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January 22, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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State of the Farm: Out of college, money spent. See no future, pay no rent. All the money's gone, nowhere to go.”

Prospect rankings primer

The Top Ten

  1. OF Courtney Hawkins
  2. OF Trayce Thompson
  3. IF Carlos Sanchez
  4. RHP Erik Johnson
  5. LHP Scott Snodgress
  6. RHP Andre Rienzo
  7. CF Keenyn Walker
  8. RHP Christopher Beck
  9. RHP Myles Jaye
  10.  1B Keon Barnum

1. Courtney Hawkins
Position: OF
DOB: 11/12/1993
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Mary Carroll High School (Corpus Christi, TX)
2012 Stats: .284/.324/.480 at rookie level Bristol (38 games), Low-A Kannapolis
(16 games), High-A Winston-Salem (5 games)
The Tools: 7+ raw; 5+ hit; 6 arm

What Happened in 2012: Impressive professional debut for the back-flipping Texan, as Hawkins looked good early and finished the season at the High-A level.

Strengths: Massive raw strength/power; well above-average athlete for his size; shows very good hand-eye skills; produces bat speed; power is carrying tool; easy 7+ raw that could play at 6 or higher at developmental maturity; arm is plus; glove could be above-average.

Weaknesses: High maintenance body; potential to add bad weight and lose athleticism; aggressive approach; will chase out of the zone; swing has miss; doesn’t project up the middle.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; moved quickly in first season, but bat will need to get very close to ceiling to play in a corner.

Fantasy Future: Prototypical right field profile, with big power potential and good contact ability. Approach could limit utility, but has 25-plus home run potential.

The Year Ahead: Hawkins stormed through the lower minors in 2012, but the big Texan could use a full-season of A-ball before making the big professional jump to the Double-A level. Because of his impressive strength and excellent hand-eye coordination, Hawkins should be able to hit low-level pitching, but the real test will come when he face arms that can hit spots and spin quality off-speed pitches. It remains to be seen if Hawkins has the type of bat that will play with his approach, or if the raw power is merely a product of mature strength against inferior stuff. Sources appear mixed on his future, so a full season of professional at-bats should help clarify the developmental path Hawkins is on.

Major league ETA: 2015

2. Trayce Thompson
Position: OF
DOB: 03/15/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2009 draft, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
2012 Stats: .253/.328/.482 at High-A Winston-Salem (116 games), Double-A Birmingham (14 games), Triple-A Charlotte (6 games).
The Tools: 7 raw; 6+ arm;

What Happened in 2012: Spending the bulk of the year in the Carolina League, the toolsy outfielder took steps forward on both sides of the ball, showing more utility with the bat and more refinement in the field.

Strengths: Plus athlete; big raw power; creates loft/backspin and can drive for distance; arm is strong and grades at 6; good speed for size and can play passable CF at present.

Weaknesses: Swing is very long and leveraged; struggles with pitch recognition; exaggerated swing plane limits time bat spends in zone; hit tool is below average and receives fringe projections; more athletic than instinctual in CF; most likely corner profile.

Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; already played at Triple-A level, but hit tool and approach have big question marks; pressure on bat if moved to a corner.

Fantasy Future: Raw power is good enough to profile in a corner, but bat is unlikely to produce a ~ .260 average and could have massive strikeout numbers against high-end pitching. Has enough speed to swipe some bases.

The Year Ahead: Thompson could use a full season at the Double-A level against quality pitching. The raw power is exciting, but the hit tool and decision making at the plate are red flags for some scouts. With plus athleticism, good speed, and a very strong arm, Thompson appears to have a good profile for center, but sources are mixed about his potential at the spot, and a move to a corner spot seems likely down the line.  In right field, the bat will be under the spotlight, and with a long swing and possible pitch-recognition issues in the profile, the impressive raw power could fail to play in game action.

Major league ETA: 2014

3. Carlos Sanchez
Position: IF
DOB: 06/29/1992
Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Venezuela
2012 Stats: .323/.378/.403 at High-A Winston-Salem (92 games), Double-A Birmingham (30 games), Triple-A Charlotte (11 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 7 glove

What Happened in 2012: It seems like half of the White Sox system took the High-A/Double-A/Triple-A ride in 2012, and Sanchez was no different, showing his mature hit tool at each stop along the way.

Strengths: Natural bat-to-ball relationship; hands work very well at the plate; can direct the ball to all fields and will work with tough pitches; shows bat speed; can barrel; glove is best tool; several sources put a 7 on it; clean actions.

Weaknesses: Well below-average power; hit tool might play empty at highest level; better defensive profile at second base; arm only average on left side; bat pushed him quickly.

Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; already achieved Triple-A level; hit tools/glove will play at highest level.

Fantasy Future: Lacks a first-division profile at second base, but has excellent contact ability, so should hit for average ~.275; shows some approach and speed on base; won’t hit for power.

The Year Ahead: Sanchez’s bat is setting the pace, as the hit tool shows legit promise despite not packing a big power punch. With a plan at the plate, contact ability, and some speed, Sanchez has the tools to produce in the upper minors. If the bat continues to grow, the profile at second looks like a solid-average regular, with a very good glove and enough stick to hit down the lineup. Its not a sexy a profile, but he’s a big-league contributor at some point in his future.

Major league ETA: 2013

4. Erik Johnson
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/30/1989
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 240 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, University of California, Berkeley
(Berkeley, CA)
2012 Stats: 2.53 ERA (92.1 IP, 82 H, 87 K, 29 BB) at Low-A Kannapolis (43 IP) and High-A Winston-Salem (49.1)
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 potential SL; 5 CB

What Happened in 2012: The former second-round pick took a big step forward in his full-season debut, making 17 starts across two levels and showing a good command profile.

Strengths: Excellent size/strength; arm works; delivery improved since signing; fastball works low-90s with good sink; shows two breaking balls; slider jump to top of list in ’12; good tilt and depth; curveball will flash above-average potential; good control

Weaknesses: Changeup is below average; will flash 5, but plays lower; can play loose in the zone; needs command refinement; raw stuff isn’t overwhelming; some think he is better fit for the bullpen.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; mature body; two above-average pitches; shows some feel for pitching.

Fantasy Future: Has the body and the arsenal to develop into league-average innings eater.

The Year Ahead: Johnson has a mature approach to his craft, and brings a deep arsenal to the table. His slider could end up a plus pitch, and he already had a playable curveball coming into professional ball. His fastball plays very well low in the zone, where it normally works in the low-90s but can touch a little higher. The profile looks solid-average, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to find positive results at the Double-A level in 2013.

Major league ETA: 2014

5. Scott Snodgress
Position: LHP
DOB: 09/20/1989
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
2012 Stats: 3.00 ERA (141 IP, 112 H, 128 K, 64 BB) at Low-A Kannapolis (99 IP), High-A Winston-Salem (42 IP)
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 potential SL

What Happened in 2012: Still somewhat new to pitching, Snodgress jumped to full-season ball and made 27 starts, really finding his rhythm after a promotion to the Carolina League.

Strengths: Excellent size; Big arm strength from the left side; easy plus fastball; can work 92-94; spins projectable CB; routinely works as average and flashes plus potential; changeup projects as third average or better offering; difficult to square up.

Weaknesses: Mechanical inconsistencies; delivery has some effort; CB can lose depth and flatten out; changeup can get too firm; fringe command at present; still fastball-heavy sequence.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; fringe command, but strong fastball and late-innings floor.

Fantasy Future: Workhorse starter potential, with stuff to pitch higher but shaky command and inconsistent secondary stuff.

The Year Ahead: If the Snodgress we saw in High-A last season continues that form in Double-A, this ranking could be too low. He needs to take a big step forward with the command, but the fastball has some juice in it, and it comes from a tall, left-handed delivery. The curveball also needs improvement, as does the changeup, but the arm is fresh and there is more room to improve than the average college arm. Keep an eye on this guy.

Major league ETA: 2014

6. Andre Rienzo
Position: RHP
DOB: 07/05/1988
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2006, Brazil
2012 Stats: 2.53 ERA (103.1 IP, 78 H, 113 K, 42 BB) at High-A Winston-Salem (25 IP), Double-A Birmingham (71.2 IP), Triple-A Charlotte (6.2 IP)
The Tools: 6 FB; 5 CB

What Happened in 2012: Exploded out of the gates in the Carolina League only to have his season tainted by a 50-game PED suspension despite pitching well at higher levels after his return.

Strengths: Big arm strength; bat-missing ability; fastball is steep from high release; works 88-94; can touch mid-90s; CB shows promise and vertical tumble; hard to square up.

Weaknesses: Fringe command; doesn’t always finish release/pull-down the CB; shows both SL and CH that are below-average; most likely bullpen future.

Overall Future Potential: 5; quality 7th/8th inning reliever

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; 70-plus innings at Double-A level; PED suspension on resume.

Fantasy Future: In relief, has the arsenal and intensity to pitch high leverage; bat-missing potential.

The Year Ahead: Rienzo will look to put the PED cloud of 2012 behind him and to take another step forward like he did in Double-A. With two quality offerings and fringe command, his future is most likely in the ‘pen, where both pitches could benefit from a max-effort approach. While it’s entirely possible that he irons out the mechanics and refines the changeup, the majority of sources felt his arm would work better in a late-inning role.

Major league ETA: 2013

7. Keenyn Walker
Position: CF
DOB: 08/12/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Central Arizona College (Coolidge, AZ)
2012 Stats: .267/.378/.379 at Low-A Kannapolis (74 games), High-A Winston-Salem (37 games)
The Tools: 7 run; 5+ raw

What Happened in 2012: The raw outfielder made a return trip to the Sally League, where the bat and the approach took a step forward and eventually pushed the 22 year-old to the High-A level over the summer.

Strengths: Plus athlete; plus-plus speed; above-average defensive profile in center; arm is solid-average; shows good raw power; stolen base ability; has a plan at the plate and will work counts.

Weaknesses: Still raw; hit tool doesn’t project as plus; struggles from the right side; very empty contact as RH; power slow to play in game; can get too passive at the plate; assorted injuries shortened season.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; raw for age/level; needs grade jumps if bat will play at higher levels.

Fantasy Future: Has serious wheels, so will be stolen base threat; bat and approach could give him opportunities to reach base; game power is question mark; profiles in center.

The Year Ahead: Walker could use another dose of the Carolina League, where his bat struggled to play against the competition. He has some offensive upside, but his present value comes from his defensive profile at a premium position. Right now, his bat is the big question mark, and could be the difference between an up-and-down bench outfielder and a major-league regular. He still has a lot of time to figure it out.

Major league ETA: 2015

8. Chris Beck
Position: RHP
DOB: 09/04/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2012 draft, Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, GA)
2012 Stats: 4.69 ERA (40.1 IP, 51 H, 36 K, 12 BB) at rookie-level Great Falls
The Tools: 6 FB; 5 potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2012: In his professional debut, Beck struggled to bring the quality raw stuff into game action, proving to be very hittable in his brief 40-inning clip.

Strengths: Tall/strong; serious arm strength; fastball is plus pitch; works 91-94; shows hard slider with at least average potential; changeup is best secondary offering; shows good sink and projects to be plus.

Weaknesses: Lost body at pro level; poor conditioning; got too bulky and thick and lost fluidity in delivery and looseness in the arm; arsenal played down in ’12; breaking ball was very inconsistent; tendency to grip and rip everything.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: High risk; big gap between present/future on secondary stuff; high maintenance body; mechanical inconsistencies.

Fantasy Future: Could develop into workhorse starter, with deep arsenal; potential to miss bats.

The Year Ahead: If Beck can refine his body, getting back to his 2011 amateur form, he could really take off. At least one source said he had the highest ceiling among the workhorse types, with a lively fastball, a promising slider, and a plus potential changeup. With a little more rhythm and fluidity to the delivery, Beck has the raw stuff to shape into a promising prospect, and could be the top arm in the system if the profile starts to take shape.

Major league ETA: 2015

9. Myles Jaye
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/28/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 170 lbs.
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: 17th round, 2010 draft (Jays), Starr’s Mill High School (Fayetteville, GA)
2012 Stats: 6.04 ERA (79 IP, 102 H, 65 K, 39 BB) at Low-A Kannapolis
The Tools: 6 FB; 5+ potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2012: The projectable Jaye is new to the mound, so his setbacks in his full-season debut are to be expected.

Strengths: Good arm strength; very fresh arm; fastball works 89-94; slider has projection; works low-80s with two-plane break; will flash a changeup.

Weaknesses: Very inexperienced on the mound; mechanics are still a work in progress; command is below average; slider can get slurvy and lose its snap; long way to go.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; new to pitching; wide gap between present/future.

Fantasy Future: Has a projectable body and the potential for the three playable pitches; could log innings and develop into league-average type; lots of unknowns still.

The Year Ahead: Jaye took his lumps in his initial full-season experience, but at this stage of the developmental game, logging innings and finding his pitching rhythm is more important than the production. You have to like what he has to work with, from the body/frame, to the low-90s fastball, to the average or better potential of the secondary arsenal. Jaye isn’t going to be an overnight sensation, but a little extra patience could pay off if the 21-year-old can develop into a major-league caliber arm.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Keon Barnum
Position: 1B
DOB: 01/16/1993
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 225 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, King High School (Tampa, FL)
2012 Stats: .279/.347/.512 at rookie level Bristol
The Tools: 8 raw; 5 glove

What Happened in 2012: A supplemental first round pick, Barnum went on the shelf soon after signing, but showed off his power potential in the fall instructional, launching several impressive tape-measure shots.

Strengths: Massive raw; top of the scale; big strength; monster of a man; creates good bat speed; shows good glove potential at first base.

Weaknesses: Swing has length; looks to pull fastballs and struggles against soft/spinning; good athlete for size, but most likely limited to first base defensively; hit tool remains a big question mark.

Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; huge raw, but questions about utility; limited defensive profile puts enormous pressure on bat to carry weight.

Fantasy Future: Could develop into big home run threat, as the raw power is top of the scale. Unlikely to hit for high average and won’t be a stolen base threat; all/nothing profile.

The Year Ahead: Barnum is ready to take his thunder power to the full-season level, where the addition of quality off-speed pitches could present a problem. He has a long, leveraged swing that doesn’t come with a quick trigger, so inside fastballs could also present a healthy challenge. Because of his size and athleticism, first base is most likely his long-term calling, and as such, the bat will need to prove its worth at every level in order to maintain prospect value.

Major league ETA: 2016
 

Prospects on the Rise:

1. 3B Luis Castillo: A rare mid six-figure Latin American signing for the White Sox, Castillo brings plus hit and power tools to the table. The body is already quite mature for his age, and the defensive profile at 3B isn’t special, but the young Dominican will make his name on the promise of the bat.

2. RHP Brandon Brennan: A fourth-round pick in 2012, Brennan is yet another in the ever-growing list of workhorse, no. 4 starter types in the White Sox system. Armed with a heavy fastball and a 5+ potential slider, Brennan could move up the list with a strong full-season debut in ’13.

3. C Sammy Ayala: 17th round draft pick in 2012 out of high school, Ayala will show easy plus arm strength and plus raw power, but it might take time for the raw product to bring the talent to game action. With a return trip to short-season ball likely, Ayala will have a chance to build his prospect resume slowly.
 

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013

1. RHP Jhan Marinez: From a lightning-fast arm, Marinez can pump fastballs in the mid-90s and has shown the ability to touch even higher. He can knock batters out with a mid-80s wipeout slider, but his future success will depend on his command, as even fringe command will allow his stuff to play in a late-innings role.

2. LHP Charlie Leesman: After a solid Triple-A campaign that saw the 6’4’’ lefty log 26 starts and 135 innings, he is ready to bring his fringe fastball and impressive changeup to the major-league stage, where he might be able to find a home as a long man or fifth starter.

3. RHP Simon Castro: A former top prospect in the Padres system, Castro has seen his stock dip in recent years. But after a solid showing in the Southern League, Castro is once again at the doorstep of the majors, where his heavy, plus fastball and above-average slider could eventually find a home in a major-league bullpen.
 

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)

  1. Chris Sale
  2. Dayan Viciedo
  3. Courtney Hawkins
  4. Addison Reed
  5. Trayce Thompson
  6. Carlos Sanchez
  7. Erik Johnson
  8. Scott Snodgress
  9. Jose Quintana
  10. Andre Rienzo

When talking with scouts about the White Sox system, much is made of the lack of true prospects. Said one veteran scout, “Just about that entire system is utility infielders, fourth outfielders and middle relievers. It’s depressing.”

The Sox may not have much in the pipeline but they do have a few young talents already at the big-league level. Lefthander Chris Sale moved into the rotation in 2012 and he was nothing short of sensational as the White Sox battled the Tigers right down to the wire in the AL Central. With premium stuff, Sale already shows the ability to be an outstanding no. 2 starter and he could still evolve into a no. 1 as he begins to log more innings.

Last year’s .255/.300/.444 line for Dayan Viciedo may not seem like much and it may seem intuitive that first-round pick Courtney Hawkins would rank ahead of him, but in reality, it would be a developmental success if Hawkins reached Viciedo’s level of big-league success. Viciedo has legitimate pop and has already demonstrated 25-home run power at the big-league level, something scouts can only project Hawkins to do several years down the line.

Reed ranked as the club’s top prospect entering the 2012 season and he had a successful rookie season, with nearly a strikeout per inning and 29 saves. He has true closer-level stuff and should be an impact big leaguer for a long time.

The organization’s young depth really falls off after Reed, as players like Thompson, Sanchez and Johnson either have considerable flaws or a restricted ceiling. Scott Snodgress represents one of the few players in the system who could take a legitimate step forward and become a viable prospect in 2013.--Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought: A miserly approach to amateur-talent acquisition has stripped the system and left it devoid of high-impact talent, but if you focus on potential major-league contributors rather than stars, the system can be viewed in a more positive light.

Last year's White Sox rankings 

Special thanks to Mark Anderson and Nick Faleris for their input and influence on this list. 

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

Related Content:  Chicago White Sox,  Prospects,  Scouting,  White Sox

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