Dashing Through the Accumulated Weight of History, Laughing All the Way (ha ha ha!)

It’s been a Dash-heavy week, and this is a Dash-heavy post, with two already in the first sentence and a third to follow almost immediately. Winston-Salem has been the talk of the White Sox minor league system, with impressive offensive showings and pitching performances to back it up. Our Chuck Garfien has the breakdown of their recent six-game winning streak here, but I’m interested in what happened before the Dash emerged as a Carolina League powerhouse. The Sox farm was notoriously bad for many years - some of you may remember those times - and all improvements call for examination.

So how did we get here?

Let’s start with the famed outfield logjam, which you can read more about here. It’s not easy fitting five outfielders into three slots, and the morning sunlight of Luis Robert’s return is just beginning to spill over the horizon.

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21-year-old right fielder Micker Adolfo (pronounced MY-ker) has been a familiar name since the Sox signed him at age 16 back in 2013, at that time their most expensive international free agency signing. It’s been a long wait, but the payoff is in sight for Adolfo, who’s hitting .364 so far in this young season (with six doubles). He’s been slowly working his way up, first from extended spring training, then the AZL Sox where he spent parts of three injury-shortened seasons; he played most of his games in 2016 and all of them in 2017 with the low-A Kannapolis Intimidators. That leaves him here, in 2018, with the High-A Dash. The repetition of levels normally isn’t great, but between the injuries and the so-young-he-is-ageless Adolfo (he’s still below the average age for the Carolina League), it’s more than understandable, it’s necessary. Adolfo has what Rick Hahn described as a “pinhole tear” in his UCL, so for now, he’s DH'ing.

Luis Alexander Basabe, also 21, was part of the famous 2016 Sale trade package, along with Michael Kopech, Dash teammate Victor Diaz, and Yoan Moncada. He played on the Dash last year, missing some time to injury, and doesn’t look like he’s going to spend much time on a repeat this season. In 12 games, he’s hitting .353 with a .411 OBP, four doubles, two triples, two home runs, and five walks against 12 strikeouts. Before his time with the Sox, Basabe, who was signed in 2012 the instant he turned 16, spent his first few seasons in rookie and short-season leagues before starting the minor league climb.

Please note - Luis Alexander Basabe is two inches taller than his twin brother Luis Alejandro Basabe, who plays in the Diamondbacks system. The Red Sox had both and traded both. There is some debate as to whether or not the Diamondbacks knew which Basabe they were trading for. Basabe (Alexander) is listed as a center fielder, and has been manning right and drawing accolades for his defensive play.

Joel Booker, listed center fielder, was a collegiate 22nd round draftee by the White Sox in 2016. His progression has been steady: 2016 with the rookie league teams, 2017 split between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, and 2018 starting strong with the Dash. He is one of four outfielders currently batting above .300, at .325.

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Alex Call is from the same draft class as Booker, with a choppier progression: he hit so well in rookie ball in 2016 that he was promoted to low-A, where he continued hitting. In 2017, he missed a good chunk of the year to an intercostal muscle injury and struggled to get re-adjusted when he did return. He’s hoping to stick with the Dash in 2018 and not look back. Call is, of course, listed as a center fielder.

Our second trade-received Dash outfielder (listed as a center fielder) is Blake Rutherford, the centerpiece of the Frazier/Robertson/Kahnle trade to the Yankees in 2017. Rutherford, in something of a trend, is 21 years old, which makes his .324 average that much more impressive. The 18th overall draft pick for the Yankees in 2016, Rutherford spent 2016 in rookie ball and 2017 in low-A, where he hit very well and pretty well, respectively. He struggled after the mid-season trade, but looks to be bouncing right back up.

To round out the would-be six-man outfield, we have Luis Robert (listed, like most, as a center fielder). His story is well known - top international prospect signed by the White Sox as a free agent in 2017, played and mashed in the DSL before getting started in 2018. We’ll start seeing him in action within the next few weeks (hopefully!).

To sum up, that’s two Sox draftees, two international free agent signings, and two trades. I would like to point out that nobody on the Dash roster is listed as a left fielder.

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Gavin Sheets is the cream of the prospect crop (gross?) when it comes to Dash infielders. The White Sox' second round draft pick in 2017, the first baseman took 12 at-bats in rookie ball, hitting .500, before a promotion to low-A. Sheets is big and strong and probably brave, and the dingers should start flying shortly.

Shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri is an interesting name. Yrizarri was acquired for international signing pool money in a trade with the Rangers last season. Like many international free agents, he signed at age 16 (now 21). This will be Yrizarri’s first full season in high-A ball - weirdly, he played nine games for the Rangers’ triple-A team in 2015, where he was almost nine years younger than the league and still hit .273.

Third baseman Zach Remillard is a member of the same draft class as Booker, Call, and Rutherford. He’s been progressing with them (well, with Booker and Call, anyway), which is another thing about this team - they’re all around the same age and many of them have already been playing together for years. This group of players is already scary, but how much scarier will they be after three more years of sharing ballgames and lives? A cohesive, talented group that gets along and plays together well is so important for success.

Mitch Roman is no different - 12th round draft pick in 2016, listed a second baseman. 2016 was Amateur Scouting Director Nick Hostetler’s first draft. Chris Getz was named Director of Player Development after the 2016 season. I love it when you can see a behind-the-scenes strategy take place. Roman did very well in rookie ball in 2016, not so well with Kannapolis in 2017 after a hot start, and so far is doing much better in high-A.

The Sox essentially got Ti’Quan Forbes from the Rangers for free, as he was initially the trade return for Miguel Gonzalez to the Rangers. Gonzalez, of course, had a joyful(?) reunion with the Sox, so we’re having our Ti’Quan and… playing him too? In any case, he plays third, he was a second round draft pick for the Rangers in 2014, and since the bat hasn’t gotten there yet at any level, a partial repeat of high-A will be good for him.

The updated standings after infielders: five Sox draftees, three international free agent signings, and three trades.

Moving onto catchers: we have Nate Nolan, Yermin Mercedes, and Daniel Gonzalez, who’s currently DL'ed. I can’t actually find info on the circumstances of Gonzalez’ arrival to the White Sox, but it seems clear enough that he was an international free agent signing around 2013. Still only 22, he’s gone through the same slow progression as Adolfo, repeating levels and remaining very young. He has never played more than 51 games in a season.

Nate Nolan, drafted in 2016, has progressed steadily; Mercedes, a 2017 Rule 5 draft pickup from the Orioles, has progressed wackily. Originally signed as an international free agent with the Nationals, Mercedes absolutely raked in indy ball in 2014, was noticed and signed by the Orioles, and spent the next several years bouncing up and down their system.

Catchers complete, bringing us to six Sox draftees, four international free agent signings, three trades, and one Rule 5 draftee.

Dane Dunning delivers a pitch for the Dash (James Geiser/Winston-Salem Dash)

Dane Dunning delivers a pitch for the Dash (James Geiser/Winston-Salem Dash)

The Dash carry 14 pitchers, each born between 1993 and 1995 (with Kyle Kubat, 1992, the lone exception). Dane Dunning, the first-round pick of the Nationals in 2016, came to the White Sox in the late-2016 trade that saw the Sox give up Adam Eaton in return for Dunning, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez. Victor Diaz, perpetually and mysteriously disabled, was an international free agent signed by the Red Sox in 2014 and traded for Chris Sale (packaged with Dash teammate Basabe, among… others). Diaz has only pitched 105 professional innings over three seasons, despite advancing two levels, and has not yet pitched in 2018.

Wunderkind righty Dylan Cease, drafted in 2014 by the Cubs, arrived on the South Side after The Quintana Trade of 2017, coming with Bryant Flete, Matt Rose, and future Ruler of the Universe Eloy Jimenez. This is Cease’s highest level yet.

Like Cease, relief pitcher Zach Thompson was drafted in 2014; Danny Dopico and Blake Hickman were both in the 2015 draft class (Hickman, however, wouldn’t play professionally until 2017, thanks to Tommy John surgery). Mike Morrison, who skipped rookie ball, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, and Matt Foster were all drafted in 2016.

When it comes to waivers, there's right-handed reliever Jose Ruiz, originally signed as an international free agent all the way back in 2011 (he was… wait for it… 16) by the Padres. He originally signed as a catcher, but converted in 2016. Eventually, at the end of 2017, he was claimed off waivers by the Sox. He’s still only 23 years old.

Ricardo Pinto has a similar story, minus the conversion. Signed by the Phillies as a teenager, he actually made his major league debut for them in 2017, with less than desirable results. He’s pitched well in triple-A before but is shaky so far in the huge sample size he’s been given this year (5.2 IP) while being gradually stretched to starter innings. Pinto was acquired during Spring Training this year, in exchange for international signing bonus pool money, which the Phillies can now use to sign someone like Ricardo Pinto again.

Luis Martinez was signed as an international free agent and, at 23, is in his fifth year with the organization. Kyle Kubat was signed by the Royals as an undrafted free agent before being traded to the Sox in 2017 for cash. In 2017, which he spent entirely in the Sox system, he progressed through low-A, high-A, and double-A, excelling in each.

Total: 13 Sox draftees, five international free agent signings, eight trades, one waiver claim and one Rule 5 draftee. This is a team that’s performing well, even if their record is middling at 8-6; they’re hitting for average, they’re hitting for power, and their pitching is carving up the opposition. And almost half the team is home-drafted, with the majority (including both draftees and int’l free agents) being homegrown. Who knows which performances will regress or improve; for now, it’s a crocus after the long winter of a farm system sown with salt.

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