Season Preview: 2016 DSL White Sox

Lost in the hubbub around the first-year player draft, the White Sox affiliate in the Dominican Summer League began play on June 4th. The DSL club is made up mostly of teenagers, ranging in age from barely 17 to early 20’s. The players are raw, which isn’t surprising considering these are often high school-aged prospects. Any stats you may see should be taken with a heaping pile of salt, though sometimes things can stand out enough to be indicators. Age, calendar and developmental, as well as playing time and position are the key factors, aside from of course raw tool evaluations where they can be found.

As interesting as the roster is, what may be more telling is who is not on it. Players from last year’s DSL squad like Maiker Feliz and Carlos Diaz, along with bonus babies like Franklin Reyes and Ricky Mota, are in Extended Spring Training in Arizona and should be assigned to one of the stateside rookie affiliates.

The team is managed by Julio Valdez. Fun note: their Pitching Coach is Jose Brito, who just a year ago was still a prospect in the White Sox system and is only 25 years old. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting players on the roster, as these are the names most likely to make it stateside at some point. Here’s a link to the full roster.

INFIELDERS

The infield on this squad may possess the greatest depth of overall talent. Santo Vasquez was the team’s 3rd largest bonus among J2 signees in 2015 (at $300,000), and has been playing shortstop in Boca Chica so far this young season. When he was signed last year, Ben Badler of Baseball America described Vasquez as having a compact, 6′ frame, and that he impressed the Sox with his ability to hit and his speed. He’ll be 17 years old for the full 2016 season.

Brayant Nova also popped up on the 2015 signing radar, bringing in $100,000 for his talent. He’s been playing sparingly, but the 17-year old switch-hitter should see increasing action. Jorgen Rosas signed in 2014 out of Venezuela for $380,000, and he’ll be playing pro ball for the first time this year as an 18-year old.

OUTFIELDERS

Harvin Mendoza is the headliner in this group. The 17-year old was signed July 2 last year for around $300,000 (exact figure wasn’t released) at age 16, and he’s the 2nd youngest player on the DSL roster (by just a couple weeks). Reports we gathered when he signed indicated he’s got a relatively advanced hit tool and a strong arm, though he was said to be relegated to the corners already (he was listed at 5’11” and 185 at signing, and is now listed at 6’2″ and 185). In fact, so far this year (in 10 games), he’s been playing exclusively at first base. That may be a temporary artifact as they get looks at other players, but if he indeed is already being moved from the outfield that changes things. We’ll assume this is temporary for now, but watch to see how it plays out during the year.

Enrique Felix is another among the few players on this squad with a 1999 birth date (in case you wanted to feel old). He’s listed at 6’3″ (as he was when signed) and the few reports out there seem to focus on his speed.

CATCHERS

18-year old Jose Colina is getting most of the playing time here. Signed in 2014 from Venezuela for a hefty $450,000 bonus, reports from Baseball America at the time of signing indicated he already had a “big body” (at 6’2″ and 210 pounds). But there were also positive indications about his defense, as well as arm strength and accuracy. Colina did play here in 2014 so he’s one of the few repeats on our focus list, but as a catcher that isn’t terribly worrisome.

Ulises Martinez isn’t getting as much playing time, but he’s also the youngest player on the entire roster (born March 2nd, 1999), so he’s worth mentioning for that if nothing else. And in trying to do some research on Martinez, “nothing else” is exactly what I found.

PITCHERS

Nelson Acosta is a bit enigmatic. He’s now in his 3rd DSL stint, which is typically (though not always) a sign of someone who’s not likely to leave the island. But he’s also still just 18, as he was a wee 16-year old in his first go-around. He also improved his peripheral numbers quite a bit in his second year, and he’s been a starter all along. He’s also been far too much for DSL hitters in his 2 starts so far in 2016 (9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K). Signed for $50,000 in 2013, if Acosta is still a legit prospect, look for him to find his way stateside before this year is up.

There isn’t a ton of pitching talent standing out on this squad (with the information we could find, anyway), but Christopher Batista checks a few boxes. At 17 years old he’s easily the youngest of the team’s rotation. He’s also missed some bats in his first couple starts.

Fun side note: Acosta, Fernando Caro and Jhoan Quijada threw a combined no-hitter last year.

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