The White Sox minor league affiliates' seasons have all completed. Two of the six went to the playoffs: Rookie level Great Falls was eliminated in the first round, but the AA Birmingham Barons won the Southern League Championship for the 11th time, and first time since 2002.
As the big league club limps to the finish, attempting to avoid the ignominy of 100 losses, baseball fades back a bit. That doesn't mean there aren't some interesting things to watch for between now and late February when pitchers and catchers report. Here's a quick run-down of some important happenings for White Sox prospects and minor leaguers for the next 5 months, as well as some posts to watch for here on FutureSox...
FALL INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE
A big portion of the minor leaguers in the Sox system are either already in, or headed for, Arizona to participate in the fall instructs. As the name suggests, the players spend some weeks getting deeper coaching attention, and just plain getting work in. For some who missed time during the season due to injury or signing mid-season, these are valuable reps. For others who may have struggled during the season, this is the opportunity to fix problems.
There is no officially published list of who is participating, though a quick survey of prospect Twitter accounts indicates it is a pretty large percentage of them. Some of the more high end prospects include Courtney Hawkins, Tyler Danish and Keon Barnum. As we hear news from the instructs, we'll pass it along.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Each fall, MLB teams send a handful of prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League. Teams choose players for the league for a combination of reasons. Some are sent because they missed time during the season and need more competitive reps. Others are sent because they are on the fringe, and decisions need to be made about 40 man roster slots, future assignments, and likelihood of success, and the higher level of competition in the AFL provides a good evaluation. Yet others are there to be showcased, and may be trade bait.
The White Sox have so far assigned 8 players to the Glendale Desert Dogs: SP's Chris Bassitt, Charlie Leesman and Stephen McCray, RP Kevin Vance, INF's Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson, and OF's Brandon Jacobs and Jared Mitchell. We'll do a preview write-up prior to their start of play, which is October 8th. And we'll do a post-season review as well. Daily updates will be posted on the FS Twitter (@FutureSox).
Each winter, a number of minor leaguers (and sometimes a few major leaguers) from the Sox organization play in one of the winter leagues. In recent years, this has meant the Dominican, Venezuelan and Puerto Rican Leagues, as well as occasionally the Mexican League. This offseason, the White Sox are also sending some prospects to Australia, which they haven't done in a while. When all the rosters are posted and play begins, we'll post an article with a list of who is playing where, and links to the league scoreboards. We'll also publish a recap when those leagues complete play.
2014 PRE-SEASON TOP PROSPECTS LIST (and Next Wave)
Our next twice-annual list of Top White Sox Prospects, always one of our most popular pieces, will be published in January. The way things went this season, there will likely be some pretty big changes in the list, so stay tuned for that. We will also publish our annual "Next Wave" article, looking at 20-30 prospects that didn't make the Top 25 cut, but who are still worth keeping an eye on.
WHITE SOX TO ADD NEW AFFILIATE
As we reported over Twitter a few weeks back, the White Sox are going to be adding a 7th minor league affiliate for 2014. The new team will be in the Arizona "Fire League" and be a rookie level team, according to Scott Merkin (MLB.com beat writer for the White Sox). This now gives the Sox 3 rookie clubs, which will allow the organization to avoid some of the playing time conflicts that occurred this past season (i.e. the catchers at Bristol). It is likely the new team will mostly be younger, more raw players, including some Latin players as the Sox become more active in that space (OF Micker Zapata was specifically mentioned by Buddy Bell to be on this new club next season). There has been no official announcement about the team yet, or even where they will play, though they are likely to use the Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale. As more information becomes available, we will of course report it here.
After seeing four of the six White Sox affiliates in person this season and taking lots of video, we are in the process of consolidating the media onto a single YouTube Channel. We've got film of over 50 prospects, and this will allow our readers to find them all easily. Once the channel is up and running, we'll post the link and information here and on the Twitter account, as well as on the FS Forum of SoxTalk.com. This is material you just won't find elsewhere.
NEWS AND FEATURE ARTICLES
Indications are strong that the Sox will be very active in both the trade and signing markets this offseason, and that likely will involve some current and new prospects for the system. As those events occur, we'll give you the reports and analysis here.
We also have some feature articles in the pipe for the offseason, to give you your baseball fix during the cold winter months. So keep checking the site, and the Twitter account, for updates!