The White Sox system is not exactly getting a ton of praise right now. Addison Reed, Nestor Molina, and Tyler Saladino are all very solid prospects, but none project as stars, and the system seems to immediately descend into mediocrity from the #4 slot on down. However, there are a number of sleepers in the gaggle of C+-grade types in the Chicago system, and two of them are infielders Rangel Ravelo and Carlos Sanchez, both of whom concluded the 2011 campaign in Low-A Kannapolis.
What makes Ravelo and Sanchez interesting? They’ve both held their own despite being very young for their levels.
Ravelo comes with a decent pedigree, having been a sixth-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2010. He hit .254/.291/.335 in the Appalachian League that season, so he had yet to get on the prospect radar prior to 2011.
Repeating the level as a 19-year-old this past season, Ravelo got off to a huge start, going 28-for-73 in 20 games, posting a .384/.410/.507 line. That was good enough to get him promoted to Kannapolis, where he continued to rip singles, hitting .317/.368/.373. Overall, he hit .338/.381/.415 between the two levels at age 19.
No doubt, that batting line leaves many questions unanswered. First, in just 63 games, can’t anyone hit for a fluky average? Second, there’s not a whole lot of power there; will he develop any?
Certainly, Ravelo’s .452 batting average on balls in play in the Appy is unsustainable, but he seems to have the contact skills to hit at least .300. His BABIP dropped to .359 in Kannapolis, but he struck out just 10.9% of the time, with just 19 whiffs in 43 games. He also drew twelve walks, so his K/BB ratio was solid.
As far as the power goes, Ravelo certainly looks the part of at least a decent power hitter. At 6’2″ and a stocky 210 pounds, he has a powerful frame, and his swing has some leverage in it, although it does seem geared more toward doubles power than home run power. Power is often the last tool to develop, and while Ravelo may never be a 20-HR threat, he could well be able to develop enough to play at third base. Perhaps he could be a .290/.340/.430 hitter, although he could also evolve into an Alberto Callaspo sort of player if his approach improves and his power doesn’t.
Ravelo fielded .942 at third base this past season, which is well ahead of most teenage hot cornermen. He doesn’t have great athleticism, but he makes the routine plays and should be able to stick there.
Sanchez is two months younger than Ravelo, and won’t turn 20 until June 29. Like Ravelo, he’s basically an empty-average guy at this point, as he hit .288/.341/.345 in Kannapolis. The Venezuelan switch-hitter had showed ridiculous patience in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 (.269/.431/.346), so the White Sox sent him straight to Low-A after just five games in Bristol. It’s impressive that such a young player was able to actually raise his batting average and keep his slugging percentage basically intact despite skipping two levels.
Sanchez doesn’t have as much pressure to hit for power as Ravelo does, as he moved from third base to second base in 2011 and fielded .980 at the position. Like Ravelo, he’s not an athletic freak, but he makes enough of the routine plays that he projects to not have to move down the defensive spectrum. He went just 8-for-18 on the bases, so he’s not going to contribute much in that regard. He’ll need to work on regaining high walk rates once he settles into US ball, as he had a 49/15 K/BB in 63 games.
Both of these players have plenty of time on their side, as they have around two years to work on their skills in the low minors before they’ll need to make the jump to Double-A. It’s tough to say what they’ll be able to produce when they aren’t so much younger than their competition, but both seem to have a strong hit tool and decent defensive ability as teenagers, and if they can develop in some other areas, both could find themselves playing significant roles on the White Sox in a few years.
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