Per his agent Joshua Kusnick (Twitter), Adrian Nieto has made the White Sox' Opening Day 25-man roster to serve as the backup catcher.
Nieto watching his teammates. Credit: Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune
Assuming this is legit, Nieto becomes the first catcher taken in the Rule 5 Draft to stick with his new team in six years (also per his agent).
This news would've surprised us a few weeks back, as Nieto has never played above A-ball since being drafted in the fifth round by the Washington Nationals in 2008.
But after we started hearing more about how much the team has liked Nieto this spring, it doesn't come as much of a surprise at all. Not to mention, if he doesn't break camp with the team, as a Rule 5 draftee he'd have to be offered back to the Nationals. (Check out the Rule 5 Draft rules by clicking here)
Nieto is not making the team for his offense … at least not his offense in the immediate future. He has held his own throughout Spring Training (5-for-19, 5 RBI), though. He's making the team because of his defense, how he works with the pitchers, and his future potential.
Having drawn rave reviews from White Sox pitchers recently, I think we can feel confident about how he'll work out as a backstop this season. If his play behind the plate becomes an asset for the team throughout the season and he's able to keep holding his own on offense, his opportunity moving forward with the team will only increase.
As we outlined in our recent Tyler Flowers appreciation post, a prospective catcher of the future will be brought into the organization one way or another at some point (or multiple points) over the next ten-or-so months. But since there's no guarantee one of those guys will be with the big league team during 2014 or even heading into 2015, Nieto has the opportunity, at the very least, to be the holdover catcher until a long-term option is ready.
And don't get me wrong — I don't want to imply that Nieto has no chance of becoming that long-term solution. He was drafted in the fifth round and then again by the White Sox in this past December's Rule 5 Draft for a reason: he has talent.
The Cuban has a lot of baseball ahead of him, as he just turned 24 in November. Not to mention, he's improved over the past couple seasons.
For High-A ball's Potomac (of the Carolina League) last year he logged 448 plate appearances, slashing .282/.371/.446 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI's. So when you consider that if Nieto could've taken another small step forward in AA this year, you realize he may have only been months away from becoming a legitimate MLB prospect.
You can check out Nieto's entire MiLB stats by clicking here.