Deep Dive: rookie league left-handed starters

Hidden diamond: Avery Weems struck out 74 and only walked 10 while pitching for the AZL Sox and Great Falls this year (@GFVoyagers).


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

While the list of southpaw starters who finished the 2019 season with White Sox rookie league affiliates isn’t very long, there are some pitchers to keep an eye on. They include the organization’s two top college hurler picks in 2019, not to mention a pitcher in the DSL who has one of the highest upsides of anyone in the system.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Great Falls Voyagers

Avery Weems
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 22

Weems, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz., spent his first two years in college with Yavapai Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona. Used primarily as a swingman for the Wildcats, he pitched in far more games as a reliever during his junior and senior seasons (34) than as a starter (17).

Weems, despite showing better control during his senior season, was far more hittable and his numbers suffered for it. As a senior, he posted a 7.06 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 25 games (eight starts) spanning 58 2/3 innings — relinquishing 80 hits (.316 OBA) and 16 walks while fanning 44 in the process. Being a likely option for an under-slot sign as a senior, Weems was an attractive target for the White Sox after they drafted varsity pitchers Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist in the second and third rounds in 2019. Weems was chosen in the sixth round and ultimately signed for $10,000 ($286,400 less than slot value).

For what seemed to most fans as a throwaway pick, Weems actually surprised for the White Sox. He stayed close to home for his first four games (with the AZL White Sox), posting an otherworldly 0.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 13 innings as he surrendered just 10 hits (.217 OBA) and three walks (5.9%) while striking out 14 (27.5%). Weems then held his own in the more challenging Pioneer League, as he compiled a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP for Great Falls in 47 1/3 innings as he allowed just 43 hits (.239 OBA) and seven walks (3.7%) while fanning 60 (31.7%). While it’s true that Weems was older than the average Pioneer League player, it wasn’t by all that much (five months). Thus, his great results shouldn’t be taken too lightly.

Baseball America’s scouting report at the time of the draft, said that “he’s a pitchability southpaw who throws strikes.” Also according to BA, Weems features a low-90s fastball that touched 94 this year. The fastball is complemented with an average curveball and an infrequently-used changeup that comes in straight. Not exactly an enticing scouting report, but the White Sox must’ve seen something in him others did not. Perhaps with a few tweaks, Weems simply added more movement to his curve and change while adding more oomph to his fastball? Regardless, with the numbers he posted this year, Weems should be in line to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.

Dan Metzdorf
5´10´´
165 pounds
Age: 23

Unlike the aforementioned Weems, Metzdorf enjoyed a more successful senior season in 2019. For Boston College, Metzdorf posted a solid 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 starts. In 73 innings for the Eagles, he surrendered just 56 hits (.204 OBA) and 28 walks while striking out 65. Because of his diminutive size, and also because he doesn’t have top-notch stuff, Metzdorf was expected to be drafted much later. However, Metzdorf was selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft for the same reason Weems was selected in the sixth — signability. Metzdorf received a $10,000 signing bonus from the White Sox, which was around $384,000 less than slot value (which aided the Sox in signing Thompson and Dalquist).

Metzdorf, because of his better college credentials, started the season with Great Falls and acquitted himself quite nicely. In 14 starts spanning 40 innings (the White Sox don’t usually extend their starters too much in their first pro seasons) for the Voyagers, he posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP by ceding 44 hits (.286 OBA) and eight walks (4.8%) while striking out 36 (21.4%). Despite giving up some hits, Metzdorf limited the damage by keeping the ball down (55.1% ground ball rate) and throwing strikes.

Baseball America’s scouting report says “Metzdorf’s stuff isn’t huge, but he’s a solid strike thrower and has a fastball that sits 86-89 mostly, though he did ratchet that up to 93 late in the season. His slider and changeup are both fringe-average pitches at best.” Metzdorf is definitely undersized, so questions about his durability as a starter may persist for the next couple of years as a result. He’s also a year older than Weems, so if Metzdorf performs well at Kannapolis next year, he could earn a quick promotion to Winston-Salem.


AZL White Sox

Hector Acosta
6´4´´
200 pounds
Age: 21

Acosta, a Dominican native, was one of nine players who signed on 2016’s International Signing Day (along with notables Josue Guerrero, Anderson Comas, Luis Mieses, Anthony Coronado and Lenyn Sosa, to name just a few). While Acosta performed quite well for the DSL White Sox in 2017 and the beginning of 2018, he has struggled badly since his promotion to the team’s AZL squad in late June 2018.

This year for the AZL White Sox, Acosta appeared in 12 games (10 starts) and posted an unsightly 6.32 ERA and 1.96 WHIP in 47 innings, allowing 74 hits (.346 OBA) and 18 walks (7.6%) while striking out 23 (9.7%). Lefties hit him even more loudly (.368) than righties (.336) These numbers are so far short of Acosta’s DSL numbers, it seems to indicate he’s either battling through injuries and/or a lack of confidence in his new environment. This year, Acosta was about a half-year younger than the league average. If he does return to the organization, it likely would be for another AZL stint, and perhaps one last shot to prove himself.


DSL White Sox

Ronaldo Guzman
6´0´´
150 pounds
Age: 17

Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic, received a $75,000 signing bonus on Oct. 29, 2018, which may turn out to be the best under-the-radar signing of an international pitcher ever for the White Sox. In his first taste of professional ball this year, Guzman posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 14 outings (12 starts) spanning 51 2/3 innings. In those innings, he relinquished 43 hits (.221) and 29 walks (12.8%) while striking out a whopping 76 (33.5%). While those numbers are outstanding for someone who didn’t turn 17 until late August, Guzman’s numbers would’ve been even better if not for one bad relief outing; you throw that bad boy away and you get an 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Keep in mind, also, that Guzman was approximately 2.3 years younger than the DSL average. Certainly his walks were an issue, in addition to a low ground ball rate (37.9%). With his youth, however, Guzman has plenty of time to work on those things.

Ben Badler of Baseball America said this of Guzman prior to this season: “fastball that gets up to 89 mph with easy arm action and an athletic delivery that repeats well to throw strikes with an advanced changeup for his age.” As Guzman gets older, you’d expect him to gain more height and weight, which can only help with durability and velocity. Of the pitchers listed in this post, Guzman has easily the highest ceiling.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Guzman returns to the DSL White Sox for the 2020 season due to his age, he seems a great bet to begin the season with the AZL affiliate instead.

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FancyHughYancy
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I’m excited for Weems and Varnell.