After each month of the minor league season, we name one position player and one pitcher as players of the month on the White Sox farm. There were some tough choices this month, with a couple hitters and a couple pitchers who could easily claim the awards. Let's take a look at who we chose, and who the few closest runners up were for each category.
Note: Stats below are for May only...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Kevan Smith, C, Birmingham Barons (AA)
Stats: .358/.447/.605, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 12:13 K:BB in 94 PA
Kevan Smith has been brought along slowly due to his rawness at the catching position, and as a result he's been playing behind the age curve and not getting much attention as a prospect. But the Sox seem to think highly of him, as evidenced by his invitation to the winter mini-camp they conducted for top hitters in the system prior to this season. And now he's doing exactly what you'd want to see him do as a 26 year old in AA - tearing it up. Smith has done everything from the plate in May - hitting for average, getting on base a ton and hitting for power. He's currently blocked at the more age-appropriate AAA level by Josh Phegley, so it will be interesting to see what they do with Smith if he keeps hitting like this.
Carlos Sanchez (AAA): .292/.372/.442, 5 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 4/6 SB/ATT, 13 BB, 29 K in 132 PA
Dan Black (AAA): .317/.423/.550, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 BB, 11 K in 71 PA
Christian Marrero (AA): .292/.410/.600, 5 2B, 5 HR, 13 BB, 14 K in 78 PA
Tim Anderson (A+): .322/.347/.444, 2 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 19 K in 95 PA
Carlos Sanchez could just as easily have won the award for his hot-hitting May, and his strong play this year has help his prospect stock bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season. It appears the highly aggressive assignment to AAA (where he started last year as the youngest player in his entire league) may have just been too much, and now having caught up to the level of play, the 21-year old is showing what made him fly up prospect lists in 2012. Another middle infielder playing above his age and (especially) experience level, Tim Anderson is extremely raw but starting to see the tools translate a bit in High A. His numbers weren't as strong as the other contenders, and he's making too many errors defensively, but his hit and power tools are starting to show through in games now which is encouraging.
Dan Black came into the season with a very narrow window to hit if he wanted to see the majors, and came out of the gate slowly. But he started to put it together in May, capped off with a 3-home run, 4-hit, 7 RBI game on 5/29. Unfortunately he sustained a minor injury late in that game and is now on the DL. Christian Marrero, another player you won't see on any top prospect lists, has been a key bat in the Barons lineup. In his second stay in the system, Marrero is providing power, on base abilities and timely hitting while playing a mix of outfield, first base and DH.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Francellis (Frank) Montas, RHP, Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
Stats: 1.50 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .176 BAA, 34:5 K:BB in 30.0 IP (5 games, all starts)
Francellis Montas didn't pitch in April, as he was in extended spring training recovering from a minor injury, so this was effectively his first month of action. This 21-year old acquired in the Peavy trade was billed for his plus fastball (mid-upper 90's with big movement) and a lack of anything else reliable. Apparently something clicked in Arizona, because his slider is now showing more often as a plus offering, and his change-up is coming along as well, giving him the tools to look very good against Carolina League hitters. He's been very tough to hit, misses lots of bats, and the control has been excellent (1.5 BB/9). Montas is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the White Sox system.
Mike Recchia (A+/AA): 2.19 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, .180 BAA, 6 BB, 31 K in 37 IP (6 games, all starts)
Taylor Thompson (AAA): 0.61 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, .080 BAA, 2 BB, 16 K in 14.2 IP (9 games, no starts)
Kyle Hansen (A+): 2.08 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .190 BAA, 5 BB, 14 K in 17.1 IP (9 games, no starts)
Jordan Guerrero (A): 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .241 BAA, 2 BB, 19 K in 14.2 IP (7 games, no starts)
Mike Recchia was picked up out of independent ball less than a year ago, and he's already dominated at three levels in the system. This Chicago-area product turned 25 at the beginning of the season so he's still slightly on the older side for this level, but he's made AA look pretty easy in 3 starts (1.50 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 12:2 K:BB) since being promoted and is worth keeping an eye on. We got a close look at him last August and you can get a little more detail here. Charlotte reliever Taylor Thompson is also about a year behind the target age curve (26), and he got hammered in his first stint in AAA last year. But so far this year he's been nails, and his May numbers are ridiculous, particularly the 0.41 WHIP and .080 average-against. He could be the next reliever to see Chicago if the need arises.
Kyle Hansen was moved to the bullpen, a bit of a surprise to many as he really only had a season to work from the rotation. But the 6'8" righty has taken well to the role thus far, using his mid-90's fastball, strong slider and tall frame to make quick work of Advanced A ball hitters. Lefty Jordan Guerrero just turned 20 on May 31st, but he's had no problems handling full-season ball so far. His 19 punch-outs in 14.2 innings, while walking only 2, look very encouraging. Effective left-handed relievers are always in demand.