The Arizona Fall League is a hotbed for budding Major League prospects. The White Sox, like every other MLB club, sent a handful of players to the Phoenix area to receive some extra reps and showcase their skills in front of a number of talent evaluators each and every game.
As usual not every player in Arizona is a hot prospect simply waiting for the call up. The Sox have a mix of well-regarded prospects and lesser known players that have performed well in the minors. Think of the AFL as a proving ground of sorts. Since so much attention from within MLB is paid to this six-team league these players know a lot is on the line and that's part of why its the top offseason league worth following.
The seven White Sox players are on the Salt River Rafters along with prospects from the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Blue Jays and Nationals. Four pitchers and three position players made the trip:
Rienzo is easily the top prospect among the pitchers. He had a mostly strong season after receiving a 50-game suspension for PED use. The missed time is probably why the Sox wanted him to continue to throw. The Brazilian has a good fastball, but still needs to improve his control and his secondary pitches to become a Major League starter. If not, the bullpen could be in his future. We might get a first glimpse of him in that roll in the AFL.
The other three pitchers are already relievers. Rodriguez has yet to have a breakout season, but 2012 was probably his best go at full season ball. Taylor Thompson had a strong second half with Winston-Salem after missing time with an injury early in the year and could have figured something out. That will get put to the test this fall.
Salvador Sanchez is a bit of a mystery. He gets a chance to impress in the AFL a la Sergio Santos from a couple years ago so by that comparison a few people might be hoping for a similar breakout. The converted outfielder was lauded for his arm strength as a defender and starting late in 2010 tried to use that to his advantage as a pitcher. After pit stops in the lower minors he settled in with Birmingham in the latter part of the season with mixed results (4.24 ERA, 12 K, 17 BB in 23.1 IP). At 27 years old, he's doesn't have much time to prove himself.
On the hitting side it will be interesting to see if Trayce Thompson's positive second half can continue. Like Trayce, Carlos Sanchez played for three affiliates in a meteoric rise this year. While the Sox hope Trayce can refine his game with extra at-bats, Carlos Sanchez might be showcasing his skills for a possible trade. Wilkins' power was sapped at home in Birmingham so playing in Arizona's hitting-friendly conditions will probably be a welcome change for him.
As always there are some story lines worth following from the AFL. As of post time the Rafters' first game starts in about an hour and the game can be followed on the AFL's site, which has Gameday velocity readings for pitchers. Follow our twitter (@futuresox) for updates throughout the AFL.