2013-14 International Reviews: Chicago White Sox
Top signing: OF Micker Adolfo Zapata, Dominican Republic, $1.6 million.
Six-figure signings: 3B Maiker Feliz (Dominican Republic), SS Jose Reyes (Venezuela).
Total players signed: 17.
In the draft and in Latin America, the White Sox have added physical, athletic prospects with big raw power to their farm system in recent years, even if those players--Trayce Thompson, Jared Mitchell and Courtney Hawkins, among others--have some crudeness at the plate. Outfielder Micker Adolfo Zapata fits that mold, with the White Sox making a $1.6 million bet on his size, athleticism and outstanding raw power on July 2.
Zapata took an atypical path to signing. He's a bilingual U.S. citizen who was born in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. One year later moved to New York with his parents, then at age 5, he moved to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Zapata grew up in St. Thomas, but to pursue a contract with a major league team, Zapata moved again to the Dominican Republic at age 14 to train with Moreno Tejada (the same trainer who had Miguel Sano) and practice at La Academia. His father, Carlos Adolfo, signed out of the Dominican Republic and was a minor league outfielder for the Expos from 1994-1999, reached Triple-A, then played independent ball from 2002-2007.
Power is Zapata's calling card, though he's more than just a one-dimensional BP monster. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Zapata is a physical beast for a 17-year-old and had the best raw power in last year's July 2 class, showing plenty of bat speed and 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale. He's athletic for his size and is a legitimate average runner. He could probably hold his own in center field right now, but he figures to lose a step or two as he gets older and fits best in right field, which is where the White Sox plan to play him. His arm earns plus or better grades from scouts.
Zapata has loud tools but there are still questions about how much he will hit in games. His uppercut swing causes him to get underneath too many pitches, and his aggressive, pull-oriented approach leaves him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. Zapata is a threat to pull a fastball over the fence and does a solid job of not flying open too early, but his swing path leaves him vulnerable against offspeed stuff. Scouts highest on Zapata believe he got caught up in home run derby mode during tryouts to showcase his power, like a lot of young Dominican amateurs, and that professional experience and instruction will be able to alter his approach. The White Sox were pleased with some of the adjustments he started to make using the opposite field and reacting to breaking pitches, but his power will likely always come with a fair amount of strikeouts. He's expected to debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The White Sox were high on Maiker Feliz (also known as Maikel Soto, his other surname), who turned 16 on Aug. 17, signing the Dominican third baseman shortly after his birthday for $450,000. Arquimedes Guerrero, who is known as "Pla," trained Feliz and was able to get a surprising bonus for him, Nationals third baseman Anderson Franco ($900,000) and Dodgers third baseman Alberto Estrella ($600,000), all International Prospect League players from Bani. Feliz is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound righthanded hitter who the White Sox followed for two years. They viewed him as a line-drive hitter with a short swing who hit in games, had average speed and a chance to be an above-average defender with good hands and a strong arm.
In October the White Sox gave $100,000 to Venezuelan shortstop Jose Reyes, who trained with Ciro Barrios. Reyes, 17 is a natural infielder at 6 feet, 155 pounds, showing clean and easy actions with good hands and minimal effort to his game in the field. He's a switch-hitter with a simple, contact-oriented approach, though he needs to get stronger to be more than just a spray hitter.
That same month, the White Sox also signed Venezuelan righthander Nelson Acosta for $50,000. Acosta didn't turn 16 until Aug. 24, making him one of the youngest players in the 2013 signing class. He could be the sleeper of the club's 2013 signing class, with a projectable 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame, fairly clean mechanics and an 87-89 mph fastball that comes out of his hand without much effort. He's a good athlete for his size and shows advanced feel for his age to spin a true curveball.