After months of dialogue and several different frameworks including all types of players, the White Sox finally got their man in Todd Frazier via a three-team deal with the Dodgers and Reds. The return for Frazier, three players being sent to the Dodgers, is what I am focusing on in this piece. In return for the All Star third baseman the White Sox gave up three guys: each having seen the Major Leagues on the South Side this past season.
Starting with Frankie Montas, the White Sox gave up a flame-throwing righty who had spent the majority of 2015 with the AA Birmingham Barons. Montas was the #3 prospect in the system in our mid-season list. After acquiring him as a secondary piece in the Jake Peavy trade, Montas has built his value up under the tutelage of J.R. Perdue, Britt Burns and other among the minor league pitching coaches. Montas dominated Winston-Salem in 2014 to the tune of a 1.60 ERA and a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over ten starts in a season shortened by minor knee surgeries. This past year, Montas continued to succeed in a starting role. Though this time, Montas accumulated 112 innings and kept his strikeout rate up at 8.7 K/9 and sported a 2.97 ERA.
From a scouting point of view, Frankie Montas has been somewhat of a polarizing prospect. The question of whether he can stick as a starter or settle as a reliever has always been in question, with most pundits leaning to the latter. His calling card is his 100 MPH fastball. He struggles with the fact that when he rears back to give it his all, his fastball has tended to straighten out a bit. What has pushed him forward is the refinement on his slider that comes in around 90 MPH. I have always erred on the side that his future would be in the bullpen. Given the way the market has changed for relief pitchers, Montas can still be a very valuable player there. He needs to work on repeating his arm slots and refining his change up to stay in consideration for a rotation spot, which seems like a reach at this point. Other concerns for him starting would be that he has two surgically repaired knees, he has good control but poor command, and he carries extra weight that causes him to come off the mound in a clumsy manner.
Here is our in-person report from August when our Will Siskel saw him pitch, including some embedded video.
Putting Montas aside, the second toughest player to part with was Trayce Thompson. Given the immediate reactions in Chicago, you might be led to think he was the most valuable piece given up. Thompson was the 10th-ranked prospect in the system by summer. The 24-year-old has the record for most appearances on Future Sox top prospect lists (consecutively during 2009-2015). He was drafted in the 2nd round out of high school and was one of the White Sox’s coined “toolsy outfielders.” The Sox haven’t pushed him as much as they have their other prospects and Thompson has had a very conservative, mostly level-by-level transition to the Major Leagues.
Putting it simply, Trayce Thompson was awesome in Chicago last year in his brief stay. He put together a .295/.363./.533 over 135 plate appearances while displaying great defense at all three outfield positions. His defense is definitely plus but his bat is nowhere the level he displayed the last several weeks of the regular season. In over 3000 plate appearances in the minor leagues, Thompson could only put up a .241/.319/.429 slash which isn’t terrible, but a far cry from what fans saw in his cup of coffee. The bugaboo has always been his hit tool, as shown in his relatively high whiff rates.
With a few different writers at Future Sox having the chance to interview Trayce, we can say that he’s a professional who carries himself well. He’s also from an impressive family pedigree so it’s no surprise that he’s a very special athlete. Whether Thompson can be a starter in the outfield is arguable but he can be an ideal fourth outfielder who plays great defense, runs the bases well and should hit left-handed pitching. I think Thompson is a great fit for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they are just the team to utilize his abilities correctly.
The third player the White Sox gave up was their 2015 Opening Day second baseman, Micah Johnson. Johnson was injured as a sophomore at Indiana University and it led to him falling to the White Sox in the 9th round of the 2012 draft. Johnson has excited White Sox fans with his plus speed that forced him onto the radar when he stole 84 bases in 2013. Johnson, who struggled defensively in Chicago leading to his demotion to Charlotte in May, put together another strong campaign (.315/.375/.466) at the plate while adding some power to his game in AAA.
It seems as if the White Sox just lacked a place to play Micah Johnson. While they gave him another shot to split the second base duties with Carlos Sanchez in September, Johnson struggled with the bat diluting his season line to .230/.306/.270. At the end of the day, Johnson needs to get comfortable at second base and improve his game there. His struggles, however, are in no way indicative of the amount of work Johnson has put in as he routinely showed up early in Charlotte to work on his defense. Johnson should come to Glendale, the same facility he spent time in with the White Sox, looking to compete for a spot with the Dodgers. If he doesn’t get one, look for the second baseman to put up some loud numbers in Albuquerque.
While some have suggested a future in the outfield for Johnson, our Matt Cassidy, put that idea to rest.
I first heard the White Sox were to be “big players” for Todd Frazier in September and the front office has exhausted all avenues to make sure they got their guy to man third base.
— Brian Bilek (@ChiSoxraBBit) October 4, 2015
For good or bad, this is a guy the White Sox front office targeted during the last regular season and worked plenty of hours over multiple months to bring him to the South Side. The third base hole that Joe Crede’s back and representation left the White Sox in 2009 may finally be filled.
Other notable tweets:
White Sox’s reinvented infield, with Lawrie & Frazier, should be serious upgrade on recent models. Sold high on Thompson, nicely done
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) December 16, 2015
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