The Chicago White Sox organization has done an outstanding job of squeezing every ounce of value out of its prospects this season.
Back in March, four prospect analysts/publications (FanGraphs, Baseball America, Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein) all agreed – in separate rankings of the 30 organizations in baseball – that the White Sox club was indeed the weakest in all of Major League Baseball in terms of prospects.
The perceived lack of quality hasn’t stopped the club from trotting out 12 rookies this season – for a combined value of 3.1 WAR. The majority of the contributions have come from the pitching side. Only outfielder Jordan Danks and infielder Eduardo Escobar – since traded to the Minnesota Twins for Francisco Liriano – have played the field for the White Sox. Danks has managed to provide 0.2 WAR, while Escobar was in the negative prior to his departure.
Ten pitchers have stood on the bump in Chicago this year, led by Jose Quintana who has provided a surprising 1.9 WAR during his rookie campaign. Despite the lack of prospect depth in the system the left-hander did not make any top prospect lists for the organization. Only Addison Reed has come close to matching Quintana’s impact with 1.1 WAR of his own. Other key rookie hurlers to help out in the bullpen include Nate Jones, Dylan Axelrod, and Hector Santiago.
In total, the Chicago White Sox organization has received 148 plate appearances and 284.1 innings of work from rookies in 2012. Those numbers are not too shabby for the worst-ranked organization in baseball in terms of the quality of its minor league system.
In comparison, let’s look at the Top 3 organizations that entered 2012 with the highest ranked minor league systems in terms of overall quality: the San Diego Padres, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ranked No. 1, the Padres organization has received 945 plate appearances and 298 innings of work from rookie players. The offense has been led by first baseman Yonder Alonso (1.1 WAR) and catcher Yasmani Grandal – both of whom came to the organization in a pre-2012 trade with the Cincinnati Reds for young pitcher Mat Latos. Anthony Bass (0.8) and Dale Thayer (0.4) have championed the pitching staff. In total, San Diego has accumulated 2.7 WAR from 17 rookies.
In Toronto, which entered 2012 with the second-best system in baseball, a flurry of injuries to key players has resulted in 16 rookies finding their way to the 25-man roster. The first-year players have compiled 393 plate appearances and 144.1 innings of work. The injury issues have been so bad that leading rookie hurler Drew Hutchison (0.6 WAR) succumbed to Tommy John surgery mid-season. Toronto has also received a surprisingly solid bullpen performance from Aaron Loup who has also remained healthy thus far.
The hitting side of things has not been as promising with none of the five hitters providing a plus WAR. Both outfielder Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra have maintained neutral WARs, while spring training star Yan Gomes (a utility player and catcher) has been unable to recreate his March magic (-0.3 WAR). In total, Toronto rookies have accumulated a -0.5 WAR.
The third best minor league system entering 2012 belonged to the Tampa Bay Rays. That organization has utilized the talents of just 10 rookie players but they’ve combined for 2.6 WAR to date (Aug. 20, 2012). The key contribution has come from first-year hurler Matt Moore (1.8 WAR) who entered the year as the highest ranked rookie in baseball – followed by Washington’s Bryce Harper and LA’s Mike Trout. Solid performances have also been enjoyed from fellow pitchers Jake McGee and Chris Archer, as well as catcher Jose Lobaton. In total, the Rays club has received 209 plate appearances and 211.1 innings of work from its rookies.
Chicago’s rookie performers like Quintana and Danks cannot boast anywhere near the future potential of the likes of Moore, Hutchison, and Alonso but the White Sox rookies have helped prove that even a weak minor league system – if used properly – can benefit a playoff caliber Major League Baseball club.