White Sox Winter Leagues Preview: Australia

via Melbourne Aces

***Updated Nov 5 2014: status change for Terance Marin***

In this latest chapter in our series of winter league previews, we’ll take a look at the four prospects and one manager from the White Sox system playing in Australia. We’ve already previewed the south side contingents going to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic (both well underway), and Puerto Rico will be covered soon. The ABL begins play this week, with the regular season ending in late January and the post-season extending into February.

Last year, the Sox sent two players down under – OF Jacob May and 2B Joey DeMichele – and they played for the Sydney Blue Sox. This year, the team has three representatives with the Melbourne Aces, and one with the Brisbane Bandits. Brisbane opens on October 30th, Melbourne on November 7th. Let’s take a look at each of the players going, and why they are there.

MELBOURNE ACES

Before we get to the prospects, let’s look at Tommy Thompson, who will be managing the Aces this season. Thompson has been managing in the White Sox system the past four seasons, moving between the Kannapolis Intimidators (A) and Winston-Salem Dash (A+). For some further background on the former minor league ballplayer, you can read our 2013 interview with him here (scroll down), and this excellent piece from Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Thompson has managed all three of the players below, so he’s familiar with their skill sets.

Outfielder Adam Engel was drafted in the 19th round in 2013, as an over-slot pick who was thought to be a tough sign (inked for 100k). Engel is a tool shed with 80-grade speed, above average raw power, a strong arm and elite athleticism. Contact is the biggest question mark, and his 23.6% K/PA in 2014 was a little higher than you’d like to see for a speed-reliant player (though not alarming at his developmental level). He did draw plenty of walks (.071 Iso OBP), and getting on base will be a key to his future going forward. Engel is seen as likely to stick in center field, where his defense is becoming a strong asset. The 22-year old needs reps at the plate to further develop the hit tool.

6’6″ right-hander Nick Blount missed a big chunk of this season serving a 50 game PED suspension, so he needs the innings. Blount’s fastball runs typically low 90’s but has touched 96 in short outings, and he throws three pitches reliably for strikes. The secondary pitches are a work in progress, and his future is likely as a reliever, though it is too early to say for sure. Especially with the relative lack of innings for age, Blount appears to be a good a candidate for the reliever-working-as-starter development track that the White Sox like to employ.

RHP Terance Marin had initially been on the Aces’ roster, but is now pitching in Mexico instead.

BRISBANE BANDITS

Outfielder CJ Beatty played two years in the Cardinals organization, before spending 2011 through early 2014 with a variety of independent league teams. The White Sox signed Beatty in August to back fill in Winston-Salem after some injuries and promotions, and he posted a .222/.280/.311 slash line in 51 PA (13 games). It’s hard to tell what to make of Beatty at this point, though he did show significant power (18 HR in 96 games) in an All Star campaign with Washington of the Frontier League in 2013. Having just turned 26, Beatty is auditioning for another shot at a role in affiliated ball in 2015.

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