One month remains in the minor league season, but some prospects are heating up down the stretch.
July was filled with a no-hitter and a couple more close calls by White Sox pitchers and a scorching hot run from a hitter that has some major helium.
Charlotte: 54-62 overall, 14-12 in July
Birmingham: 68-46, 17-10
Winston-Salem: 59-53, 12-16
Kannapolis: 44-68, 10-18
Great Falls: 24-20, 14-14
Bristol: 13-31, 7-22
Hitter of the Month: Marcus Semien
Stats: .372/.524/.745, 19 RBI, 28 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 29 BB, 12 K, 6/7 SB in 94 AB
Semien was so white hot in July that he earned a promotion from AA to AAA in the beginning of August. He has burst onto the prospect scene on a national level (see here and here). With elite plate discipline, a low K rate and good power, especially for a middle infielder, he has a very exciting skill set for White Sox fans. He moved around the infield with Birmingham (2B, SS, 3B), but all three of those spots could be open shortly anyway. Since the sixth round pick in 2011 was drafted there was doubts about his upside, but he will get his chance to prove he can be an everyday player.
Dan Black (AA): .295/.446/.526 with 4 HR, 21 BB and 10 K in 78 AB
Jacob Morris (Rk Great Falls): .278/.393/.522 with 5 HR, 16 BB and 37 K in 90 AB
Toby Thomas (Rk Bristol): .343/.356/.505 with 3 HR, 2 BB and 9 K in 99 AB
Black is putting up a strong season with Birmingham (.294/.417/.468), but at 26 year old his prospect status isn't very strong.
Morris and Thomas are both 2013 draft picks doing well in rookie ball. As always with rookie ball, it's tough to tell whose performances are for real. Morris, a 24th round pick, is 22, but is showing big power with the Voyagers. The concern is his very high strikeout rate. Thomas was the 21st round pick and is 19 so there's a bit more potential with him. The concern is his lack of walks so far. Both players are worth keeping an eye on when they hit full season ball.
Pitcher of the Month: Andre Rienzo
Stats: 1.23 ERA, 26 K, 11 BB, 11 H in 29.1 IP
Rienzo followed up his strong June with a dominant July. The Brazilian pitched a seven-inning no-hitter on July 25, which was his last start with Charlotte before being called up to the White Sox to start after the Jake Peavy trade. Rienzo has now made two MLB starts and has allowed five runs, two earned, in 13 innings.
His month-by-month ERA in Charlotte (April: 7.71; May: 5.74; June: 2.30; July: 1.23) tells the story of a pitcher that seems to have figured something out. Now that he's in the Majors and shown he can get big league hitters out, the key will be throwing strikes and learning how to pitch to MLB hitters once they have seen his stuff.
Scott Snodgress (AA): 27.1 IP, 0.33 ERA, 15 K, 10 BB, 14 H
Brad Goldberg (Low-A): 16.2 IP, 0.54 ERA, 21 K, 4 BB, 5 H
Jefferson Olacio (Low-A): 31.2 IP, 1.71 ERA, 20 K, 11 BB, 19 H
Snodgress nearly had a no-hitter of his own, coming up two outs short of a nine-inning no-no on July 22. Last year Snodgress broke out in the second half. He seems to be doing the same this year. Throw in an eight-inning one-run outing on August 1 and Snodgress has only allowed two runs in his last 35.1 innings. The concern is that even during this stretch he's only struck out 17 and walked 12. It's tough to judge Snodgress at this point, but he is a big lefty so he will get every chance to succeed.
Goldberg is only five months younger than Snodgress (both are 23), but is putting up such dominant numbers for Kannapolis that he deserves some attention. Since being drafted in the 10th round, Goldberg was quickly promoted from Great Falls to Kannapolis and has simply over matched the South Atlantic League. It's unclear whether the Sox are limiting his innings are a long college season or if they view him as a reliever. Either way he should start 2014 in Winston-Salem with a view on moving him quickly through the system.
Olacio is slowly figuring out the pro game. His peripherals are improving as the year goes on and his sinker is inducing tons of groundouts. Considering the 6-foot-7 lefty is only 19, and is a 6-foot-7 lefty, he remains a prospect worth tracking.