Despite producing some solid talent, the Chicago White Sox farm system has been regarded as one of the worst in baseball over the past several seasons. Take a look at the position players they’re sending to the AFL this year, and you can see the system isn’t totally void of potential.
The White Sox team up with prospects from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins to form the Glendale Desert Dogs. The AFL season starts Tuesday, here’s a snapshot of the White Sox prospects headed to the desert this fall.
Marcus Semien – One of a few players at this year’s AFL who have played in the majors, Semien was a big breakout star in the White Sox system. A sixth-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old hit .284/.401/.479 wint 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A. Perhaps most impressively, he drew 98 walks against 90 strikeouts over 137 minor league games. He could use some more time on the farm, but a good showing in the AFL could propel Semien to an Opening Day starting role in 2014.
Brandon Jacobs – Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Matt Thornton trade, Jacobs has exciting tools that haven’t yet translated. Jacobs also played football in high school, and has flashed some power and speed you would expect. Each of the past three seasons, the Georgia native has hit at least 30 doubles and 13 home runs. He also has a 30 steal season to his credit, though it was back in 2011. He reached Double-A for the first time, hitting .244/.295/.348 with 52 strikeouts in 46 games.
Jared Mitchell – Much like Jacobs, Mitchell is a former two-sport athlete who is struggling to find the feel for the game. The former LSU wide receiver lost a season of development in 2010 due to an injury, but that was back in 2010. You can’t hit below the Mendoza Line and stick around very long, and Mitchell has an ugly .167 batting average in his ledger for 2013. I’m sure he’s hoping to put that performance behind him and get back on track in the AFL.
Micah Johnson – Drafted in the ninth round in 2012, Johnson put himself on the map this season. The former Indiana Hoosier led the minors with 84 stolen bases this season and posted a .312/.373/.451 line over three levels. The bulk of his time was spent in Class-A, but he excelled in the playoffs for Double-A Birmingham. He helped lead the Barons to the Southern League title, going 14-for-38 (.368) with seven walks, seven stolen bases and 12 runs scored in 10 games. He also hit a big home run in the fifth and deciding game of the championship series.
Charles Leesman – Another player who made it to the South Side this season, Leesman got beat up by major league hitters. In 15 ⅓ innings the lefty gave up 12 earned runs and walked 16 batters. Over the past two years in Triple-A, however, Leesman has a 3.02 ERA in 42 starts. At 26, he’ll be among the older AFL participants.
Kevin Vance – Since moving to the bullpen full-time, Vance has been overpowering. The right-hander averaged 11 K/9 this year, racking up 84 punchouts over 69 innings in Double-A. The former Uconn Huskie also averaged 4.7 BB/9, so he’s lacking the polish that would be needed to make him a bullpen candidate for the major league club next summer. The 23-year-old former 19th-round pick will hope to smooth out some of his rough edges in the AFL.
Chris Bassitt – A 16th-round pick in 2011, Bassitt reached Double-A this season had some success over eight starts. The 24-year-old had a 2.27 ERA and 1.09 WHIP for Birmingham. This was his first season as a full-time starter, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see Chicago send him to Arizona after he threw 149 innings during the regular season.
Stephen McCray – Another 16th rounder, McCray has put up respectable number over the past two seasons despite being very hittable. He had a brief stay in Triple-A this season, where he gave up 12 earned runs over 13 ⅓ innings. The right-hander had a 3.25 ERA in Double-A, but with 3.8 BB/9 and 5.5 K/9 it’s likely he’ll give up more runs the more exposure he gets against more advanced hitters.
For more on this year’s Arizona Fall League, check out our Fall-Winter Leagues hub.