The bat plays: Ivan Gonzalez slashed an impressive .459/.545/.568 with the AZL White Sox before earning a promotion to Great Falls. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
Rookie leagues often carry a multitude of catchers, as they are not restricted to 25-man active rosters. Unfortunately, because the White Sox have just three rookie league squads while many other teams have four, each catcher gets relatively little playing time to show what they can do. The best prospects in this group, at least offensively, seem to have finished with the DSL White Sox.
Ages below are as of April 1, 2020
Great Falls Voyagers
A former teammate of Andrew Vaughn‘s at the University of California, Greene enjoyed a solid three-year run for the Golden Bears. His final season was arguably his best, as he slashed .320/.414/.393 in 219 at-bats with three homers. Defensively, he threw out 38% of attempted basestealers that year while limiting his passed balls to just three. As a result of his Bears career, the White Sox selected him in the 16th round of the 2018 draft. In 128 at-bats for the AZL White Sox last year, Greene maintained his hitting prowess by slashing .313/.403/.367 with seven doubles, 11 RBIs, 17 walks (11.4%) and just 14 strikeouts (9.4%).
Greene played the entire 2019 season with Great Falls, and continued to hit for average despite relatively limited playing time. In 23 games totaling 77 at-bats, he slashed .325/.381/.403 with four doubles, one triple, six RBIs, five walks (6.0%) and just five strikeouts (6.0%). He hit southpaws (.316/.381/.368) nearly as well as he hit righties (.328/.381/.414). Greene only caught in 17 games for the Voyagers, but he held his own defensively by throwing out 29% of attempted basestealers, while only having just one passed ball. Baseball America said of him, “He has good bat-to-ball skills with an unorthodox swing, and he’s athletic enough to make it work — as evidenced by his statistical performance. He has a chance to be an average defender with an average throwing arm.” Greene has a great chance to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.
Gonzalez, although having a reputation in his own right as a decent hitting catcher with no power a la Greene, was considered more of a defensive specialist coming out of college. In four years with the University of West Virginia, Gonzalez slashed .305/.374/.410; his senior season was a microcosm of his career (.294/.397/.407) as he walked 35 times while striking out 36 (13.6%) in 214 at-bats (14.0%). As a four-year senior was strongly considered for the Johnny Bench Award for defensive prowess (he threw out 45% of attempted basestealers), Gonzalez was selected in the eighth round of this year’s MLB draft.
Gonzalez destroyed AZL pitching in 10 games, as he slashed .459/.545/.568 in ten games. However, he struggled with Great Falls, as he slashed just .213/.263/.340 in his 22 games. Combined with both teams, Gonzalez still managed to slash a respectable .295/.363/.348 in 112 at-bats with six doubles, 12 RBIs, 10 walks (7.9%) and 18 strikeouts (14.3%). In 31 games this year behind the plate, he committed two passed balls and threw out 28% of attempted basestealers. Based on his struggles for the Voyagers, Gonzalez may be a borderline pick to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.
Sanchez was part of the massive 2016 class that signed on International Signing Day, a class that included Josue Guerrero, Luis Mieses, Lenyn Sosa and Anderson Comas among others. A former outfield prospect, Sanchez was converted to catcher just prior to 2016 and was recognized by Baseball America as having good hands, quick feet, and an accurate arm. Sanchez enjoyed a terrific campaign with the DSL White Sox in 2017, as he slashed .342/.383/.381 over 155 at-bats with six doubles, 14 RBIs, five walks (3.0%) and 24 strikeouts (14.4%).
Sanchez, a resident of Venezuela, struggled badly with the AZL White Sox in 2018 in part due to diminished playing time: .094/.197/.132 in 53 at-bats with two doubles, six RBIs, five walks (7.9%) and eight strikeouts (12.7%). This year with Great Falls, Sanchez’s stats were basically a split between his 2016 and 2017 numbers. In 78 at-bats for the Voyagers, Sanchez slashed .218/.250/.269 with four doubles, 10 RBIs, four walks (4.8%) and 25 strikeouts (29.8%). Though he did strike out more frequently, Sanchez finished the year strongly as he slashed .400/.400/.467 in August. Sanchez significantly improved his ability to control the running game this year, as he threw out potential basestealers at a 40.0% rate this year compared to 5.3% the year before.
While there’s a possibility he begins with Kannapolis next year, Sanchez seems a better bet to return to Great Falls; after all, he was about 18 months younger this year than the average Pioneer League player.
AZL White Sox
Other positions: First base
Millwee, a transfer from Pitt C.C. in Greenville, N.C., transferred to High Point for the final two seasons of his college career. He enjoyed a solid senior season offensively with the Panthers as he slashed .293/.374/.468 in 205 at-bats with 12 doubles, eight homers, 35 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 25 walks (10.6%) and 35 strikeouts (14.9%). Unfortunately, Millwee struggled to curtail the running game, as he gunned down just nine of 55 stolen base attempts (16.4%). With that said, his bat was intriguing enough for the White Sox to select him in this year’s 30th round.
As a member of the AZL White Sox, Millwee didn’t get into many games despite playing fairly well. In 12 games totaling 39 at-bats, he slashed a respectable .256/.408/.333 with three doubles, four RBIs, one stolen base, eight walks (16.0%) and 10 strikeouts (20.0%). Millwee did throw out 29.4% of attempted basestealers but committed two passed balls in his eight games behind the plate. He played four games at first base flawlessly, so it seems the team considers him as an offensive catcher with the ability to play other positions.
Other positions: Left field
As a fifth-year Oregon senior, Goldfarb enjoyed a solid season although it wasn’t quite as good as the year before. He’s suffered his share of injuries while with the Ducks, including a broken foot that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season. As Goldfarb split duties between catcher and outfield, he slashed .306/415/..435 in 124 at-bats with 10 doubles, two homers, 20 RBIs, three stolen bases, 18 walks (12.2%) and 31 strikeouts (20.9%). Defensively, he was successful in thwarting 33% of stolen base attempts. As a result, he was selected in the 26th round of this year’s MLB draft.
Goldfarb struggled with Great Falls in 39 at-bats, as he slashed just .154/.353/.256 with a homer and three RBIs. As a result he was demoted to the AZL White Sox, where he righted the ship a bit with a .250/.348/.550 slash line. Combined with both teams, Goldfarb slashed .186/.351/.356 in 59 at-bats with one double, three homers, 11 RBIs, two stolen bases, 11 walks (14.9%) and 20 strikeouts (27.0%). He was only successful in throwing out a combined 3-of-32 stolen base attempts (9.4%). Baseball America referred to Goldfarb as having a plus arm in right, while also stating that he has plus power. There’s a possibility he’ll spend more time in the outfield next year, as Goldfarb only played one game at left this year.
Ortiz, a little-known catcher from Puerto Rico, was selected in the 19th round of the 2018 draft primarily because of his defense. In 17 games for the AZL White Sox last year totaling 42 at-bats, he hit just .214/.267/.238 with a double, five RBIs, three walks (6.7%) and six strikeouts (13.3%).
Ortiz returned to the AZL squad this year, but played in even fewer games although he was a bit more productive offensively. In seven games spanning 29 at-bats, Ortiz slashed .276/.276/.319 with a double, no walks and six strikeouts (20.7%). It’s hard to judge his progress with such sporadic playing time, but Ortiz did relatively well. In his seven games behind the plate, he gunned down 5-of-17 potential basestealers (29.4%). Ortiz did commit four passed balls, an incredible amount over seven games. It’s possible that had more to do with rust than with his actual defensive ability.
Torres, a native of Puerto Rico, was selected in the 11th round of this year’s MLB draft, primarily because of his athleticism and defense. According to Perfect Game in their 2018 National Showcase, he ran the 60-yard-dash in 6.56 seconds and possesses an amazing pop time of 1.81 seconds. Also, according to Perfect Game, Torres “has good arm strength and repeats his mechanics well.”
Torres struggled on both sides of the ball for the AZL White Sox this year. Offensively, he slashed just .219/.240/.240 in 96 at-bats as he hit just two doubles and walked thrice (3.0%) while striking out 28 times (28.0%). Defensively Torres had 14 passed balls (and eight errors) in just 26 games, although he did cut down 10-of-33 stolen base attempts for a respectable 30.3% rate. For Torres, his struggles may simply have resulted in trying to get used to the speed of the game. Torres likely will return to the AZL White Sox for the 2020 season.
DSL White Sox
About a month after the 2018 DSL season was over, Venezuela native Benavides signed an international contract with the White Sox. Because the DSL White Sox actually had five catchers on its roster this year, that meant they had relatively little playing time behind the plate. However, because of Benavides’ bat, he played in another 10 games as DH. Overall, in 22 games this year totaling 66 at-bats, Benavides slashed an impressive .348/.425/.606 with eight doubles, three triples, 12 RBIs, two stolen bases, nine walks (11.3%) and 14 strikeouts (17.5%). In his 12 games behind the dish, he threw out 4-of-14 attempted basestealers (28.6%) but had four passed balls. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that offense over to Stateside.
Another catcher from Venezuela, Mendoza signed with the White Sox on International Signing Day on July 2, 2017. International Scouting Director Marco Paddy said of him at the time, “Jefferson is a plus defensive catcher with an excellent frame for the position. His abilities to handle a pitching staff and call a game should help him develop quickly.” Mendoza struggled through his first season with the DSL White Sox last year, as he slashed just .207/.289/.289 in 121 at-bats by hitting seven doubles, one homer, 15 RBIs, one stolen base, 12 walks (8.9%) and 26 strikeouts (19.3%).
With a year under his belt, Mendoza picked up his offensive game this year in his return to the DSL. In 33 games encompassing 95 at-bats, he slashed .305/.391/.484 with eight doubles, three homers, 21 RBIs, one stolen base, 10 walks (9.1%) and 28 strikeouts (25.5%). Unlike last year where he curtailed the running game by thwarting 46.2% of stolen base attempts, Mendoza was only successful doing so 16.3% of the time in 2019. On the plus side, after 12 passed balls in 2018, he allowed nary a one in 2019. Mendoza should begin the 2020 season in the AZL White Sox, but with so many catchers there, it’ll be interesting to see where he will play.
Other positions played: Third Base, Second Base
Surprise, surprise. Betancourt’s another native of Venezuela and signed his international contract with the White Sox in 2016, but didn’t get into any game action until the following season. After doing reasonably well in his first DSL season in 2017 with a .268/.328/.321 slash line in just 56 at-bats, Betancourt struggled in his return season by slashing just .213/.271/.277 in 205 at-bats.
Betancourt picked up his game in 2019, however, in his third DSL season. He slashed .314/.442/.429 in 105 at-bats by hitting seven doubles, one triple, one homer, 16 RBIs and 14 walks (10.9%) while striking out 19 times (14.7%). He was successful 10-of-28 (35.7%) at gunning down potential basestealers. Betancourt spent 67% of his defensive time behind the plate, while also proving his versatility by playing third (32.3%) and second (0.7%). It’s hard to tell if his improvements had to do with physical maturity or simply because he was over a year older than his competition. Like the two players above, Betancourt deserves a mention for the expected AZL catching logjam for 2020.
What do you know, another Venezuelan catcher! Garcia signed an international contract with the White Sox about a month after the 2016 DSL season ended. He struggled badly in 2017, as he slashed just .115/.193/.192 in 52 at-bats. Garcia played more and with better results the following season, but still struggled to the tune of a .195/.255/.285 slash line in 123 at-bats as he hit four doubles, two triples, a homer with nine walks (6.6%) and 26 strikeouts (19.0%).
Garcia had easily his best season this year, but he was about 2.3 years older than his competition. He slashed .278/.386/.333 in 72 at-bats as he hit a double and a homer in his limited opportunities while walking 11 times (12.5%) and fanning 13 (14.8%). On defense, he threw out 11-of-55 attempted basestealers (20.0%). At 21, it’s unlikely he’ll return to the DSL squad for a fourth season. If Garcia remains in the organization in 2020, which would be a big “if,” it would be conceivable that he could bypass the AZL and begin the year with Great Falls due to his age.
Pineda, another Venezuelan catcher, was recognized as a hard-hitting backstop by Jesse Sanchez of MLB when he signed with the White Sox on International Signing Day on July 2, 2018. Unfortunately, Pineda struggled offensively as he had difficulty making contact on a regular basis. In 24 games totaling 81 at-bats this year, Pineda slashed just .185/.275/.333 with four doubles, a triple, two homers, 12 RBIs and nine walks (9.9%) while striking out 33 times (36.3%). He did show some defensive chops, however, as he curtailed 19-of-43 stolen base attempts (44.2%). Pineda should return to the DSL squad next year, a squad which will also include recent signee Ricardo Aguilar.