers seeing action. We previewed the White Sox in the Dominican Winter League here, and the Venezuelan Winter League here, prior to their seasons. Let’s take a look at how they did.
Note: there are two Sox prospects still playing winter ball in Australia, where the ABL season doesn’t end for another month. We’ll take a look at how Jacob May and Joey DeMichele did there, in a later article.
Infielder Leury Garcia, acquired in the Alex Rios trade with Texas last season, posted a .260/.338/.339 slash for Gigantes del Cibao, which is pretty much in line with what he’s done throughout his minor league career. He also struck out 27 times against 12 walks in about 140 plate appearances. Likely a future utility infielder in the majors, Garcia is considered a plus defender at the middle infield positions, but his bat has always been suspect. He didn’t do much to quell those concerns, but getting the extra work in may help the 22 year old. He also has plus speed, which he showed off by stealing 12 bases in 13 attempts, best for 2nd in the league.
First baseman Dan Black did typical Dan Black things, putting up a .270/.372/.484 line, 31 K and 21 BB in about 150 PA for Aguilas Cibaenas. His bat put him in the top 5 in the DWL in a number of offensive categories: OPS (.856, 4th), home runs (5, T-3rd), doubles (11, 3rd) and walks (21, 5th). At 26, at a premium offensive position, blocked in the majors and competing for ladder rungs with Andy Wilkins, even with his continued hitting success he’s got a tough road ahead. He’s earned a look at AAA for 2014, but it isn’t set in stone he’ll get that shot, especially with the Sox inexplicably retaining Mike McDade. He’s a fringe prospect, but a strong 2014 in AAA may help him get a shot somewhere.
RHP Tony Pena Jr, the 32 year old converted infielder, isn’t a prospect. But he did put up some good numbers for Aguilas: 24.1 IP, 22 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 27 K (2.59 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). He may be in Charlotte again in 2014, eating innings.
Lefty Frank de los Santos pitched briefly for Toros del Este: 3 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 K – he may be a contestant on the “Who can LOOGY” show come March. RHP Francellis Montas pitched in two games, and he’s got a live arm that has gotten some attention. Simon Castro pitched just one inning for the Toros, and he’s fallen outside the term “prospect” at this point (though a strong showing as a reliever in Charlotte may give him a shot). Righty Euclides Leyer, another arm to watch this coming season, also pitched an inning, for Tigres del Licey.
After a huge 2012, SS/2B Carlos Sanchez had a rough 2013 in AAA, where he started the season as the youngest player in the International League. There was some debate if this was simply an overreach for the (at the time) 20 year old, or if he had hit a wall talent-wise. If his performance for Tiburones de la Guaira is any indication, he may have just needed time to adjust. Sanchez posted a .348/.428/.443 line, while walking (30) nearly as often as striking out (35) in about 260 plate appearances. He had the 3rd highest average in the VWL, and the 4th highest OBP. If nothing else, his strong performance should give him some confidence going into 2014 as a still very young-for-level 21 year old at AAA Charlotte. His defense is considered plus at 2B, and above average at SS, so if he can hit he’s got a major league future ahead of him.
On the other hand, outfielder Trayce Thompson capped off a disappointing 2013 with a miserable showing in winter ball: .045/.120/.045 in 25 plate appearances and an early release from the team. He’ll be 24 on Opening Day, so he’s still relatively young, but he needs to turn his impressive tool box into a serviceable skill set pretty soon if he wants to even approach his very high ceiling. He may repeat AA, but could see AAA, if he can increase his contact rate.
Andy Wilkins is a fringe first base prospect looking up at a crowded 1B/DH pool on the big club. He did have a strong 2013 to rebound back onto the prospect radar, and apparently carried that into his Caribbean cruise, putting up a .314/.395/.476 line with a reasonable 17 K’s in about 120 PA. He’s ticketed for AAA in 2014, and at age 25 could still show himself to be a future option at 1B with a strong showing there. As noted above, Dan Black is also there to contend with, along with McDade.
6’5” right-hander Taylor Thompson put up some decent numbers in 16 relief appearances: 17 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 18 K. He got hit around something fierce in AAA last season (gave up 24 hits and 14 earned runs in 16 innings), after rolling through the system with ease before that point. He’ll be 26/27 this coming season, likely at AAA Charlotte, and could pitch himself into the picture for a late season call-up if he can replicate his numbers from up through AA.
Catcher Miguel Gonzalez has ridden the roller coaster during his time in the system, becoming a part time player for a while, before re-emerging in 2013 and even getting a brief 5 game look in Chicago. He’s very solid defensively, but he hasn’t had a good hitting season since 2009 in rookie ball. In 33 games for Tiburones, Gonzalez had a .682 OPS in about a hundred PA, with a reasonable strike out rate – nothing that stands out, but he held his own. The catching picture is still very much in question for the Sox in 2014, and his name is in the pot.
Nestor Molina’s prospect stock has been in free fall since being acquired from Toronto before the 2012 season, and he’d pretty much fallen off the prospect radar. He did however put up some reasonably good numbers in 20 relief appearances for Cardenales de Lara: 29.2 IP, 27 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 20 K. The transition back to a reliever role that started in Birmingham in 2013 may suit Molina, and he’s still got a chance to prove himself as a 25 year old next year (likely in Charlotte).
Nick McCully appeared in 6 games and did not fare well: 9 IP, 12 H, 11 ER, 8 BB, 9 K. His peripherals have been worrisome, and he’s a fly-ball pitcher who will likely eat innings in the Charlotte rotation this year. Ryan Kussmaul, a reliever whose numbers have always outperformed his stuff, put up a nice line: 11.1 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 15 K. He will be 27 to start this season and will likely be in Charlotte’s bullpen.
Infielder Chris Curley, who tore up the Carolina League last year as a 26 year old (now 27), didn’t do terribly well in 17 games for Indios de Mayaguez: .170/.224/.208, 12 K in about 60 PA. RHP Adam Lopez was on the Indios roster but did not appear in a game.