Let’s be honest. When you look at the Chicago White Sox system from top to bottom, you come away feeling cheated that you spent the time looking at it all. It’s one of the weakest systems in baseball. There has been an apparent lack of concern for cultivating talent from within since the days of Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, and Frank Thomas. The club has focused on trying to win now, dumping their resources, including prospects, into bringing major league ready talent to the windy city.
It isn’t completely hopeless though. The 2012 version of the White Sox farm system showed more promise than anytime in the past decade. It’s hard to believe that the White Sox actually spent more money in the 2012 draft (under the new CBA cap restrictions) than in 2011 when money was pouring out of other teams into prospect’s pockets. While things are not on par with the rest of the league, it would appear that the White Sox management is starting to warm to the notion that they need to grow some talent from within. It almost makes you want to do a back flip, doesn’t it?
1. Courtney Hawkins, OF 11/12/1993 H: 6’3” W: 220 - Hawkins is a power prospect with a solid frame and potential plus power.We got the chance to see Hawkins at the WWBA in 2011 and he made enough of an impact to be ranked at our #16 spot pre draft. He’s got a shorter development path than most HS draftees and should start the 2013 season in High-A. With his power comes the obvious high K rate, but he makes hard contact and uses the whole field, so some development time should allow him to pick better pitches and bring his bb rate closer to his K rate. Here’s our take pre draft:
Our Instinct - Hawkins bat is ready for the move to the pro stage. He’s not a power only hitter, willing to take a walk and work the count. With instruction he’ll be able to further employ his game power in better hitters counts. He makes consistent hard contact and uses the whole field with plus plus power to the pull side. He has the arm to stick in the more premium RF corner. But CF won’t be a play for him in pro ball. ETA: 2015.
2012 by the numbers: .284/.324/.480, 26 XBH(8 HR), 11 SB, .345 BABIP, 56/11 K/BB ratio in 229 ab’s between Rookie-A and Low-A, with a brief stop at High-A. 2012 1st round draft pick, 13th overall.
2. Trayce Thompson, OF 3/15/1991 H: 6’3” W: 195 - Thompson is a bucket of elite tools with a huge strikeout issue. He’s been high on our Sox Lists and even in our 360 in the past and despite his high K rate he’s still too talented to dismiss. He’s has plus power and above average speed on the offensive side. That speed combined with a plus arm make him a future plus defender. His hit tool is coming along and a little more maturity could turn some of those K’s into better ABs. More walks and more power should follow. If he can do that he’ll be a special player. But it’s still a 50/50 shot. We’re taking those odds. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: .253/.328/.482, 62 XBH(25 HR), 21 SB, .325 BABIP, 166/55 K/BB ratio in 517 ab’s between High-A and AA, with a brief stop at AAA. 2009 2nd round draft pick, 61st overall.
3. Carlos Sanchez, SS 6/29/1992 H: 5’11” W: 175 – Sanchez is somewhat under-valued in the prospect world based on a lack of power. But he plays a premium position and hit well over three levels in 2012 as a 19/20-year-old. He’s learning his game and had his OBP at .378 on the season. He’ll begin the 2013 season in Double-A and if he can keep up his on base skills he could best his 26 SB from last year and solidy himself as a #2 hitter as a SS. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: .323/.378/.403, 33 XBH(1 HR), 26 SB, .391 BABIP, 92/41 K/BB ratio in 523 ab’s between High-A and AA, with a brief stop at AAA. 2009 International free agent, Venezuela.
4. Erik Johnson, RHP 12/30/1989 H: 6’3” W: 240 - Johnson is the best future pitcher on this list based on size and stuff. But that shows how little depth there is at the upper levels of the system, because even Johnson will probably max out as a mid rotation starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 96, but his slider is his best pitch with depth and bite. He also has a curveball which is an average offering and developing changeup that needs consistency. With his size and stuff he’s a very good bet to hit the majors by the end of the year out of the pen before making the 2014 rotation. His ultimate upside is a #2 starter but he’ll most likely settle in near the middle of the rotation. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 6-5, 2.53 ERA, 3.62 FIP, .314 BABIP, 87/29 K/BB ratio in 92.1 innings between Low-A and High-A. 2011 2nd round draft pick, 80th overall.
5. Andre Rienzo, RHP 7/5/1988 H: 6’3” W: 180 - Putting Rienzo’s 50 game suspension for PED’s aside, he made strides toward the majors. His fastball sits easy low 90s and touches mid 90s. He throws a power CB as well but lacks a true 3rd pitch with a cutter that is little used. He’s a touch older than most prospects, but he’s knocking on the door to Chicago and he’s going to either be a back rotation starter or power arm at the back of a bullpen with set-up man upside. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 7-3, 2.53 ERA, 3.58 FIP, .300 BABIP, 113/42 K/BB ratio in 103.1 innings between High-A and AA, with a brief stop at AAA. 2012 1st round draft pick, 41st overall.
6. Keenyn Walker, OF 8/12/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 195 – Walker is a speedster with strikeout issues. But he’s a switch-hitter that ranges in CF and has a good enough arm to hold down the position long-term. He’s a step behind in development and his weaknesses are the most glaring because he’s a lead off type. He takes walks already which is a good sign, so 2013 will be a big year in his development. More contact will boost his value even from here. ETA 2016.
2012 by the numbers: .267/.378/.379, 32 XBH(4 HR), 56 SB, .401 BABIP, 143/74 K/BB ratio in 409 ab’s between Low-A and High-A. 2011 1st round draft pick, 47th overall.
7. Keon Barnum, 1B 1/16/1993 H: 6’5” W: 225 - Barnum was drafted kin the 201 1st round supp at #48 overall and he’s a monster 1B with a big swing and major power potential. He could move up a ton or drop out of the top-level in short order. But he has a sweet left-handed swing that should be able to translate his power level after level. He does need to develop his approach as with all young hitter, especially those with elite level power potential. He’ll struggle to hit for AVG. At least in the beginning, though he could develop into a .270 hitter with 30+ HR power eventually. ETA 2016.
2012 by the numbers: .279/.347/.512, 4 XBH(3 HR), .333 BABIP, 13/5 K/BB ratio in 43 ab’s at Rookie-A. 212 1st round draft pick, 48th overall.
8. Nestor Molina, RHP 1/9/1989 H: 6’1” W: 180 – Molina was a FSL stud two years ago and found himself traded last offseason to the White Sox. He’s only been pitching since 2008 s he’s still learning. The struggles of 2012 we part injury and part growing pains. Molina works with a low 90s fastball, a tight curveball and an average changeup. He has the pitch selection to remain a starter and fits better there with #3 upside and back-end of the rotation probability. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 6-11, 4.55 ERA, 4.07 FIP, .366 BABIP, 88/27 K/BB ratio in 126.2 innings at AA, with a brief stop at AAA. 2006 (TOR) International free agent, Venezuela.
9. Jared Mitchell, OF 10/13/1988 H: 6’0” W: 205 – Mitchell was high on our 2009 Draft list and the concerns over his K rates has proven insightful. But his elite level tools across the board just took a little time to start to show. He made leaps last year in production and is now looking like a 4th OF in the near future. He’ll need to make some real changes in order to lock down a starting gig, but that possibility is still there as well. He’ll obviously need to take his K rate down become a full-time OF, but he has major league tools. ETA 2013.
2012 by the numbers: .237/.358/.420, 48 XBH(11 HR), 21 SB, .366 BABIP, 179/78 K/BB ratio in 409 ab’s between AA and AAA. 2009 1st round draft pick, 23rd overall.
10. Scott Snodgress, LHP 9/20/1989 H: 6’5” W: 210 - Snodgress is a big lefty who wasn’t on many lists last year because he projected more as a finesse pitcher. But his velocity upticked to the low to mid 90s and with his delivery having deception its making him much more effective. He’s still learning to harness the additional velocity and mix it in with a curve and changeup, both which still need refinement. It could click this year for him if he learns to trust his stuff. A shift to the bullpen, even if its short-term could happen in 2013, but much like Chris Sales, he may eventually be a rotation back-end type. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: 7-3, 3.00 ERA, 4.21 FIP, .282 BABIP, 128/64 K/BB ratio in 141 innings between Low-A and High-A. 2011 5th round draft pick, 171st overall.
Outside the Top 10
11. Chris Beck, RHP 9/4/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 210 - Beck was the Sox 2nd round pick in 2013 and had helium in the scouting season heading into the draft. He has a potential plus fastball, which tailed off a bit in 2012 to the low 90s. But in college he was mid 90s and a tweak in mechanics seems to be the issue. If it’s corrected he’ll pair the fastball with a hard slider and average cutter. Both secondaries could be above average. If the velocity upticks again the secondaries advance, Beck is a mid rotation starter. IF not he’ll slide into the pen as a power righty. ETA: 2014.
2012 by the numbers: 4-3, 4.69 ERA, 4.18 FIP, .385 BABIP, 36/12 K/BB ratio in 40.1 innings at Rookie-A. 2012 2nd round draft pick, 76th overall.
12. Simon Castro, RHP 4/9/1988 H: 6’5″ W: 230 - Castro was a top prospect of the Padres a couple of years ago. He has the stuff to be a mid rotation arm, with a power fastball in the low 90s that can at times touch 95. His slider is his best pitch when he’s in line and a changeup is there, though is still not refined. He’ll move up the ladder and could be another 3-4 starter type. But in short stints he could be dangerous. I’ve seen him as a power bullpen arm and have for a few years now. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: 7-5, 3.85 ERA, 3.81 FIP, .328 BABIP, 88/27 K/BB ratio in 117 innings between AA and AAA. 2006 International free agent, Dominican Republic.
13. Charlie Leesman, LHP 3/10/1987 H: 6’4″ W: 210 - Leesman is another big lefty for the Sox, but unlike Snodgress, Leesman seems like a lock for the bullpen. He works with a 90s fastball and two breaking balls in a slider and curve combination. But his big frame and ability to make hitters miss should allow him to find a spot in the Sox bullpen. ETA: 2013.
2012 by the numbers: 12-10, 2.47 ERA, 4.36 FIP, .303 BABIP, 103/52 K/BB ratio in 135 innings at AAA. 2008 11th round draft pick, 330th overall
14. Brandon Brennan, RHP
15. Marcus Semien, SS
16. Joey DeMichele, 2B
17. Micah Johnson, 2B
18. Josh Phegley, C
19. Jhan Marinez RHP
20. Tyler Saladino, SS
21. Kevan Smith C
Other players to watch in 2013: Sammy Ayala C, Andy Wilkins, 1B, Jeff Soptic RHP, Myles Jaye RHP, Jake Petricka RHP, Blake Tekotte OF, Santos Rodriguez LHP, Brian Omogrosso RHP, Jefferson Olacio LHP, Jordan Guerrero LHP
For a complete list of the Top 21′s visit the 2013 Top 21′s Page
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