After Josh Phegley was sent to the minor leagues, it seemed inevitable that Rule V draftee Adrian Nieto would make the White Sox Opening Day roster. Now, it has become official that Nieto will be the White Sox backup catcher.
The 24 year old Nieto has yet to see action above A ball, topping out with the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League, but the former Washington Nationals farmhand could be an interesting player. Last season, Nieto hit at a .282/.371/.446 rate with eleven home runs. He also displayed a solid batting eye, walking 53 times in 448 plate appearances. While his defense is considered to be questionable, Nieto may have a future as an offensive minded catcher.
While starting catcher Tyler Flowers has solid power potential, he has struggled to put the bat on the ball at the major league level, posting a career 200/.279/.372 batting line. Since Flowers is an essentially average defensive catcher, his grasp on the starting spot could be tenuous. If Adrian Nieto is able to hit at the major league level, it may not be inconceivable that Nieto could end up with a starting role at some point during the year.
Usually, teams should not expect a lot from players selected during the major league portion of the Rule V draft. Occasionally, a player performs at a reasonable level as a bench player or as a piece in the bullpen. As unlikely as it may be, Nieto could be far more than the White Sox may expect at this point.
Adrian Nieto has what may be a greater opportunity than most Rule V draftees would normally have on a major league roster. If he can perform well at the start of the season, Nieto may be able to earn a starting role.