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Chicago White Sox Top 20 2013 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Andre Rienzo
Andre Rienzo

Here's an update on the Chicago White Sox farm system. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is NOT a new list. These are the pre-season rankings and grades.

This list was originally published December 26, 2012 and revised on January 15, 2013.

1) Courtney Hawkins, OF, Grade B+: Aggressive assignment to High-A Winston-Salem has resulted in .190/.251/.441 line, with an impressive 18 homers but a horrible 21/132 BB/K ratio in 290 at-bats, with sagging power production as the season progresses. This level of competition was just too much for a 19-year-old with known contact issues.

2) Carlos Sanchez, 2B-SS, Grade B: Hitting .243/.297/.300 with 28 walks, 70 strikeouts in 403 at-bats for Triple-A Charlotte. Good middle infield glove, still makes contact, just 21, but has been doomed by lack of power this year.

3) Trayce Thompson, OF, Grade B-:
Hitting .235 with 11 homers, 19 steals, 50 walks, 112 strikeouts in 413 at-bats for Double-A Birmingham, .331 OBP, .385 SLG. Still shows excellent tools, power, speed, but struggles against advanced pitching and very streaky. Still has time at age 22.

4) Erik Johnson, RHP, Grade B-:
Excellent season, 2.15 ERA with 101/31 K/BB in 109 innings, just 76 hits combined between Double-A and Triple-A. One of the more underrated pitching prospects around who deserves a lot more attention than he receives, likely a top 50 prospect despite lack of publicity outside White Sox circles.

5) Scott Snodgress, LHP, Grade B-:
3.67 ERA for Birmingham, 78/45 K/BB in 130 innings, 118 hits. Having a good year overall but I wish he struck more people out. Lefties with live arms get chances and his will come. Potential back-end starter or a relief asset.

6) Keenyn Walker, OF, Grade C+:
Borderline B-. Hitting .200/.333/.276 with 63 walks, 123 strikeouts, 36 steals in 380 at-bats for Birmingham. Very fast, draws walks, excellent glove, but strikes out too much for a guy with no power. I have been among the optimists about his bat but so far it isn't happening.

7) Joey DeMichele, 2B, Grade C+:
Hitting .241/.327/.350 with 16 steals for Winston-Salem. Very good with the glove. It was a gamble to rate him this highly but I liked him in college. It looks like I'm going to lose that gamble, as he hasn't hit with sufficient authority to justify this ranking.

8) Andre Rienzo, RHP, Grade C+:
Brazilian right-hander with solid stuff, 4.06 ERA with 113/46 K/BB in 113 innings for Triple-A, has made two major league starts. He has the stuff to be a good inning-eater if he throws enough strikes. Nothing left to prove in the minors. South Side Sox has a really good breakdown on Rienzo.

9) Keon Barnum, 1B, Grade C+:
Hitting .228/.285/.386 with four homers, 12 walks, 54 strikeouts in 145 at-bats for Low-A Kannapolis. Excellent raw power, but contact issues are obvious.

10) Chris Beck, RHP, Grade C+:
2.90 ERA for Winston-Salem, 56/38 K/BB in 115 innings, 111 hits. Throws strikes and eats innings, but his strikeout rate is way too low for me to have confidence that he'll repeat the ERA at higher levels.

11) Nestor Molina, RHP, Grade C+:
Second-straight injury plagued season, it was his elbow last year and now it is his shoulder. Has pitched 26 innings between Birmingham and rehab at Bristol in the Appy League, combined 4.85 ERA with 22/7 K/BB, 34 hits. Back on the mound now and pitching out of the bullpen, probably his best role going forward.

12) Marcus Semien, SS, Grade C+:
Excellent season, .290/.415/.488 with 20 steals between Double-A and Triple-A. See recent Prospect of the Day article for full profile.

13) Kevan Smith, C, Grade C+:
Solid campaign, hitting .279/.367/.452 with 34 walks, 48 strikeouts in 303 at-bats for Winston-Salem. Not the best defender in the world, but he has power, some measure of patience, and doesn't strike out much. He's also an older prospect at age 25, so he still needs to prove out at higher levels.

14) Jared Mitchell, OF, Grade C:
Hitting .181/.318/.286 combined between Double-A and Triple-A, 12 steals, 43 walks, 90 strikeouts in 227 at-bats. Another season plagued with nagging injuries and crippling contact problems. I think he really needs a change of scenery.

15) Tyler Saladino, SS, Grade C:
Hitting .230/.316/.317 with 26 steals, 48 walks, 83 strikeouts in 404 at-bats in Double-A. He can run and he can field, but has been unable to adapt to Double-A pitching.

16) Jhan Marinez, RHP, Grade C:
6.33 ERA in 27 innings in Triple-A; on disabled list since early June.

17) Simon Castro, RHP, Grade C:
5.79 ERA with 70/32 K/BB in 82 innings for Charlotte, 87 hits. Not an issue with stuff, but command remains erratic.

18) Charlie Leesman, LHP, Grade C:
3.14 ERA in 73 innings for Charlotte, 64/31 K/BB, 1.88 GO/AO. Ground ball specialist has started in the minors, but LOOGYism seems his obvious destination; has held lefties to .150 average this year.

19) Josh Phegley, C, Grade C:
Outstanding season in Triple-A, .316/.368/.597, but has hit just .208/.205/.364 in 77 major league at-bats with zero walks and 18 whiffs. Glove should keep him employed long enough for them to determine if he'll hit.

20) Brandon Brennan, RHP, Grade C:
5.53 ERA in 81 innings in Low-A, 54/27 K/BB, 99 hits, on disabled list since late June.

OTHERS: Sammy Ayala, C; Michael Blanke, C; Jordan Danks, OF; Mark Haddow, OF; Kyle Hansen, RHP; Brandon Hardin, RHP; Deunte Heath, RHP; Rangel Ravelo, 3B; Santos Rodriguez, LHP; Brady Shoemaker, OF; Juan Silverio, 3B; Blake Tekotte, OF; Kevin Vance, RHP; Andy Wilkins, 1B.

A tough year in Chicago: 42-69, last place, 24 games back. Conor Gillaspie (acquired from the Giants in spring training and thus not on this pre-season list) is the only rookie who has done much, and he hasn't exactly established himself as the next Robin Ventura. Phegley and Rienzo are getting opportunities now, which could position them for big roles in the coming years.

The negatives here are obvious: there are lots of disappointing hitters, with a particular emphasis on guys who strike out too much and toolsy players who don't live up to their potential. The positive side is pitching, which the White Sox seem to develop well. Johnson is the class of the group, but Rienzo has potential and Jake Petricka has re-established himself as a prospect to watch with a fine season in the upper minors bullpens. Kevin Vance is another potential relief reinforcement on the way up.

The development of Semien is another big positive and he should be ready to help sometime next year. Another infielder, speedy Micah Johnson, has had a great season in A-ball, hitting .329 with 74 steals. Outfielder Brandon Jacobs, acquired from the Red Sox, is off to a good start in Double-A and has the wide-ranging tool set that the front office likes. We'll have to see if he can use those tools better than Walker, Mitchell, and Thompson have used theirs. The decision to send Hawkins to High-A was ballsy, but it hasn't turned out well.

Pitching and tools players were again the emphasis in the 2013 draft. Tim Anderson and Jacob May were two of the best athlete available, with arms heavily emphasized in the remainder of the single digit rounds. Tyler Danish has looked very good in rookie ball so far.

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