White Sox Prospects of the Month - April 2015

After each month of the minor league season, we name one position player and one pitcher as players of the month on the White Sox farm.  Generally, players have to see full-time innings or plate appearances, and still be a prospect (not reached MLB rookie status) to qualify. But as you will see, in the case of this past month, we’re going to bend two of those rules a little bit.

The hitting and pitching sides both had two players who stood head and shoulders above the rest, which made for difficult choices.  In fact the pitching side was so close between the top two, that we decided to give it to both of them.  Let’s take a look at who we chose, and who the few closest runners up were for each category.

Note: Stats presented are for April only unless otherwise noted…

Austin Kanny

HITTER OF THE MONTH: Brett Austin, C, Kannapolis Intimidators (A)
Stats: .333/.453/.548, 3 2B, 3 3B, 10:8 BB:K in 55 PA (14 games)

After being taken in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, Brett Austin was assigned straight to A-ball, and struggled a bit on both sides of the ball. But with an offseason to adjust, this former battery mate of Carlos Rodon has made a big leap at the plate. Athletic but not especially speedy, the three triples stand out, especially for a catcher. But he’s also taking a ton of walks and has more of those than strikeouts, which is another encouraging sign for the 22-year old. Look for Austin, who’s hit tool is mature but needs a bit more defensive work and power development, to move up to Winston-Salem likely during the season.

Honorable Mentions

Dan Black (AAA): .378/.473/.733, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 9:8 K BB:K in 55 PA (14 games)
Trayce Thompson (AAA): .325/.361/.545, 5 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 3/4 SB/ATT, 5:21 BB:K in 83 PA (20 games)
Adam Engel (A+): .316/.404/.434, 5 2B, 2 3B, 11/14 SB/ATT, 10:11 BB:K in 89 PA (20 games)
Eddy Alvarez (A): .292/.386/.403, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5/7 SB/ATT, 11:15 BB:K in 84 PA (19 games)

We were very close to giving this award to Dan Black, who has reached base in every game this year with the Knights and is just having an outstanding season at the plate thus far. But as he’s not quite a full time player and turning 28 this season as a 1B, we just couldn’t put him above Austin. That said, if Black keeps this up, he could very well be in line for a promotion to Chicago should one of the 1B/DH types there miss time for any reason. Another player who’s been in the system since 2009 (but is still just 24), outfielder Trayce Thompson seems to be doing what fans have been waiting for the past few seasons – hitting well in AAA. Already a good defensive outfielder at all three slots, Thompson’s high average hitting and power are a good sign for his future (though the K rate is still a little high). He’s got a good chance to see the big club at some point this year, even if just as a September call-up.

Another toolsy outfielder further back on the ladder, Adam Engel seems to have made a nice jump in the translation of his considerable tools to baseball results. In addition to hitting for average and gap power, a very good sign is his excellent contact rate and Iso OBP. He’s also stolen eleven bases in fourteen attempts, showing off his 70-grade (or better) speed to increase his value. Eddy Alvarez‘ odd juxtaposition of being old for level but also behind in development time means he has to accelerate quickly, which I suppose a speed skater would be expected to do. Sure enough, he’s hitting again in full season ball and even showing some power, in addition to stealing five bags and drawing walks. There have been multiple positive reports on is defense at shortstop as well. Look for both Engel and Alvarez to move up a level during the season.

042315dykstra6401 j-guerrero-pitching

Jordan Guerrero, LHP,  Kannapolis (A): 0.69 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, .174 BAA, 0.76 GB:FB, 5 BB, 26 K in 26 IP (4 starts)
James Dykstra, RHP, Winston-Salem (A+): 0.78 ERA, 0.52 WHIP, .147 BAA, 2.50 GB:FB, 1 BB, 11 K in 23 IP (4 starts)

OK so we totally broke our own rule here and picked two pitchers, but can you blame us? Look at what they both did, compared to the other strong performances and even just for their sheer dominance. James Dykstra threw a 7-inning no-hitter, had an absurdly low number of baserunners reach, and was an absolute ground ball machine when he wasn’t striking guys out. This righty who was also our pitcher of the month in June of last year is 24 and should probably be in AA – no doubt he’ll get there soon (though he did come out of his last start early with some mild back tightness). Jordan Guerrero gave up a few more hits and walks than Dykstra, but also struck out a batter an inning and he’s doing this as a 20-year old in full season ball. After being part of a tandem last year, Guerrero may join his former partner (Andre Wheeler) in Winston-Salem before the year is out despite his age.

Honorable Mentions

Erik Johnson* (AAA): 2.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .200 BAA, 0.74 GB:FB, 6 BB, 19 K in 17.2 IP (4 games, 3 starts)
Thaddius Lowry (A): 18 IP, 15 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 16 K… 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .218 BAA, 0.79 GB:FB, 2 BB, 16 K in 18 IP (3 starts)
Tyler Danish (AA): 2.86 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .282 BAA, 0.80 GB:FB, 6 BB, 22 K in 22 IP (4 starts)
Myles Jaye (AA): 22.1 IP, 19 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 16 K… 2.82 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .250 BAA, 0.69 GB:FB, 6 BB, 16 K in 22.1 IP (4 starts)

This is our second cheat* – Erik Johnson is not technically a prospect. But functionally he is one, and his resurgence after a disastrous 2014 means he could still play a key role with the big club. The numbers are reminiscent of the dominance he showed in 2013 as he raced through the system, and they appear to be more than a small sample size apparition. Reports from Charlotte are that his delivery looks cleaner, and he’s back to hitting 92-94 with his fastball and getting good bit on his curve. Thad Lowry has always had an intriguing arm and a fastball with serious potential, but this year it appears he is finally getting some results to match the tools. The combination of missing bats and excellent control, as well as a good ground ball rate, are encouraging. Like Guerrero he’s still just 20, but he could see a promotion as the year goes on.

Then we have a pair of AA arms. Tyler Danish is a top 10 prospect in the system, and he’s been doing typical Tyler things for the Barons so far – decent control, missing some bats and getting ground balls. He’s being hit a little more in the early going than in the past, but remember that this is a 20-year old very young for level in the AA Southern League. The results are impressive. Myles Jaye is more age-appropriate for AA (23), and the addition of a new slider to his sinker/curve repertoire appears to be working. Jaye has shown flashes of major league potential but struggled in his first run at AA, so the strong opening seems to indicate he’s adjusting well.

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