2010 FutureSox Preview: Corner Outfielders

The White Sox have a deep group of corner outfielders, but only one has big time talent. Read what we think of him and the rest of the corner outfield prospects.
Best prospect: Trayce Thompson

Trayce Thompson

2009 in review: The 61st pick in the 2009 draft came with an interesting background (NBA dad, D1 NCAA hoops brothers), but it's his athleticism on the field that is the storyline behind his selection. Thompson brings top tier upside to the White Sox system, something they desperately needed. Of course, you don't find top tier tools in the 2nd round unless the player is a major project. Thompson showed patience will be required with him. He hit just .198, struck out in 36.2% of his at-bats and managed only four extra base hits.

What he needs to improve: Right now, a little bit of everything. He needs to fill out to improve his power, he needs to cut down on the strikeouts and improve his batting eye. His defense seems to be the best part of his game right now, but he also has good bat speed. If he can shorten his swing he should be able to do fine in 2010.

What to expect in 2010: Thompson may have to play in rookie ball again in 2010, which certainly isn't a bad thing for a 19-year-old. He was said to be raw when drafted and he lived up to that. Thompson will probably play centerfield, but long term he projects to a corner because of his size (6'3", 195 lbs). He may get a sniff of Low-A Kannapolis at some point, but that's not the goal for the upcoming season.

What makes a successful season: The goal would be for Thompson to shorten his swing and at least flash the tools and potential he has. Another season around the Mendoza line with minimal power and a horrid strikeout rate would be somewhat of a red flag. Obviously, it's not make or break time, but improvement should be demanded considering it's hard to do worse than he did last season.

Close to the Majors
Stefan Gartrell

Stefan Gartrell

2009 in review: Gartrell is your typical under the radar prospect. He performs at every level, but doesn't dominate to overcome scouts' doubts about him. Gartrell repeated AA Birmingham in '09 and displayed a good walk rate (46 in 407 plate appearances), power (19 HR) and a solid average (.285). In a late season promotion to AAA Charlotte the power remained, but the walk rate and batting average dropped.

What he needs to improve: Gartrell's strikeout rate is a minor concern (24.3% last year). It's not disastrous for a power hitter, but it's something the former San Francisco Don will have to cut down.

What to expect in 2010: The 26-year-old will be in Charlotte and should be in the middle of their order. He should be able to handle himself there, but at 26 his time is running out quickly.

What makes a successful season: He needs to improve his average and walk rate in Charlotte while maintaining his power. If he can do that he will probably get a shot to be a backup outfielder in the Majors in the next year. Gartrell has the ability to be a nice power bat off the bench for a Major League team.

Christian Marrero

Christian Marrero

2009 in review: Marrero is another prospect that hasn't been rated well by scouts, but hit his way into prospect status. Marrero had a big year in '09, hitting .314 with High-A Winston-Salem and .301 with Birmingham. He didn't walk much (29 in 484 PA), but showed decent power (50 XBH) and a good contact rate (19.4 K%).

What he needs to improve: The former draft-and-follow signing (remember those?) had good walk rates in his previous three years of pro ball, but that fell off in 2009. Maybe he was more aggressive at the plate, resulting in more power, but it would be a huge asset to his game if he could return to being an on-base machine. Marrero's .349 OBP last year was his lowest since his rookie year in 2006.

What to expect in 2010: He will probably start in Birmingham again with the goal of getting to Charlotte before year's end. It's unclear if the Sox see him as a first baseman or an outfielder, he split time almost evenly between LF, RF and first. It's probably more likely that they think he will be a utility player instead of an everyday starter if he gets to the bigs.

What makes a successful season: The 23-year-old needs to bring his OBP back up in 2010. The average is nice, but that is likely to fluctuate. Marrero needs to start drawing walks again while still hitting for a good average. If he does that you would think the Sox will find a place for him on the roster in the next year or two.

John Shelby

John Shelby

2009 in review: By most accounts John Shelby took a step back in 2009. His power took a
big hit as his isolated slugging percentage fell from .215 to a career
low .159 and his batting average fell from .295 to .243. It wasn't all
bad however, as Shelby did manage to improve his walk rate from 4.6%
(BB/PA) to 9.9%, and his strikeout rate from 21.9% to 18%. Shelby's
plate discipline, or lack thereof, was my biggest concern about him
coming into the '09 season, so these improvements were very encouraging.

What he needs to improve: I wouldn't say there's one certain aspect of Shelby's game that he needs
to improve, he just needs to continue to refine his tools. More walks
and less strikeouts would always be nice but his BB%/K% last year were
adequate. Shelby does have very good speed, which he could put to better
use on the bases. I think he's capable of stealing 40+ bases at a
success rate around 77-80% and hopefully we see that from him in the
future.

What to expect in 2010: Shelby was unlucky last year as is evident by his .273 BABIP which is
much lower than his .346 mark in '08 and .331 mark in '07. So I think
it's reasonable to expect the average to return. The power is more of a
question mark, although it is usually safe to side with the career
averages, which in Shelby's case would see his ISO return to around
.200, and let's not forget that he was hitting in a very pitcher
friendly park with Birmingham last year. Shelby's park and luck adjusted
line for 2009 was .286/.362/.468 and I think that's a realistic line
for him to hit in 2010.

What makes a successful season: At 24 (25 in August), Shelby is getting old by prospect years, so he
really needs to start putting everything together. A successful season
would see Shelby's power and average return, to go along with his great
defense and improving plate discipline, and although he may not start
the season in Charlotte, we'd certainly need to see him finish there, if
not in Chicago.
-Written by Jeff
Buchanan
-

Diamond in the rough?
Brady Shoemaker
2009 in review: Shoemaker was taken by the White Sox in the 19th round of the 2009 draft, out of Indiana State. Expectations
for this 22-year-old outfielder were not very high, so it caught
everyone off guard when he opened at Rookie Bristol by hitting
safely in all of his first 28 professional games, compiling a .417 AVG,
.479 OBP and 1.129 OPS during that streak. Regression to the mean
eventually caught up with him, but he still finished with a very impressive .351/.426/.585/1.011 line. His performance
earned him a brief back-fill appearance at AAA Charlotte at season's end
(3 hits in 29 at-bats).

What he needs to improve: Brady's strikeout total was a bit high, 53 K's in 205 AB, so an
emphasis on increasing contact would help assuage fears that his 2009
season was a flash in the pan. But everything else he did statistically
looked great in his rookie year, so he just needs to keep that up along
with bringing down his K total.

What to expect in 2010: It's hard to say for sure at this point, but given Shoemaker's age (he'll
turn 23 in May) and 2009 performance, its likely he'll be playing in Kannapolis to open the season. Depending on how the system's outfield depth sorts out, Winston-Salem is not out of the
question, either to start the year or a mid-season promotion.

What makes a successful season: No one expects Shoemaker to put up the blistering numbers he did in rookie ball again, where he was older and more experienced than most of
his competition. If he can get on base and continue to show gap
power (he had 21 doubles in 205 AB in '09), as well as improve his
contact rate as noted above, then his stock will continue to rise.
-Written by Matt

Cassidy-

Other notables/Overall
Brandon Short is a speedster that was solid for Kannapolis last year at 20 years old (.284, 342, .417). He is a good athlete and could end up being a centerfielder, but has spent most of his time in left and right due to the prospect logjam the Sox have in center. 2009 10th round pick Nick Ciolli had a strong rookie season at Great Falls (.317, .389, .483).

The Sox have trended towards speed and athleticism in the outfield in recent drafts. On the flip side, they don't have much in the way of big time power bats in the outfield. Gartrell, Shelby and Marrero could be good utility players, but don't have the tools to be everyday starters. Thompson has one of the best upsides in the entire system and his progress this year will be one of the story lines of the 2010 season.

Comments

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  • Outside of pitching, I wouldn't be shocked if the Sox looked at a power hitting outfielder with one of its early picks. Last year they drafted a few outfielders early, but these were more the future speedsters than the 30-40 hr corner outfielders.

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