The 2012 White Sox campaign was one of surpassing expectations, but without the happy ending. A team that played about a dozen rookies, including a long list of graduates from our 2012 Pre-Season and Mid-Season lists, fell just short of winning the AL Central. For a farm system that has been (often rightly) criticized for a lack of talent depth, last year was an accomplishment worth noting. The system is improving through more aggressive draft strategies, a recent boost in international spending, and changes to the MLB’s draft and signing rules that benefited the Sox.
Now, less than a month before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training… who will 2013’s emerging talent be? Since our Mid-Season list, three players have “graduated” to Major League rookie qualification: Dylan Axelrod (#6 from the previous list), Jordan Danks (#13) and Leyson Septimo (#19). Another three were traded: Pedro Hernandez (#9) was shipped off to Minnesota with Eduardo Escobar, while Blair Walters (#21) and Matt Heidenreich were sent to Houston in exchange for Brett Myers. That left some room for other prospects to move up the ladder.
We are going to publish our Top 25 list in two sections, because the write-ups would make the full list a bit too long all at once. This one is numbers 11 to 25 on the list, and we’ll publish the Top 10 (and the full list) next week. So take a look, and start taking some guesses on our upcoming Top 10…
11. Jared Mitchell, OF [Previous Rank: 3, -8]
- Drafted 1st Round (23rd overall) in 2009
2012 was the first season that Mitchell and the Sox said he was fully healthy and recovered from his ankle injury in 2010. Despite missing a lot of development time, he started the season at Birmingham, where he opened strong out of the gate with the bat (.341/.471/.561 in April), but cooled off as the season went on to finish .240/.368/.440/.808, 126 K in 408 PA. Despite that, the Sox surprised by promoting him to Charlotte in July, where his numbers dropped off further (.231/.329/.364/.692, 53 K in 141 PA). The strikeout rate is alarming and increasing (30.8% in AA, 37.6% in AAA), he’s not shown much ability to hit for sustained average, and his speed tool might not be as sharp post-injury (though he did steal 21 bags in 27 attempts in 2012). On the plus side, Mitchell still draws a ton of walks and HBP (+.128 Iso) to offset the lower AVG and he does have some power (11 HR) to go with defensive skills considered above average in LF. Mitchell will likely be in Charlotte in 2012 as a 24-year-old, where he will need to improve his contact rate and average to jump back into the Sox top 10.
12. Nestor Molina, RHP [Previous: 5, -7]
- Signed in 2009 by TOR from Dominican Republic; acquired via trade in Dec. 2011
Molina continues to drop through the rankings with a somewhat disappointing 2012 season mostly at Birmingham (4.26 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 6.2 K/9 in 122.2 IP at AA). After posting K/9 rates generally in the 7-8 range over the years (and over 9 in 2011), he stopped missing as many bats this past season. He’s also getting hit a lot harder, with batters posting .312 average against him in 2012, versus .234 in 2011. These are worrisome trends for a pitcher who was considered a high likelihood for the 2012 or 2013 rotation when he was acquired, though it could be related to the elbow tendonitis that DL’d him for part of the season. The converted infielder features a low 90s fastball, a decent slider and a splitter as his out pitch. He has shown excellent control (even in a down 2012 his walk rate was very low), but isn’t overpowering. Nestor likely opens 2013 in the Charlotte rotation as a 24-year-old, though it is possible they start him at AA first. How he bounces back from his injury and transitions to AAA hitting will show whether or not he’s a future MLB starter.
13. Charlie Leesman, LHP [Previous: 11, -2]
- Drafted 11th Round in 2008
Leesman has always been a bit of an enigma. Scouts have generally not raved about his stuff, he doesn’t strike out a lot of guys (6.9 K/9 in 2012) and he’ll likely be repeating AAA as a 26-year-old in 2013. On the other hand, he induces a lot of ground balls (GO/AO rates around 2 at AA and AAA), pitches to contact effectively (.255 AvgA in 2012), has OK control (3.5 BB/9) and gets the job done on core results (2.47 ERA in 2012). Charlie throws from a 3/4 arm angle with a good sinking fastball (low 90s) and decent but inconsistent offspeed stuff. He isn’t a good lefty specialist candidate as a reliever, as his splits indicate he doesn’t get lefties out any better than righties. Stuck behind a few other pitchers, Leesman is effectively the seventh or eighth starter on the depth chart right now, but some combinations of injury, trades and timing could see him on the big club this season or next.
14. Tyler Saladino, SS [Previous: 17, +3]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2010
Saladino has been up and down this list over the past couple years. He had a very strong 2011 campaign in High-A (.270/.363/.501/.864, 16 HR) with surprising power for a middle infielder and got an extended look in 2012 Spring Training. In 2012 in AA his average dropped to .237 and his power disappeared (SLG from .501 to .321, HR from 16 to 4), but his contact and walk rates actually improved (K/PA from 19.4% to 17.8%, IsoOBP from .093 to .122), and he suddenly started stealing bases (7-for-14 in 2011, 38-for-46 in 2012). There were some negative reports on his defense and there are questions about whether or not he can stick at shortstop. Despite all this, he was actually promoted to AAA for a brief stint to end the season (.224/.296/.265/.562 in 55 PA). It is difficult to say if Saladino will start his age 23 season at AA or AAA, and even harder to figure out why his contact and batter’s eye would improve while his average and power disappear. If he can find a way to stick at short and translate the improved bat control into getting his 2011 results back, he could be very valuable to the Sox.
15. Josh Phegley, C [Previous: 11, -4]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (38th overall) in 2009
Phegley has apparently addressed one of the biggest concerns about his future, which is his health. After struggling with medical issues and injuries he’s received regular play the last two seasons and played full time at Charlotte in 2012. The question now becomes does he have the bat to be a full time major league catcher? His 2012 numbers in AAA (.266/.306/.373/.679, 14.2% K/PA) were an improvement over his 2011 results in AA (.241/.292/.368/.660, 15.4% K/PA), but still not at a level that screams MLB-ready bat. His defense has been reported to be improved, but he’s never been known for that being a strong suit. The contact rate is encouraging and he’ll need to translate that into improved offensive performance in 2013 to stay on the radar as a potential future starter. Josh will be 25 to open the 2013 season.
16. Marcus Semien, SS [Previous: 34*, +17]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2011
Semien leaps into the 16th spot from the “others” list with an impressive offensive showing at age 21 in High-A in 2012 (.273/.362/.471/.833, 31 2B, 14 HR, 11 SB). When he was drafted, Semien was seen as a relatively polished glove at shortstop, but there were questions about his ability to hit after his numbers in college dropped off with the changes to the metal bats. His 2012 results seem to indicate he’s addressed those concerns, at least at the lower levels of the minors. He makes decent contact (19.9% K rate) for a hitter with power and has some speed. If he can stick at short (reports on that are mixed) and keep hitting, he’s a very high potential player who could climb the list further in the near future. He’ll likely be the shortstop at Birmingham, but could move to 2B.
17. Santos Rodriguez, LHP [Previous: 31*, +15]
- Signed from Dominican Republic by ATL in 2006, acquired by White Sox via trade in 2008
After repeating High-A in 2011 and posting unspectacular numbers Rodriguez jumped back on the radar with a solid 2012 campaign at Birmingham (2.81 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .153 AvgA, 4.6 BB/9, 8.4 K/9 in 64 IP) and was promoted for a brief stint with Charlotte (7.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K). He was then rewarded with an appearance in the AFL, where he didn’t fare quite as well (11.1 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 10 BB, 13 K). The lanky left-handed reliever has swing-and-miss stuff that includes a fastball in the low to mid 90’s with good sink, an inconsistent but big-moving and improving slider and a developing change. Control has always been an issue and his 2012 walk rate of 4.6/9 is improved but still not good. Rodriguez has an outside shot at making the 2013 White Sox ‘pen, especially if Matt Thornton is traded or Donnie Veal struggles, but he’ll likely start the season at Charlotte working on his control.
18. Jhan Marinez, RHP [Previous: 23, +5]
- Signed in 2007 by FLA from Dominican Republic; acquired by White Sox as compensation for Ozzie Guillen in 2011
This righty reliever posted a very nice season in 2012 at Charlotte (2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .177 AvgA, 4.3 BB/9, 9.3 K/9), and got a brief call-up with the Sox to make two appearances. The 24-year-old Marinez has a fastball that sits 92-94 and occasionally flashes higher, a two-seamer and a slider. He has had control problems, rarely posting BB/9 rates lower than the 4’s during his minor league career. As a hard-throwing reliever he fits in nicely with the typical White Sox bullpen and he does have a chance to break camp with the Sox in 2013. The crowd of competitors for open slots is deep and there appears to be just one slot open, so he may be back in Charlotte again waiting for a call (and hopefully cutting down on the walks).
19. Joey DeMichele, 2B [Previous: 22, +3]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2012
This 21-year-old infielder isn’t considered super toolsy, but he is considered very polished with the bat and could move up through the system quickly. Joey opened 2012 at Bristol and showed he was obviously beyond that level of competition (.348/.412/.696/1.107 in 52 PA). He was then promoted to Kannapolis, where he put up decent but less spectacular numbers (.261/.319/.436/.755 in 256 PA). He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, his contact rate was mediocre (20.1 % K/PA combined), shows a little power (7 HR) and has some speed. Defense isn’t DeMichele’s strength, but the consensus is that he can stick at second. He is considered very hard-working with a lot of the intangibles and mental skills needed to succeed in the long run – he gets the most out of his tools. He will likely open 2013 as the second baseman at Winston-Salem.
20. Brian Omogrosso, RHP [Previous: 27, +7]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2006
Omogrosso is the case in point for why you never totally give up on a guy who can throw 95+. After parts of seven seasons in the minors and missing most of 2010 due to shoulder surgery Omogrosso was promoted to the White Sox, at age 28, in July and pitched in 17 games (21 IP, 20 H, 6 ER, 9 BB, 18 K) while Jesse Crain was injured. In Charlotte he struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings, while walking only 2.3, and batters hit only .240 against him. Brian features a fastball that sits low-mid 90’s and can go higher at times, and a 12-6 hammer curve. He did walk a few too many batters while with the Sox, but that might be chalked up to nerves. Omogrosso has a chance of making the Sox ‘pen to open 2013 as a middle reliever, and will turn 29 in April.
21. Rangel Ravelo, 3B [Previous: 20, -1]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2010
Rangel Ravelo might be the hardest player to evaluate for this list. At just 19 years old at the open of the 2012 season, Ravelo posted very good numbers in April and May at Kannapolis (.344/.386/.489/.875 and .311/.382/.389/.771), then dropped off a cliff in June and July (.238/.279/.347/.626 and .111/.200/.111/.311). In July, he left the team and was placed on the Restricted List for undisclosed personal reasons, and never returned. Further muddying the picture, there are questions about whether or not he’d have to move to first base defensively (where his lack of power could bury him). He’s consistently made very good contact (11.6% K/PA in 2012) and he has increased his power. We’ve received word that he is indeed expected back in camp in Arizona for the spring, and if he can get back to where he was in early 2012 and handle third base defensively, he’s got some very nice potential. Ravelo might have to repeat Low-A.
22. Jacob Petricka, RHP [Previous: 16, -6]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2010
Petricka was drafted high for his plus fastball, but control has eluded him repeatedly. Since a very encouraging showing in early 2011 at Low-A, his results seem to indicate he just hasn’t put it together yet. He opened 2012 at Winston-Salem, where he struck out plenty of guys but also gave up a lot of walks and hits (5.33 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, .284 AvgA, 5.0 BB/9, 9.1 K/9). He was promoted to Birmingham anyway and his AA numbers were demonstrably worse (5.46 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, .290 AvgA, 5.5 BB/9, 4.2 K/9). Jake still makes our list because of that fastball and his occasionally brilliant numbers, but going into 2013 at 25 years old he’s reached a point where the results need to start showing. He may eventually be transitioned to the bullpen, and will likely open 2013 at Birmingham.
23. Jefferson Olacio, LHP [Previous: 26*, +1]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2010
Breaking into the Top 25 for the first time, Olacio is a 6’7″ lefty with a big time fastball (93-95 mph) and a big frame with the potential to add more strength. He split 2012 between Bristol and Kannapolis as an 18-year-old, posting a nice 8.4 K/9 rate, but also walking 6 per 9 as a starter (96 IP). As he matures, the key to his future is going to be getting some reasonable control and refining secondary pitches.
24. Jeff Soptic, RHP [Previous: 25, +1]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2011
Soptic will remain a notable prospect for his fastball velocity alone; he reportedly hit 101 MPH on the gun this year for Kannapolis. In 27 relief outings in 2012, he missed plenty of bats (36 K and a .176 AvgA in 43.1 IP), but also walked far too many batters (29). The fireballer has to work on his control and his secondary pitches, even just one will do for a reliever throwing that hard. The walks are preventing him from dominating like he’s capable. He will likely open 2013 with Winston-Salem at age 22.
25. Kevan Smith, C [Previous: 24, -1]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2011
Smith was drafted as a defense-first catcher, and the questions were always about his bat. In 2011 he was a monster (.355/.448/.626/1.073) splitting time between the two rookie league affiliates (Bristol, Great Falls). This past season he wasn’t quite as spectacular, but still posted a solid .281/.338/.434/.772 line between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. He makes decent contact (16.9% K rate) and has shown signs of developing power (10 HR and 30 2B in 417 AB). That combined with very polished skills behind the plate should make him a higher level prospect and a steal in the seventh round, except that he’s been doing this on the wrong side of the age curve (23-24 last season in A ball). The Sox have been moving him up pretty quickly, and a lack of catching depth in the system means he will likely begin 2013 at Birmingham. If he can continue to hit well, he could move up this list quickly.
Let us know what you think of the rankings! Should someone be higher? Someone lower? Did we miss anyone you think should be considered? Who do you think will be our Top 10? Post a comment and start a discussion.
Filed under: Prospect Rankings
Tags: 2013, Arizona Fall League, Birmingham Barons, Brian Omogrosso, Bristol White Sox, Charlie Leesman, Charlotte Knights, Chicago White Sox, Great Falls Voyagers, Jacob Petricka, Jared Mitchell, Jeff Soptic, Jefferson Olacio, Jhan Marinez, Joey DeMichele, Josh Phegley, Kannapolis Intimidators, Kevan Smith, Marcus Semien, Nestor Molina, Rangel Ravelo, Santos Rodriguez, top prospects, Tyler Saladino, Winston-Salem Dash