Today was the second time this spring I had a chance to see the Chicago White Sox low minor league squads, and I finally the talent I had heard was there.
Jacob May is a small center fielder, but oozes athleticism and can really run. He gets the bat to the ball well, but his swing looks like he is trying to hit home runs rather than put the ball in the gap to take advantage of his greatest too, speed. I have seen him steal bags, but he needs to improve his baserunning. His break toward second isn’t great, but he has the most pure speed I have seen thus far in the White Sox system (I have seen Tim Anderson and Micah Johnson, but caught them both on days where they did not get to show off their wheels.)
At first base was Keon Barnum, who is BIG. He is listed at 6’5″, 225 lbs. and looks every bit of it. At the plate, you can see a ton of power in his swing, but his bat is slow through the zone. His hips explode at the ball well, but the bat just hasn’t caught up. He has the athleticism to be an above average defensive first baseman, and the upside for his power incredible, but making enough contact to realize that upside is a question.
The guy that really shined for me is Cleuluis Rondon. Rondon was one of the lower minors guys that went to the White Sox in the trade that sent Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox, and he is a natural shortstop. His actions are smooth in the field, and he has a really good arm. The big question mark for him has always been whether or not he will be able to hit, and while it was only one day, I say he can. John Lamb was on the mound for the Kansas City Royals with Rondon at the plate, and Rondon crushed an inside fastball well over the left field fence. His swing has an uppercut plane to it, which is good for his power potential, but I would like to see him look for more line drives. When on first base after a previous plate appearance, he easily stole second, then took off for third on the next pitch, and the batter shot the ball past the third baseman moving towards third allowing Rondon to score easily.
For fans of the guys over at Cespedes Family BBQ, you are familiar with the name Matt Ball, but you probably haven’t really seen him pitch. I was just about call it a day when I saw a tall, skinny righty warming up in the pen with a number 65 on his back and the name Ball. I immediately realized it was the same Matt Ball I have heard on the Barbecasts in the past, so I figured I should stick around a bit and take a look. Good thing I did, as he looked good on the hill. I was not next to a gun, so I don’t know what his velocities were, but his fastball looked good and it was jumping on hitters quickly. The first batter he faced lined out to the second baseman, then the next two were overpowered by the fastball and struck out. To open the next inning, he faced big leaguer Jarrod Dyson, who nearly took Ball out at the ankles on 3-2 pitch, but Dyson was immediately retired as the next batter grounded into a double play. Ball finished his day by inducing a ground out to the third baseman. Six hitters up, six down, with the only guy reaching base a big league hitter, not a bad outing. His breaking stuff still needs some improving, as I noticed a drop in arm slot in the slider and his wrist angle on his curve varied from his fastball.
Overall, I can see the White Sox are successfully rebuilding a farm system that was widely considered one of the worst in baseball just 12 months ago. They are probably still a bottom third system overall, but a decent draft and international period, in addition to some improvement from the talent already in the system, and they could become a top 15 system in baseball.