White Sox hope Adolfo first of many international stars
Five-tool outfielder wetting his feet in instructional league play
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The instructional league contest had come to a close on this particular sunny afternoon at Camelback Ranch, a game in which Micker Adolfo pinch-ran four times and played a couple of innings in right field.
Adolfo had just finished gathering bats and other personal equipment to take back into the clubhouse when he was approached by two native Chicagoans on one of the back fields at the White Sox complex. They were in search of an autograph from the talented outfielder.
This request seemed to pleasantly disarm Adolfo, who also posed for a picture. If all goes as planned, it's a request that Adolfo figures to receive many times in the future.
As the No. 2 ranked International Prospect according to MLB.com, the White Sox July signing of Adolfo represents their greatest and most significant move into the international market. The White Sox committed a $1.6 million bonus to Adolfo, representing a franchise record for an international signee, and more players along these lines figure to follow in '14 with general manager Rick Hahn guessing the team will be slotted around $5 million internationally coming off a 99-loss campaign.
But this tale is about Adolfo, who has produced more genuine buzz from within the organization than pretty much any prospect in the last decade or so. The interesting thing is that the instructional league, beginning approximately one week after he turned 17 on Sept. 11 and already including a homer hit in Goodyear, Ariz., against Cleveland, marks Adolfo's professional debut.
"When they told me I was going to be over here in instructs playing. I was like 'Yes, finally,'" a beaming but understated Adolfo told MLB.com. "It's pretty good, you know, just looking in to see what I'm going to be doing next year. It's a good experience, coming out every day and having fun and enjoying the game."
"We are trying to plug him in and get him acclimated as fast as we can," White Sox Minor League field coordinator Kirk Champion said of Adolfo. "Not to push him too hard, but not to coddle him either. It's a fine line what you do with someone that young. He's a good looking kid, but he's still a 17-year-old kid, mentally and physically."
That acclimation process didn't just begin with the September trip to Arizona. Adolfo spent part of the summer with the Advanced Rookie Bristol squad, working out, staying in an apartment in the area and joining the club on the road.
"Now, it's his second trip over here, rather than taking him two weeks to get acclimated," Champion said. "So, hopefully that paid off."
"I'm observing, I'm watching all the guys play," said Adolfo of his time in Bristol before turning 17 and being able to compete. "It gave me an idea of what Minor League baseball is about."
In studying Adolfo for just a game or two, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound athletic presence immediately has the look and aura of a baseball player. He has drawn comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero, which is a close-to-home choice, considering Carlos Adolfo, Micker's father, played with Guerrero in the Montreal system.
There's also an Alfonso Soriano-in-his-prime feel to the younger Adolfo, who has the five-tool talent description bestowed upon him.
Ask Adolfo for his greatest skill of those five, and he chooses "power." Ask Adolfo an area that needs the most work, and he goes with "speed." And ask Adolfo about the historical significance of the No. 45 jersey he wears in the instructional league, and a quick answer is preceded only by a broad smile.
"Michael Jordan," said Adolfo, referring to the number worn by one of the NBA's greatest players during his baseball career in the White Sox organization. "When I came in, I was like: 'MJ's number? I'll go with it. No problem.'"
Pressure doesn't seem to be an issue for Adolfo. Then again, maybe he's too young to even realize the lofty expectations for his future and how his signing opened up the White Sox international market.
There will be no rush to get Adolfo to the Majors, with the right-handed hitting and throwing prospect possibly not seeing Class A Kannapolis or Winston-Salem for three seasons.
"He can hit, run and throw. We think he's going to be a pretty special talent," said Hahn of Adolfo, who will not be part of 2014 big league Spring Training. "He's a real good one to have and us being able to convert and sign one of the premier talents on the international market is a departure from where we have been in the past, both in terms of where our infrastructure has been, as well as the resources we've allocated toward that area.
"Let's not go nuts with expectations or try to set up an ETA for Chicago just yet. But he is a fantastic kid, great makeup. He's from a great family. He's a hard-nosed player. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. He's extremely athletic. All the things you want to see."
His learning curve even popped up during those Arizona autographs, with Adolfo admitting to not having much practice. The two White Sox fans talked to Adolfo about working hard to take advantage of his exceptional talent, but that speech wasn't remotely needed for the Dominican native who also played in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"No days off, that's my motto," Adolfo told his upbeat supporters. "My only job is to come out here and play ball. I'm not in this for what I got or whatever it is. I love the game of baseball and I want to take it to the big show. That's what it's all about."