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updated: 12/12/2013 7:52 PM

Sox select Cuban catcher in Rule 5 draft

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  • The White Sox have obtained 24-year-old catcher Adrian Nieto from the Washington Nationals as a Rule 5 draft pick.

    The White Sox have obtained 24-year-old catcher Adrian Nieto from the Washington Nationals as a Rule 5 draft pick.
    Associated Press


Capping a busy week at the winter meetings in Orlando on Thursday, the White Sox selected catcher Adrian Nieto from the Washington Nationals' organization in the first round of the Rule 5 draft.

While the Sox have a glaring need for help behind the plate, the 24-year-old Nieto isn't likely to be around too long due to his inexperience.

In the Rule 5, draft picks cost $50,000 in the major-league phase. Nieto, a 6-foot, 200-pound native of La Habana, Cuba, must remain on the White Sox' 25-man roster for the entire 2014 season or be offered back to the Nationals for $25,000.

The White Sox might be hoping that Nieto is primed to take a huge leap from last season, when he batted .285 with 29 doubles, 11 home runs and 53 RBI for Class A Potomac. Or perhaps they were impressed with the young catcher's solid showing in the Arizona Fall League (. 271, 6 RBI, 6 runs in 13 games with the Mesa Solar Sox).

But after watching young catchers Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley struggle last season, look for the White Sox to make a much bigger upgrade than Nieto, a fifth-round pick by the Nationals in 2008 out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

"We've talked about wanting to upgrade and potentially have some competition at the catcher's position," Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters Thursday. "This is just another avenue to bringing someone in. The kid Nieto is a switch-hitter, solid defensive skills, plus arm, some pop and some good plate discipline.

"Anytime you take a guy in Rule 5, you are rushing his development a little bit so it's a longer shot of it working out. But this kid made some real nice strides in 2013 in terms of development. We figure bring him in and give him the shot and have some competition. It doesn't mean by any means we are done in terms of our search for potential upgrades."

So it appears Nieto will get a look in spring training.

"It's a good place to be at," Nieto said in a report by Jonathan Mayo at "They need some catching help and I'm looking forward to hopefully being one of their big league guys.

"I've been through a lot and I've turned it around. This was my first real season where I was healthy for a full season, so I was able to show what I could do. This is icing on the cake, but it's just going to make me work harder. I want to make the team."

The Sox also acquired center fielder/leadoff man Adam Eaton in a three-year trade from the Diamondbacks Tuesday while sending left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago to the Angels.

On Monday, they signed right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino to a one-year deal with a club option for 2015.

"We feel good about it," Hahn said. "Obviously, this week we announced the addition of Felipe Paulino and acquired Adam Eaton and now added Nieto in the Rule 5. We added some depth and some competition and got a guy (Eaton) who was very high on our target list. We definitely feel good about this week. It's important for us to go out next week and have another good week. And another good one after that. We feel good about where we are but there is a lot of work ahead."

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