White Sox Winter Leagues Preview: Dominican Republic

via AL.com

Each year, the White Sox organization has a couple dozen or so minor and major leagers playing in winter leagues around the Caribbean and/or in Australia. The leagues start at various times and not all of them have their rosters up yet, so we’re breaking up the previews into multiple editions this year. We published the Venezuelan League preview on the 10th, the day they started play.

Next up is the Dominican Republic, where the White Sox have nine players on active rosters (three of whom played in the majors in 2014). Opening Day for the DR Winter League (Liga de Beisbol Dominicana) was yesterday (Friday, October 17th), but rosters weren’t online in time to release the preview by that day. Here’s a look at those White Sox players and prospects, what teams they are assigned to and why they are playing…

LEONES DEL ESCOGIDO

1B prospect Rangel Ravelo was originally slated for the Arizona Fall League, but elected to play winter ball for the Lions instead. The highest ranked White Sox prospect playing in the DR, Ravelo has done almost everything he needs to from the 1B position to be considered for a future major league role. The remaining open question is game power, so hopefully he’ll be focusing on using more of his lower body and increasing his power output.

Brazilian right-hander Andre Rienzo was moved to the bullpen in Chicago for parts of 2014, as he continues to struggle with long counts and inconsistency. He’s got a mid-90’s fastball and a strong cutter, but command of offspeed pitches has always lacked. He’ll look to get some innings in, and hope the Sox or another team see a potential MLB bullpen arm for 2015.

Matt Zaleski has a unique back story. As far as we can tell, he’s the only pitcher in modern baseball history to pitch in 11 or more minor league seasons with the same organization and never reach the majors. About to turn 33 years old, this suburban Chicago native is going to throw in winter ball after getting in only 36.2 innings of work this year, hoping to stay sharp and get another shot at finally making the majors.

GIGANTES DEL CIBAO

Catcher Adrian Nieto – whom the Sox selected in the Rule V draft last offseason and backed up Tyler Flowers all year in Chicago – is on the Giants’ roster. Normally, a player that was in the majors all year would be on a winter roster just for a cameo appearance. But Nieto hadn’t played above A+ before 2014 and was a backup all this year, so he can use the playing time.

Another major leaguer, outfielder Moises Sierra is on the roster in Cibao as well. Conor Gillaspie’s BFF is auditioning for another MLB role in 2015 so he may see significant playing time in the DR.

AGUILAS CIBAENAS

Dan Black returns to Aguilas for an encore performance. Black finished among the top 5 in the DR’s 2013 season in home runs, doubles, walks, SLG, OPS and RBI. This first baseman didn’t have a very good 2014 state-side, so he’s looking to keep his hitting sharp and look for the Sox or someone else to give him a AAA gig in 2015.

Lefty specialist Donnie Veal will be Black’s teammate, trying to make a case for another shot at the LOOGY role in 2015. Veal’s numbers against LHB in AAA this past year weren’t as good as they had been in years prior.

TIGRES DEL LICEY

Left-handed reliever Jose Bautista, son of a current pitching coach in the Sox system by the same name, looks to polish his craft against some tougher hitters. The Dominican native handled A ball easily but struggled with control in Advanced A with Winston-Salem this season.

Another Dominican, RHP Robinson Leyer, will be pitching for the Tigers as well. The younger brother of fellow Sox pitching prospect Euclides Leyer put up some solid numbers as a 21 year old in Kannapolis’ rotation and should be challenged in the DR.

TOROS DEL ESTE

Multiple reports had right-handed reliever Jose Brito slated to throw for Toros del Este. Brito spent a significant portion of 2014 as the Intimidators’ closer, but his numbers weren’t great. He hits mid-90’s on the gun, but he didn’t miss many bats in his age 23 season. His name isn’t appearing on the active roster at this time though, so he may be a late addition or may have backed out.

***We’ll preview the Puerto Rican and Australian Leagues in future articles closer to their opening of play.

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