Marco Paddy remembers the first time he laid eyes on Norge Vera. The year was 2016 and Vera was just 15 years old and pitching in Canada for the Cuban national team.
“I saw him at Thunder Bay,” said Paddy, who leads Chicago’s international operation.“He was a young kid who was in the mid 80s, 86 or 87 (mph), but he had a very good approach.
“We saw him pitch, and the weather was like 45 degrees and he handled it extremely well. Obviously, he’s matured physically, gotten stronger and his fastball improved quite a bit.”
Vera, the son of former Cuban pitching legend Norge Luis Vera, joined the White Sox a year ago after agreeing to a $1.5 million bonus.
Now 21, Vera has grown to 6-foot-4 since Paddy initially saw him, and the 185-pound righthander has pulled off a rather remarkable feat.
Despite pitching just 19 innings in the Dominican Summer League last season after overcoming some shoulder soreness, Vera quickly became Chicago’s top pitching prospect.
Appearing in eight games in the DSL, seven of them starts, Vera allowed nine hits and no earned runs to go with 34 strikeouts and five walks.
“He’s got the potential to be a frontline starter in the big leagues,” Paddy said. “He commands the strike zone and has a great feel for pitching. Everything he does is very easy. He’s very mature (with) a good head on his shoulders. He knows how to pitch and a very good competitor.”
Vera spent the 2018-19 season in Cuba’s top league and recorded a 3.79 ERA with 37 strikeouts over 54.2 innings in 11 starts.
Vera is likely to open the season with Low-A Kannapolis and should move quickly through the system.
The feeling is mutual.
— Cuban Oscar Colas joined the White Sox after agreeing to a $2.7 million signing bonus. While he’s pitched in the past, the 23-year-old will exclusively play in the outfield.
— Alec Hansen, a former Top 100 Prospect, announced his retirement. The 6-foot-8 righthander was taken in the second round of the 2016 draft and led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts in 2017 .