The fattest of gut rebuilds continued today, as Rick Hahn and company shipped outfielder Melky Cabrera and cash out to Kansas City in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects. According to Dan Hayes of Comcast SportsNet, the White Sox will pay about half of the remaining ~$5M salary under Cabrera’s contract. The prospects joining a farm seemingly at flood stage are RHP A.J. Puckett and LHP Andre Davis.
The right-hander in this deal is the “big piece” in terms of prospect reputation. Signed for a cool $1.2 million when he was selected in the 2nd round (67th overall) in 2016, this Pepperdine product was ranked the fifth best prospect in a somewhat thin Royals system coming into this year according to Baseball America. Any athlete would likely appreciate what a privilege that alone would be, but for Puckett that appreciation may run a little deeper. In 2011, he suffered an epidural hematoma from a car accident and spent weeks in a coma while in high school. He had been a promising prep quarterback, but the off-field incident ended his football career.
Since his draft year, Puckett’s prospect stock seems to have dropped back a bit. He’s currently listed as the number 13 prospect in the Kansas City system according to MLB Pipeline, and he didn’t make their midseason top ten according to BA either. His success to this point has been more about “pitchability” than raw stuff. Spanning reports as noted above, his fastball runs anywhere from 89 to 94, and he excels at locating it. His best pitch is likely his change-up, described as plus by BA. He also throws a curveball that is a little further behind in development. At 6’4″ and a listed 200 pounds, Austin Joseph Puckett has a good pitcher’s frame, creates downward plane and works the lower part of the zone efficiently.
Look for the 22-year old to be assigned to Advanced-A Winston-Salem. He’s coming from a team in that league anyway (Wilmington), where thus far in 2017 he’s posted a 3.90 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.1 K/9. In terms of ranking, he likely falls somewhere in the 20’s in the current White Sox system, but we will solidify that soon enough on our upcoming Midseason Top Prospects list.
Here is a video from his final college season, from Prospect Pipeline:
And another as a pro here from Matthew Edwards, different angle:
The southpaw in this trade may not have as high a prospect stock, but physically he stands as the big man in the deal. At 6’6″ and listed at 230 pounds, Davis was taken as a senior sign ($25k bonus) in the 8th round of the 2015 draft. Now 23 years-old, Davis has been slow-pacing his ascent at a level per year. In this his third season as a pro, he’s been working as a starter with Class A Lexington, where he’s got a 5.46 ERA. The big man has been getting hit quite a bit (10.1 H/9, 9 HR in 85.2 IP), but his walk and whiff rates (2.4 BB/9, 9.1 K/9) look pretty darn good.
Draft-time reports put Davis’ fastball getting into the mid-to-upper 90’s, which is substantial velocity from the left side even in today’s environment. More recently, Clint Scoles of BP Kansas City indicated he was more in the low 90’s, relying heavily on strike-throwing with a fastball-slider combo and the occasional change of pace. So far in 2017 he’s certainly been more effective against same side batters: .841 OPS-against versus RHB, .641 versus LHB. He may profile as a LOOGY down the line if that keeps up.
Davis likely joins Kannapolis, given that he is already pitching in the South Atlantic League, but that’s not official yet. He won’t rank among the top thirty prospects in the White Sox system at this point in time.
Here’s a video Davis from 2016, via Fangraphs…
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