Buddy Bell, from the White Sox front office in Player Development, was kind enough to sit in on a conference call with various White Sox social media and blog sites, including FutureSox. Here are some notes from the call...
--Asked about moving prospects aggressively up the system, Bell said that "players dictate the speed at which we promote". Numbers are part of it, but not a lot. Sox prefer to challenge players by moving them up, trying not to allow players to get by at-level on talent alone.
--The promotion of Courtney Hawkins last year to A- and A+ was a way of challenging him, but he "tricked us by getting better" as he moved up. He's tough, and seems to get better as "the lights get brighter". He will start 2013 with A+ Winston-Salem, but they want him to see AA at some point in 2013 if all goes well.
--On Jared Mitchell... Got healthier as the season went on, needs to work on hard/soft recognition in pitches. Mitchell may have been promoted a little too quickly. He's tweaked his plate approach and is more balanced now (had mechanical issues, possibly from his injury), and looks great physically in camp. Bell even referred to his own decision to play Mitchell in the AFL in 2011 as "idiotic". He will start 2013 at AAA Charlotte.
--On AA Birmingham's new park... should play smaller and more "fair" for hitters, though not truly small as a park.
--On players that might surprise this year a la Carlos Sanchez last year, he mentioned Joey DeMichele, who he compared to Jason Kipnis. Defense as second is improving. Could start 2013 at Winston-Salem or Birmingham. Also mentioned Tyler Saladino as a breakout candidate, and said he will be starting the season at Birmingham.
--Sox are really working to improve minor league infield depth right now, but feel they have good depth at OF and C.
--Latin America... the situation there has gotten a lot better, as they continue rebuilding their infrastructure after the Wilder debacle. Among the big LatAm signings this past year, he said that Johan Cruz, Hanlet Otano, Rodriguez and maybe Olacio are all candidates to stay in the states this season (meaing at Bristol or Great Falls, as opposed to DSL ball in the Dominican).
--Trayce Thompson will start the year at Birmingham, looks really good and starting to get his "man strength". Trying to be careful about him relying on his power at this point, trying to improve consistency and 2-strike approach.
--Chris Beck... after having issues last spring at GSU with having bulked up (muscle) too much, he's now leaner and made great progress in the offseason instructional league. Raved about his curve, slider, change. He's slated for Low A Kannapolis.
--Keenyn Walker... impressive he put up the numbers he did despite shoulder and knee injuries (had surgery after season). Lost about 20 pounds while recovering, but has put most of it back on. They want him in Birmingham this year, but that may change based on how playing time numbers can be worked out. Showed a lot of toughness last year. Understands his speed tool well, and is more of a line drive hitter than Mitchell.
Tags: Birmingham Barons, Brandon Brennan, Bristol White Sox, Buddy Bell, Charlotte Knights, Chris Beck, courtney hawkins, Great Falls Voyagers, hanlet otano, Jared Mitchell, Joey DeMichele, johan cruz, Kannapolis Intimidators, Keenyn Walker, Kyle Hansen, Trayce Thompson, Tyler Saladino, Winston-Salem Dash