Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
Every year, the White Sox seem to come into the season with one of the more poorly rated systems in all of baseball. Last year was no exception, as Baseball America rated them as the #30 system. Yup, dead last. And yet, every year, the team on the South side manages to find a way to leverage their system to its fullest potential anyway. They managed to graduate three pitchers this year, including their closer of the future in Addison Reed. While a willingness to take on payroll definitely helps, they were still able to add useful pieces like Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Liriano, and Brett Myers by moving players from deep in the system. The system hasn't improved dramatically, but there are still a few interesting prospects there.
Graduates in 2012
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who either reached the Majors, or the White Sox' International League affiliate in Charlotte. These players are likely to see time at some point during the 2013 season, although it may not be until the end.
Thompson was a 2nd round draft pick by the Sox back in 2009, and really put it all together this season. He spent the majority of his season in High-A Kannapolis before playing a combined 20 games in AA and AAA. Thompson clubbed 25 home runs and stole 21 bases during the season, but hit just .253 and struck out 166 times.
The biggest knock on Thompson seems to be the strikeouts, which to me is probably the biggest thing that could keep him from reaching his potential. When I first started looking at the numbers, he reminded me a lot of another outfielder across the city, Brett Jackson. Thompson has the potential to provide solid power numbers, and after this season it appears he may be able to provide speed as well. Even though he reached AAA, he seems a lot more likely to return to AA to start the 2013 season, as he only played 14 games there and 6 at AAA.
AA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who reached AA during the 2012 season, playing for the White Sox' Southern League affiliate in Birmingham. These players could see time in Chicago in 2013, but generally will be more likely to appear in 2014.
Molina was the only player acquired in the trade that sent Sergio Santos to Toronto, and at this point the trade really looks like a mess for both sides. Molina had an excellent season in 2011, and it really looks like the Jays may have sold high on Molina. He struggled substantially, as his strikeout rate dropped from over 9 to 6.2, and his H/9 rate skyrocketed from around 8 to over 11 per 9 innings in 2012.
Molina seems destined to me to repeat AA again, and hope to return to the form he showed in both 2010 and 2011. It sounds like he may have been dealing with injury issues at points in the season as well. He seems to me like he would be a streaming pitcher for most fantasy owners, with the potential upside for a bit more if he can raise his strikeout rate back up.
Acquired from the Padres in the Carlos Quentin trade, Castro was viewed at the start of the season as a bit of a reclamation project. He had returned to AA again in 2011, and struggled when he returned to AAA for a second stint. The White Sox sent him to AA to start the year, and some ugly outings early on in the season skewed his final line there. He earned a promotion to AAA in June, where he made 5 starts before being shut down with a dead arm for a month.
There are still signs of hope for Castro, as his walk rate remains low and his strikeout rate was acceptable for AA, especially given the dead arm prognosis during the year. He seems very likely to be sent to AAA to start the 2013 season, partially due to the level he already reached, and partly due to his age (he'll be 25 in early April).
High-A in 2012
These are prospects who reached High-A during the 2012 season, playing for the White Sox' Carolina League affiliate in Winston-Salem. These players are likely at least 2 seasons away from reaching the Majors.
Courtney Hawkins (BBRef Statistics)
Hawkins was the White Sox' top draft pick in this year's draft, and was viewed as a mid 1st round talent by Baseball America prior to the draft. Hawkins profiles as a corner outfielder, and the consensus at this point seems to be that there are a ton of tools there, but some of them are raw. In 59 games across 3 levels, Hawkins hit .284/.324/.480 with 8 home runs and 11 stolen bases, walking 11 times and striking out 56. The reports prior to the draft indicate that Hawkins' power potential is very high, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. I'll be very interested to see if Hawkins is sent back to High-A to start the 2013 season despite playing just 16 games at the Low-A level.
Others of Note
Erik Johnson (SP) - Johnson was a 2nd round pick in 2011 out of Cal who posted an 87/29 K/BB rate in 92 innings across low-A and High-A this year. It sounds like the scouting reports on Johnson point to a pitcher who may be better than the numbers have shown so far, and is worth watching in very deep leagues. He seems like he could be moved to AA to start the 2013 season.
Carlos Sanchez (2B/SS) - Sanchez appeared at 3B in the Futures Game this year, but actually spent most of the season splitting time between 2B and SS. He really emerged this year, stealing 26 bases and hitting .323 across three different levels. If he can repeat either level of performance (he had only stolen 8 bases in the previous season), he could really emerge near the top of the rankings for the White Sox.
Jared Mitchell (OF) - Mitchell reached AAA, and had 48 extra base hits this year to go along with 21 stolen bases. The big question from him though is whether he can control his strikeouts enough to move his batting average out of the basement. He struck out 179 times this year, and while his walk total improved over the previous year (78 vs. 52), he still posted a slash line of just .237/.358/.420.
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