Tuesday, February 20, 2024

White Sox Add Major Outfield Talent With Pair Of Trades


The White Sox have traded right-handed reliever Gregory Santos to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-hander Prelander Berroa, outfielder Zach DeLoach, and the 69th pick in the 2024 draft, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.  

Minutes after trading Santos, Passan reported that the White Sox traded right-hander Cristian Mena to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Dominic Fletcher. The two moves added some much-needed outfield depth for a team that was currently slated to start Gavin Sheets or 35-year-old Kevin Pillar in right field.

Evaluating The Return For Santos

Santos was the frontrunner to be the White Sox closer in 2024. The 24-year-old reliever is fresh off the best season of his career. In 66.1 innings of work, he posted a 3.39 ERA and 1.296 WHIP. He also struck out nearly 23 percent of the batters he faced while limiting his walk rate to just 5.9%. 

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His expected ERA (3.16) ranked in the MLB’s 89th percentile while his average fastball velocity of 98.8 mph ranked in the top two percentile of the league. He also ranked inside the top 15 percentile in chase percentage (33.5%), ground ball rate (52.2%), and barrel percentage (1.5%). 

It is easy to see why the Mariners would like to add an arm like that to the back end of their bullpen. However, it seems like a smart move for Chris Getz to sell while Santos’s value was high. Relievers tend to fluctuate from year to year and before coming to Chicago, Santos struggled with control issues. White Sox general manager Chris Getz was able to get a pretty solid package in return. 

Prelander Berroa got his first taste of MLB action last season. In a small sample size of just 1.2 innings, the 23-year-old struck out three batters but walked three more. Berroa’s fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s, while his slider comes in at 86 mph with over 34 inches of vertical drop. 

His fastball-slider combination proved to be lethal in Double-A last season. Berroa posted a 2.89 ERA for the Arkansas Travelers and averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings. There are some concerns about his control. In six seasons in the minor leagues, he has allowed 210 free passes. If he can hone in on his control then he has the potential to develop into a high-end reliever. 

Zach DeLoach has an opportunity to be the White Sox starting right fielder. The former second-round pick out of Texas A&M hit 23 home runs and slashed .286/.387/.481 in Triple-A last season with 88 RBIs and 55 extra-base hits.

The concern with DeLoach is his plate discipline. He has gone down on strikes over 100 times in each of the last three seasons. Last year he struck out a whopping 173 times. 

On the defensive end, he can play all three outfield positions. The bulk of his time has been in right field where he has logged 2011.2 innings. During that stretch, he owns a .977 fielding percentage. 

At the age of 25, he should be MLB-ready and will have a chance to compete for a starting job out of camp, an opportunity he probably would not have in the Mariners organization.

Strengthening The Outfield Depth

May 17, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Dominic Fletcher (8) adjusts his glove after sliding safely to second base for a double against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The addition of Fletcher has new assistant general manager Josh Barfield’s fingerprints all over it. Barfield was the former farm director for the Diamondbacks and spent the previous eight seasons in Arizaona’s front office. Prior to being traded, Fletcher was considered the No. 11 prospect in the Diamondbacks organization by MLB.com.

Of the 450 Triple-A hitters with at least 100 batted balls, Fletcher was one of five with a 10 percent barrel rate and sub-20 percent whiff rate. The other four included Micheal Busch, Jonathan Aranda, Mike Ford and Kyle Manzardo.  

Like DeLoach, Fletcher will have an excellent opportunity to earn the White Sox starting job in right field. The 26-year-old made his MLB debut for the Diamondbacks last season, appearing in 28 games. In 102 plate appearances, he hit .301 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, and 115 OPS+. 

Fletcher was selected by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Arkansas, where he belted 33 home runs and slashed .298/.360/.497 during his three years in Fayetteville. 

Fletcher has shown the ability to hit for average throughout his career. His first professional season was with a stacked outfield class on the Kane County Cougars. Fletcher shined hitting .318 in 55 games before earning a promotion to Double-A. In 2021 he hit 15 home runs and drove in 56 RBIs while posting a .759 OPS. 

He was promoted to Triple-A 32 games into the following season and continued to produce at the plate. In 2022 he hit .312 between the two levels while driving in a career-high 72 RBIs.

On the defensive end, he is primarily a center fielder but can play the corner outfield positions. He has a strong arm averaging 87.8 mph on his throws from the outfield last season which would have placed him in the top 71st percentile amongst qualified MLB outfielders. He saw 109.1 innings of action in center field for the Diamondbacks last season and only committed one error. 

Scouts describe him as a center fielder with strong reads off the bat and solid routes in the outfield that he pairs with an arm strong enough to handle right field. On top of his skills with the glove, Fletcher can also speak Italian. 

To acquire Fletcher the White Sox had to part ways with Cristian Mena. Mena had already reached Triple-A by the age of 21. During his three seasons in the White Sox minor league system, he owned a 4.97 ERA, 1.456 WHIP and averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Mena went 8-7 with a 4.85 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte last season. The White Sox signed him as an international free agent when he was just 16 years old in July 2019. Last season he was ranked as the White Sox No. 10 prospect by MLB.com.

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