Why Sox' Colás is closer to major leagues than most originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Can you see it now? Oscar Colás patrolling right field for the Chicago White Sox?
Your imagination might not have to run so wild.
Colás, long expected to join the White Sox organization, officially did so Tuesday, signing an international free-agent deal with a $2.7 million signing bonus. The 23-year-old is the No. 5 ranked prospect in this year's class, giving the South Siders another high profile Cuban import to their minor league system.
As is the case every time a splashy youngster signs up or joins via the draft, the question is always the same. While it's nice that the White Sox have a promising new hitter in the minor leagues, when's this guy going to be suiting up for the big league squad?
It was asked last year, when the White Sox added Colás' countryman, Yoelqui Céspedes, who was ranked as the top player in the 2021 crop of international free agents. It was asked of Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez before that.
The answer is always some form of "wait and see," of course. And that's fair, considering the organization doesn't know how, in the case of Colás, the transition to American pro ball will go.
But Colás is a unique case, too, in that he has some professional experience under his belt already, having played in Japan in addition to playing for the Cuban national team, and that could make him a faster riser than he might have been otherwise.
"He is advanced," Marco Paddy, the White Sox special assistant to the general manager, said Tuesday. "He played in Cuba. Those guys, for the most part, are advanced. And he was on the national team for quite a few years. His experience with Japan allowed him to play at a higher level. There's no doubt that we feel like, with his experience, he's got a quicker path to the big leagues.
"But all that stuff is determined once the player really gets engaged over here in the States and starts playing and how well he progresses and once our player-development people start looking at, what are the possibilities, where to go, where to send him, when is he ready, when is he not.
"But for the most part, the learning curve is already there because he's already experienced baseball at a higher level. So he's already past that process."
For White Sox fans eager to upgrade the big league roster, that's not nothing.
The White Sox have options for right field in 2022, namely Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets, who performed well as rookies last year. But considering those guys can also be shuffled to designated hitter, right field provides an opportunity to improve the lineup, considering some of the big names still on the free-agent market.
Well, what about Colás?
Unlike Vaughn and Sheets, he counts the outfield as a natural position. With the pitching days that earned him hype as the "Cuban Ohtani" behind him, Colás will be an outfielder in the White Sox organization. It was his defensive attributes that Paddy raved about the most Tuesday, specifically citing a mighty impressive throwing arm — no surprise for a former pitcher — that would seem a natural fit in right field.
In addition to the rave reviews of his defense, Colás also received plenty of worthy hype regarding his bat. Playing professionally in Japan in 2019, he slashed .302/.350/.516 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs in 66 minor league games.
The experience proved valuable to the youngster, who got this part of his baseball development out of the way before signing up with the White Sox.
"Japan was like going to school for me," Colás said through team interpreter Billy Russo, "because when I went there at first I didn't have the knowledge of professional baseball. Then I learned there how to play at a professional level, and it was a really good experience because at the end that experience, (it) gave me the chance to sign in the U.S. with the White Sox.
"It was something that I appreciated, and I'm very glad to have that experience. It was something that helped me a lot."
Colás ascending to the major leagues in time to star as part of a championship chase this year seems unlikely, considering the methodical way the White Sox have handled their top talent in recent years. Keep in mind, too, that Colás hasn't seen regular action since 2019, meaning ample time to knock the rust off could certainly be a necessity.
But given that professional experience in Japan and an already advanced status from his time in Cuba, Colás could rise to the majors quicker than most. That's something to keep in mind when thinking about what the White Sox' roster will look like moving forward.
Paddy said Colás will head to spring training and start his White Sox career in the minor leagues in the United States, rather than play in the Dominican Republic as other additions to the organization, Robert included, have in the past, already a step closer to the South Side.
"I think it's just a matter of him getting a few months under his belt to see how quick he adjusts to the level of play here and then go from there," Paddy said. "He's a very good competitor, very aggressive. He's into doing what he needs to do to stay at a high level of excellence when it comes to playing. So from that standpoint, Oscar is ready mentally.
"Obviously his baseball activities are going to start slowly, and once our people determine how well he adjusts to each situation, that will determine itself. ... It's kind of hard to pinpoint when he's going to be ready for the big leagues. I think the most important thing is, mentally he's there, he wants to be there, and he's going to do whatever it takes to put himself in a situation where he gets ready to advance through our system."