2021-22 International Reviews: Chicago White Sox
As teams press earlier and earlier to reach deals with players, the White Sox continued their approach to keep bonus pool money available and bring in older, more advanced Cuban players when they become available. The latest this year is Oscar Colas, following outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes, righthander Norge Vera and shortstop Yolbert Sanchez from their previous two classes.
Top Of The Class
Cuban outfielder Oscar Colas, 23, generated attention for his power stroke while playing in Cuba and in Japan at a young age before signing with the White Sox for $2.7 million. Power is the calling card for Colas, and some in the White Sox organization believe he could turn into a 30-plus home run hitter. Colas has plus raw power and generates lift in his swing. International scouts were split on Colas' pure hitting ability, though he wasn't getting tested against age-appropriate pitching while training in the Dominican Republic. In Cuba, Colas had a heavyset first base type build, but after leaving he transformed himself physically to shed weight. That should help him handle a corner outfield spot, with a plus arm for right field. The White Sox have even considered giving him time in center field, but he projects long term in a corner, with some first base risk depending how his conditioning goes.
Dominican outfielder Erick Hernandez was the second-biggest signing for the White Sox in their 2021-22 international class, landing a $1 million bonus. Scouts highest on Hernandez as an amateur felt he was one of the better pure hitters in his class. He has a simple approach and swing, with a fluid lefty stroke and the ability to whip his hands through the zone quickly to generate good bat speed and catch up to high-end velocity. While a lot of young hitters tend to overswing and get pull happy, Hernandez generally stays under control and spreads the ball around the field with a high-contact game. As he's gotten stronger, he is starting to flash more over-the-fence power, with a hit-over-power profile now but a chance for 20-plus home runs as he physically matures. Hernandez is an average runner underway with a fringe-average arm and the defensive instincts to get time in center field, though long term he likely heads to a corner.
Names To Know
Guillermo Rodriguez, SS, Venezuela: Rodriguez has a strong, compact build (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) and stands out for his defensive ability at shortstop. An above-average runner, Rodriguez is an instinctive defender who breaks well off the bat, moving well laterally and coming in on the ball with an above-average arm. He has a short swing and gap power from the right side.
Jose Mendez, RHP, Venezuela: Mendez, the younger brother of former Rangers pitching prospect Yohander Mendez, is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with a fastball that has been up to 94 mph and he controls well for his age. He throws four pitches and has a starter look, with a low-80s slider that has late, short break, a curveball and a changeup with solid sink.
Ryan Burrowes, SS, Panama: Burrowes was previously eligible to sign because of his age, but he waited until closer to graduation to sign with the White Sox this year. He's an intriguing sleeper at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, an athletic, high-energy shortstop who has a chance to stick at the position with average speed, good actions and an above-average arm. He's a righthanded hitter with the physical upside to improve his gap power once he gets stronger.
The White Sox technically signed Venezuelan righthander Marcelo Valladares later in 2021, so they were able to fit him into their bonus pool from the previous signing period, but he will make his pro debut this year. He has a lot of good projection indicators, with a lanky 6-foot-4 frame, good arm action and ample room to grow a fastball that has touched 93 mph and could eventually be in the upper 90s. Valladares generates downhill angle from his high three-quarters slot with a repeatable delivery that helps him throw strikes, with solid feel for a breaking ball and changeup in a potential starter profile.