Winter Leagues Preview - focus on White Sox prospects

The current focus on the offseason leagues for prospects is on the Arizona Fall League and the Fall Instructional League, both of which are well underway (and you can follow those links to our previews). But the foreign winter leagues are just getting started, with some not even open yet. There are at least 17 White Sox minor leaguers slated to see some action across five leagues in the Caribbean.

For the bulk of them, playing in these leagues just means getting in some work while representing their countries. But there are other reasons for some players to head for warmer climates, including making up for any lost time during the season. It’s also worth noting that some players are drafted by teams in these leagues, and even put on rosters, but never actually play or only make a brief cameo appearance.

Let’s take a look at who is or likely will be playing in each of these circuits, with notes on specific reasons some of them may be there. We will focus only on players still technically prospects.

Liga de Beisbol Dominicano

The Dominican Winter League opened play on the 13th of this month, and will finish their regular season on December 17th. With seven prospects (and a handful of other White Sox players from the MLB roster), this is far and away the most popular destination.

The big name here of course is Eloy Jimenez, who is already bashing the AA-level pitching to the tune of .433/.438/.800 in his first seven games. Jimenez has nothing to prove here, he’s just playing because he wants to and possibly to stay sharp. The Gigantes are undoubtedly happy he’s there.

There are three other players already assigned to teams and seeing game action. Infielder Ronald Bueno had a good time as a utility player across three affiliates last season up to AAA Charlotte. Right-hander Kelvis Valerio is Bueno’s teammate with Aguilas Cibaenas, and he played a similar multi-team utility role but from the mound. Jose Vinicio will take his middle infield skills to the the Leones. All three are eligible for minor league free agency if they elect it, so in all three cases these stints serve in part as audition for 2018 roles with the White Sox or elsewhere.

Then there are three players that were reportedly assigned to the league, per Baseball America, but who have not yet been added to a team roster. Right-handed pitchers Robin Leyer and Yelmison Peralta and outfielder Louis Silverio may join teams a little later in the season. In the case of the pitchers, it may be a function of protecting their arms after full minor league seasons.

It’s rumored that Micker Adolfo has asked to play in the DWL, but for now he’s in the team’s Domincan Instructs league and the Sox may not want him to add any further game work this offseason.

Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional

Two of the above players are on rosters in the Venezuelan Winter League, which is also underway and runs through 12/29. Bryant Flete, acquired from the Cubs in July along with Jimenez, doesn’t have any developmental needs to warrant playing so he’s there to show the flag with Aguilas de Zulia. 20-year-old right-hander Yosmer Solorzano does need the innings, but he did get hit a bit in A-ball this year so the continuing challenge is probably healthy for him. He is on the roster for Tigres de Aragua.

Among those not yet rostered, Luis Alexander Basabe is the biggest name on this list. Similar to Solorzano, he’s young and struggled a bit in 2017, but Basabe’s prospect stock is much more significant. Luis Martinez continues to tip-toe around the edge of the prospect radar and some home cooking might help. Alfredo Gonzalez is 25 and eligible for minor league free agency, so he could be in that audition mode as well. Jhoan Quijada pitching just 31 innings in 2017, all in rookie ball, so the work against more advanced bats could help him developmentally.

UPDATE: It was just announced that Basabe will join the roster of Leones del Caracas.

As a sort of side note, Felipe Lara is the pitching coach for the Tiburones this season, after holding that role with the AZL White Sox this past summer. His Manager in Venezuela? Ozzie Guillen.

Liga Mexicana del Pacifico

The White Sox typically don’t have many players in Mexico, and this year it’s just one. Jason Bourgeois, now 35 years old and technically a free agent, is playing for Naranjeros. He’s a Texan, but he’s also shown to always be looking for a place to be around baseball no matter the role.

The Mexican league is already rolling along, and they finish their season on the 29th of December.

Lida de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente

The Puerto Rican Winter League was theoretically set to begin on October 27th. But due to the extensive damage and long recovery ahead from the recent hurricanes, the league has been pushed back to January. And the way things are going, there is no guarantee it happens then either.

Catcher Roberto Pena is theoretically set to play in the league, but starting in January (if that happens) complicates matters.

Liga Colombiana de Beisbol Profesional

The Colombian Winter League is lesser known than the four big countries listed above. Colombia is on track to eventually participate in the annual Caribbean Series and gain the full notoriety associated with that, but they first are tasked with getting their facilities and talent level up to par. Their regular season will begin on November 3rd, and end on December 30th.

A pair of lefties from the Sox farm are slated to play in this league per Baseball America, but are not on one of the four team rosters as of yet. Kevin Escorcia spent last year at Kannapolis showing some wicked stuff at times, but he’s struggled to find his command. The 22-year-old can use the extra work. Jaider Rocha is a converted outfielder, and he missed all of 2017 to injury, so he will get the chance to shake off some rust.

Australian Baseball League

The White Sox haven’t sent anyone Down Under for a few years, and it’s rare for them to do so historically. The likes of Adam Engel and Jacob May have made the trip before. But as of now, there has been no mention of anyone from the system heading across the Pacific. The ABL opens play on November 16th, running through the end of January. If any Sox players are added to the league, we’ll let our readers know.

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