The Fall Instructional League in Arizona is about to begin, and the White Sox squad opens play on September 21st. Also commonly referred to as simply Instructs, you can think of this league as the Arizona Fall League's younger brother. Unlike the AFL, where teams only send seven or eight hand-picked players, usually from the upper minors, MLB clubs all field a full-roster team. Furthering the difference, these developmental teams are generally dominated by players in their first or second year of stateside pro ball, with a few exceptions thrown in. Those exceptions include prospects rehabbing from injury, those getting playing time they may have missed during the regular season, and a variety of corner cases.
Sadly, these developmental league games are not tracked for results - there are no publicly available statistics or box scores. They are also only very lightly covered by media, usually just a few of the local prospect hounds who spend their evenings stalking the back fields of teams' Spring Training facilities. As we do every year, we will seek out what reports and videos we can, in order to give you at least a little color.
Listed below with the player names are position, age at time of league opening, highest level of play, and their sign/draft information. They are broken into categorical groups reflecting the reason(s) they are playing.
- Jake Burger (3B), 21, A, 2017 1st round
- Gavin Sheets (1B), 21, A, 2017 2nd round
- Luis Gonzalez (OF), 22, A, 2017 3rd round
- Tyler Johnson (RHP), 22, A, 2017 5th round
- Evan Skoug (C), 21, A, 2017 7th round
- Sam Abbott (1B), 18, Rk, 2017 8th round
- J.B. Olson (RHP), 22, A, 2017 10th round
- Will Kincanon (RHP), 21, Rk, 2017 11th round
- Justin Yurchak (3B/1B), 21, 2017 12th round
- Alex Destino (OF), 21, Rk, 2017 14th round
- Blake Battenfield (RHP), 23, Rk, 2017 17th round
- Hunter Kiel (RHP), 21, Rk, 2017 18th round
- Anthony Herron (RHP), 21, Rk, 2017 19th round
- John Parke (LHP), 22, A, 2017 21st round
- Vince Arobio (RHP), 22, Rk, 2017 24th round
- Jose Garcia (OF), 22, Rk, 2017 25th round
- Laz Rivera (SS), 22, 2017 28th round
- Joe Mockbee (LHP), 22, Rk, 2017 29th round
- Kevin George (LHP), 22, 2017 33rd round
- Michael McCormick (RHP), 23, Rk, 2017 34th round
- Ted Andrews (RHP), 23, Rk, 2017 37th round
21 of the 35 players the White Sox signed from the 2017 draft are on the roster, so it's perhaps easier to talk about who is not here.
Six of the recent draftees not present are collegiate pitchers, which isn't a surprise as some of them are keeping their innings limited after long seasons. More of a surprise are the eight position players not attending. All but one of those (Michael Staudinger) were with Great Falls, who played into the postseason and got in an extra six games over a couple weeks, so that may be a factor. Also, that team usually has more of the advanced college players, who may not need as much coaching at this stage.
The "players to watch" in this group are pretty obvious, with seven of the team's top ten draft picks on board along with a pair of over-slot bonus recipients (Kincanon and Yurchak).
INTERNATIONAL FREE AGENTS
- Ramon Beltre (3B), 20, Rk, 2013 IFA
- Anthony Coronado (OF), 17, Rk, 2016 IFA
- Amado Nunez (SS/3B), 19, Rk, 2014 IFA
- Franklin Reyes (1B), 19, Rk, 2015 IFA
- Lenyn Sosa (SS/2B), 17, Rk, 2016 IFA
There are two 17-year-olds here, both of whom saw action with the AZL club this season. Sosa has gotten some attention after putting up one of the better hitting lines on that AZL team despite his age, and he's a middle infielder. Remarkably, not only is he more than a year younger than all but one other player (Coronado) on the roster, he was on the roster last year as well at age 16. Coronado was a late season addition to the Fire League affiliate. It is perhaps worth noting that the three highest bonus players the Sox signed in 2016 are not here, yet Sosa ($325k) and Coronado (bonus not reported) are.
Reyes is a familiar name and he flashed some of his potential with the bat in Great Falls this season, though he's been moved to first base so the expectations have changed. Nunez came into 2017 as a rising name in the system, but he struggled pretty badly with the Voyagers in his age 19 season (same as Reyes). Both are still players to keep an eye on.
REHABBERS AND MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
For this section we will just provide one-liners on the injury background for each player...
- Micker Adolfo (OF), 21, A, 2013 IFA
- Broken hand (non-game injury) in late August, plus he's missed a fair amount in years prior
- Edinxon Arias (RHP), 19, Rk, 2014 IFA
- Went on DL in mid-August (nature of injury not known), missed remainder of season
- Luis Alexander Basabe (OF), 21, A+, 2012 IFA
- Multiple injuries in 2017 resulted in playing only about two thirds of the season
- Alex Call (OF), 22, A+, 2016 3rd round
- Intercostal rib muscle injury in April (recurrent from college), missed most of the season
- Luis Curbelo (SS), 19, Rk, 2016 6th round
- Minor knee surgery for meniscus tear in June, missed virtually the whole season
- Victor Diaz (RHP), 23, A+, 2014 IFA
- Multiple arm injuries/soreness this year, missed most of the season as a result
- Ryan Riga (LHP), 24, A+, 2015 13th round
- Went on DL in late July, missed about 3 weeks then rehabbed in AZL for a while
- Bryan Saucedo (RHP), 23, Rk, 2016 14th round
- Missed 2016 (draft year) due to injury, pitched 2017 in rookie ball
- Andre Wheeler (LHP), 25, AA, 2013 15th round
- Missed six weeks from mid-May to early July, and a good chunk of August, to injury
- Corey Zangari (1B), 20, A, 2015 6th round
- Torn UCL in March required TJS, missed all of 2017
2017 TRADE ACQUISITIONS
- Dylan Cease (RHP), 21, A, 2014 6th round
- Ian Clarkin (LHP), 22, A+, 2013 1st round supplemental
- Ryan Cordell** (OF), 25, AAA, 2013 11th round
- Andre Davis (LHP), 23, A, 2015 8th round
- Ti'Quan Forbes (SS/3B), 21, A+, 2014 2nd round
- Blake Rutherford (OF), 20, A, 2016 1st round
- Yeyson Yrizarri** (SS), 20, A+, 2013 IFA
For some of the younger prospects acquired by the White Sox in 2017, they are participating in Instructs despite being a little further along in their careers than most of their teammates. The Sox likely want to get an extended look at their newest assets, as well as further instill their developmental philosophy into the new kids.
Two of these players, Cordell and Yrizarri, also happen to be coming back from injuries that forced them to miss some time.
- Jhoandro Alfaro, 19, Rk, 2014 IFA
- Jacob Cooper, 21, Rk, 2015 20th round
- Zack Collins, 22, AA, 2016 1st round
- Michael Hickman, 20, Rk, 2016 13th round
- Nate Nolan, 22, A, 2016 8th round
Catchers develop a little slower than other players, so it should be no surprise that they may participate in fall ball for multiple years. All five were here last year. The three catchers selected in the 2016 draft are here, along with a 2015 draftee and a LatAm signee. In fact every catcher the team has signed from the last three drafts is playing fall ball of some form, except Casey Schroeder (8th round in 2015).
Collins is clearly the big name here, and it's interesting that he will be in Instructs while Seby Zavala goes to the AFL (where Collins was last year, in his draft year). But with catchers you never really know who will pop and land on the prospect radar.
- Cameron Seitzer (now an RHP), 27, AAA, 2011 11th round
- Kyle Von Ruden (RHP), 23, Rk, UDFA 2017
- Ben Wright (RHP), 22, A, 2016 16th round
Cameron Seitzer, who has spent seven years in the minors playing mostly outfield and first base, is converting to pitcher. In fact he made one brief appearance on the mound for the Birmingham Barons during the 2017 season, and had pitched in three other games in the previous two years.
Kyle Von Ruden is the only undrafted domestic free agent playing fall ball this year. Signed out of indy ball (Windy City of the Frontier League), Von Ruden was the anchor of the Great Falls rotation this year and the Sox apparently feel they may have something in the right-hander.
Ben Wright doesn't seem to fit in any category yet mentioned. He was here last year with his 2016 draft cohorts, but there's no apparent reason why he'd be there this year too. Best guess is that he's "working on something", which after all is the whole point of the league.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Alex Call, Alex Destino, Amado Nunez, Andre Davis, Andre Wheeler, Anthony Coronado, Anthony Herron, Ben Wright, Blake Battenfield, Blake Rutherford, Bryan Saucedo, Cameron Seitzer, Corey Zangari, Dylan Cease, Edinxon Arias, Evan Skoug, Franklin Reyes, Gavin Sheets, Hunter Kiel, Ian Clarkin, J.B. Olson, Jacob Cooper, Jake Burger, Jhoandro Alfaro, Joe Mockbee, John Parke, Jose Garcia, Justin Yurchak, Kevin George, Kyle Von Ruden, Laz Rivera, Lenyn Sosa, Luis Alexander Basabe, Luis Curbelo, Luis Gonzalez, Michael Hickman, Michael McCormick, Micker Adolfo, Nate Nolan, Ramon Beltre, Ryan Cordell, Ryan Riga, Sam Abbott, Ted Andrews, Ti'Quan Forbes, Tyler Johnson, Victor Diaz, Vince Arobio, Will Kincanon, Yeyson Yrizarri, Zack Collins