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January 16, 2012

Future Shock

White Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: Two words: Not good.

Four-Star Prospects
1. Addison Reed, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
2. Nestor Molina, RHP
3. Trayce Thompson, OF
4. Jake Petricka, RHP
5. Simon Castro, RHP
6. Keenyn Walker, OF
Two-Star Prospects
7. Eduardo Escobar, SS
8. Jhan Marinez, RHP
9. Myles Jaye, RHP
10. Tyler Saladino, SS
11. Andre Rienzo, RHP

Nine More
12. Juan Silverio, 3B: He’s a third baseman who has the ability to hit, and could move forward in 2012.
13. Jared Mitchell, OF: This former first-rounder still has tools, but the results have been disastrous.
14. Brandon Short, OF: His plus hit tool is matched with a poor approach and a lack of corner-outfield power.
15. Pedro Hernandez, LHP: He was acquired from the Padres in the Carlos Quentin deal. Martinez could pitch in the big leagues this year, but he has a seventh-inning ceiling.
16. Gregory Infante, RHP: Infante is another potential 2012 bullpen piece. He has a power arm, but does not have much to go with in.
17. Erik Johnson, RHP: This 2012 second-round pick has a plus fastball and slider, but he needs to refine his changeup and command.
18. Michael Blanke, C: He has raw power and a good arm, but there are big questions about his bat.
19. Dylan Axelrod, RHP: His ceiling is a fifth starter, but he might already be there.
20. Ozzie Martinez, SS: Martinez arrived from Florida in the Ozzie Guillen deal. He’s a future utility player.

1. Addison Reed, RHP
DOB
: 12/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, San Diego State
2011 Stats: 1.12 ERA (8.0-4-1-11) at Low-A (4 G); 1.59 ERA (28.1-21-4-39) at High-A (15 G); 0.87 ERA (20.2-10-6-33) at Double-A (13 G); 1.27 ERA (21.1-8-3-28) at Triple-A (11 G); 3.68 ERA (7.1-10-1-12) at MLB (6 G)
Tools Profile: He has closer-worthy stuff.

Year in Review: This 2010 second-round pick began the year in Low-A and finished it in the big leagues.
The Good: Reed has everything it takes to be a major-league closer. His fastball averages 95 mph and touches 97-98, and it plays up due to his ability to use both sides of the plate and get ahead of hitters. His wipeout slider is among the best in the minor leagues; it’s a two-plane breaker that consistently misses bats. He works quickly, aggressively, and without fear.
The Bad: Reed is a pure reliever who has a below-average changeup and just works better in short stints. His release point can get a little too low, which gives left-handers a long look at the ball.
Ephemera: Across four minor-league levels, right-handed batters facing Reed went 24-for-155 (.155) with 74 strikeouts. Josh Harrison was the only right-handed better to hit a home run against Reed. That occurred in Reed's Triple-A debut.
Perfect World Projection: He’s a big-league closer.
Fantasy Impact: While he won't earn saves immediately, he should get them down the road.
Path to the Big Leagues: Reed will be given every opportunity to earn a late-inning spot in the big-league bullpen this spring. The path for him to close is wide open.
ETA: 2012

2. Nestor Molina, RHP
DOB
: 1/9/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/179
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2011 Stats: 2.58 ERA (108.1-102-14-115) at High-A (21 G); 0.41 ERA (22.0-12-2-33) at Double-A
Tools Profile: He has extreme command and control, but average pure stuff.

Year in Review: This Venezuelan put up huge numbers in the minors, and was traded to the White Sox for Sergio Santos.
The Good: Molina lives off his fastball, which has only average velocity but plays up due to movement and plus-plus—if not better—command and control of the pitch. He paints the corners like a veteran and constantly gets ahead in the count, which allows him to use a nasty split fastball to keep hitters off-balance. Despite being a converted third baseman, Molina has a clean delivery and has successfully transitioned from thrower to pitcher.
The Bad: Some scouts are concerned about the depth of Molina's arsenal. He leans predominantly on his two best pitches because both his slider and change are, on his best day, fringe-average. He has a higher floor than most prospects, but he also has a lower ceiling.
Ephemera: The only Nestor to reach the big leagues is Nestor Chavez, who pitched in a pair of games for the 1967 San Francisco Giants at age 19. After that, he had elbow issues. He died in a plane crash in 1969.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a third starter, but is more likely to be a fourth.
Fantasy Impact: It’s not overwhelming in any one area; it’s more solid across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Molina will likely begin 2012 in the Double-A Birmingham rotation, but he could be fast-tracked as a reliever.
ETA: 2013

3. Trayce Thompson, OF
DOB
: 3/15/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009 Santa Margarita HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .241/.329/.457 at Low-A (136 G)
Tools Profile: He has huge raw power, but “raw” is the key word.

Year in Review: This toolsy player repeated Low-A and led the Sally League in runs and finished in the top five in both doubles and home runs.
The Good: Thompson has plenty of athleticism, but his calling card is plus-plus raw power. When he makes contact, he pounds balls; in 2011, 62 of his 125 hits went for extra bases. He has a good sense of the strike zone, which helps him make up for a low batting average. He's an average runner who has improved in the outfield, where his arm is a weapon.
The Bad: Thompson struck out 172 times in 2011, and big whiff totals will always be a part of his package. He needs to improve his platoon splits, as his numbers are buoyed by a tendency to crush left-handers. He's merely an average runner, which will likely push him to a corner down the road, and put even more pressure on his bat.
Ephemera: In one of the more extreme splits you'll find, Thompson hit .193/.273/.368 with the bases empty, but became an All-Star with runners on, batting .297/.390/.561.
Perfect World Projection: He’s a five-spot hitter with a low batting average but a good number of walks and plenty of home runs.
Fantasy Impact: He'll help in the power categories, but little else.
Path to the Big Leagues: Thompson will move up to High-A in 2012, but we won't find out just how big his swing-and-miss issues are until he gets to the upper levels.
ETA: 2014

4. Jake Petricka, RHP
DOB
: 6/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Indiana State
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (4.0-4-0-5) at Rookie; 2.81 ERA (41.2-39-13-48) at Low-A (8 G); 4.39 ERA (67.2-71-26-46) at High-A (13 G)
Tools Profile: He has a power arm, but he’s still trying to complete the rest of the package.

Year in Review: This 2010 second-round pick split time among two A-level squads and showed flashes of greatness with plenty of holes.
The Good: Petricka certainly looks the part of a starter. He’s long and lanky, and uses his long levers to unleash 93-97 mph heat with natural sinking action. He generally throws strikes. He flashes a plus curveball and has some feel for a change, and kept his stuff deep into games. He did miss some time with a sore back.
The Bad: Petricka isn't as dominant as scouts expect based on his size and velocity. His secondary pitches are inconsistent, and he has a tendency to scrap them when they're not going well, as opposed to fighting through it. Because of his size, he can get inconsistent in his delivery, which leads to command issues.
Ephemera: Petricka is from Faribault, Minnesota. In addition to playing baseball in high school, he earned a pair of varsity letters in hockey.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a third starter, but without improving the depth of his stuff, he could end up as a reliever.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll be good but not great in either role.
Path to the Big Leagues: Petricka scuffled in the second half of the season in the Carolina League, but will get an opportunity to earn an Opening Day assignment at Double-A Birmingham.
ETA: 2013

5. Simon Castro, RHP
DOB
: 4/9/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2011 Stats: 4.33 ERA (89.1-95-16-73) at Double-A (16 G); 10.17 ERA (25.2-37-18-21) at Triple-A (6 G)
Tools Profile: He has a power frame, and power stuff.

Year in Review: The former top prospect in the Padres’ system struggled at the upper levels due to command issues and a dependence on his fastball.
The Good: Castro's physique has long garnered comparisons to a young Jose Contreras. He's a tall, thickly-built pitcher who uses good leg drive to sit in the low- to mid-90s with a fastball that also features above-average control. He continues to refine a slider that flashes plus, and he's an efficient pitcher who can get deep into games without accumulating a high pitch count.
The Bad: Castro's control returned after a demotion to Double-A, but he still often reverts to a one-pitch strategy. He uses his slider more as a chase pitch when behind in the count, while his changeup continues to lag behind his other offerings.
Ephemera: During Castro's disastrous early-season stint at Triple-A, he allowed 13 first-inning runs and 18 first-inning baserunners in six starts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a mid-rotation innings eater or a good reliever.
Fantasy Impact: It’s obviously much greater if he stays a starter, but scouts no longer see him making a big impact.
Path to the Big Leagues: Castro will get another crack at Triple-A in 2012, and has the opportunity to earn a September look.
ETA: Late 2012

6. Keenyn Walker, OF
DOB
: 8/12/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 Central Arizona Junior College
2011 Stats: .333/.431/.483 at Rookie (15 G); .228/.296/.259 at Low-A (39 G)
Tools Profile: He has plenty of tools, but not plenty of skills.

Year in Review: Walker was among the best junior college players in the country, and was the White Sox’ top pick in the draft. He struggled when pushed to a full-season league in his pro debut.
The Good: Walker has the best tools in the system. He's a burner who digs for extra bases on singles, and is a threat to steal any time he reaches base. He’s a switch-hitter, and physical enough to hit 10-12 home runs a season. He has a decent approach. His speed and instincts convince scouts he can stay in center field, and his arm is above average.
The Bad: Walker's hit tool is still far from developed. There's funk is his mechanics that need to be smoothed out, and he looked over-matched by Low-A pitching; he struck out 64 times in 162 at-bats. He has a line-drive swing and rarely drives ball. He needs to improve his instincts on the basepaths, and to get better jumps to be a base-stealing threat.
Ephemera: Walker was drafted in each of the last three years. The crosstown rival Cubs first drafted him in 2009 in the 16th round out of Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level center fielder, but he's far from the big leagues.
Fantasy Impact: Walker could be a fantasy beast, or could never get past Double-A.
Path to the Big Leagues: Unless everything suddenly clicks, Walker is not the kind of player who will move through the system quickly. He'll return to Low-A in 2012, and could take 1,500 minor-league at-bats or more to figure everything out.
ETA: 2015

7. Eduardo Escobar, SS
DOB
: 1/5/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/165
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2011 Stats: .266/.303/.354 at Triple-A (137 G); .286/.286/.286 at MLB (7 G)
Tools Profile: He has more defense than offense, but true shortstops are hard to find.

Year in Review: Though Escobar failed to build on his big steps in 2010, he still made his big-league debut.
The Good: Escobar is an excellent defensive player with great instincts, soft hands, and a plus-plus arm. He has a quick bat with gap power; scouts who believe in him see him developing enough hitting skills to play every day while batting eighth or ninth in the lineup.
The Bad: Escobar's approach is problematic; he's not a good enough hitter to make up for his impatience. He's no more than an average runner, which limits his range a bit. Some scouts see him as no more than a utility player.
Ephemera: Escobar's first major-league hit came in his first major-league at-bat, and came against American League MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a second-division starting shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: It’s limited.
Path to the Big Leagues: Escobar will battle for a big-league utility role in spring training, but will likely head back to Triple-A to get his offense more seasoning.
ETA: Late 2012

8. Jhan Marinez, RHP
DOB
: 8/12/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2011 Stats: 3.57 ERA (58.0-47-42-74) at Double-A (56 G); 6.75 ERA (2.2-3-3-3) at MLB
Tools Profile: He’s a pure power reliever with a plus two-pitch mix.

Year in Review: Marinez is among the top relievers in the system, but he went backward in 2011. He was the best prospect the Marlins dealt in the Ozzie Guillen trade.
The Good: Marinez has a lightning-fast arm. Despite a small, skinny frame, he sits at 93-96 mph and can touch 99 mph with a whip-like delivery. His slider is a plus pitch when he doesn't overthrow it, and has late and heavy drop.
The Bad: Marinez’s battle with his mechanics in 2011 caused his control to suffer greatly. He can rush his delivery, and has a tendency to pitch to the radar gun. He's had some elbow issues in the past, but he stayed healthy in 2011.
Ephemera: Marinez walked 23.4 percent of the left-handed batters he faced in 2011, but just 10.8 percent of the right-handed ones.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good set-up man.
Fantasy Impact: He could get plenty of strikeouts for a reliever, with a shot at some saves.
Path to the Big Leagues: Marinez will get a long look this spring, but is likely to try to get back on track at Triple-A Charlotte.
ETA: Late 2012

9. Myles Jaye, RHP
DOB
: 12/28/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/170
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 17th round, 2010, Starrs Mill HS (GA)
2011 Stats: 3.00 ERA (54.0-48-18-49) at Rookie (13 G)
Tools Profile: He has velocity and projection.

Year in Review: This over-slot ($250K) right-hander impressed in his pro debut, and was traded to the White Sox on New Year's Day.
The Good: Jaye offers plenty of potential. He has a classic, projectable frame and a smooth delivery. He sits in the low 90s and touches 94-95, which scouts think should become more regular as he fills out. He gets decent spin on a power slider, and has very good control for his age and power stuff.
The Bad: Jaye's secondary pitches are still works in progress; his slider tends to flatten, and his changeup comes in far too firm. He has a tendency to elevate his pitches, and can be prone to home runs.
Ephemera: Only three players selected with the 516th overall pick in the draft have won a major-league game; John Rocker leads with 13.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a number-three starter.
Fantasy Impact: He is a nice upside play in deep leagues, but others should be patient.
Path to the Big Leagues: Jaye will make his highly-anticipated full-season debut at Low-A Kannapolis.
ETA: 2015

10. Tyler Saladino, SS
DOB
: 7/20/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Seventh round, 2010, Oral Roberts
2011 Stats: .270/.363/.501 at High-A (102 G)
Tools Profile: He’s solid across the board, but never spectacular.

Year in Review: This 2010 pick built on an impressive debut by finishing in the Carolina League’s top five in on-base percentage and slugging.
The Good: Saladino can do a bit of everything. He has a patient approach at the plate, and a torque-filled swing that defies his size. He has earned some future average grades on his power. His defensive fundamentals are outstanding, and his plus arm is his best tool.
The Bad: One scouts classifies Saladino as, “Easy to like, but difficult to love.” He's more refined than tools, and just an average runner; he’s not the kind of quick-twitch athlete one normally finds at shortstop. He'll never hit for a high average, and his upside is more challenged if he slides to second or third base.
Ephemera: Catcher Matt Merullo, who was drafted in 1986, is the last White Sox seventh-round pick to play for the team in the majors.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid everyday player or good utilityman.
Fantasy Impact: He could be a solid contributor as a shortstop, but average elsewhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: Saladino will get his first taste of the upper levels in 2012, and begin the year at Double-A Birmingham.
ETA: Late 2012

11. Andre Rienzo, RHP
DOB
: 7/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Brazil, 2006
2011 Stats: 3.41 ERA (116.0-108-66-118) at High-A (25 G)
Tools Profile: He has a plus fastball.

Year in Review: This Brazillian righty continued to miss bats, but stopped throwing strikes.
The Good: Rienzo throws hard. He has dominated at times with a 91-94 mph fastball that not only consistently touches the mid-90s, but features heavy boring action in on left-handed hitters.
The Bad: Rienzo's walk rate more than doubled in 2011; his long delivery became uncoordinated, and he started to push balls. His slurvy breaking ball remains a work in progress, and his changeup comes and goes.
Ephemera: While there are a number of Brazil-born players in the minor leagues, none have reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He still has a chance to start, but will more likely be a bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: It’s minimal as a seventh- or eighth-inning type.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rienzo's lack of depth will be challenged in 2012 at Double-A Birmingham.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: Scott Snodgrass, a 2011 fifth-round pick, is a 6-foot-6 lefty with good command of a plus fastball/slider combination. He could move quickly.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. Addison Reed, RHP
3. Dayan Viciedo, OF
4. Gordon Beckham, 2B
5. Nestor Molina, RHP
6. Trayce Thompson, OF
7. Zach Stewart, RHP
8. Brent Morel, 3B
9. Jake Petricka, RHP
10. Simon Castro, RHP

After a successful year in the bullpen, Sale will return to the rotation. While 2012 should have some traditional bumps in the road, he's could be the team's best starter. Viciedo is penciled in as the starting right fielder. He made big strides in his approach in 2011, which should produce more optimism in his ability to hit for average and power that translates in the majors. It's easy to give up on Beckham after two steps backward, but plenty of teams have inquired about him as a change-of-scenery guy, so there some in the industry believe he’ll rebound. I've always been lower on Stewart than most, as his inability to miss bats kept him from ever really dominating at the upper levels of the minors, which makes him project more as a middle reliever. Morel has to hit for a high average to make up for his lack of power and patience, so when he hits .245, as he did in 2011, he's an absolute liability to the team, despite plus defensive ability.

 Summary: Are they rebuilding? Are they trying to rebuild and remain competitive? Teams that try to do both at the same time tend to fail twice, and considering the state of the system, it's going to require some patience for a turn around on Chicago’s South Side.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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