This is part three of thirty in the Organizational Outlook series. For those of you interested in minor league baseball, and I know you are out there, keeping up with all the top players can be a tall task. This series will take you through each team in baseball and get you up to date on their top prospects.
If you are a prospect loving South Sider, there has not been much to cheer about lately. Going into the 2012 season, the White Sox farm system ranked dead last on lists done by Baseball America and Keith Law (subscription for both). Kenny Williams and his draft team have become notorious for being among the most frugal spenders in the amateur draft, meaning the system has been lacking the high upside talent fans and scouts love so much.
The good news for White Sox fans heading into year was that Addison Reed, ranked as the team’s number one prospect by BA and Law, was ready to contribute in the major leagues as a bullpen arm right away. Though new manager Robin Ventura tabbed lefty Hector Santiago as the team’s closer in the early going — and then Chris Sale for an odd one week period — Reed now has the role locked down. A perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities this year, Reed seems to be the closer for the foreseeable future in Chicago. He has been a big part of the success for the AL Central’s surprise leader thus far, but let us take a look at what else the system holds now that Reed is no longer of prospect status.
(All prospect rankings according to Baseball America.)
Chicago was not heavily represented in this year’s BA Top 100 prospects, with Reed as their only representative. However they did add an arm that has some people excited when they dealt previous closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays over the winter. Nestor Molina gained some prospect shine in 2011 when he struck out 148 batters in 130.1 innings split between A+ and AA. Originally signed as a third basemen by Toronto out of Venezuela in 2006, Molina transitioned well to a starting role because of his excellent command, as he paired those 148 strikeouts with only 16 walks in 2011. While he may lack one pitch with the “wow” factor, BA spoke of four solid offerings, including a fastball that tops out around 93. Molina was promoted to AAA Charlotte on May 7th after starting 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA at AA Birmingham. However, he only made one start at AAA and is now back in AA where his record sits a 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA and only 54 strikeouts in 75.1 innings.
Another reason fans in Chicago should be excited is their first round draft pick, Courtney Hawkins. A high school outfielder from Texas, Hawkins represents the first time the White Sox have taken a prep player in the first round since 2001. He also represents a shift from some of the conservative, low upside picks we have seen from Chicago in the past. At 6’3″/210, Hawkins is a great athlete who profiles to be a big time power hitter in right field someday, where he will flash a huge arm (he has touched 95 MPH as a pitcher). Keith Law wrote last week that Hawkins is already the Sox new number one prospect, with more upside than anyone else in the system. Given that description, White Sox fans probably held their breath when Hawkins did a backflip on live TV after being drafted. You can watch that right here.
The Rest of the Top 10
Simon Castro — RHP — 6’5″/210
Twice a BA Top 100 prospect with San Diego, Castro came over this winter in the Carlos Quentin trade. A lat injury derailed his 2011 season which saw him make it to AAA. Though his star has dimmed a bit, he still has upside as a mid-rotation starter, according to BA, thanks to a fastball that can touch 96 and a hard biting slider. He is at AA Birmingham this season.
2012: 5-3, 3.65 ERA, 79 IP, 76 H, 65 K, 15 BB
Trayce Thompson — OF — B-T:R-R — 6’3″/195
Thompson, a 2009 draftee, is the son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson and brother of current Warriors guard Klay Thompson. Power is his calling card, as he launched 24 bombs at low-A Kannapolis last season. Though he was repeating that level, scouts believe his ceiling is considerable if he can cut down on the strikeouts. He will get a chance to work on that this year at high-A Winston-Salem.
2012: .223/.313/.445, 269 PA, 8 HR, 10 SB, 29 BB, 82 K
Jake Petricka – RHP — 6’5″/170
The White Sox took Petricka in the second round of the 2010 draft after also drafting him out of high school. Though he had Tommy John surgery in college, Petricka has been known to light up the radar guns, hitting 100 MPH at times. He was having a great 2011 before going on the shelf with a back injury. Though he has been up to AA this year, he is currently at high-A Winston-Salem.
2012 (A+/AA): 4-5, 5.30 ERA, 54.1 IP, 60 H, 53 K, 28 BB
Keenyn Walker — OF — B-T:S-R — 6’3″/195
A 2011 draft pick out of junior college, Walker is a center-fielder with big time wheels. The White Sox see a potential leadoff hitter here, though he did struggle from both sides of the plate in his first taste of full season ball last year. He did play with wood bats in college, however, and he is back at low-A Kannapolis to work on his swing this year.
2012: .260/.377/.347, 237 PA, 1 HR, 35 SB, 38 BB, 69 K
Jhan Marinez – RHP — 6’1″/165
Though he was signed all the way in 2006, Marinez is still only 23 years old. He came to the White Sox as part of the compensation for manager Ozzie Guillen going to the Marlins. Marinez is a fastball/slider guy who can run it up to 96 MPH. He has been almost exclusively a reliever in the minors and that is where he fits with the White Sox. Marinez is at AAA Charlotte this year.
2012: 1-1, 4.50 ERA, 28 IP, 17 H, 31 K, 19 BB
Tyler Saladino — SS — B-T:R-R — 5’11″/180
Saladino had a huge season at Oral Roberts prior to being drafted by Chicago in the 7th round of the 2010 draft. BA describes him as a “steady all-around player” but fans should be excited by the power he has showed so far. After smashing 17 home runs his last year of college, he had 16 in 2011 at high-A Winston-Salem. Saladino’s future may be in a utility role, but for now he continues to play shortstop for AA Birmingham.
2012: .235/.380/.332, 273 PA, 2 HR, 23 SB, 46 BB, 52 K
Juan Silverio — 3B — B-T:R-R — 6’1″/175
Silverio was part of a bizarre scandal in the White Sox organization that saw international scouts oversell free agents to make more money. Thus, he is not the 5-tool shortstop that the team thought they were getting. Still just 21 years old, Silverio now plays third base and is a bit error prone. He is off to a solid start this year at high-A Winston-Salem.
2012: .302/.308/.477, 92 PA, 1 HR, 1 SB, 1 BB, 17 K
Ozzie Martinez – SS — B-T:R-R — 5’10″/190
The other part of the Ozzie Guillen deal with the Marlins, Martinez has seen major league time in 2010 and 2011. He is currently at AAA Charlotte for the White Sox, where he is having an awful season with the bat. Martinez is definitely a defense first player and his future is likely as a utility infielder.
2012: .176/.220/.459, 171 PA, 10 2B, 1 SB, 8 BB, 23 K
Keith Law mentioned in an article last week that Jared Mitchell, a 1st round pick by the White Sox in 2009, was having a nice bounce back year. Mitchell was great for low-A Kannapolis in his pro debut, but struggled mightily in 2011 after missing all of 2010 due to ankle surgery. But as Law said, he is making up for lost time this year at AA Birmingham. A 6’0″/205 outfielder, Mitchell is hitting .279/.408/.470 with 4 home runs and 14 steals so far. Keep an eye on him, as he continues to prove the ankle is back at 100%.
Though Law was a huge fan of the Hawkins pick, he was not so high on their compensation round pick, Keon Barnum (picked at #48 but ranked 155 in the BA draft 500). It is possible that Barnum was a signability pick for Chicago after they went big with their first overall pick, but he apparently had issues making contact in his senior year of high school. Law tabbed their 2nd round pick Chris Beck as a reliever who could move quick, similar to Addison Reed. Prep catcher Sammy Ayala was a three sport athlete in high school and was regarded by some teams as a 2nd or 3rd round talent. Chicago took a chance on him in the 17th round and will try to sign him away from UC Santa Barbara. Finally, I would be mistaken if I did not mention one of the top names in this year’s draft, Storm Throne. Yes you read that right. Throne, Chicago’s 25th round pick, is a 6’7″/245 RHP who was rumored to have touched 97 MPH. You can see all of Chicago’s picks here.