The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.
This is the second round of updates in this series so I will not rehash why each player made my list but you can always go back and read previous installments of the series. While doing the installments by division worked the first time around, I’m going to go team-by-team from this point forward.
Chicago White Sox (S2S 2012 White Sox Team Prospect List)
C – Kevan Smith (24) – White Sox 2011 7th Round Pick
Notes – From April through June, Smith kept his BABIP remarkably consistent going from 0.346 to 0.338 to 0.347 but despite that particular statistical similarity his offensive production took off in June. It was in that month that he turned in an OPS of 0.923 which signified a big step forward over the 0.701 and 0.767 in April and May. The root cause of his improvement last month can be found in the gains he made in his plate discipline and approach. In the season’s first two months combined, Smith drew 11 walks and struck out 40 times. By contrast he drew 10 walks and went down on strikes just 9 times in the month of June.
Unfortunately July has proven to be tougher sledding for the young catcher as he’s hit just 0.244/.276/.427 this month (0.703 OPS). His BABIP in 19 July games is 0.254 and his BB% has fallen back into the 4-5% range where it has been outside of the month of June when it was a very strong 14.1%. The current month has not been a total loss however as Smith’s Isolated Power (Iso) is at a single month best 0.183 and 2 of his 7 HR on the year have come in his last four games.
Of course in all of this discussion we have to remember that he is a catcher which makes his offensive performance thus far in 2012 all the more impressive. Sure, it can’t hold a candle to what he did in rookie ball last season, and he is a bit old for his current level having just turned 24 about 3 weeks ago but I continue to be a big fan.
OF – Jared Mitchell (23) – White Sox 2009 1st Round Pick
Notes – Few players in the minors came out of the chute as hot as Mitchell did and he wound up hitting 0.341/.471/.561 with 5 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR and 6 SB. In the process he showed a flash of the dynamic player the White Sox drafted out of LSU three years ago. The spring training ankle injury that cost him all of 2010 and his 183 SO in 129 games in 2011 gave many enough reason to jump off the bandwagon but I have continued to be a believer in his future and significant upside since he was in college. For those 24 games in April, Mitchell had me feeling pretty good about my evaluation skills, and of course he certainly caught the attention of the White Sox fan base with his performance.
Unfortunately the months that followed have not gone as smoothly and his K% has ballooned from 20.6 in April to a staggering 41.2% so far this month. If you’re wondering, that’s not a typo. Mitchell has struck out 35 times in 19 July games and has a 0.174/.318/.449 slash line to go with it. Some of that can be written off as sample size and statistical aberration. After all his LD% is far more likely to be closer to the 19.0% he has on the season overall than the 9.4% he had with the Barons in July. And while, yes, he’s going to continue to be a strikeout machine barring some significant improvement in that part of his game, he’s not going to go down on strikes 2 out of every 5 at bats going forward.
Speaking of needed plate discipline improvement, it is worth pointing out that 62 BB in 95 games is an indicator that his is making strides. In fact his BB% – currently at 15.0% – is up over 5 points from the 9.6% it was in 128 games last season.
The White Sox curiously (by my estimation) promoted him to Triple-A Charlotte yesterday so we’ll see how he handles facing International League pitching. If he can get hot again for an extended stretch like he was to start the season it’s not out of the question that Mitchell could wind up with 20 2B, 20 3B, 20 HR and 20 SB this season. That would be quite the rare accomplishment considering only four players since 1901 have pulled that off at the major league level and it’s obviously not a frequent thing in the minors.
If you’re wondering who the four are:
1911 – Frank Schulte
1957 – Willie Mays
2007 – Jimmy Rollins and Curtis Granderson
SS – Tyler Saladino (22) – White Sox 2010 7th Round Pick
Notes – With a 16.0% BB rate, Saladino has something in common with his recently promoted teammate Mitchell. Of course Tyler comes out well ahead of Jared when we look at the strikeout component of the equation. In fact the Barons young SS has dropped his K% from 19.4 in 2011 to 16.5% so far in 2012. Further when you look at his monthly splits, you see that he’s continued to get better in that regard as the season has progressed. He struck out in 18.5% of his plate appearances in both April and May but then dropped it to 15.1% in June and then even further to 12.6%. Not surprisingly July was his best month in terms of production with a 0.303/.432/.447 slash line.
Considered to have average speed, Saladino has successfully swiped 34 bases while being caught just 7 times which is a testament to his overall instincts and baseball acumen that allow his tools to play up across the board.
For more on the Chicago White Sox, check out Southside Showdown!