Mesa, Arizona —— On Sunday night, pitching for the Arizona League White Sox at Mesa’s Sloan Park on an injury rehab assignment, Chicago White Sox left-handed pitcher Ryan Riga completed the second rehab outing I’ve seen him throw in the span of a week in the AZL. The southpaw is working back into full-season shape from an injury suffered earlier this summer, and Baseball Census has now twice gotten a good look at his repertoire, multiple arm angles, and more.
As we tend to do in situations like these, we’ve got two full videos of Chicago White Sox relief prospect Ryan Riga throwing in the Arizona League this week, both of which you can watch below:
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Ryan Riga flashes two different arm angles that he’ll go between smoothly: a high three-quarters conventional look, and a very low three-quarters (almost true sidearm) offering that is particularly tough on left-handed hitters. His velocity registers about the same from each look: 88-89 mph with his fastball, and 78-79 mph with his breaking ball (the latter of which breaks more like a curve in the overhand look, and more like a slider in the sidearm view).
Far and away, I prefer Riga from his sidearm set. With all the context of only two outings under my belt, I’d suggest he move there full-time, if only because that matchup deception is likely his only path forward to the big leagues from his station before the rehab assignment, in High-A Winston-Salem. From the sidearm look, he has great natural sink on the fastball with a ton of arm-side run that he manipulates particularly well on his glove side, throwing pitches that start off the plate and sneak back onto the black.
He clearly enjoys throwing his breaking ball from both arm angles, and doesn’t hesitate to go to it against either-handed hitters, but it is far sharper and later (though with not as much downward break) when it comes from his lower arm angle. The Chicago White Sox prospect has decent command, too, and he plays the game with a slow heartbeat, so relief is particularly suited for him. But if he’s to have a future anywhere near the big leagues in the next few seasons, it’ll have to be as a situational lefty from the far livelier sidearm angle.
AZL White Sox News, Notes, And More
Looking beyond Ryan Riga now at the end of my full week-plus of AZL action—during which I was able to see four AZL White Sox games—take the following as a few small notes, tidbits, and housekeeping items about what I’ve observed in Phoenix and some of what’s to come on the site from my time down there…
-White Sox shortstop prospect Laz Rivera is the real deal. He’s not physically imposing or even that physically impressive, frankly, and I think long term he’s destined for an infield platoon/super utility role of some sort, but he’s in the middle of everything and is undoubtedly the heart of this AZL team. Great hustle, impressive knack for the game, very strong situational awareness—Laz Rivera checks all the boxes on the sorts of things you can really only get from a player by watching him in person. I’ll have a scouting report up on him in the next week or so, but suffice to say he’s an impressively competitive guy just breaking into pro ball and might be an underdog upon which to keep tabs going forward.
-As is the case with Rivera, Alex Destino is another older college guy that stands out immediately, though for the big lefty here it’s in no small part thanks to big power. A product of the University of South Carolina (frankly, I’m surprised the White Sox sent him here and not out to Great Falls or something), the outfielder has impressive pop, and very good plate coverage allows him to hit the ball back up the middle and the other way with authority. In two of his Sunday night at-bats in Mesa, I watched Destino take two remarkably easy, simple swings that resulted in a home run to left-center (opposite) field, and a ground-rule double to dead-center field. That he’s finding such easy, all-fields power already bodes well for his long-term approach.
-In the next couple days, I’ll have a scouting report up on tall right-handed pitching prospect Bryan Saucedo (click here to watch his full game video from an August 13 start in the AZL). Chicago’s 14th round selection last summer, Saucedo sits 88-91 mph with his fastball, but what’s impressive about him is the downward plane he gets thanks to his height and high three-quarters release. The righty throws a true 12-to-6 curveball that is very sharp at times (though also maddeningly inconsistent), and he has some of the physical tools that’ll bear watching if he can ever consistently, fully get in sync. More on him soon.
-Also in the next couple days, I’ll drop a scouting report on another pitcher for the Chicago White Sox — righty Zach Lewis. An undrafted local kid from Illinois, I watched Lewis twirl a very impressive start on August 10 (as with Saucedo, you can watch video of Lewis’ full August 10 outing here). In it, he sat 88-91 mph with his fastball, 82-83 mph with his changeup, and 75-79 mph with what was a remarkably sharp, late-breaking curveball. He has a good feel for all three pitches and adds some deception to his game by throwing across his body and benefitting from natural sink and a tough release point, particularly for right-handed hitters. More on him soon, as well.