FutureSox Prospects of the Month: August/September 2011

FutureSox Prospects of the Month: August/September 2011
Kevan Smith

To conclude scheduled 2011 season coverage is the final prospects of the month awards. Since September is so short in the minor league season, the August and September get combined for this. Playoff stats are also included for Birmingham and Great Falls players.

White Sox affiliates mirrored the Major League team with an overall record coming in just shy of .500. Charlotte (16-17), Birmingham (16-18) and Winston-Salem (17-18) finished just under .500 in the final month plus, though the Barons had already qualified for the playoffs. Kannapolis went 18-12 in August to make a push for a playoff birth, but lost four of five games in September to come up just short. Great Falls went 24-13 to close out the regular season and won the Pioneer League title. On the flip side, Bristol faded down the stretch going 6-23 in August.

Hitter of the Month: Kevan Smith
Stats: .364/.449/.627, 24 RBI, 24 R, 15 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR with 12 BB and 20 K in 118 AB

Smith becomes a back-to-back winner despite a poor start to the month. The Pitt product went 3-36 to start August, but finished the regular season 29-59 to bring his overall average to .318 with the Voyagers. Smith then added 8 RBI in the playoffs. The athletic catcher received some pub this week by Baseball America. They ranked him the 20th best prospect in the Appalachian League and 17th in the Pioneer League. So far he's performed the best of the White Sox's 2011 draft picks and how he handles full season ball in 2012 will be one of the early story lines of the year.

Honorable mentions
Dallas McPherson: .373/.430/.773 with 12 HR, 8 BB and 23 K in 110 AB
Nick Ciolli: .298/.441/.529 with 18 BB and 23 K in 104 AB
Tyler Saladino: .331/.416/.538 with 17 BB and 25 K in 130 AB

McPherson actually outperformed Smith, 12 homers is ridiculous after all, but Smith got the nod for postseason success as well as prospect status. Ciolli and Saladino finished the season well for the Dash, but Saladino is the one making major noise. The shortstop finished the year fantastically hot and made himself one of the top five prospects in the system. He's almost a bit of a sleeper for next year because I don't think he's gotten due credit on a national level yet. It will be interesting where BA ranks him among the Carolina League prospects.

Pitcher of the Month: Cody Winiarski
Stats: 2.35 ERA, 24 K, 0 BB, 15 H in 15.1 IP

This was the toughest group to pick from yet because there weren't any starters that blew away the competition and there were a few relievers with similar numbers. Winiarski and the four honorable mention all have a case for this spot, but Winiarski earns top billing due do the 24 strikeouts and 0 walks. Winiarski, a 36th round pick, became one of the Voyagers' top relievers after Virginia's season ended in the final four of the College World Series. He has a high 80s fastball, but with good secondary stuff so it's not a surprise he was effective as a reliever in the Pioneer League. The 6-3 righty was used mostly as a starter with the Cavaliers so it will be interesting to see which way he goes next year.

Honorable mentions
Addison Reed: 17.2 IP, 1.02 ERA, 21 K, 3 BB, 7 H
Dylan Axelrod: 4-0, 36.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 30 K, 10 BB, 30 H
Stephen McCray: 4-1, 37 IP, 1.95 ERA, 29 K, 6 BB, 31 H
Brandon Kloess: 19.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 20 K, 4 BB, 13 H

It's the same old story for Reed and Axelrod. Both pitchers had outstanding seasons and earned time with the big league club as a result. Reed has maintained his unreal peripherals (12 K to 1 BB in the Majors) and Axelrod showed some ability in a quality start against Detroit almost two weeks ago.

McCray and Kloess are on the other side of the prospect spectrum. McCray is 23 and just finished his second season in rookie ball, but pitched well down the stretch to help Great Falls get into the postseason. Kloess, 26, is a reliever that started the year in A ball. However, the Sox must see something positive in him (other than the 82 K and sub 2 ERA in 79.2 IP) because he's going to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which starts a week from Tuesday.

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