GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox outfield prospect Oscar Colas flashes a bright smile as he approaches reporters waiting to talk to him near the batting cages at Camelback Ranch. A cameraman from Chicago is following him around. It’s the closest Colas has been to the big leagues and he already looks the part of a big leaguer.
“Nice to meet you,” he says in English, extending handshakes to the handful of media.
In Sox white pinstripe pants and a black jersey, Colas looks good in a uniform and looks like he’d fit right in on a team photo with all those big and tall Sox like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu. His bright, confident personality would also seem to fit right in with made-for-TV stars Jimenez and Tim Anderson.
While right field figures to be manned by Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets and Adam Engel in 2022 — unless a free agent is signed or trade is made — Colas wants to be in that picture as soon as he can, pushing the pack.
He beams at the thought of breaking through one day.
“Wow. I don’t know how I’d react,” he said through translator Billy Russo. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about a lot. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to cry or run around.”
With professional experience limited to Cuba and Japan’s minor leagues, Colas, 23, needs lots of minor league at-bats on U.S soil. He defected from Cuba in early 2020 and was signed as one of the top available international prospects in January.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch,” Sox assistant general manager and director of player development Chris Getz said, who figures to get Colas started at no lower than High-A Winston-Salem. “A really gifted player, he’s got some real power, with ease to his swing. He has some personality, some fun-loving personality that is infectious to others, his teammates and staff, and he enjoys playing the game which is not always easy to do as a player.”
Hitting coordinator Andy Barkett quickly noticed how Colas confidently handled himself around camp his first day here.
“That comes with experience that I gained from my career,” Colas said. “I’ve been in organizations before. I know how to try to make guys comfortable, how to follow instructions and how to make everybody feel comfortable around me.”
Colas created a little buzz on the backfields at Camelback Ranch when he tripled in the first intrasquad game of minor league camp Monday.
“It felt awesome,” he said. “That was my first extra base hit with the team. I was so excited when I got to third base that I even told [Cuban prospect Bryan] Ramos, ‘Man, I can’t believe this.”
Embracing the family atmosphere the Sox aim to cultivate, Colas is already carrying himself like a big brother, even to another top Cuban outfield prospect in Yoelqui Cespedes.
“It’s very important just to show what you can do and how you do things the right way,” he said. “That can be used as a motivation for other guys. I try to set an example.”
Colas, who bats and throws left, possessing an arm that threw mid-90s stuff as a pitcher – a position he has given up — has been getting looks in center field, indicating a level defensive skill that rates above converted first basemen Sheets and Vaughn. With that group in the long-term mix, along with Cespedes, the Sox’ willingness to invest long-term in a free agent such as Michael Conforto might be prioritized behind other needs such as starting pitching and second base.
But Colas still has to show what he can do. He defected from Cuba in early 2020 and hasn’t played baseball at a high level since 2019, so that’s been difficult.
“I tried to do as much as I could, tried to keep active,” he said. “I was kind of getting crazy trying to do baseball stuff.”
Physically he likes how he feels and says he’s prepared for the challenge of a long season.
“But I need to keep building toward that,” he said. “That’s what we are doing here. Like people say here, just taking it one day at a time.”
The building will be worth watching. Barkett has liked what he sees early on.
“When his A swing is delivered, you are like ‘Whoa,’ ’’ Barkett said. “But just watching him every day, it’s ‘ooh, wow.’ This guy can do some things.
“[You notice] his body. He’s a fast mover, boom, and then when he stays on the ball, he doesn’t just hit the ball, he compresses it.
“He’s got to go through the minor leagues and do that and we’ll see, we have smart guys who will figure out where he plays and when he has to go to whenever. We are going to try to get him better every day. He’s been great.”