Gavin Sheets

White Sox prospects in Arizona Fall League fail to stand out

White Sox prospects in Arizona Fall League fail to stand out

Not all of the prospects the White Sox sent to the Arizona Fall League were there for the same reasons.

Some of them had injury-shortened seasons and the AFL served as a way to make up for lost time on the field. Some of them were there to see high-end minor league competition and see how they fared.

The league wrapped up the regular season on Friday and Glendale, the team the White Sox prospects were on, did not make the championship game. Overall, the results weren’t great. Frankly, none of the seven White Sox representatives distinguished themselves in Arizona.

The best performer of the bunch was reliever Tyler Johnson. Johnson, the No. 19 White Sox prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was out until mid-June with a lat strain this past season. He got an extra 8 2/3 innings in Arizona and will get more with USA Baseball's Olympic qualifying team in November. Johnson had a 3.12 ERA, but strangely struck out just three while walking seven.

Starting pitcher Bernardo Flores, another top 30 prospects at No. 28, also headed to Arizona after missing time in 2019. He made six starts in the AFL, totaling 20 1/3 innings. He struck out 19 and walked just five, but gave up a whopping 32 hits for a 7.97 ERA.

Under-the-radar relievers Bennett Sousa and Vince Arobio didn’t do much to put themselves on the map. Sousa had a 5.59 ERA, but did strike out 12 and walk only one in 9 2/3 innings. Arobio had more walks (8) than strikeouts (7) in 10 2/3 innings.

The hitting side was more interesting with Gavin Sheets (No. 13 ranked prospect) and Blake Rutherford (No. 9) looking to build on their seasons in Double-A. Both players had really slow starts in the regular season before building a bit more success towards the end of the year.

Rutherford played in the league’s all-star game, but hit .179/.281/.385. On the positive side, he finally showed some power with nine extra base hits (four doubles, three triples and two home runs) in 21 games. The three triples were second in the league.

Sheets’ AFL season mirrored his regular season. He got off to a very slow start, but hit .281/.385/.344 in his last 10 games. Overall, the 23-year-old first baseman hit .250/.321/.319 in 20 games. If Sheets had a good AFL run, he could have boosted his trade stock or started to build a case for him to get a 2020 call-up to the White Sox. Instead, he will have to make his case in Triple-A next year.

Micker Adolfo rounds out the group and his overall performance was less important than the fact that he got to play against high level competition and return to playing the field. Adolfo had Tommy John surgery and was limited to 36 games in 2019, all at DH. Adolfo was known for having a big arm before the injury. As right field continues to be a position of need for the White Sox, Adolfo could be a long-term solution there, just not any time soon.

Adolfo hit four home runs in 61 plate appearances, but also struck out 27 times. The power is still there. Maybe the rest of his game will come back with more at-bats.

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal highlight White Sox minor league all-star team

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal highlight White Sox minor league all-star team

Until the White Sox start winning at the big league level, the minor league system will continue to be of extra importance to the fanbase.

Even as Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease joined the White Sox in 2019, there was still some high-level talent in the minors. MiLB.com broke down each position to come up with a team of White Sox minor league all-stars.

These players were picked solely based on production and not prospect status, but a number of prospects still found their way on the team.

Catcher: Yermin Mercedes

First base: Gavin Sheets

Second base: Nick Madrigal

Shortstop: Zach Remillard

Third base: Danny Mendick

Outfield: Luis Robert, Steele Walker and Daniel Palka

Utility: Matt Skole

Left-handed starter: Avery Weems

Right-handed starter: Jorgan Cavanerio

Relief pitcher: Will Kincanon

The obvious standouts are Robert and Madrigal. Both played at three levels before finishing in Triple-A Charlotte. Overall, Robert had a 1.001 OPS and Madrigal hit .311, including a .331 mark in Charlotte.

Both players are expected to be up with the White Sox for most of 2020.

Walker and Sheets, both former second-round picks, are also noteworthy prospects. Sheets, drafted in 2017, led the Double-A Southern League in RBIs and Walker, drafted in 2018, was productive at both levels of A ball.

MiLB.com played some games with the rest of the infield a bit with Mendick being listed at third base. Mendick played more games at second (48) and shortstop (42) than third base (38) for Charlotte. He started at all three of those spots as a September call-up for the White Sox. His versatility will be valuable going forward in the majors.

Mercedes became a hot topic among White Sox fans for a scorching hot season. The 26-year-old catcher split the year between Double-A and Triple-A and put up especially big numbers for Charlotte. He hit .310/.386/.647 in 53 games for the Knights, which should be enough of a resume to give him a chance to impress during next spring training.

Palka and Skole have been with the White Sox for multiple years in the majors and were a part of a dangerous Charlotte lineup. Meanwhile, Remillard is a career minor leaguer who had a nice season with Birmingham and Single-A Winston-Salem.

On the pitching side, Jonathan Stiever may have gotten robbed. The right-hander had a 3.48 ERA in 26 starts between both levels of A ball, including a 2.15 ERA in 12 starts with Winston-Salem. However, Cavanerio, 25, got the nod with a 3.13 ERA with the Dash in 19 starts.

Regardless of his exclusion on this team, Stiever emerged as a breakout prospect in 2019 and will be one to watch in 2020 as he enters the higher levels of the minors.

Weems was a sixth-round pick out of Arizona in the 2019 draft. The left-hander pitched in both levels of rookie ball and finished with a 2.09 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 10 walks in 60 1/3 innings.

Kincanon is a local product from suburban Riverside-Brookfield High School. The 23-year-old had 71 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA in 58 innings for Winston-Salem.

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Gavin Sheets, Blake Rutherford headline White Sox prospects headed to Arizona Fall League

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USA TODAY

Gavin Sheets, Blake Rutherford headline White Sox prospects headed to Arizona Fall League

When talking about the future of first base for the White Sox, Jose Abreu, Andrew Vaughn and perhaps even Zack Collins dominate the discussion.

However, another prospect with MLB pedigree is having a productive season at first base. Gavin Sheets, the White Sox second-round pick in 2017, leads the Double-A Southern League with 81 RBIs as part of a breakout second half of the season.

Sheets will also headline the prospects the White Sox are sending to the Arizona Fall League after the minor league season ends. Sheets will be joined by outfielder Blake Rutherford and pitchers Bernardo Flores, Tyler Johnson, Vince Arobio and Bennett Sousa. The Athletic’s James Fegan said outfielder Micker Adolfo is “likely” the seventh player the White Sox will be sending to Arizona. Adolfo has played just 115 games the past two years due to injuries so he could use the extra games.


The AFL is a prospect-heavy league and draws plenty of attention from scouts. It is a good test and a showcase for the players involved. This year, 20 of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects are set to play in the six-team league. Last year, Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and White Sox prospect Luis Robert were among the headline talent in the league. For Robert, a solid showing in the AFL was a springboard to a monster 2019 season.

The White Sox prospects will play at the team’s spring training home of Camelback Ranch for the Glendale Desert Dogs along with players from the Reds, Dodgers, Brewers and Cardinals. The schedule for the league has been moved forward this year and the teams will begin play on Sept. 18, about two weeks after the end of the minor league regular season.

For Sheets, it’s a big chance to prove he can be a long-term part of the White Sox future. After a rough first couple months, the 23-year-old has been a solid bat in the Birmingham lineup. He entered Thursday hitting .307/.386/.507 in 58 games since the all-star break.

If Abreu re-signs with the White Sox this offseason, first base could be locked down for at least a couple more years. On top of that, Zack Collins is on a roll in Triple-A Charlotte and could take some first base/DH at-bats in addition to some catching duty. Then there’s Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, who is currently projected as the long-term future at that spot.

For now, Sheets is closer to the majors than Vaughn though. Vaughn is still getting settled into pro ball and is in Single-A. Sheets appears to have cleared the Double-A hurdle and could start 2020 in Triple-A, meaning he might not be far from reaching the majors.

The AFL gives him an opportunity to show he might be ready to contribute earlier rather than later in 2020. It’s also a showcase for other teams to see him if the White Sox think Sheets is an expendable trade piece who also has some value.

Rutherford is actually the highest-ranked prospect of the group. Like Sheets, the outfielder got off to a poor start for Double-A Birmingham. Also like Sheets, he has shown improvement as the season has gone on, but his overall numbers (.259/.305/.359) are not as impressive. Rutherford is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason so the White Sox will have to add him to the 40-man roster or risk losing him.

Of the pitchers, Johnson is the most intriguing name. He comes in at No. 19 in MLB Pipeline’s White Sox prospect rankings. The 2017 fifth-round pick was out until mid-June with a lat strain, but has been a strikeout machine out of the bullpen with healthy. He has made 10 appearances in Double-A and has a decent shot to make the White Sox bullpen at some point in 2020.

 

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