As a franchise, the White Sox have historically been very aggressive in Latin America. From Luis Aparicio and Chico Carrasquel to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee, many of the best hitters the White Sox have developed have come from Latin American signings. Since Carlos Lee and Magglio broke in around 13 years ago, however, there has certainly been a dry spell. Not for Major League Baseball, mind you, but for the White Sox. Every year at the World Baseball Classic the Dominican Republic and to an extent Venezuela field what are essentially All Star Teams. Meanwhile, during that time the White Sox have added their two Cuban position players – Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez. Alexei has certainly been a solid major leaguer in that time, and as much as his bat slowly withering has been a depressing development, the White Sox wound up set at the shortstop position for several years at a relatively low cost. Dayan Viciedo, well…anyone who follows me on Twitter has seen my increasing belief that he is not a major league player.
Andre Rienzo looks like he could be a cool reliever, signed creatively from Brazil, and Alejandro de Aza – though signed from the Dominican – was signed originally by the Dodgers and bounced around in the minors before arriving in Chicago. That’s pretty much it. Latin America is this wellspring of talent and the White Sox just haven’t touched it. Given that during the same time period the White Sox spent some of the least money in the Rule IV draft, it’s no wonder that we’re looking around and saying, “Wait…where is all the talent?”
Part of the problem is that the White Sox were, depending on whom you ask, participants or victims of a scandal involving predatory siphoning of signing bonuses in the Dominican. They’ve been essentially rebuilding their network in Latin America from scratch ever since. In the past few offseasons, we’ve seen the White Sox pass or get outbid on players like Yoenis Cespedes, Jorge Soler, and Yasiel Puig.
Well, brace yourselves White Sox fans – there might actually be some good news coming! News broke that, although it cannot be officially announced until July 2nd, the White Sox have signed Dominican prospect Micker Zapata to a $1.6 million offer, using almost all of their $2.2 million international prospect pool for the year. One thing that seems consistent across the board on him is that he has crazy power – described by Baseball America as having potentially the best power in Latin America.
Ben Badler had him ranked as the #9 International Prospect for this year, and specifically mentioned that the Top 10 are the elite prospects of the class. Zapata is just gigantic – he won’t turn 17 until this September and he’s already 6’3” and 225 pounds. Despite that huge size, by all accounts he has the athleticism, speed, and arm to stay in right field.
Plenty of prospects like this just flame out in the low minors. As you might expect, he crushes fastballs, but has barely seen anything else. He’s years and years away if he’s ever going to make it at all. But still – if his development works out, Zapata has a really exciting ceiling. This is the type of thing the White Sox haven’t really done in a long time, and may be a step on the long road to rehabilitating this barren organization.