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Chicago White Sox Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Jose Abreu was the top rookie in Chicago, but others contributed as well, particularly on the pitching staff.

Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu
David Banks

Today we complete the 2014 organization reviews with the last team, the Chicago White Sox. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON List. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a general overview of 2014, not a detailed preview for 2015.

This list was originally published March 2, 2014

1) Jose Abreu, 1B, Grade A-: Age 27, hit .317/.383/.581 with 36 homers, 107 RBI, 51 walks, 131 strikeouts in 556 at-bats for the White Sox. Outstanding hitter, couldn’t have gone better.

2) Erik Johnson, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline B. Age 24, I liked him a lot pre-season but he had a terrible year, 6.73 ERA with 65/54 K/BB in 106 innings for Triple-A Charlotte, 136 hits. All component ratios way off from last year. Shut down in early August with "shoulder fatigue." Reports from International League observers say that both his command and his stuff slipped significantly compared to 2013, which certainly shows up in the numbers. My guess is that his shoulder wasn’t right all year but he tried to pitch through it. That’s a guess; we’ll see if there is any truth to it.

3) Matt Davidson, 3B, Grade B: Borderline B-. Age 23, hit .199/.283/.362 with 20 homers, 49 walks, 164 strikeouts in 478 at-bats for Charlotte. I have been optimistic about him in the past but this was an unacceptable season. Have to dig into the scouting reports here to see what was wrong.

4) Marcus Semien, INF, Grade B: Borderline B-. Hit .267/.380/.502 with 15 homers in 83 games for Charlotte, .234/.300/.372 with six homers, 21 walks, 70 strikeouts in 231 at-bats for the White Sox. Hit better late in the year and I think he comes around. Age 24.

5) Tim Anderson, INF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 21, hit .301/.327/.481 with nine homers, 10 steals, nine walks, 82 strikeouts in 345 at-bats between High-A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham, and a few AZL injury rehab games. Great reviews for his athleticism, power/speed tools, but miniscule walk rate a caution flag.

6) Micah Johnson, 2B, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .329/.414/.466 with 10 steals, 21 walks, 27 strikeouts in 146 at-bats for Birmingham, .275/.314/.370 with 12 steals, 16 walks, 42 strikeouts in 273 at-bats for Charlotte. Hamstring problem reduced his best tool, speed.

7) Jacob May, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .258/.326/.395 with two homers, 42 walks, 71 strikeouts, 37 steals in 415 at-bats for Winston-Salem. Shows plenty of speed and athleticism, some gap power, bat remains a question.

8) Tyler Danish, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, strong season, 2.08 ERA with 103/33 K/BB in 130 innings for Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, 2.24 GO/AO, 115 hits allowed. Throws strikes, gets grounders, young for the levels, did very well.

9) Chris Beck, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.54 ERA with 85/44 K/BB in 150 innings for Birmingham and Charlotte, 152 hits. Throws strikes and eats innings, but not overpowering, low whiff rate remains concerning.

10) Trayce Thompson, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 23, hit .237/.324/.419 with 16 homers, 65 walks, 20 steals, 151 strikeouts in 518 at-bats. Same player as before: fast, strong, great tools, serious contact issues.

11) Courtney Hawkins, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 20, hit .249/.331/.450 with 19 homers, 53 walks, 143 strikeouts in 449 at-bats for Winston-Salem. Much better than the 2013 disaster, made progress with the strike zone, lowering strikeouts and raising walks, still young.

12) Daniel Webb, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 25, posted 3.99 ERA with 58/42 K/BB in 68 major league innings, 59 hits. I’d like fewer walks but it looks like he can be a competent middle man.

13) Andrew Mitchell, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 22, posted 5.37 ERA with 83/67 K/BB in 65 innings for Kannapolis, 51 hits. No problem with the stuff, but 67 walks in 65 innings.

14) Keon Barnum, 1B-OF, Grade C+. Borderline C. Age 21, hit .253/.306/.365 with eight homers, 37 walks, 163 strikeouts in 491 at-bats for Winston-Salem. Didn’t get to his power often enough to justify the strikeouts.

15) Chris Bassitt, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C: Age 25, posted 2.08 ERA with 49/17 K/BB in 43 innings between Birmingham and AZL injury rehab, posted 3.94 ERA with 21/13 K/BB in 30 innings in the majors. Some decent big league outings down the stretch.

16) Carlos Sanchez, INF, Grade C: Age 22, hit .293/.349/.412 in 437 at-bats for Charlotte, 16 steals, then .250/.269/.300 in 100 major league at-bats, three walks, 25 strikeouts. Seems like he can be a utility guy at least but will need more hitting to start, which may come.

17) Eric Surkamp, LHP, Grade C:
Age 27, posted 4.69 ERA with 86/20 K/BB in 79 innings for Charlotte, 4.81 ERA with 20/13 K/BB in 24 innings in the majors. Utility pitcher going forward.

18) Scott Snodgress, LHP, Grade C: Age 25, posted 4.01 ERA with 95/56 K/BB in 139 innings for Birmingham and Charlotte, 136 hits. Not a terrible season but not great either, results never seem to quite match the stuff.

19) Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Grade C: Age 19, hit .273/.348/.433 with 10 homers, 45 walks, 140 strikeouts in 432 at-bats for Kannapolis. Some contact issues but one of the most promising bats in the organization.

20) Micker Adolfo, OF, Grade C: Age 18, hit .217/.284/.378 with five homers, 15 walks, 86 strikeouts in 180 at-bats in the Arizona Rookie League. Serious contact problems for a guy who got a $1,600,000 bonus.

I had the White Sox ranked 23rd pre-season on the farm system ranking list.

The big league club finished a disappointing 73-89 but some rookies did contribute. The big one was Jose Abreu, of course, the Cuban defector who annihilated major league pitching for most of the year, finishing with a 169 OPS+. Fellow rookies Marcus Semien, Leury Garcia, and Carlos Sanchez all saw infield time but didn’t hit well; all three are still young enough to improve considerably. Sophomore outfielder Adam Eaton hit .300 with a 117 OPS+, and the Sox got good bullpen work from Jake Petricka (14 saves, 2.96 ERA) and Daniel Webb, while 29-year-old rookie Scott Carroll ate 129 innings with 19 starts and seven relief outings. This helped make up for the failure of Erik Johnson.


Jake Petricka, photo by Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

The 2015 list will look considerably different than the ’14 list. The top slot will go to 2014 first round pick Carlos Rodon, who hopes to duplicate the rapid success that Chris Sale made a few years ago. Other key arms with rising stock include Tyler Danish, Francellis Montas, strike-machine Spencer Adams, and Adam Dunn trade acquisition Nolan Sanburn from Oakland, all right-handers.

The Sox have shown some skill identifying pitching but hitting is weaker. Tim Anderson and Micah Johnson provide more up-the-middle athleticism and tools, but there are doubts about both bats. You can draw a scenario where both become solid regulars, but both could also fizzle. Courtney Hawkins has enormous power and made progress overcoming his difficult 2013 season, but hopefully he won’t take hitting lessons from Matt Davidson. Trayce Thompson, Jacob May, and Adam Engel provide plenty of outfield tools but no guarantees with the bat.

Enigmatic 25-year-old outfielder Jared Mitchell is still around, still showing the same pattern of long cold spells and blazing hot streaks, lots of walks and even more strikeouts. He hit .299/.367/.561 in Double-A this year but just .230/.360/.375 in Triple-A. Rangel Ravelo hit .309/.386/.473 with 37 doubles and 11 homers in Double-A, but is limited defensively to first base. Catcher Kevan Smith is old for a prospect at age 26, but did have a good year for Birmingham (.290/.376/.437) and has improved defensively.