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No. 9 prospect working on timing in AFL at-bats

Outfielder Rutherford one of seven White Sox in the Arizona Fall League
@wboor
October 2, 2019

PHOENIX -- After seeing a dip in his production at Double-A Birmingham, Blake Rutherford is excited about the opportunity to get extra work in the Arizona Fall League and looking to generate some momentum for the 2020 season. “Pitchers are really good,” the White Sox No. 9 prospect said of

PHOENIX -- After seeing a dip in his production at Double-A Birmingham, Blake Rutherford is excited about the opportunity to get extra work in the Arizona Fall League and looking to generate some momentum for the 2020 season.

“Pitchers are really good,” the White Sox No. 9 prospect said of the adjustment to Birmingham. “Obviously they are good at every level, but more consistent up there. Everyone has big league stuff up in Double-A, and my timing was a little bit off. I was swinging at the pitchers’ pitch instead of staying with my approach.”

Daily White Sox AFL Updates | Desert Dogs roster & stats | White Sox Top 30 prospects

After hitting .293/.345/.436 with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem in 2018, Rutherford hit .265/.319/.365 with the Barons this past season.

The 22-year-old, whom the White Sox acquired in a 2017 trade with the Yankees, has good pitch recognition skills and makes repeated contact, which leads some club officials to believe he can hit for more power as he continues to develop. However, that hasn’t quite happened yet as his career high for homers is seven, a number he’s reached in each of the past two seasons.

The 2016 first-round pick (18th overall) is also a solid defender with an average arm. Rutherford has played all three outfield spots in his career, but profiles best on the corners and may end up in left field.

Hitters in the Fall League

• Micker Adolfo, OF (No. 11): Adolfo, whom the White Sox signed for $1.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, has plenty of potential, but multiple injuries have stalled his development. The 23-year-old missed the last two months of the ‘18 season because of Tommy John surgery and played just 36 games this season before undergoing elbow surgery. Adolfo, when healthy, has the best arm in the White Sox system and is an average defender and runner in right field. At the plate, Adolfo has improved his approach and shown more patience, as well as an ability to make consistent contact and utilize the entire field.

• Gavin Sheets, 1B (No. 13): Sheets, a second-round pick from the 2017 Draft, stands out most for his power, and he started to tap into more this season with Birmingham. The 23-year-old hit a career-high 16 homers, nine of which came in the second half, and added 18 doubles, to finish the year with a slugging percentage of .414, also a career best. Sheets’ average did dip from .293 in ‘18 to .267, but the Wake Forest product controls the zone well and should be able to hit for average as he continues to advance in his career. Defensively, Sheets possesses a strong arm and soft hands and has grown into an average defender.

Pitchers in the Fall League

• Tyler Johnson, RHP (No. 19): Johnson is making up for lost time in Arizona after he missed the first 10 weeks of the season with a lat strain. The 24-year-old, a fifth-round pick from the 2017 Draft, fared well when he was on the mound this year and pitched to a 2.59 ERA over 22 games (31 1/3 innings). Johnson, who mostly relies on his mid- to upper-90s fastball, struck out 43 and held opponents to a .183 average. However, for Johnson to truly reach his potential, he’ll need to refine his command and improve his slider and changeup.

• Bernardo Flores, LHP (No. 28): Injuries limited Flores, a 2016 Draft pick (seventh round) to just 93 1/3 innings this season after he pitched 156 frames in ‘18. Flores is one of the best strike throwers in the White Sox system and struck out 82, while issuing just 17 walks this season. The 24-year-old sits in the low-90s with his fastball and has also improved his curveball and slider. Flores’ best pitch is his changeup, and he’s also a solid fielder and controls the running game well.

• Vince Arobio, RHP: Arobio pitched his way from Class A Kannapolis to Birmingham in 2019, though he struggled a bit with the Barons, where he posted a 6.11 ERA over 17 games. The Pacific product struck out 84 batters over 64 innings this season and was solid with Kannapolis (2.63 ERA over 13 games) and Winston-Salem (no runs allowed over six appearances), so a stint in the AFL will help him adjust to higher-caliber hitters and learn what he needs to improve upon to continue to climb the ladder.

• Bennett Sousa, LHP: A 10th-round pick in the 2018 Draft, Sousa pitched across three levels in 2019. The 24-year-old split the bulk of the season between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, but he did make a pair of appearances late in the year with Birmingham. Overall, Sousa pitched to a 2.49 ERA with 74 strikeouts over 65 innings (43 appearances) in his first full season. The Virginia product fared well in his two stints with Birmingham and a strong showing in Arizona could help him generate some momentum against advanced competition as he prepares for ‘20.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.