The AZL White Sox wrapped up their season and were on the outside looking in for the playoffs, missing out on the postseason by just one game. After finishing the first half of the season with an even 14-14 record, the AZL White Sox improved in the second half, going 16-12 and giving themselves an overall record of 30-26 for the 2018 season. The team finished in third place of the Arizona League Central Division.
Despite the tough end to the season, the AZL White Sox were a fun team to watch with many intriguing ballplayers. There were even some very familiar names like Ian Clarkin, Zack Burdi, Luis Robert, Ryan Cordell, and Tito Polo who all had rehab assignments with the club for a brief time.
The AZL also served as a pit stop for some of the recent collegiate bats and arms selected by the White Sox in the MLB Draft this past June. Nick Madrigal, Steele Walker, Micah Coffey, Davis Martin, and Konnor Pilkington were all a part of the collegiate arms and bats that saw some action in the AZL before being shipped off to another affiliate.
White Sox fans also got a chance to see some of the younger prospects taken in this past MLB Draft with Bryce Bush, Lency Delgado, Kelvin Maldonado, Cabera Weaver, and Gabriel Ortiz all playing a partial or full season with the team.
There was plenty of other recent draftees, as well as some players who were getting a taste of their first season of professional baseball in the United States that were assigned to the AZL affiliate.
Let’s take a look at how some of these players performed during the 2018 season:
Harvin Mendoza spent his entire season with the AZL White Sox after playing with the DSL affiliate during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Mendoza slashed .314/.381/.409 this season, with both batting average and slugging percentage being a career-high for him. He also drove in 23 runs and had 12 walks and 12 strikeouts. In the field, he spent his entire season at first-base and posted a perfect fielding percentage in 308.2 innings. He provided the AZL White Sox with both a solid glove at first-base and a productive bat at the plate.
Luis Mieses was another guy who saw his first action of professional baseball in the United States this season after playing with the DSL affiliate in 2017. Mieses had a bit of an up and down season, slashing .226/.236/.328 with two home runs, 26 RBIs, 35 strikeouts, and only four walks. He was the team leader in RBIs and finished second in home runs. He ended his season on a hot streak, picking up at least one hit in eight of his final ten games. In the field, he picked up eight assists while playing every outfield position. He often displayed a strong arm that frequently held runners from gaining extra bases.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing prospects on the entire roster, Cabera Weaver played his first full professional season with the AZL White Sox in 2018. His speed was on full display this season as he swiped eight bags while only being thrown out once. At the plate, Weaver slashed .248/.367/.342 with one home run, three triples, and 11 RBIs. He was the team leader in triples and had two in one game against the crosstown rival AZL Cubs 2. Defensively, he played every outfield position and his athleticism translated to all three spots without any trouble.
Another player who made his professional debut in the United States this season was Anderson Comas. After spending the last season with the DSL affiliate, Comas put together a great first season in the AZL. He was moved around in the batting order a bit, hitting lead-off, seventh, eighth, and ninth and saw success no matter where he was hitting. He slashed .306/.339/.388 this season which are all career-highs for him up to this point. Comas also had one home run and drove in 22 runs. He had an eleven-game hit streak and a thirteen-game hit streak this season.
Another member of the White Sox 2018 draft class who had an impressive first season in the AZL is catcher Ty Greene. He hit .313 with 11 RBIs, 17 walks, and 14 strikeouts this season. Greene was third on the team in doubles with seven. Defensively, it was a tough adjustment for Greene who allowed 35 stolen bases while only throwing out seven runners. However, from a blocking perspective, Ty Greene was like a brick wall behind the plate. Also, he did get some time in left field, showing he has the capability of playing multiple positions if need be.
Lency Delgado was also a member of the 2018 draft class and spent his entire first season of professional baseball with the AZL affiliate. In his first professional season, Delgado slashed .233/.309/.301 with one home run and 22 RBIs. He was aggressive at the plate with 40 strikeouts and only 9 walks, but as he develops his approach will change. With a 6’3″ 215 lb frame, it’s not a matter of if he will develop power, it’s a matter of when. Like most 18-19 year-old prospects, it takes time for them to develop into the hitter they are projected to be and that will be the case with Lency Delgado. Defensively, he was a mainstay at shortstop this season and showed very powerful arm strength across the diamond.
Left-handed starting pitcher Taylor Varnell led the team in ERA and had the second best ERA throughout all of the Arizona Rookie League during the 2018 season. In 45.2 IP, Varnell had a 1.97 ERA with 61 strikeouts and only 10 walks. Opponents hit a minuscule .175 when facing him. Varnell made 10 starts this season, and had at least five strikeouts in all but one of those starts. He has a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, but it’s his curveball and changeup that he relied on to rack up his strikeouts. Taylor Varnell was one of the most effective and reliable arms for the AZL White Sox this past season.
After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Zack Burdi was assigned to the AZL White Sox on a rehab assignment towards the end of the season. In six relief appearances and one start, Burdi posted a 2.84 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks in 6.1 IP. Burdi, Brayan Herrera, and Mauricio Cabrera combined to throw a no-hitter against the AZL Brewers on August 13. It was nice to see him back on the mound after being sidelined for over a year. Zack Burdi will be playing in the Arizona Fall League to get more reps before Spring Training, so White Sox fans will not have to wait very long to see him throw again.
Hunter Kiel, a 2017 18th-round selection in the MLB Draft was used primarily as a high-leverage reliever this season. After struggling in his first professional season, Kiel turned things around this year and saw a lot of success. In 17.0 IP, Hunter Kiel had a 2.65 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 20 walks. In three save opportunities, he got the job done twice. The walk numbers are a little higher than you would like to see, but when Kiel throws strikes, he’s nearly untouchable. He has a high-90’s fastball that gave opposing hitters a lot of trouble, with opponents posting a .077 average when facing him.
Carter Love was a 2018 undrafted free agent signing that showed some potential in his first professional season. Love had a 2.96 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just five walks in 45.2 IP as a bullpen arm for the AZL White Sox. In 13 total appearances, he gave up two earned runs or less in 10 of those appearances. In a game against the AZL Royals, Carter Love had a career-high 10 strikeouts and no walks in 6.0 innings of relief. After seeing success in the Arizona Rookie League, he was promoted to the Pioneer League with the Great Falls Voyagers and ended his season there.
The AZL White Sox’ season might have ended on a sour note with the team just missing out on the playoffs, however, they were a fun and entertaining team to watch all season long. As some of these young players mature and develop, they should continue to be an impressive team next season.
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