Robin Ventura, AFL, Ozzie Prospects

There were a couple of items that haven’t been properly mentioned and analyzed on here plus the White Sox have a new manager so this is a three-for-one post. The Arizona Fall League is underway with little to report from the Sox perspective so far, the two prospects received for Ozzie Guillen actually have some value and Robin Ventura has been in the news lately for some reason.

Starting with Ventura because it’s the biggest piece of news as far as the Sox are concerned, but since this site focuses on the minor leagues I won’t comment on it too much. However, it’s worth noting that his last position was as the ‘special assistant’ to Director of Player Development Buddy Bell. Good luck to a White Sox fan favorite. It will be interesting to see if he handles the youngsters differently than Ozzie did.

Next up is the Arizona Fall League. Prospect geeks everywhere descend upon this league to get an extra glimpse of top prospects in a unique environment. No offseason league receives more attention. Ridiculous hitting conditions and closely-watched pitch counts make for a downright wacky league. AFL play started a week and a half ago and it’s too early to rush to judgment, but there has been some good and bad for White Sox prospects. Recently named White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing is managing the Mesa team, which is off to a 2-7 start.

Tyler Saladino, by far the best prospect the Sox sent to the league, has played sparingly but has posted decent early stats. Outfielder Brandon Short has played regularly with comparable results. Mike Blanke was a late replacement after Josh Phegley had another setback in the form of a tear in his wrist. Talk about a guy that can’t catch a break. The AFL was an opportunity for Phegley to look like a real prospect. Instead he misses more time. Oh well, let’s see if Blanke can look like a possible 2012 sleeper. Hitting stats through Thursday:

Saladino: 6-20 (.300), 2 3B, 2 BB, 3 K, .364 OBP, .500 SLG
Short: 9-32 (.281), 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 12 K, .361 OBP, .469 SLG
Blanke: 2-10 (.200), 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K, .333 OBP, .300 SLG

On the pitching side Terry Doyle made some noise with four perfect innings in a start Tuesday. Doyle is a real sleeper to win a rotation spot out of camp next spring, but with trade rumors floating around for current White Sox starters and the unknown status of Mark Buehrle there could be a couple openings to be had. If nothing else, a good AFL could legitimize Doyle as a Major League prospect, even if just a future No. 5. Brandon Kloess, Jacob Petricka and Nevin Griffith round out the Sox representatives, but only have a few innings each so far.

Doyle: 7.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 4 K, 0 BB, 2 H
Petricka: 3.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 6 K, 2 BB, 4 H
Griffith: 3.1 IP, 16.20 ERA, 1 K, 4 BB, 5 H
Kloess: 3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3 K, 3 BB, 1 H

For the last piece of business, let’s take a look at the two players the Sox netted in the Ozzie Guillen trade. Both Jhan Marinez, a 23 year-old right-handed reliever, and Osvaldo Martinez, a shortstop of the same age, have Major League experience. Neither player is a world beater, but they add depth in the high minors and have some ability.

Marinez is from the Dominican Republic and has nice strikeout numbers (202 in 164 IP as a pro), but control problems (101 walks). He earned a cup of coffee with the Marlins in 2010 and spent this past season in AA, where he struck out 74 but walked 42 in 58 innings.

He came in at No. 10 in Baseball America’s top 30 Marlins prospects in 2010 on the back of the best rated fastball in the system. Marinez’s heater comes in at 92-94 with flashes of high 90s and he also features a two-seamer and a slider. They questioned his maturity and work ethic and at 6-1, 165 pounds his size is another issue.

The Dominican reliever moved up to No. 4 in the Marlins’ rankings entering 2011 due to his quality fastball and improvement in other areas while reaching AA Jacksonville and ultimately the Majors for four appearances. Marinez sounds like a typical good stuff, no control pitcher and is a project with potential. His 2011 numbers are confusing because he manages to maintain a dominant strikeout rate despite his worst walk rate in a few years. There are clear and obvious question marks, but he probably follows Addison Reed as the best relief prospect in the White Sox system.

Martinez, who goes by Ozzie oddly enough, is from Puerto Rico and was drafted in the 11th round in 2006. He hit above .300 just once in his pro career, which came in AA in 2010. He has shown decent contact skills with some patience, but little power. Martinez was a bigger prospect a year ago coming off that strong ’10 campaign, which included a 43 AB stint with the Marlins in 2010 where he hit .326/.383/.465, but hit just .245 in the hitter-friendly AAA Pacific Coast League this season and went 3-23 with no walks or extra base hits with the Marlins.

Entering 2010 Martinez just made the cut in BA’s rankings at No. 30. They like his intangibles, making him the opposite of Marinez in that regard. He has decent speed and a plus arm.

Martinez shot up to No. 5 entering this season following his career year that included an appearance in the Futures Game. His stock is nowhere near that high after his forgettable 2011. He posted career lows across the board, including a big dip in his plate discipline. He looks like a fringe utility candidate, but I’d prefer Eduardo Escobar in that spot. It’s harder to evaluate Martinez than Marinez because of his up and down career.

As for where the duo fits in the White Sox rankings, Florida’s system isn’t all that good so those rankings may not be as good as they sound. That said, the Sox don’t exactly have loads of depth either. Both are coming off down years, but Marinez still compares favorably to Gregory Infante and can at least slide somewhere in the top 15 for the White Sox, and arguably in the top ten. I’m having a hard time deciding if I like Martinez or Tyler Kuhn better as a future utility infielder. Martinez is certainly in the top 25 based on his 2010 season alone, but 2011 was so bad that it’s hard to put him higher than just inside the top 20.

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