September calling to the minor leagues

September calling to the minor leagues

Between Ramon Castro trying to catch a pitch barehanded, A.J. Pierzynski racing in front of Bruce Chen fastball, Carlos Quentin diving into the ground shoulder-first, and Tony Pena tearing ligaments out of his own elbow, the Chicago White Sox veterans conspired to take the excitement out of September call-ups.

Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, The Holy Ghost of Donny Lucy, Josh Kinney, and almost every name Sox fans have been dreaming of (or just one of those) is already on the big club and evsicerating our imaginations.

But there’s still some moderately new information to discover about these players who couldn’t find a spot until now during a season where half the roster was in the bag.  Even if it’s a little late and we’re already a week into the month.

Roll call!

1. Eduardo Escobar – SS

Who?: The top middle infield prospect in the organization, Escobar is a 22 year-old Venezuelan who’s been lauded for his defense, and gained some notice when he tore up the Arizona Fall League.  Otherwise, he has Ozzie Guillen’s bat.  Possibly Ozzie Guillen right now’s bat.  You can imagine how that will limit his potential.  Still, he’s too young to give up on just because he has a .294 wOBA in Triple-A.

What to expect: Late-inning defensive replacements?  For whom, is unclear.  The White Sox infield defense is pretty good, pretty young, and I doubt Alexei Ramirez will get that many breaks just give his future backup some run.  Rest assured, Eduardo, if the White Sox are down 7 runs again, you’ll be in there.

What to hope for: Does something to solidify his hold on the backup middle infielder slot.  To meet this threshold, Eduardo probably needs to avoid retiring from baseball.  That’ll probably also be an over-promotion, but a backup shortstop is needed.

What’s he done already: 1-3 with an infield single.  That’s a .296 wOBA.  Hey!  That could be his career mark!

2. Addison Reed – RHP

Who?: The happiest story of the 2011 White Sox Minor League system.  Reed was committed fully to being a reliever this season, excelled, got promoted to High-A, excelled, got promoted to Double-A, excelled, got promoted to Triple-A and excelled.  For some reason, his fastball-slider combo has been clearly identified as bullpen material.  He’s only 22, but he’s been a dominant, closer-level reliever at every minor league stop there is to make.

What to expect: Rookie jitters probably, given his age.  Otherwise Reed’s control is considered just as pro-ready as his ability to mow down hitters.  He should be an exciting watch, or at least a better one than Jason Frasor.

What to hope for: Solidify a spot in the 2012 bullpen, and in doing so provide yet another possible way to cut some salary.  Good golly is 2012 going to comparatively inexpensive!  Excitement the fans can appreciate!

What’s happened already: 1.2 IP, 3 K, 0 BB, 4 H, 1 ER.  Peripherals suggest he’s as advertised.

3. Shane Lindsay – RHP

Who?: A selection from the Quadruple-A reliever scrap pile. and presumably the organization’s biggest Men at Work fan, Lindsay is notable for having hilariously awful control that’s sidetracked every single one of his other affiliations with major league teams despite being otherwise unhittable.  Somehow it didn’t sidetrack this one! Professional standards are fluid concepts.

What to expect: Disaster, one would imagine.  He had a 3.99 FIP in Triple-A.  For him there’ll be mop-up appearances aplenty, because, you know, the White Sox are blowing out people all the time.

What to hope for: Hope that he doesn’t hurt anyone, doesn’t knock anything over expensive or touch the trophy case.  Hope that he doesn’t take advantage of Ozzie Guillen not knowing the difference between him and Josh Kinney.  That’d be a bush league move, Lindsay.

What’s happened already: 2 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR and an ERA over 30.00.  Yup.

4. Dylan Axelrod – RHP

Who?: Axelrod is the feel-good story of a farm system barren of despair and decay.  I read minor league reports, and I read Blood Meridian, and frankly it all just runs together.  Axelrod was released by the Padres and caught with the White Sox to post strong numbers with Triple-A Charlotte.  He’s probably the closest to being MLB-ready of any minor league starting pitcher in the system. ’26 years-old’ and ‘Cut by the Padres’ are not desirable qualities for your most MLB-ready minor league starter

What to expect: Harmless garbage time, or possibly the spot start from absolute hell.

What to hope for: It’d be gravy if he impressed enough to solidify a bullpen spot and allow the team to cut another expensive reliever in The Great Fan-Murdering Salary Dump of the 2011 Winter that may or may not happen.

There’s also a chance the Sox call-up Jordan Danks, John’s little brother.  Danks plays good defense, but strikes out too much to play in the bigs at all, let alone for someone of his middling power.  Anything to make Johnny happy though, right?
While we’re on it, the Sox also recently announced their initial list of players they’ll send to the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is a place for clubs to expose the pride of their systems to the rest of the league, but the hitters submitted tend to be further along than the pitchers, prompting absurd offensive numbers.

It’s not the most significant chunk of playing time ever, but the players selected give a good glimpse of how teams view their systems. The White Sox selected 4 players to be part of the ‘Mesa Solar Sox’. Apparently team names are a lot harder to come up with than any of us realize.

Terry Doyle – RHP

Terry is the other mildly encouraging starter in the system.   There are only two.  His fastball sits in the 88-90 range, he doesn’t pile up the strikeouts either, and he turns 26 in November.  Still, he handled a promotion from High-A to Double-A without missing a beat, and that’s supposed to be the most severe jump there is short of the big leagues.

If he impresses in the AFL, everyone will probably go nuts with excitement.  It’s been a dark few years.

Brandon Short – CF

Short exists on the margins.   He doesn’t walk enough to profile as a top-of-the-order guy, he hasn’t shown enough power to justify his strikeout rate, and his defense might not be quite good enough to stick at centerfield, a position at where his offensive foibles would be more tolerable.  He’s fast, but not quite proficient enough on the basepaths to be a regular basestealer.  Oh boy, would it be great if he improved in one of these areas!

He’s only 23 (in a few days), and he hasn’t been cut by any other organizations yet.  Treading water at that age in Double-A isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Josh Phegley – C

He’s got a gun for an arm, and it’s great that he was able to return to playing after a scary bout with a blood disorder last season that saw his spleen removed.  Otherwise, reports of his defense are abhorrent and his bat isn’t nearly good enough to make him worthwhile at another position.  Bereft of hope.

Tyler Saladino – SS

That shortstop label still remains a source of debate, but he’s undeniably having a breakout power year as a 22 year-old in High-A Winston-Salem.  He’s clocked 51 extra-base hits for a .234 ISO, and his 11.1% walk rate makes his not-so-huge batting average and his strikeouts more than acceptable.

He’s yet to make the big jump in the minors, so it’s too soon to stick on a ‘Gordon Beckham’s replacement’ label, but the Arizona Fall League should give a fun preview of Saladino at higher levels.  Fun?  The Arizona Fall League?  White Sox?  It’s possible!


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