Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.
Chicago White Sox
Often cited as the worst system in baseball even after making a number of offseason moves to bolster their minor leagues, the White Sox would probably come in in the bottom few systems for me, but not dead last. In fact, one could make the case that they’re the third-best system in the AL Central, behind Kansas City and Minnesota.
The offseason acquisition of Nestor Molina gives the system a legitimate top 100 prospect, and the system has a number of intriguing sleepers that are often overlooked. Addison Reed is the top relief prospect in the game, and the presence of Reed and Molina slant this system toward pitching more than hitting.
Surprisingly, for all the flak this system takes, there isn’t a “black hole” position here. First base is pretty weak, but that’s typical.
If some of the C+ guys in the system break out in 2012, which may well happen, the White Sox could be looked at as a solid middle-of-the-pack system a year from now.
Position Player Upside: C-
Position Player Depth: C
Pitching Upside: C+
Pitching Depth: B
System Grade: C+
Catcher: Kevan Smith. Smith was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 and immediately crushed Rookie pitching, hitting .355/.448/.626 between the Sox’s Appalachian League and Pioneer League affiliates while cutting down 34% of basestealers. However, he was 23 years old, so his numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. He’s a big, powerfully-built guy with power potential and a good approach, so he’s definitely noteworthy, but he’ll need to move quickly. Grade: C+
First base: Andy Wilkins. Wilkins’ .278/.349/.485 line in the Carolina League is no slouch–he hit 23 homers and 33 doubles along with a good 91/56 K/BB. The offensive bar for first basemen is awfully high, and Wilkins is far from a lock to make an impact, but he’s got a nice offensive game and is sort of a poor man’s Anthony Rizzo. Grade: C+
Second base: Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez turned 19 at midseason, but he managed to hit .288 in Low-A and already has a solid glove at second base. The switch-hitter has a lot of work to do on his discipline and power, and likely will never make an impact in those areas, but he could be a good utility player in the majors and is advanced for his age. Grade: C+
Third base: Rangel Ravelo. Like Sanchez, Ravelo hit for a great average (.317) in Low-A as a 19-year-old, but didn’t show much in the way of secondary skills. Still, his average is no fluke–he struck out just 19 times in 43 games, and he also hit .384 in 20 Appalachian League games. At 6’2″ and 210 lbs. Ravelo’s frame suggests some power, and he has some leverage in his swing. 20 in April, he’ll need to start doing more than hitting singles, but he’s another impressive sleeper. Grade: C+
Shortstop: Tyler Saladino. Saladino’s almost a year younger than Wilkins, plays on the other side of the defensive spectrum, and still outpaced his teammate in slugging (.501) and Isolated Power (.231), while maintaining a 90/51 K/BB in 102 games in High-A. He’s not an elite defender at short, but should certainly be fine at second base. He could be a poor man’s Dan Uggla. Grade: B
Outfielder #1: Trayce Thompson. Thompson hit 36 doubles and 24 homers in Low-A at age 20, also walking 60 times, and he has even more power potential. However, he also struck out 172 times in 136 games, and he’s not going to be a productive player until that comes down, as evidenced by his .241 average and .329 OBP. He’s athletic, but not an asset on the bases or in center field; he’ll likely end up as a solid defender in right. His career hinges on his ability to strike out less than once a game. Grade: C+
Outfielder #2: Keenyn Walker. The #47 pick in the 2011 draft, Walker was atrocious in Low-A, striking out 64 times in 39 games. He’s just 21 and possesses considerable physical tools, and we shouldn’t put too much stock in 39 games in a player’s draft year (see Brentz, Bryce), but Walker has even further to go than Thompson. Grade: C+
Outfielder #3: Tyler Kuhn. Kuhn’s another player who hit for an impressive average, but unlike Sanchez and Ravelo, he did it in the upper minors, hitting .333/.388/.446 between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s already 25, and he can’t play center field, but he has experience at second, shortstop, third, and left. He could be a very valuable for the White Sox as soon as this year. Grade: C+
Starting Pitcher #1: Nestor Molina. Easily the best prospect in the system, Molina is an excellent “performance prospect,” completely dominating High-A and Double-A en route to a 148/16 K/BB ratio. He’s not without stuff though, with a solid low-90′s fastball and very good splitter. A potentially excellent #2/#3-type starter. Grade: A-
Starting Pitcher #2: Dylan Axelrod. Axelrod is already 26, but he pitched well in Double-A, Triple-A, and a September callup. He owns a devastating slider and hits his spots with an 88-92 mph fastball. He should provide several good seasons toward the back of the rotation, starting in 2012. Grade: B-
Starting Pitcher #3: Hector Santiago. It’s not often you come across a guy whose two main pitches are a mid-90′s moving fastball and a mid-70′s screwball, but that’s exactly what Santiago throws. The 24-year-old also got a brief September look, but he has yet to pitch in Triple-A and didn’t overwhelm in Double-A. He’ll be a major-league arm in some capacity, but given his relatively small build and the strain caused by throwing screwballs, he may end up in relief. Grade: C+
Starting Pitcher #4: Jeff Soptic. Soptic is a huge guy with a bigtime power arm, but he doesn’t do a good job repeating his delivery, particularly on his fastball, and tends to lose his release point. A 3rd-round pick in 2011, he has serious upside, but a fairly low chance of reaching it, and is a likely bullpen pitcher. Grade: C+
Starting Pitcher #5: Matt Heidenreich. Heidenreich falls more into the Axelrod mold, in that he probably won’t need to move to relief, but his sinker/slider combination gives him just #4/5 starter upside. He throws strikes and gets groundballs, but doesn’t have tremendous swing-and-miss stuff. He’s just 21 and has room to fill out his 6’5″ frame, so he may pick up some more velocity as he moves up. Grade: C+
Relief Pitcher #1: Addison Reed. Reed has a filthy three-pitch mix, with a mid-90′s fastball, tilting 78-83 mph slider, and fading mid-80′s changeup. He blitzed through four minor league levels last year and ended the year with a successful stint in the big leagues; he should make a big impact in 2012. Grade: B
Relief Pitcher #2: Dan Remenowsky. Remenowsky completely dominated every level of the minor leagues until he hit Triple-A in the second half of 2011, and he still pitched solidly there. He’s not an overwhelming pitcher, relying on deception, an upper-80′s fastball, and a great changeup, but weirder approaches have led to great relief careers, and like Reed, he’s basically ready now. Grade: C+
Best of the Rest
#1.) Juan Silverio, 3B. Silverio hit .285/.335/.453 across two levels at age 20. A career .905 fielder at third base, it’s looking possible he may have to move off the position, and he needs to walk a fair bit more. Still, he has good doubles power and solid contact ability, and he’s young enough to refine his discipline and defense and grow into more home run pop. Grade: C+
#2.) Erik Johnson, RHP. A 2nd-round pick in 2011, Johnson doesn’t have the upside of Soptic, who was picked a round later, but he’s another big guy who has a good arm. His control came and went in college, but his career will likely end up somewhere between T.J. Tucker and Tommy Hunter. Grade: C+
#3.) Andre Rienzo, RHP. Rienzo’s another guy with a good arm and not a whole lot else. To his credit, though, he struck out 118 guys in 116 innings in High-A while just allowing four home runs. The problem: he walked 66, in part thanks to a wandering release point and high-effort delivery. A potential fourth starter or setup man. Grade: C+
#4.) Scott Snodgress, LHP. A fifth-round pick in 2011 who pitched well in Rookie ball, Snodgress is another big guy (6’5″ 210) with some intriguing stuff. He falls more into the “high-ish floor but low-ish ceiling” camp (along with Axelrod and Heidenreich) than the “huge arm, little else” camp. Grade: C+
#5.) Simon Castro, RHP. Castro’s now gone backward for two straight years, and he still doesn’t have a third pitch. That said, nobody got guys out in Tucson last year, and he’ll have a smoother ride up to the majors by pitching in Charlotte following his acquisiton in the Carlos Quentin deal. He’ll be 24 in April, and I wouldn’t count on much from him, but he’s still got a solid fastball/slider combination and some control. Grade: C+
#6.) Jake Petricka, RHP. Petricka pitched well in Low-A last year but hit a wall in High-A, which he couldn’t really afford at age 23. He’s sort of a poor man’s Jarred Cosart–he’s big, flashes mid-90′s heat, and throws the occasional plus curveball, but just doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of strikeouts you’d expect. He was moved to relief in the AFL and could be an impact arm in that role. Grade: C+
#7.) Ryan Kussmaul, RHP. Like Axelrod, Kussmaul was an independent league find who’s paid some dividends. He’s a deception guy who comes at batters from a low arm slot with a bigtime breaking ball. He struck out 43.7% of right-handed batters he faced in High-A–yes, he was 24 and is strictly a reliever, but I could see him as the new Michael Wuertz. Grade: C+
#8.) Pedro Hernandez, LHP. Hernandez was acquired along with Castro in the Carlos Quentin trade. He pitched well in High-A and Double-A before running into the Tucson buzzsaw at the end of last year, and he just turns 23 in April. He’s not a big guy and doesn’t throw very hard, but he pounds the zone–his career BB/9 is 1.5. He could be a poor man’s Dallas Braden. Grade: C
#9.) Spencer Arroyo, LHP. Arroyo was the ace of a Kannapolis staff that featured Heidenreich, working 170 1/3 innings and walking just 41 while striking out 130. He’s not a power guy, relying heavily on a plus changeup, but he could work himself toward a potential fifth starter job with a strong 2012 season. Grade: C
#10.) Kyle McMillen, RHP. A fourth-round pick in 2011, McMillen allowed seven runs in his sole professional inning; not a good start. He’s a relief pitcher with a solid fastball-slider combination, but he doesn’t have huge upside and is probably more of a middle relief arm. He could move quickly, though. Grade: C
The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.
For more on the White Sox, check out Southside Showdown!
Topics: Addison Reed, Andre Rienzo, Andy Wilkins, Carlos Sanchez, Chicago White Sox, Dan Remenowsky, Dylan Axelrod, Erik Johnson, Hector Santiago, Jake Petricka, Jeff Soptic, Juan Silverio, Keenyn Walker, Kevan Smith, Kyle McMillen, Matt Heidenreich, Nestor Molina, Pedro Hernandez, Rangel Ravelo, Ryan Kussmaul, Scott Snodgress, Simon Castro, Spencer Arroyo, Trayce Thompson, Tyler Kuhn, Tyler Saladino