Chicago White Sox

Original Published Date: Oct. 11, 2012

Fortunately for White Sox fans, GM Kenny Williams drafted Courtney Hawkins in the first round of the 2012 draft – a true elite prospect with an all-star ceiling.  Without Hawkins, this system lacks any real impact prospect on either side of the mound.

Tryace Thompson, Keenyn Walker, and Jared Mitchell are all promising outfielders with a ton of tools but each struggles to make contact.  In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are a plus-plus runner or have plus power; if you can’t make contact, it’s going to be difficult to ever make an impact at the highest level of the game.  Interesting, all three do have decent on base percentages due to their high walk rate.

The top pitching prospect in the organization is 24 year old Andre Rienzo, who has a nice combination of plus velocity and command.  Simon Castro and Nester Molina are better known prospects, but each continues to struggle with their control and are mid-rotation starters at best.

1. Courtney Hawkins (OF)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Texas
Ht:6-3 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 RAA+ 229 39 8 33 11 .284 .324 75.5 4.8 .343

Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, Courtney Hawkins has a chance to be a very special player.  He’s ultra toolsy with crazy bat speed, plus raw power and plus speed.

Hawkins was drafted in the range with Addison Russell and David Dahl and while both had more impressive debuts in 2012, Hawkins arguably has more upside.  In fact, with a .284 batting average, eight home runs, 11 stolen bases across three levels, Hawkins in fact had a very good year and gave hope to the White Sox that they’ve found their future right fielder.

The first thing you notice about Hawkins is the swing.  It’s violent with crazy bat speed.  It’s so violent in fact, you question how Hawkins can make contact, but he does, as his 75.5% contact rate demonstrates.  However, in the long run, I think the White Sox will shorten up the swing in order for him to have better bat control and in fact, bring out the power.  One of the misconceptions of hitting mechanics is that the harder you swing the farther the ball will travel.  In fact, this is not true as the key to good hitting is keeping the head of the bat in the zone for a long as possible and hitting on the same plane that the ball is traveling.  It’s nearly impossible to do this with a long, all-out swing approach.

Defensively, Hawkins can play center field, but at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds at only 18 years of age, he will surely fill out and slow down and that will mean a move to right field.  While this will diminish his value somewhat, he has the potential to become an all-star corner outfielder.

Fantasy Impact: Courtney Hawkins has a chance to be a fantasy monster with the ability to slug 25 plus home runs and hit .280 once his hit tool becomes fully realized.  Through his mid 20’s, he should steal double digit stolen bases with 20 not being out of the equation.

2. Trayce Thompson (OF)

2013 Age: 22 BP: California
Ht:6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2012 A-AAA 517 88 25 96 21 .253 .325 67.9 10.6 .321

I’ll profile 300 prospects in this series and at least 20 of these young talented players will have four tools. Speed, power, the ability to field their position, and an above average arm.  The missing tool?  The ability to make sufficient contact and in particular, the ability to recognize off-speed pitches.

Signed in the second round of the Year of Trout (2009), Trayce Thompson is the son of former Los Angeles Lakers, Mychal Thompson.  Thompson has massive raw power that comes in the form of a long and violent swing.  As mentioned, the problem he has is recognizing off-speed pitches, which is clearly evident when watching him bat.  Soft stuff away gets him every time.  That said, the tools are there and he is much younger than Jared Mitchell, another White Sox toolsy outfielder that struggles to make contact.  While I’ve mostly given up on Mitchell, Thompson does have more raw power, and I do love the athletic blood lines, so I’m holding out hope.

Fantasy Impact:  If he learns to make contact, Thompson has the profile of an impact fantasy player.  He is racing up prospect list with his 25/21 performance in 2012 and I’m intrigued enough to roster him in a dynasty league.  He will be at the AFL and given the great hitting environment and poor pitching, his stock should continue to increase.

3. Andre Rienzo (RHP)

2013 Age: 24 BP: Brazil
Ht: 6-3  Weight: 160 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A+-AAA 103.1 78 29 2 3.65 9.84 2.52 1.16

Unfortunately, Andre Rienzo is known more for his 50-game suspension for violating the Major League baseball’s drug policy than what he’s done on the field.  However, a 2.52 ERA with a 9.84 strikeout-per-nine ratio across three levels, show the potential.

Rienzo has a three pitch arsenal with his best pitch being his low 90’s fastball that has a lot of natural movement and causes a lot of weak ground balls.  His second best pitch is a change-up that he was able to throw consistently for strikes in 2012.  He also throws two breaking pitches, a slider that has a two plane tilt and a straight curve that is below average.  The White Sox have spent a lot of development time with his curve but so far it has yet to pay off and given his age, he might not have a curve in his arm.  While many pitching coaches believe you can teach a pitcher to throw a curve, many more believe that you can either spin a curve, or you can’t.

I would expect Rienzo to make his major league debut in 2013 and while I do not believe he’ll be an all-star, I think he has outside chance to be a solid number three pitcher with a more likely ceiling of a number four.

Fantasy Impact: Rienzo is not draftable in a fantasy league or even in Dynasty League but is a pitcher that I believe warrants following.

4. Keenyn Walker (OF)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Utah
Ht:6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
2012 A/A+ 409 84 4 55 56 .267 .379 65.0 18.1 .399

Kennyn Walker is the next highest rated athletic outfielder in the White Sox organization that struggles to make contact.  In 2012, he had a contact rate of 65% and while he has plus-plus speed, his .399 BABIP is unsustainable and therefore his batting average of .267 is as well.

Walker was signed in 2011 out of Central Arizona Junior College and across two levels in 2012, stole an impressive 56 stolen bases while being caught 15 times.  He also has a nice approach at the plate with good patience that translated into an 18.1% walk rate.  The problem is his ability to recognize a breaking pitch and make subsequent contact.  While he’s a switch hitter, his splits are not good as he’s a much better hitter as a right-handed hitter albeit a small sample size.

Fantasy Impact: The likelihood of Keenyn Walker succeeding in the majors is low as he’ll probably never make enough contact.  However, he could be a fourth outfielder and a possible fantasy asset with his speed and therefore, he should be on the radar of fantasy owners.

5. Carlos Sanchez (2B)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Venezuela
Ht:5-11 Weight: 175 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 A-AAA 523 79 1 56 26 .325 .372 82.4 7.8 .390

Carlos Sanchez just turned 20 in June of 1992 but has already made an appearance in Triple-A.  He’s been moving quickly through the White Sox organization on the back of his slick fielding and above average arm.  He has great lateral movement and has the ability to play shortstop, but will probably enter the majors at the keystone.  While Sanchez had a statically nice year batting .325, his underlying statistics and hitting mechanics tell a different story.

Sanchez did progress with his hitting from 2011, where he was considered more of a slap hitter, but with marginal speed.  He’s definitely hitting with more authority as he’s getting more leverage out of his lower half.  He’s now hitting more line drives which have resulted in an increased double rate from 11 in 2011 to 25 in 2012.  However, he’ll never hit for much power and while he stole 26 bases, he was also caught 15 times.  He also had a healthy BABIP at .390 which fueled his batting average.

Fantasy Impact: While I believe Sanchez will make it to the majors, he’s not the profile of a worthwhile fantasy asset.  Imagine a lighter hitting Anderlton Simmons.

6. Keon Barnum (1B)

Drafted in the supplemental round in the 2012 draft (48th overall), Barnum has plus raw power that is fitting to his 6-foot-5 200 pound frame.  I had heard about Barnum several years before I ever saw him play as he seem to participate in every high-profile amateur tournament.  That dedication earned him a $950,000 signing bonus and the potential to become the White Sox first baseman of the future.  The swing is currently long but with the proper instruction, there might be something here.

7. Jared Mitchell (OF)

I got a lot of encouraging reports concerning Jared Mitchell.  “Much improved”.  “Healthy year”.  “Swing looked better”.  Then I took a look at his stats, his 60% contact rate, his age (25), and you realize that Jared Mitchell is still a long way off to being a contributing major league player.  In fact, you wonder if he’ll ever make it.  That said, he should start 2013 in Triple-A with a peek at the majors likely later in the year.  However, Mitchell is not somebody that I will be running to the waiver wire to pick-up for my fantasy team.

8. Nestor Molina (RHP)

Nestor Molina was the principal player in the trade that sent Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays prior to the 2012 season.  White Sox fans cheered the moved as it not only gave Addison Reed the opportunity to close for the White Sox, but many White Sox fans were high on Molina.  Unfortunately, Molina is more command over stuff.  His fastball sits 88-91 and while it plays up due to his pinpoint control, at 6-foot-1, I don’t believe that Molina has front of the rotation stuff and will eventually profile as a number four starter at best.  You can expect low strikeouts, high home runs, and decent ratios because he will limit the damage by not walking many.

9. Simon Castro (RHP)

Simon Castro is a big man at 6-foot-5 and well over 230 pounds.  He has a nice two-pitch arsenal with a 92-94 MPH four-seamer to complement a plus slider.  However, he’s never been able to develop a quality change-up or splitter which means he’ll have trouble getting left handed batters out.  This is reflected in his 2012 splits (.209 vs. right-handed and .304 vs. left-handed).  There is still a lot of promise in Castro and he actually might benefit from a promotion to the majors so that he can work with Don Cooper to further develop his pitching arsenal.

10. Chris Beck (RHP)

I had a number of mediocre pitchers lined up for the number 10 spot on my White Sox list, but I received a couple of solid reports on 2012 second round draft pick Chris Beck, so I decided to include him instead.  Beck has good stuff with a solid fastball that sits 92-93 that can touch higher and a plus slider with nasty late cutting action.  His change-up is under developed, but a scout I spoke with said that he saw several quality change-ups in one of his starts at the end of the season.  He dropped to the second round in part due to his lack of control in college, but in 40.1 innings in the Pioneer league, he had a 2.68 BB/9 rate.

2 comments on “Chicago White Sox

  1. What’s your opinion on Erik Johnson?

  2. Looks like Rienzo is close to the dreaded 4 BB/9 line… The White Sox pulled some rabbits out of hats last year tho. BA has panned the WhiteSox penny pinching draft strategy for years. Now you can’t even splurge if you want to. Maybe that helps the White Sox….

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