The COVID-19 pandemic has altered several elements of the game of baseball, including the international signing period. Typically held in July, the 2020 period was pushed back to January 2021. Now that the window is open, the White Sox have officially signed international prospects Yoelqui Céspedes and Norge Vera, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
Céspedes’ deal is worth $2.05 million, and he ranks first on the international prospects list. His notable brother, Yoenis, has had quite the splash up in the MLB after trailing off course lately. Yoelqui Cespedes has the potential to be a five-tool player, but his power may lack a bit due to his inability to hit off-speed pitches. Much like other young prospects, he can likely fix this issue with more exposure to these types of pitches.
Vera’s deal is worth $1.5 million and his lively arm has propelled him to the number 15 slot in the international market. His father, Norge Luis Vera, has a storied career in Cuba as a pitcher with a 2.57 ERA in 1,595 IP over 245 games pitched. Vera’s fastball hits a ceiling of about 97 MPH. His command may still be an issue, as it is for most young hurlers when they reach the MLB. Once he can overcome that hurdle, scouts believe he could break into the top of a rotation.
UPDATE – 2/26/21, 12:04 PM CT: The White Sox officially announced they have signed Norge Vera in addition to six other international players.
In addition to signing Céspedes and Vera, the White Sox signed outfielder and former Phillie, Nick Williams, to a minor-league deal, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Williams did not play in 2020 due to the cancelation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, but with the Phillies in 2018, he slashed .256/.324/.425 with 17 home runs. There still remains some potential for the 27-year-old, but for the most part, the White Sox see this as a high-upside depth addition.
Finally, the White Sox have made the previously reported Liam Hendriks signing official.
The White Sox have been very active on the international market as they are also eyeing prized Cuban prospect, Oscar Colas, who can both pitch and hit. Keep an eye on announcements coming down the pipeline. The White Sox are known for their “Cuban Connection”, starting in the playing days of Minnie Minoso and leading to prospects like Céspedes, Vera, or Colas.