White Sox System Breakdown: Catchers

Entering 2010, the backstops were a position of great strength and depth in the White Sox minor league system. A year later, it’s iffy at best. The trio of Tyler Flowers, Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Phegley were all ranked in the top 11 of our 2010 preseason rankings and they all dropped after disappointing seasons for a variety of reasons. Is there still hope at the position?
I wanted to break this down into surprises and disappointments of 2010, but it’s really hard to balance the two categories for this position. It was pretty much the worst case scenario. Three guys had good Major League potential at a premium position. Now they all have major question marks over their heads.

Tyler Flowers
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 2
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 5
Key Stats: .220/.334/.434, 26% base runners thrown out (AAA)

Admittedly, we’re still bullish on Flowers, leaving him in the top five. Most others have him lower and some have completely bailed on him as a prospect. Obviously his batting average was dreadful mostly due to striking out 121 times in 412 plate appearances. Contact is a major concern with Flowers, but his power was still there (.214 ISO) and he drew 55 walks. Batting average is far from consistent, but the worst part is that reports said his defense took a step back. If Flowers can’t play catcher, these offensive stats won’t cut it. There’s still hope for a bounce back year, but this seems like a make or break season for the 25-year-old.

Miguel Gonzalez
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 8
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 14
Key Stats: .218/.260/.276, 51% base runners thrown out (Low A)

Defensively, Gonzalez has lived up to the hype. Throwing out most of would-be base stealers is fantastic. Offensively the 20-year-old has given cause for concern. Until Gonzalez proves he can hit in full season ball, it’s hard to think of him as a good prospect. The good thing is that he will get every chance to succeed given his defensive prowess.

Josh Phegley
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 11
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: UR
Key Stats: .284/.328/.415, 51% base runners thrown out (Rookie/High A/AA)

Phegley had the best year of the three when he was healthy. He had a decent year offensively and showed off his arm. Health concerns are going to linger with Phegley until he can show he can stay healthy. If he can, he might be the best prospect of the three. It’s tough to evaluate his 2010 considering he only played 48 games and did so at three different levels. The 23-year-old is a wildcard and we’ll know a lot more about him even just a few months from now.

Michael Blanke
14th round draft pick in 2010
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 25
Key Stats: .329/.400/.508

The Canadian put up massive numbers for Great Falls and scouting reports are surprisingly positive about him. It’s hard to put stock in rookie ball numbers, but there’s a lot to like. The word is that his defense is actually quite good, which goes against what we read when he was drafted. Blanke is a serious sleeper candidate for 2011, but at 22 he does have to get moving.

Blanke brings some extra hope to the position for the White Sox. It’s possible that each of the full season starters at catcher will be legitimate prospects in 2011 and that’s fantastic. Sox fans can hope that at least one of them has a strong year and looks like the catcher of the future.

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