The development of last year’s White Sox rankings was one of the most difficult experiences of my prospecting career. The system was beyond bad and differentiating between potential sixth and seventh inning relievers and potential up-and-down utility types was discouraging. The system has improved this year, and while still not good, the talent present at least has more upside and solid big league ceilings.
1. Courtney Hawkins – OF (Last Year’s Rank: NR)
Hawkins may be the most dynamic prospect the White Sox have had in recent memory. He has big time power potential with some scouts viewing him as a potential 25+ home run threat, along with plenty of doubles. He will likely shift to a corner outfield spot long term, but his defense and arm strength will be an asset there. Hawkins could be an All-Star caliber player at his peak.
2. Trayce Thompson – OF (4)
If you value raw tools, Thompson is your kind of guy. He is an above-average runner with excellent instincts in the outfield and a plus arm. He should stick in center field and be a true asset there. Thompson’s power is nearing the top of the scale and routinely earns 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has a ton of swing and miss in his offensive profile, but he should make just enough contact for his power to play in games. He won’t be a star, but he could develop into what Drew Stubbs was supposed to be.
3. Erik Johnson – RHP (8)
While Johnson has a limited ceiling and may only slot in at the back of a big league rotation, he could reach that level of performance very quickly. His fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s and his slider looks like a plus pitch at times. His strike throwing has been far better than expected and he now has some potential for developing solid command. Johnson will need his below-average change-up to make strides to round out his arsenal.
4. Carlos Sanchez – SS (NR)
I’m not as high on Sanchez as some others are, but I do think he has a big league future. Sanchez is a plus runner with improving instincts and that should be a solid part of his game going forward. His contact-oriented approach at the plate should lead him to hit for a good average in the .280-.290 range, though that average will come with few secondary skills, most notably almost zero power. Defensively, I prefer Sanchez at second base but believe he could be a plus defender there. Overall, if he hits a ton, he could be an everyday second baseman and should be a quality utility player regardless.
5. Andre Rienzo – RHP (9)
Rienzo missed 50 games in 2012 while serving a PED-related suspension, but pitched well upon his return, posting a 3.27 ERA in 11 Double-A starts. His fastball can get up to 95-96 mph when he needs it. Rienzo will flash an impressive curveball but he lacks consistency spinning the pitch and he will need to refine it for big league success. With poor control/command and an under-developed change-up, Rienzo looks more like a setup man than a back of the rotation starter, and he could arrive quickly and make an impact similar to Nathan Jones in 2012.
6. Scott Snodgress – LHP (NR)
A fifth round pick out of Stanford in 2011, Snodgress reached High-A in his second professional season. The six-foot-five lefty can sit in the low-90s with his fastball and has touched 94 in the past. His curveball can be a weapon against left-handed hitters while his change-up is well below-average. Snodgress has some starting potential, possibly slotting in as a fifth starter, but his floor is relatively his as well with a backup plan as a left-on-left reliever.
7. Jared Mitchell – OF (5)
Coming out of college, Mitchell was a tooled up outfielder with speed and a center field profile. That profile has changed dramatically over the years as he now looks more like a left fielder with above-average power and good athleticism. He runs at an average level and that plays well with his improving outfield instincts in left field. He has 20-home run potential in his bat and while he strikes out a fair amount, his approach is solid and he should be a fringe-average hitter. Mitchell’s profile isn’t what many projected several years ago, but he could still contribute to a Major League club.
8. Chris Beck – RHP (NR)
Popped in the second round last June, the White Sox believe Beck can regain some of what he showed in 2011 and become a mid-rotation workhorse. In 2012, Beck’s fastball fluctuated from 88-94 mph and he lacked consistency within innings, let alone between starts. His slider has easy plus potential with added consistency and there are some scouts that believe in his feel for a change-up. He’s going to be a work in progress, but that work could result in a significant payoff.
9. Myles Jaye – RHP (NR)
Jaye came to the White Sox in a New Years day trade from the Blue Jays and his arm strength alone makes him an intriguing prospect. Though extremely (extremely doesn’t really do this justice) raw, Jaye can reach 95-96 mph at times and his fastball will show good sink. He has yet to develop consistent feel for a change-up or breaking ball but there has been some progress since he began focusing on pitching after the draft. Jaye is light years away from the big leagues, but he merits attention because of his powerful right arm.
10. Sammy Ayala – C (NR)
Catchers with defensive potential and true raw power are always interesting prospects, and Ayala is no different. While every part of his game is raw, Ayala has the raw power to hit 20 home runs a year if the utility of his hit tool matures completely. His defense needs considerable work but he is a quality athlete, hard worker and has a strong arm. Ayala will have to develop as a hitter to remain a prospect but at least right now, he is highly intriguing.
11. Keenyn Walker – OF (12)
There are some professional scouts that remain completely unimpressed with Walker’s baseball abilities. Other scouts see a 70-grade runner with good instincts on the bases and in the outfield. His approach at the plate is solid and he could be a leadoff threat with more consistent hitting ability and fewer strikeouts. His power is well below-average and will never be a significant part of his game. Walker’s on-base ability may dictate his Major League projection as he doesn’t project to be a plus or better hitter and his speed won’t carry him on a big league roster.
12. Keon Barnum – 1B (NR)
Barnum is a beefy 6-foot-5, 225 pound 19-year old (turns 20 in January) that was drafted by the White Sox out of high school last summer. His raw power reaches the top of the 20-80 scouting scale and he can put on batting practice displays that drop jaws. His swing is long and he has almost no clue again breaking balls or change-ups, leaving many to wonder how much he will hit. Barnum is likely limited to first base which means his power will have to show up every day for him to maintain value.
13. Santos Rodriguez – LHP (NR)
Rodriguez has developed nicely since coming over from the Braves in the Javier Vasquez trade. He reached the big leagues in 2012 and he should get back there in 2013, likely as a potential high-leverage reliever. With a fastball that can reach 94-95 mph and a slider that can be a wipeout pitch at times, he has two quality offerings that help him in the late innings.
14. Brandon Brennan – RHP (NR)
The White Sox fourth round pick last summer, Brennan has potential as both a reliever and a starter. As a starter, he could be an inning-eating fourth starter with a solid three-pitch mix. If his command and change-up don’t come together ideally, scouts see his 92-94 mph fastball and projectable slider working in the seventh or eighth inning down the line. The White Sox will likely allow Brennan to work as a starter for a while with the hope that his arsenal gains depth and he can stick in the rotation.
15. Luis Castillo – 3B (NR)
A $450,000 splurge on the international market in July, the 16-year old Castillo could become a serious prospect in this system. He has a mature frame with good natural strength and the potential to add more. He easily drives the ball to all fields and shows hints of plus power down the line. A raw third baseman, Castillo has arm strength and will occasionally show decent actions at the position. His developmental path will be a long one but he could ultimately become a classic, physical third baseman with power.