The first half of the 2013 White Sox season is in the books, and it has not been pretty. All indications point to a fire sale coming soon, and as Rick Hahn et al begin rejiggering the roster, more attention is being paid to what the Sox have down on the farm. Catcher Josh Phegley was just promoted to the big club, the amateur draft was completed in June, and the Sox recently spent a record bonus amount on an international prospect at the beginning of the new signing period. Things are in flux.
As it stands now the minor league system does not look great, though some progress is being made. More aggressive draft strategy, two years of increased international spending and fewer trades sending away prospects have added up to an increase in talent depth. Much of that depth is still years away from the Majors, and the top end of the prospect list is not terribly strong. The good news is, there is still plenty of interesting talent in this system to keep an eye on.
A NOTE ON ELIGIBILITY: This year we have a special case to consider: Micker Adolfo Zapata. Zapata is an exciting signing with great raw tools, and the Sox system is better for having him. But after careful internal consideration, it was decided that we simply cannot make a fair evaluation (in relation to other prospects) of this 16-year-old. So his name will not appear on the list – yet.
We are going to publish our Top 25 list in two sections. This is 11-25 and we’ll publish the Top 10 within a few days.
11. Scott Snodgress, LHP [Previous Rank: 9, -2]
- Drafted 5th Round in 2011
Snodgress made a big leap into the Top 10 in our previous list, and he falls just a bit to #11. Like Erik Johnson, Scott was a 2011 draft pick who split time at Kannapolis (Class A) and Winston-Salem (Advanced A) in 2012, putting up stronger numbers at the higher level (1.50 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.4 K/9 in 42 IP with Winston-Salem). Opening the season at AA Birmingham, his numbers haven’t been as good as hoped (4.56 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, .258 AvgA in 96.2 IP). Snodgress is a big lefty with a low-mid 90’s fastball, along with a curve and change that are considered fairly polished. He does sometimes have control and consistency issues, though his struggles this year appear to be more about getting hit harder. At 23-years-old in AA and only in his second full season in the minors, he can afford to stay in AA and even repeat there in 2014 if necessary.
12. Micah Johnson, 2B [Previous: Unranked]
- Drafted 9th Round in 2012
Few prospects in the Sox system have gotten as much attention for their performance this season as Micah Johnson. He leads not just his team, or even his league, but all of minor league baseball in stolen bases (61) and runs scored (76), and is among the leaders in triples (11). But he’s not just fast: he posted a .342/.422/.530 slash line with Kannapolis, showing decent contact, strong batter’s eye, and even some power (34 of 104 hits for extra bases, including 6 home runs), before his recent promotion to High A Winston-Salem. The organization thinks highly enough of him that he’s forced them to move Joey DeMichele to non-native shortstop to make room for his promotion. What Johnson has working against him primarily is his defense: he’s made 21 errors in 78 games, though some of that he attributes to poor decision-making. Now at High A at age 22, he’s at an age-appropriate level, and we’ll see how he adjusts. Micah was at one time considered a much higher round talent in college, until an elbow injury and surgery forced him to miss most of his junior season. The Sox may have gotten a steal with Johnson. Read our interview with him here.
13. Marcus Semien, SS/2B [Previous: 16, +3]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2011
Semien leaped up the prospect rankings in our past couple lists, and he continues to be one of the most intriguing middle infield prospects in the system. After a breakout season in High A in 2012 (.273/.362/.471/.833, 31 2B, 14 HR, 11 SB), his numbers haven’t been quite as impressive this year in AA (.259/.378/.401/.779, 8 HR, 15/19 SB/ATT), but are still solid for a 22 year old middle infielder at that level. The power is down, but the walks are up. Semien is considered relatively polished defensively at short, but he’s been splitting time between SS and 2B with Tyler Saladino this season and may move to 2B permanently in the future. Marcus has good speed, draws a lot of walks and makes good contact (58 BB vs 56 K in 2013). His ability to play both middle infield positions competently could be a key asset for him, giving him the added route of a utility role that may get him to the majors sooner.
14. Trey Michalczewski, 3B [NEW]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2013
Though he was drafted in the 7th round, Michalczewski was considered a higher round talent and was signed as an over-slot pick, getting 3rd round bonus money ($500,000, over slot by $326,400). Coming from a powerhouse high school program (Jenks HS, OK), this 6’3″, 210 pounder played all three skill infield positions, but was drafted as a 3B by the Sox. He’s got good bat speed, and a good, patient approach at the plate. He’s considered to have good power potential, and a strong arm should help him stick at 3B. As a HS senior he hit .449 with 9 home runs and 46 RBI’s. Michalczewski has been assigned to Bristol (Rk), where thus far he’s posted a .238/.333/.286 line in just 12 games.
15. Andre Rienzo, RHP [Previous: 7, -8]
- Signed in 2006 from Brazil
Rienzo had an adventurous 2012 that included a promotion, a PED suspension, AFL and Venezuelan Winter Leauge appearances. He opened the 2013 season in the AAA Charlotte rotation, having climbed into the top 10 prospects in the system. But that ranking priced in the assumption that he had a better than 50/50 shot at staying a starter, which some analysts feel isn’t likely. Rienzo struggled mightily in April and May (6.74 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 48 K in 52.1 IP), but he has turned it around dramatically since then (2.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 44 K in 39.1 IP). The reduction in walks has helped him, and a promotion to Chicago in 2013 seems possible (or even likely, if the Sox trade away pitching). Rienzo’s fastball has good movement, and he changes speeds with it effectively (ranging 90 to 96). His secondary offerings have been improving, but how much they have improved will dictate if he can succeed as a starter, or if he ultimately ends up in the bullpen. Either way, don’t be surprised to see him with the Sox in 2013 or 2014, as the second Brazilian to ever play in the majors.
16. Keenyn Walker, OF [Previous: 8, -8]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (47th overall) in 2011
Walker is one of the crowd of athletic, toolsy and raw outfielders in the Sox system. He so far lacks the power of Thompson, Hawkins and Mitchell (5 HR in over 1000 professional plate appearances), but until this year, he was getting on base at a very good clip (.378 combined OBP in A and A+ in 2012) and shows plus speed (56 SB in 71 ATT in ’12). The jump to AA in 2013 has not been kind to Keenyn, where he has thus far posted a .213/.327/.282 slash line with 29 SB in 40 ATT. He posted a decent June and appeared to be turning things around, but has slumped again recently. His strikeout rate (26.9%) is actually down slightly from 2012 (29.3%) but still far too high, especially for a hitter who lacks power. He’s an outstanding athlete and does still draw walks at a good clip (.114 Iso OBP), and at age 22 in AA he has time to refine his tools. But until he can improve his contact rate and average, he’s slipping down the list.
17. Simon Castro, RHP [Previous: 3, -14]
- Signed in 2007 by SD from Dominican Republic; acquired via trade in Dec. 2011
Castro is a tough pitcher to evaluate, and there have always been questions about his ability to stick as a starter. Among the best pitching prospects in the San Diego system in 2009 and 2010, he struggled badly in 2011 in the transition to AAA at age 23. This pattern repeated itself in 2012, and his 2013 numbers as a starter in Charlotte were not encouraging. He has a low 90’s fastball that he controls well, but his lack of refined secondary pitches has resulted in being hit hard by more professional hitters in AAA. But he was moved to the bullpen in June, and in a very small sample size, he did appear to improve, striking out 9 against 2 walks in 7.2 innings. Now recently promoted to Chicago, we’ll get to see if the reliever role allows him to focus on a couple pitches and perhaps add a little more juice to the fastball.
18. Andy Wilkins, 1B [Previous: 28*, +10]
- Drafted 5th Round in 2010
Wilkins has been as high as #13 on our list before (2011 Mid-Season), but hasn’t shown up among the Top 25 since 2012 Preseason. He had a very nice showing in his draft year at Great Falls, then increased his power by clubbing 23 home runs for Winston-Salem in 2011 after skipping A-ball (and still keeping the K rate low). In his 2012 season for Birmingham, his average dropped about 40 points, though the power was still there (17 HR, 28 2B in 435 AB). But here in 2013, he seems to be back to his previous self, posting a .288/.386/.477 line repeating AA, and getting promoted to Charlotte in late June. At age 24 in AAA he’s at an age-appropriate level, has shown decent power, and draws plenty of walks. His defense at 1B is reportedly solid (he is a former 3B), and he even shows a little speed. Andy would have awfully big shoes to fill if he’s expected to replace Konerko at 1B, and he’s never put up numbers in the minors at the same level as most of Paulie’s strong seasons in MLB. But without any other first base options anywhere near ready, he may get a shot in 2014.
19. Andrew Mitchell, RHP [NEW]
- Drafted 4th Round in 2013
Mitchell is a big, hard-throwing right-hander with a low 90’s fastball that has hit 97 during shorter scouting sessions. He’s got one plus breaking ball, but his control hasn’t been great, and he may project as a reliever (though the Sox are likely to try him as a starter first). During his sophomore year at TCU, he posted a 3.74 ERA, with 101 K vs 46 BB in 77 IP as a starter. His junior/draft year, he made 10 starts and 10 relief appearances, turning in a 3.49 ERA with 57 K and 33 BB in 49 IP. The 21-year-old Mitchell has been assigned to Great Falls (Rk), and has looked solid in three abbreviated starts so far: 9 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.
20. Joey DeMichele, 2B [Previous: 19, -1]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2012
This 22-year-old infielder came into the system considered very polished with the bat, but less so defensively. He opened up his first pro year destroying rookie league pitching, and was quickly promoted to A ball where he put up decent numbers with Kannapolis (.261/.319/.436 in 156 PA). DeMichele opened this season at High A Winston-Salem, and struggled out of the gate, hitting just .170 in his first month. He’s recovered somewhat since then, but his season line of .238/.319/.341 is still not good. This put the Sox in a conundrum, as they needed to promote the hot-hitting Micah Johnson at the same position but DeMichele was not ready for AA yet. So, they moved Joey to shortstop, where he hadn’t played since high school. It’s too early to get a good read on his defense there, and the move may be temporary, but his hitting fell off again since the switch was made. DeMichele isn’t considered super-toolsy, but he’s hard-nosed, makes good contact and has some speed. See our interview with Joey here.
21. Jacob May, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2013
Jacob May is similar to some other recent Sox outfield draft choices: a good athlete with good speed. He hit .324/.417/.495 as a junior for Coastal Carolina this spring, and while he’s not expected to be a big power bat, he did hit 7 home runs. He is a good defender due mostly to his speed, but other defensive aspects need refinement. May stole 27 bases as a sophomore and 16 as a junior, and looks like a potential leadoff-type hitter. Signed for under-slot and considered somewhat of a reach in the 3rd round, May was initially assigned to Great Falls, where he tore up Pioneer League pitching with a .378/.481/.444 line plus 5 SB in just 12 games. He was quickly promoted to Class A Kannapolis, where he’s just getting started.
22. Jacob Petricka, RHP [Previous: 22, 0]
- 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 seemed to indicate he was struggling in that starting role. In 2012, split between High-A and AA, he posted a combined 5.39 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, .287 AvgA, 5.2 BB/9 and 7.1 K/9. For 2013 he made the seemingly inevitable transition to the bullpen (in AA), and the improvement was dramatic: 2.06 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .255 AvgA, 4.1 BB/9, 9.4 K/9 and a very nice 2.61 GO/AO rate. He was recently promoted to AAA, and while moving to the bullpen may have reduced his ceiling value, he’s now got a much more likely path to the majors. He has a big fastball that he can now focus on in the relief role.
23. Myles Jaye, RHP [Previous: 39*, +16]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2010
Jaye was on the fringe of our radar and that of most analysts, but Baseball Prospect Nation surprised this past offseason by ranking him 9th in the Sox system. He has a plus fastball clocking low to mid 90’s with good sink, but until this season, his secondary pitches were considered developing and inconsistent. It turns out BPN was onto something though, as he has had a breakout 2013. Myles posted a 2.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .238 AvgA, and struck out 37 in 41 innings for Kannapolis, before being promoted to Winston-Salem. He’s been less consistent there (4.60 ERA, 44 K in 58.2 IP in up and down starts), but he’s been strong for the past month or so (last 4 starts: 25 IP, 22 H, 6 ER, 7 BB, 17 K) as he makes the adjustments to his level. He may still be a reliever long-term and those stats were while repeating Kannapolis, but there is definite progress there.
24. Rangel Ravelo, 1B [Previous: 21, -3]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2010
When does a prospect get promoted, post numbers well above his minor league best to date while being young for his level, and slide a few slots down the top prospect list? When he moves from third base to first base in the transition. Ravelo was an intriguing 3B prospect, showing good contact and hitting for high average while playing as a 20-year-old in A ball in 2012 (.290/.343/.397 in 76 games), but left the team in early July due to personal matters not disclosed. When this season rolled around, he had been moved to 1B (which had been considered a possibility) and was repeating A ball. After a brief stint there to get his sea legs back, he was promoted to Winston-Salem where he has posted a .316/.389/.469 line in 49 games, with nearly as many walks as strike outs. As a 21-year-old he’s still young-for-level, and he can obviously hit. The big question is, can he add the sort of power he’d need to, to remain a serious prospect at first base. The jury is still out, but he’s already hitting more XBH, so early signs are somewhat encouraging.
25. Santos Rodriguez, LHP [Previous: 17, -8]
- Signed from Dominican Republic by ATL in 2006, acquired by White Sox via trade in 2008
Rodriguez has been in the Sox system 5 years now, after 2 years with Atlanta, but he’s still “only” 25 years old. 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 BB/9 this year in AA was still 5.5, which doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. As a lefty reliever with a strike out rate of better than a batter per inning, he was recently promoted to AAA (again), and he’s still on the radar. With the a number of relievers on the big league club being likely trade bait and/or struggling, Rodriguez could see the Majors this year. With the parade of Matt Thornton, Donnie Veal, David Purcey and Leyson Septimo in the lefty ranks ahead of him, there does seem to be a potential path there.
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 in our Top 10? Post a comment and start a discussion here, or visit the FutureSox discussion forum on SoxTalk.