When the Dominican Summer League season kicked off on June 1st, it signaled the beginning of what many new professionals hope would be the start of a long and prosperous career in professional baseball. The league is made up of both high profile players that received millions of dollars to sign with their clubs as well as less heralded players that instead sign for thousands of dollars. Once the games begin, it’s up to the players to let their talent take over and push them to the next level.
The 2019 Dominican Summer League White Sox had several players take noticeable steps in the right direction, letting their talent, not their bonus amounts, do the talking for them. There was one player in particular that stood out among the rest. That player goes by the name Benyamin Bailey.
When it Began
Born on September 18, 2001, Bailey was signed by the White Sox on April 27, 2019 out of Panama City, Panama. The White Sox signed the then 17 year old for a $35K bonus even though he was said to be one of the better Panamanian players of his class. Depending on which publication you look at, Bailey is listed between 6’4″ to 6’5″ and his weight checks in at 215 to 225-pounds.
Signing late in the 2018/2019 international signing period and in the early onset of the major league season, it’s easy to see why this signing may have slid under the radar when it was announced. Outside information on Bailey as a player was extremely limited and hard to come by. The one item that was shared however was that he came from a successful youth program in Panama.
A 2017 article about Panamanian baseball in relation to their economy touches further on the emphasis of the youth programs in Panama. From an early age, fundamentals and team successes are prioritized over individual prowess. While other countries may be more focused on churning out stars, Panama is focused on developing well rounded players.
“As a scout, the one thing we always talk about is if you find a guy in Panama with talent, sign him because those guys know how to play baseball,” Espino said. “They’re usually smart guys that have the instincts for the game.”Cardinals scout Damaso Espino in 2017 on signing Panamanian players
In regards to Bailey, signing in late April meant that his career would begin in a little over a month. It appeared that he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the upcoming season, his first in affiliated baseball. The young outfielder would prove that he was more than ready to be a professional.
First Taste as a Professional
Bailey would come into the DSL being just shy of a year younger than most of the hitters and over a year younger than most of the pitchers in the league. Despite playing against older competition and pitchers with better velocity than those in the Panamanian amateur ranks, Bailey didn’t shy away from the task at hand. Seeing his first game action on June 3rd, the 17 year old would go 1-4 with 1 strikeout and 1 stolen base.
After knocking his first professional hit in his first game, the outfielder took off from there. When he wasn’t knocking base hits around the diamond, he was reaching base via the walk. To begin his career, Bailey reached based safely in 28 straight games.
Bailey’s numbers after his first 28 games were eye popping and earned him a spot on the DSL All Star team; In 122 plate appearances (91 ABs) he would have 36 hits, six doubles, one triple, one home run, 15 runs scored, 10 runs batted in, 29 walks to 19 strikeouts, one hit by pitch, and seven stolen bases to one caught stealing. That type of production resulted in a batting line of .396/.541/.516 with a 23.8 BB%, 15.6 K% (1.53 BB/K), .121 ISO, .486 BABIP, .518 wOBA, and a 198 wRC+.
The majority of his defensive appearances came in left field for the DSL squad, but he also did make nine starts in right field and six in center field throughout the season. Bailey’s scalding hot pace to kick off his professional career did somewhat cool in the latter half of the season, but that’s not to disparage anything from how his first professional season wrapped up.
In his final 27 games, the Panamanian outfielder would get 121 plate appearances (94 ABs) with 24 hits, six doubles, two triples, one home run, 26 runs scored, nine runs batted in, 23 walks to 21 strikeouts, three hit by pitches, and three stolen bases to one caught stealing. When isolated, that produces a batting line of .255/.413/.394 with a 19.0 BB%, 17.4 K% (1.10 BB/K), .138 ISO, .315 BABIP, .405 wOBA, and a 133 wRC+.
All in all, Bailey’s introductory campaign with the White Sox was a resounding success. At the conclusion of the DSL season, in total 55 games the tall outfielder had 243 plate appearances (185 ABs) with 60 hits, 12 doubles, three triples, two home runs, 41 runs scored, 19 runs batted in, 52 walks to 40 strikeouts, four hit by pitches, and 10 stolen bases to being caught stealing twice. The final batting line shook out to be .324/.477/.454 with a 21.4 BB%, 16.5 K% (1.30 BB/K), .130 ISO, .400 BABIP, .462 wOBA, and a 166 wRC+.
Showing the consistent ability all year long to draw walks is a fantastic skill that Bailey possesses. At seasons end, the 17 year old wound up leading the entire Dominican Summer League with his .477 OBP (among qualified batters).
The Industry Takes Notice
As Bailey’s 2019 season progressed, he deservedly started garnering more attention from the prospect hounds that follow the White Sox minor league system. In addition to the eye of prospect hounds, his play also started catching the attention of members of the scouting community.
In late July, the outfielder was added to the White Sox Top 30 list by Fangraphs. He was on the Just Missed list of our Midseason Top 30 list in early August. In January 2020, Bailey was named as one of the Top 20 prospects in the DSL by Baseball America. In just a few short months, he went from relative unknown to a popular sleeper prospect in the White Sox system. Below is a video of Bailey recording an outfield assist.
Back in December of 2019, FutureSox had the pleasure of speaking with Baseball America’s Ben Badler on the FutureSox Podcast about some of the international prospects of the White Sox. Naturally, Benyamin Bailey’s name came up in the conversation, and some praise was given to the Panama City native.
When asked to describe Bailey, Badler stated that he was “absolutely enormous” and “he’s 6’5″, 225-pounds and probably going to get even bigger and stronger”. Badler also said that Bailey is “an absolute physical specimen” with both power and speed; he may lose a step as he gets older and fills out, but he should be able to run fairly well for his size as a corner outfielder.
Badler also reiterated that Panamanian players have good instincts and feel for the sport since they play a lot of organized baseball and that Bailey was one of the better hitters of his league. An interesting comment that was posed also made the podcast; considering that Panama isn’t as heavily scouted, with what we know now about how Bailey’s season went, if Bailey had been in the Dominican Republic with his raw tools and hitting ability, it was of Badler’s opinion that the White Sox wouldn’t have been able to secure Bailey’s services for the amount that they inevitably did.
Per Baseball America’s write up ($$) on Bailey, he’s a power/speed threat with both tools grading out as above average, but with more emphasis in the power department. His swing does possess some length in part to his large frame, but he has above average raw power that should develop as he further matures. He also shows good bat to ball skills and patience at the plate, paired with his knowledge of the strike zone.
After breaking out in 2019, White Sox Director of Player Development Chris Getz confirmed in late January that Bailey will officially be playing stateside in 2020. More likely than not, the now 18 year old will be gearing up for the AZL White Sox in the summer; it’s a similar path that other international signings have taken in recent years.
With Spring Training right around the corner, the big Panamanian will soon begin to get acclimated to playing baseball stateside. Plenty of focus will paid to the more household names of the White Sox farm system to see those particular players will be breaking camp with the big club or which particular affiliate they’ll be assigned to. However, there’s a subset of the White Sox fan base that will be yearning to see if the 2020 minor league season will be in fact, all about the Benyamin.
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