The White Sox’ long-awaited deal with Cuban slugger Oscar Colas became official earlier this month, when he agreed to a $2.7MM signing bonus as international free agency opened. Notably, while there’d been some talk of the 23-year-old Colas working as a two-way player, he’s made clear since his signing that he’ll be working as strictly an outfielder with the White Sox (link via Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago).
“Pitching is in the past for me,” Colas told reporters through the team’s interpreter. Colas adds that it was an “easy decision” and that the White Sox were far more interested in his potential as an outfielder than on the mound. Indeed, ChiSox special assistant Marco Paddy tells Duber and others that Colas is “not really a pitcher” and that his development on the mound would have taken considerably longer.
While it’d have been a fun story to see a highly touted young talent like Colas strive to become a two-way player, the “Cuban Ohtani” moniker that was placed upon him always seemed rather misguided and, frankly, unfair to Colas himself due to the expectations associated with the nickname. As we noted at the time Colas was declared a free agent by MLB, to liken a player with all of 3 1/3 professional innings pitched (during the 2018-19 Cuban National Series) to Ohtani never made much sense, catchy and marketable as the narrative might’ve been. Colas is reportedly able to reach 95 mph with his fastball, and perhaps there’s some raw pitching talent that could have been refined. However, by the time Ohtani was this age, he’d amassed 543 innings of 2.52 ERA ball in Nippon Professional Baseball and was on the cusp of jumping directly to the Majors.
None of that is to downplay Colas’ potential for big league success with the bat. By all accounts, the 6’1″, 220-pound slugger has huge raw power from the left side of the dish and could eventually settle in as a productive big league hitter. Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted recently that even though he’s improved his conditioning since leaving his native Cuba, Colas is likely to settle in as a left fielder or first baseman due in part to questions about his outfield range.
Given his age and prior professional experience in Cuba and in Japan, Colas is more advanced than your typical amateur who’d sign during the international period in MLB. That said, he also hasn’t played a game in the CNS or in NPB since 2019, so there’s surely some rust to shake off as he reacclimates.
It’s possible he’ll be a quick mover, although the White Sox already have a fairly crowded collection of players in the mix in the outfield corners, at first base and at designated hitter. Jose Abreu is locked in at first base, leaving the outfield corners and DH work to fall to Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets. Chicago also has fleet-footed Adam Engel as an option at all three outfield positions, and corner outfield prospect Micker Adolfo is out of minor league options, meaning he cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers. It’s not an immediate issue anyway, as Colas will need some time in the upper minors before he’s an option in the big leagues, but some eventual turnover among that group of corner bats/DH options is inevitable.