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. Generally, players have to see full-time innings or plate appearances (~50 PA or 10 IP minimum), and still be a prospect (not reached MLB rookie status) to qualify. This is a reflection of the best performances by eligible players, which is not necessarily the same as overall prospect stock (though factors like age for level do come into play, just as they do in prospect evaluation).
Our winners are both 2016 draftees. Strong hitting performances were many in July, so some good ones were left off the short list. The pitching side was a little bit harder to call a single winner from the group considered, but the whole field put up some impressive numbers. July was a good month on the farm.
Note: Stats presented are for July only unless otherwise noted...
HITTER OF THE MONTH: Aaron Schnurbusch, OF, Great Falls Voyagers (Rookie)
Stats: .425/.537/.644 (1.181 OPS), 7 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 19:23 BB:K, 6/6 SB/ATT in 108 PA (24 Games)
Some of the numbers this 2016 28th round pick put up in July are better than not only his cohorts, but even the best performances for any prospect in any month over the past few years. His .425 average and ridiculous .537 OBP set new standards. He also showed a little power (2 HR, 12 XBH total) and some speed (a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts, and three triples).
Schnurbusch was a 2-way outfielder and pitcher for 2 years in junior college, before spending the last two seasons at Pitt purely in the outfield. Nothing much jumped out about his numbers there, except the large number of walks (and the fact that he's a 6'5", 235 pound center fielder), and we are seeing those walks from him as a pro. For a 22-year old 4-year college player, the expectation is that he should do well in rookie ball. But this goes well beyond doing "well", so perhaps he's made some changes that are working for him. He's clearly got a strong arm and has been playing some center field, so if the bat is really becoming something, he could be a nice find deep in the draft. In any case, it's a very impressive performance.
Mason Robbins (A+): .371/.389/.508 (.897 OPS), 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 5:13 BB:K, 2/2 SB/ATT in 131 PA (29 G)
Alex Call (Rk, A): .316/.394/.504 (.898 OPS), 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 13:19 BB:K, 5/6 SB/ATT in 133 PA (28 G)
Jackson Glines (Rk): .281/.405/.500 (.905 OPS), 7 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 11:9 BB:K, 2/3 SB/ATT in 80 PA (20 G)
Nick Basto (A+): .327/.406/.513 (.919 OPS), 7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 16:27 BB:K in 133 PA (30 G)
Robbins is a bit of an enigma - he doesn't draw walks, but also doesn't swing and miss and he just keeps getting better with the bat. In July he took a big leap forward, and he told us he's trying to work on not expanding the zone as much. If that's all coming together, look for Robbins to potentially hit AA this year and climb onto the prospect radar. Alex Call has been very good thus far in his pro debut, mostly with Great Falls but also now with Kannapolis. The 3rd rounder has shown it all at the plate and, like Schnurbusch, is playing center field. Some see Call as a potential top 10 name in the system, and so far he's not proving them wrong.
Jackson Glines was talked up by Scouting Director Nick Hostetler after being selected last year in the 10th round. It was a bit of a surprise he was repeating rookie ball this year as a 24-year old, but he's certainly making a statement that he's ready to move up with his performance. Nick Basto had a huge opening to this season with Winston-Salem putting up gaudy offensive numbers, went to AA briefly and struggled, and is now back and raking again in Advanced-A ball. He's been in the system for a while now but is still age-appropriate for that league at 22 years old.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Alec Hansen, RHP, AZL White Sox and Great Falls Voyagers (Rk)
Stats: 2.41 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, .115 BAA, 6 BB, 31 K in 18.2 IP (5 starts)
Seen as a potential 1-1 draft name coming into the spring, Alec Hansen struggled mightily at OU and the Sox were able to grab him in the 2nd round. The club hinted they saw something fixable, and early evidence suggests they may be right. Hansen has shown at both rookie affiliates, mostly Great Falls, that he can miss quite a few bats (ridiculous 14.9 K/9 and 3.4 H/9) and have surprisingly good control (2.9 BB/9). Those numbers are also mostly from a typically hitter-friendly league. It's possible Hansen could even see an A-ball club this season.
Local reports have put Hansen's fastball in the mid-90s in Pioneer League play, so even with the changes he's making he isn't losing velocity. There have also been positive reports on his breaking ball and change-up. This 6'7" right-hander may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system, but was seen as having a very low floor. Those concerns haven't disappeared, but have been perhaps mitigated.
Aron McRee (Rk): 1.82 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, .159 BAA, 1 BB, 28 K in 34.2 IP (5 starts)
Christopher Comito (Rk): 2.87 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .209 BAA, 5 BB, 36 K in 37.2 IP (6 starts)
Jimmy Lambert (Rk, A): 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .219 BAA, 4 BB, 21 K in 16.2 IP (6 starts)
Peter Tago (AA): 1.06 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, .145 BAA, 6 BB, 23 K in 17 IP (9 relief appearances)
You'll notice a theme here - a number of pitchers doing quite well with the Voyagers, under new pitching coach Matt Zaleski. McRee was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Montevallo (AL), and has become an anchor on the Great Falls pitching staff. His 0.61 WHIP is something to behold in a league known for offense. Comito is in some ways the opposite - he was an over-slot signee in 2015 (15th round, but a $170,000 bonus more in line with an 8th round pick) that came to the system with some hype. He struggled quite a bit in an aggressive assignment to Kannapolis, but now the 19-year old is flourishing in Montana.
Lambert was the club's 5th round pick, and he's so far had no problems in the Sally as a 21-year old. He's on an innings limit (thus the 6 starts with just 16.2 innings pitched), but the club does see him as a starter going forward. Peter Tago is a name White Sox fans should learn - he's a candidate to see Chicago's bullpen this year. The Minor League phase Rule 5 pickup went three levels to AA in 2015, followed by a brief AFL look, after the club basically rebuilt his mechanics. Now in 2016 he's knocking down hitters in the Southern League with relative ease.
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