2015 AZL White Sox season preview

The 2015 draft is done and the White Sox have nearly their entire class under contract and assigned. The White Sox have two rookie affiliates, the Arizona League White Sox and the Great Falls Voyagers of the Pioneer League. The AZL White Sox are filled with talent this year, most coming from the 2015 MLB draft but with some interesting returners and Latin American talent mixed in. As is typical, the AZL squad leans younger and less experienced than Great Falls.

The AZL club has 36 players on the roster. Jesse Crain is pitching for them on his rehab assignment and 2015 7th round draft pick Blake Hickman is on the 60-day DL due to pending Tommy John surgery.

Pitching

2015 class: Jordan Stephens (5th), Blake Hickman (7th), Ryan Riga (13th), Chris Comito (15th), Brandon Quintero (16th), Richard McWilliams (25th), Alex Katz (27th), Jack Charleston (30th), Taylore Cherry (32nd), Johnathan Frebis (33rd)

Stephens looks like the headliner amongst this group as he can hit 94 mph with his fastball and has a good curve, but he had an up-and-down career at Rice. This spring he threw nearly 60 innings and had 75 strikeouts to only 17 walks. The year before he only logged 14 innings after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which had hit him hard as he was the Rice staff ace his freshman year. Blake Hickman may have been the guy on top, but is out for the season with a torn UCL.

Chris Comito was going to pitch for Iowa this year, but signed with the Sox for $70,000 over the post-10th round limit. The tall 6-5 righty sits around 90 on his fastball and according to Iowa's athletic site, he pounds the strike zone. He was a risky pick in the 15th as he had indicated he would go to school unless he went in the first seven rounds.

Taylore Cherry is notable because he is massive. SB Nation had him ranked as the 180th prospect in the draft but the 6'9", 270 lb. righty with an easy 90s fastball likely slipped after not being active for UNC for his junior  year. Getting Cherry with the 952 pick could turn into a big steal.

Repeating Rookie Ball: Victor Done (IFA)

Done is the only repeat pitcher and the 19-year-old had a rough year that saw him sport a WHIP of 2, though he did strike out 52 batters in 47.1 innings, most of those in starts. He also allowed 32 walks.

Catchers

Seby Zavala (12th round, 2015), Jacob Cooper (20th, 2015), Jhoandro Alfaro (2014 IFA) and Daniel Gonzalez (DSL White Sox)

Alfaro could be the big name to follow here. The 2014 international free agent got $750,000 last year from the White Sox and is the brother of catcher Jorge Alfaro, the top prospect for the Texas Rangers with Joey Gallo up on the big league club. He doesn't have the raw power and speed of his brother, but is advanced defensively and carries a strong arm.

Infielders

3B Luis Castillo (IFA), 1B Cody Daily (free agent, signed Feb. 10), SS Daniel Mendick (22nd round, 2015), SS Felix Mercedes (IFA), SS Amado Nunez (IFA), 3B Bradley Strong (28th round, 2015), David Walker (31st round, 2015), 1B Corey Zangari (6th round, 2015)

Zangari will be the biggest name on this list, literally and figuratively. The 6'4", 240 lb. first baseman signed for a whopping $225,200 overslot in the sixth round for his massive power potential. He was an Oklahoma State commit that also played catcher and pitched, where he hit 95+ on the gun. While it's fun to fantasize about a player pitching and hitting, it's almost a guarantee that Zangari will be groomed as a slugging first baseman.

Castillo signed as a 16-year-old in 2012 and the 6'3", 200 lb. righty has plus power potential, good defensive tools and speed for a player of his size. Now Castillo is coming state-side where it will be interesting to follow him daily.

Nunez was the 26th ranked international prospect when he signed last year and has high offensive potential. He might end up at third, but for right now it looks like the Sox will keep him at shortstop.

Outfielders

Micker Adolfo (IFA), Jake Fincher (29th round, 2015), Droherlin Meija (IFA), Tyler Sullivan (14th round, 2015), Jordan Yallen (47th round, 2009)

Micker Adolfo once again highlights the outfielders as likely the most talented player on the team. Adolfo only hit .218 last year, but had an on-base percentage of .279 and flashed his plus power. Expect Adolfo to line up as the starting right fielder where his strong arm will play and if Adolfo gets his average up, he could shoot up prospect boards right away.

Jake Fincher played college ball with Carlos Rodon and Brett Austin and slid in the draft his senior year after seeing his .313 average as a sophomore drop to .267 before finally rebounding to .291.

Meija had a great year in the DSL last year where he hit .287 with an impressive .382 on-base percentage. Meija did strike out 23 percent of the time, but the 20 year old will have all year to improve now that he's stateside.

Sullivan hit .351 his senior year of college, stole 11 bases in 16 attempts and walked 20 times in 211 at bats. He also hit .356 in the Northwoods League (summer wooden bat league) and could fill the prototypical fast, left-handed centerfielder that lives in the leadoff spot.

Jordan Yallen was drafted in a round that no longer exists six years ago and is 24-years-old, ancient for AZL ball. But his story isn't nearly that simple, and this is his first pro season. He went to college and was suddenly stricken with Lyme Disease. The speedster hit .311 his senior year and was drawing attention from scouts. Then he was hit in the head by a 90 mph fastball and his college career was over. This year the Sox gave him another tryout and signed him, so it will be interesting to see if he can overcome the challenges that he has faced and turn into a legitimate prospect.

Outlook

There's lots of raw potential on this team, highlighted by Zangari, Adolfo and Castillo. If hitting is contagious, expect this team to go on a tear or two where those three just start launching baseballs over the wall. Alfaro might be the hope of a team starved for catching depth, especially if he can become a prospect anywhere close to the status of his brother. A rotation led by Stephens, Comito and Cherry will be fun to watch due to the different pitching makeups that the three have, though it's a bit disappointing that Hickman won't be joining them.

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