The White Sox affiliate in the Dominican Summer League begins play on Saturday, May 31st, as the first of the short season leagues to get into game action. This team and league are notoriously the hardest to analyze for multiple reasons. For one thing, there is virtually no media coverage to follow or videos to analyze, so we are working primarily from box scores and the occasional scouting report that floats up during the season. For another, because these players are so young and raw (and likely focused on “working on things”), the results can be very deceptive. Add to that the competition level being so all over the board, and it becomes a herculean task to draw much useful information from the team’s play. The roster as it stands today may change, and sometimes we don’t really know who is going to play until they are a few games in.
Undaunted by such concerns, we’ll take a crack at it anyway, as we do each year. This will be based on the roster as shown on their website today (one day before the opener), and combine it with what information we have obtained from various sources while focusing on a few key prospects. Despite the difficulty in analyzing results, some of the system’s key prospects will likely play for this club this season, so these guys are worth watching. The Sox’ LatAm operations have been rebuilt, and spending in the region has been increased dramatically, with several mid-six-figure (and one seven-figure) bonus recipients making their cases. A number of these players will be state-side this year or next.
The biggest name on the current DSL roster is Micker Adolfo (Zapata), the biggest LatAm amateur signing in Sox history at $1.6M last year (at age 16). Adolfo put on jaw-dropping shows of power in his open sessions prior to signing, and is considered to have legitimately plus power potential. He also has an above average arm and foot speed, but has yet to play affiliated games. Late last summer he spent some time with the Bristol club taking BP and OF practice with the team, and Buddy Bell was quoted saying he may see the new AZL team in Glendale this year. Reports this year from his play in Extended Spring Training have been positive. But at least for now, a few weeks before AZL play opens, this wunderkind is looking to start with the DSL club.
There are three other outfielders on the roster worth monitoring. Hanleth Otano will be starting his 2nd season with the club, going into his age 17/18 season. The 6’4” corner OF was said by Baseball America to have substantial raw power, but struggled as a 16/17 year old last season to the tune of .185/.248/.279, with 83 strikeouts in 237 plate appearances. Roger Ramos starts his third year on the island, despite posting a relatively strong .250/.378/.362 line, doubling his previous walk rate and raising his OPS by about .250 from 2012. He played all three outfield slots during the season.
The last outfielder, Antonio Rodriguez (signed for $400,000 in 2012), is an unusual case. He actually spent a brief nine games with Bristol state-side last year, but after looking overmatched there (.120 AVG, 9 K in 26 PA) he was shipped back south. In the DSL he did better (.288/.315/.353), but the recently-turned 19-year old also struck out 40 times versus 5 walks in 164 trips to the plate. He’s very athletic and the consensus was (at signing time) he’d have a good shot at sticking in center field.
The player getting the most attention here is third baseman Luis Castillo, who signed for $450,000 in 2012. Going into his age 17/18 season, he’s yet to play official games, but scouting reports have previously noted his plus power and hit tools. Defense at 3B may be a question mark, and he may need to move eventually.
When shortstop Johan Cruz was signed, he was considered one of the best defensive infielders in that 2013 July 2 group. Last year at age 17, Cruz did not fare well with the bat: .126/.220/.163, 25 BB, 57 K in 272 PA. He did steal 18 bases, and was caught 7 times. Cruz will be focusing on his very raw hitting game in his age 18 season this year.
Two younger prospects who have yet to play may be worth keeping an eye on. Third baseman Maiker Feliz was signed for $450,000 in the 2013 class, and according to Baseball America, scouts see him as a line drive hitter “with average bat speed and a chance to be an above average defender”. He’s 16 and will turn 17 during the season. Jose Reyes is a thin 17 year old (6’, 155 per MiLB.com) who Baseball America says signed for $100,000.
There aren’t as many interesting arms on the pitching side of things, though there are a few worth tracking. The biggest signing in this group was for RHP Victor Done, now 18 and starting his 2nd DSL season. Done was signed in 2012 and struggled with control last year in the DSL: 30.1 IP, 34 H, 28 BB, 26 K, 6.23 ERA in 12 starts. He’ll be looking to refine that control, but the strikeout total is encouraging.
Another righty, Nelson Acosta, is the youngest player on the roster and is just 16 (DOB 8/22/97, just to make you feel old). The Venezuelan signed for $50k, and per Larry from South Side Sox has a fairly easy deliver and an 87-89 mph fastball at last check.
Finally, we’ll throw one player in here purely for his statistical performance. Lefty Carlos Diaz, a relatively aged 20 year old, improved greatly in his 2nd year of DSL ball in 2013. He struck out 10.4 batters per 9 innings, walked 3.8 and registered a .213 BAA. Being a lefty, fairly mature and apparently able to easily handle the level, Diaz could be stateside this season.