The train ride home from the red line stop Sox/35th has been a pleasant one for Chicago White Sox fans this season. Coming off a 2011 that saw the Sox finish 3rd in the AL Central, Adam Dunn hit 11 home runs, and Alex Rios bat .227, the 2012 season has been an unbelievable turnaround for the south siders. With 22 games remaining, the White Sox lead the Central Division by two games over the Tigers, Adam Dunn has stroked 38 home runs, and Alex Rios is batting .292. Night and day a new team compared to last season.
As the White Sox race down the stretch towards a 2012 division title, six prospects—three batters and three pitchers—will be racing to Salt River to join the Salt River Rafters in this year’s Arizona Fall League. The following players will join delegates from the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Blue Jays, and Nationals on the Rafters’ roster.
OF – Trayce Thompson (21) – White Sox 2009 2nd Round Pick
2012 – Winston-Salem: 0.254/.325/.486, 28 2B, 5 3B, 22 HR, 18 SB, 45 BB, and 144 SO in 510 PA
2012 – Birmingham: 0.280/.379/.520, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 2 SB, 8 BB, and 16 SO in 58 PA
2012 – Charlotte: 0.167/.250/.278, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 SB, 2 BB, and 6 SO in 20 PA
Highly regarded outfield prospect Trayce Thompson will be representing the White Sox on the Salt River Rafters roster this fall. Thompson could be best described as a raw, athletic talent who needs a bit more instruction and discipline in his game. His athletic pedigree is rock solid. His father, Mychal Thompson, was the first overall NBA draft pick in 1978 en route to a decorated 14 year professional career. His son Trayce brought his talents to the diamond, rather than the hardwood, and looks to be headed in the right direction for long term success. Though statistics don’t always tell the whole story, Thompson’s 2012 line is fairly indicative of the player he is at 21 years old. His K% is WAY too high at just under 30%, and his BB% is not quite where the White Sox would want it at 9%. That said, the south siders love his pop and his wheels. He has smacked 57 homers and swiped 38 bags in his 362 minor league games. Project that over a 162 game major league season, and you’re looking at 25-20 potential. The important thing for Thompson’s development right now is to get as many at-bats as possible, and work on establishing a more mature approach in the batter’s box. The Sox will ship him off to Arizona to get that extra work.
3B – Carlos Sanchez (20) – Signed by White Sox in 2009 as an Undrafted Free Agent
2012 – Winston-Salem: 0.315/.374/.395, 14 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 19 SB, 31 BB, and 64 SO in 416 PA
2012 – Birmingham: 0.370/.424/.462, 9 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 7 SB, 10 BB, and 22 SO in 133 PA
2012 – Charlotte: 0.256/.256/.308, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, and 6 SO in 39 PA
Among the top commercial cities in all of South America is the Venezuelan city of Maracay. The city’s primary exports include paper, tobacco, coffee, sugarcane—and, of course, young baseball players. Current MLB stars such as Miguel Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Martin Prado, and Bobby Abreu all hail from Maracay. So to does 20 year old White Sox third base prospect Carlos Sanchez. The young switch hitter hasn’t yet enjoyed his first legal cocktail, yet he already has three full minor league seasons under his belt.
Sanchez may top the list of bats the White Sox are excited about. Since the start of the 2011 season, Sanchez has been promoted all the way from the rookie Appalachian League to the Sox AAA affiliate, playing for five different ball clubs along the way. The changing scenery has not shown any ill-effects on Sanchez’s offense, however. He put together a 2012 line of 0.323/.378/.403 between A+, AA, and AAA, with hardly any drop off along the way. He is a good contact hitter, and his plus bat speed suggests he will continue to put a lot of balls in play. Sanchez lacks ideal (any) pop for a corner infielder (only three homeruns in 1151 minor league plate appearances), and his speed is iffy (thrown out on 40% of steal attempts). However, he is still only 20 years old, so we likely have yet to see the last of his physical maturation.
The White Sox are moving fast on this prospect, likely due to the lack of consistent production out of their third basemen. A trip to the AFL is next in the development process for Sanchez, and should his numbers continue to impress, his next move could be to U.S. Cellular on Chicago’s south side.
RHP – Taylor Thompson – White Sox 2009 44th Round Pick
2012 – Bristol: 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1H, O BB, 2 SO in 1 IP
2012 – Winston-Salem: 2.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 26 H, 13 BB, 57 SO in 44.1 IP
Joining the backend of the Rafters’ bullpen this fall will be White Sox prospect Taylor Thompson. The right-hander out of Auburn was drafted by the White Sox in 2008, but elected to stay in school for one more year. The extra year cost him 19 rounds in the 2009 draft when the Sox took him in the 44th. Thompson struggled with ERA problems throughout his collegiate career, but scouts could not ignore his strikeout numbers. Thompson led Auburn with 54 punch-outs in his freshman season, and had 135 strikeouts over his three seasons as a Tiger.
The great news for Thompson is that as soon as he hit the minor leagues, his ERA started to deflate. Through 106 games in his career in the minors, Thompson has kept his ERA to 2.28, his WHIP to 1.15, and is striking out better than a hitter an inning. He started three games in his first stint in the rookie Appalachian League, but has since come out of the bullpen—most recently, to close games for Winston-Salem. Unlike third-base prospect Carlos Sanchez, the White Sox seem to be taking their time bringing Thompson along, despite his consistently solid results. They may use his appearance this fall as a period to give the 25 year old a deep look to understand where he fits in the Sox long term plans.
RHP – Andre Rienzo (24) – Signed by White Sox in 2006 as an Undrafted Free Agent
2012 – Winston-Salem: 1.08 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 17 H, 7 BB, 31 SO in 25 IP
2012 – Birmingham: 3.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 56 H, 33 BB, 72 SO in 71.2 IP
2012 – Charlotte: 0.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 5 H, 2 BB, 10 SO in 6.2 IP
Another power right hander joining Salt River from the White Sox system this fall will be Andre Rienzo. The fifth-year player’s 2012 season was unfortunately marked by a 50 game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. When he has played, he has played well, so the White Sox will use the AFL as Rienzo’s regular season so he can continue to develop.
The White Sox signed Rienzo out of Sao Paolo, Brazil at the young age of 18. He spent the entirety of the 2007 and 2008 seasons in the Dominican Rookie League, developing his arm for his minor league debut. Rienzo features a fastball—his best pitch by a lengthy margin—with secondary off-speed pitches that are still a work in progress. Though Rienzo has started 77 games in the minors, his reliance on his primary pitch likely projects him to a bullpen role in the long term.
Coming off the suspension Rienzo will get a chance to right the ship both in his play and his character in the AFL.
LHP – Santos Rodriguez (24) – Obtained by White Sox in 2008 via trade with Braves
2012 – Birmingham: 2.81 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 33 H, 33 BB, 60 SO in 64 IP
2012 – Charlotte: 3.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7 H, 2 BB, 9 SO in 7.1 IP
The White Sox do love their flamethrowers, and they will be sending one to Arizona in Santos Rodriguez. The southpaw was a big piece in the deal that sent then White Sox starter Javier Vasquez to Atlanta.
Listed at 6’5” and 180 pounds, Rodriguez has a lanky frame—reminiscent of current White Sox star lefty Chris Sale. His awkward body comes with an awkward, high-effort delivery that has plagued Rodriguez’s early career with injury. From 2007 to 2010, the lefty never pitched more than 40.1 innings. With the sensitive arm, the White Sox have well monitored Rodriguez in 2011 and 2012, progressing his inning count year-over-year from 62 to 71.1. Most of his work has been in a relief role, and his production has been impressive when he has avoided the disabled list. In his first 162 innings, Rodriguez owns a 10.5 SO/9, a 3.40 ERA, and a set of four average to plus pitches. He features a two-seam and four-seam fastball, both sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, and two off-speed pitches in his slider and his change-up. The faster the pitch, the better the pitch in Rodriguez’s case. His change-up needs significant work if he is to continue to progress through the minors. A weak change-up, and a command problem (5.2 BB/9) are the two line items Rodriguez will work on this fall in the AFL.
1B – Andy Wilkins (23) – White Sox 2010 5th Round Pick
2012 – Birmingham: 0.239/.335/.425, 28 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 6 SB, 63 BB, and 94 SO in 435 PA
We’ve talked plenty about power arms in the White Sox system. Now how about power bats? Look no further than the 23 year-old first baseman Andy Wilkins. Wilkins was drafted by the White Sox out of the University of Arkansas in 2010, after declining to join the Rangers in 2007 in favor of playing in a Razorbacks uniform.
Like many other power prospects, Wilkins lacks major league-ready plate discipline. His live bat has been called out on strikes on roughly 16% of his plate appearances in his three year career. Wilkins counters his high strikeout rate with excellent power numbers for his age. He has clubbed 46 long balls and 75 doubles in 1314 plate appearances, showing the White Sox an attractive power upside. What is worrisome with Wilkins is the speed with which the White Sox are promoting him. The Sox are notorious for getting overly eager to put top prospect talent in front of a big league crowd. In a little over two seasons of work, Wilkins has been promoted from the rookie league to AA, and has seen a dip in his production at each new level. The Sox may be wise to play Wilkins in the AFL, and then start his next season in A ball to ensure his production doesn’t continue to slide.