The White Sox were well represented in this year’s fall circuit. Seven players from the organization took part in the 30 game season comprising of 6 total teams. The prospects that were chosen to participate from the White Sox joined players from the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees as members of the Glendale Desert Dogs. The Desert Dogs were managed by Dave Anderson and Winston-Salem Dash hitting coach Charles Poe served in the same manner for Glendale. The Desert Dogs finished with a record of 12-18 this autumn. They played their home contests at Camelback Ranch which is the spring training facility shared by the White Sox and Dodgers. Matt Cassidy previewed the Arizona Fall League back in August and you can read his detailed look at the league here.
Zack Burdi was the 26th overall pick in the 2016 draft and was the most recognizable name of the pitching group in Arizona for the White Sox. The Downers Grove, Illinois native is the type of prospect that typically takes part in the Fall League, having missed the majority of the 2018 minor league season after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Prior the injury, Zack was considered one of the best relief prospects in the sport. Zack featured an 80-grade fastball as his calling card but also possesses a plus slider and change-up. His velocity isn’t all the way back as of yet which was summed up nicely by James Fegan of The Athletic. The former Louisville standout told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin that he was pleased with the progress to date and wasn’t worried about the slow process though. Burdi was shut down for fatigue after throwing in 5 games for Glendale.
White Sox have removed Zack Burdi from AFL action for “general fatigue.” He is expected to be fully ready to go for spring training in February
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) November 1, 2018
The big right-hander didn’t allow an earned run in his brief Fall League stint. He pitched 4.2 innings and appeared in 5 games, surrendered just two hits and posted a 0.64 WHIP with 5 strikeouts and a walk.
6’1″ lefty Tanner Banks threw 20.2 innings for the Dogs this fall. The 27-year-old has spent parts of five seasons pitching in the White Sox organization after being selected in the 18th round of the 2014 draft. In 6 Fall League games, the southpaw posted a 2-1 record with a 4.33 ERA. Tanner surrendered 30 hits while walking five with 10 strikeouts. He is eligible for selection in December’s Rule 5 draft and is unlikely to be protected by Tuesday’s deadline.
Danny Dopico is another right-handed reliever, added late to the Glendale roster. The 6’2″ righty pitched well in the Sox system this past season and got an extended look with 12.1 innings thrown in the AFL. The 24-year-old was an 11th round pick out of Florida International in 2015 and he too is Rule-5 eligible. In 10 games with the Desert Dogs, Danny posted a 6.57 ERA with 15K and 12BB leading to a WHIP of 1.78. Similar to his regular season showings as a pro, his appearances in the AFL were very good or very bad, flashing excellent stuff but struggling at times with command. He likely returns to the organization and reports to Double-A Birmingham to pitch with the Barons to start the 2019 season.
25-year-old right-hander Zach Thompson is another guy that fared well in the prospect circuit. The 6’7″ hurler posted a 0-1 record with a 2.70 ERA in 11 games consisting of 13.1 innings pitched. Thompson struck out 15 hitters this fall while walking 6. His first years in the system were spent as a starter after being a 5th round pick out of Texas Arlington in 2014 but he’s thrown well out of the bullpen and made it to AA Birmingham in 2018. In the Southern League, Thompson compiled 9K/9IP and posted a 1.35 ERA but walked too many batters in 40 innings pitched. Zach is also Rule 5 eligible and the White Sox may have to add him to the 40-man roster to secure his services for 2019.
Some footage from Zack Burdi and Zach Thompson pitching courtesy of Sean Williams of The Loop Sports
Zack Burdi has gotten pretty unlucky during this half inning, but he worked his way through a jam to get two outs before being taken out. Here’s his lone strikeout during his time on the mound #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/2KYuPCmCDY
— Sean Williams (@TLS_Sean) October 9, 2018
— Sean Williams (@TLS_Sean) November 12, 2018
Luis Robert was the main attraction for the White Sox in the AFL and he offered the locals a glimpse of his lofty prospect status with his torrid play. The 21-year-old Cuban import has been mostly disappointing since coming stateside as he battled numerous injuries. In 32 games with the Winston-Salem Dash in High-A, the 6’3″ outfielder hit just .244/.317/.309 and his power was completely sapped due to lingering hand issues. Robert was put into the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time and he didn’t disappoint when given the opportunity. With all of his tools on full display, the athletic center fielder took part in 18 games. He hit .324/.367/.432 with 24 hits, 19 runs scored, 2 homers and 10 runs driven in. Robert struck out 13 times with 5 walks and was adept at stealing bases and taking an extra bag whenever possible.
Robert’s “chiseled blend of power and speed” was profiled nicely by Kyle Glaser of Baseball America. Glaser talked about the immense tools but also praised his effort by writing that he plays with a “boundless enthusiasm that translates into a ceaseless motor on a diamond, turning outs into hits and creating runs out of thin air”. It was a solid showing overall for the Cuban outfielder and was a promising development that he played so well against many standout young players.
Humorous tweet from Emily Waldon of The Athletic
#WhiteSox Luis Robert has collected a 14-game hit streak in Arizona.
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) November 9, 2018
A glimpse at Robert’s aggressive style from the twitter feed of Sean Williams
— Sean Williams (@TLS_Sean) November 9, 2018
And I think everyone saw this mammoth blast. Make sure your sound is turned up.
— Kim C (@Cu_As) November 8, 2018
Luis Alexander Basabe and Laz Rivera also represented the Pale Hose organization as well. The 22-year-old Basabe played in 15 contests in the AFL. He hit just .180/.333/.180 with 16K and 12BB in his limited sample. Luis earned a promotion to Double-A Birmingham after a very successful start in High-A this past season. The Venezuelan outfielder hit 15 homers across two levels and posted a 111 wRC+ in 270 plate appearances in the Southern League. His prospect status is on the rise despite his struggles after a healthy season in which he took part in the Futures Game and showed a prowess to handle all three outfield spots.
Laz Rivera had a monster season in his first full year in the organization after being selected out of Tampa in the 28th round of the 2017 draft. Laz reported to Low-A Kannapolis and proceeded to put up a 158 wRC+ with a wOBA of .402. The 24-year-old then went on to hit 7 homers with a 120 wRC+ and .357 wOBA after a promotion to High-A Winston-Salem. Rivera is a solid defender at shortstop and played some second base as well in Arizona. The infielder played in 17 games for the Desert Dogs and struggled with a triple slash of .215/.271/.246 with 14 strikeouts and just 3 walks. He did drive in 7 runs though, and there were positive reports on his defense from analysts taking in the games.
More from Sean Williams of The Loop Sports
— Sean Williams (@TLS_Sean) November 15, 2018
And some of Rivera
— Sean Williams (@TLS_Sean) October 31, 2018
For all of these guys, it was advantageous to compete against some of the best young talent in the sport. Rivera should play one of the infield positions for the Birmingham Barons next season and it will be a true test for him. Robert likely starts in High-A Winston-Salem after he receives some big league time in spring training, though White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn did recently mention that the bulk of Robert’s season could be spent in Birmingham. Basabe is more of a question mark in regards to where he begins his season. He could theoretically make his big league debut at some point in 2019 and will more than likely spend much of his time with the Charlotte Knights in the International League but he also could start back in Birmingham.
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