Top 10 Prospects: The Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox
2010 MLB Record: 88-74 (2nd in the AL Central)
Minor League Power Ranking: 30th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Chris Sale, LHP
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Florida Gulf Coast U)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 22

Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 50%

Notes: Sale not only reached the Majors in his draft year – he dominated. The lefty pitched just 10.1 innings in the minors before posting a 2.74 FIP in 23.1 innings. He missed a lot of bats (12.34 K/9) while showing respectable control (3.86 BB/9). A starter in college, Sale pitched out of the bullpen in pro ball and saw his fastball velocity climb from the low 90′s and sit around 96 mph. He also displayed a sharp slider, at times, and a promising changeup (which he’ll need to combat right-handed batters). He’s expected to spend some time in the upper minors in 2011 while transitioning back to the starting rotation. If he can maintain the velocity bump as a starter (while also showing the +50% ground-ball rate), he could be a real steal as the 13th overall pick of the draft. With that said, he doesn’t have the smoothest throwing motion and there is a little bit of effort that could be placing added stress on his elbow. At times, Sale also drops his arm a bit more on the changeup.

2. Jared Mitchell, OF
Acquired: 2009 1st round (Louisiana State U)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: Injured/Arizona Fall League
Opening Day Age: 22

Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 40%

Notes: Mitchell suffered an ugly ankle injury in spring training in 2010, which wiped out his regular season. The former No. 1 draft pick made it back for the Arizona Fall League and looked pretty good considering the layoff. He has a solid athletic build but there are definitely some holes in his swing. He needs to keep his swing more level and keep the barrel of the bat through the strike zone for a longer period of time. He has good bat speed but a level swing will help him hit more line drives and fewer lazy fly balls. Prior to the injury, Mitchell was an explosive base runner and fielder; the injury is not expected to impact him long-term. Because of the injury – and the time he spent on the football field in high school and college – Mitchell is behind the eight ball and still raw for his age. His ceiling remains high, though.

3. Brent Morel, 3B
Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Cal Poly U)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age:23

Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 50%

Notes: Morel doesn’t project to maintain a high peak WAR for long but he’s a fairly safe bet to be a solid regular for many years at the MLB level. The hot-corner prospect will likely display below-average home-run power for the position, but his swing should generate a ton of doubles – he slugged 70 two-baggers over the past two seasons. With that said, he showed in a brief MLB trial that he can clear the fence from time-to-time and should hit 10-15 homers out during a full season. He has a nice, quiet stance at the plate. Morel isn’t a speed demon, but he nabbed 25 bases in ’09 thanks to intelligent base running. He has gold glove potential on defense and is the main reason that Chicago was so willing to flip Dayan Viciedo over to first base.

4. Dayan Viciedo, 1B
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Cuba)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 22

Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 35%

Notes: If you believe his age, and have faith that his waist line will hold up, Viciedo has a ton of potential with good raw power. Unfortunately, his approach at the plate leaves a lot to be desired. His walk rate of 3.0% in triple-A was sad but it was down right pathetic in the Majors at 1.9%. He posted a triple-slash line of .308/.321/.519 in The Show but he was helped by an unsustainable .365 BABIP. Veteran pitchers at the MLB level will eat Viciedo alive as the scouting reports circulate through the league; there is little point in throwing strikes to him. Defensively, the Cuban is a poor fielder at third base and he’s moved across the diamond to first base, where he does less damage with the glove. He has the raw power for the position.

5. Tyler Flowers, C
Acquired: 2005 33rd round (by Atlanta Braves)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA
Opening Day Age: 25

Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 35%

Notes: Flowers entered 2010 as one of the most exciting catching prospects – just below the likes of Buster Posey and Jesus Montero. Unfortunately, his offensive output took a massive step backward. With veteran MLB catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the final year of his contract in 2010, Flowers may have wilted after putting too much pressure on himself. Always known as an offensive-minded catcher, he hit just .214/.283/.434 at triple-A. The organization will now most certainly look to bring Pierzynski back or find another short-term veteran to fill the full-time catching void. Flowers will be 25 on opening day in 2011 so he’ll have to recapture his potential fairly quickly. When he’s swinging well, the former Braves draft pick shows plus power and takes a ton of walks (along with a lot of Ks).

6. Jacob Petricka, RHP
Acquired: 2010 2nd round (Indiana State U)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/A
Opening Day Age: 22

Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 35%

Notes: Petricka has long legs and utilizes them in a drop-and-drive delivery. He also does a solid job of staying tall in his delivery. The right-hander’s college career was slowed by Tommy John surgery but he’s recovered the velocity on his fastball and also shows a good curveball. He struggled with his control in pro ball after moving from rookie ball to low-A but fatigue could have been a factor. After signing with the organization, Petricka made 17 appearances, including eight starts. He could move quickly as a reliever but also has promise as a starter, if he can develop a reliable third pitch in his repertoire. Both Chris Sale and Petricka were smart college pitching picks and should help the thin upper levels of the system.

7. Eduardo Escobar, SS
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22

Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 30%

Notes: Escobar has been on the prospect radar for a while but his bat had a huge question mark on it. In truth, it still does but the Venezuelan showed improvements with the stick in 2010 while continuing to flash gold glove potential. Escobar hit .288/.330/.405 in 368 high-A ball at-bats before moving up to double-A where he posted a triple-slash line of .262/.294/.376 in 202 at-bats. He’ll likely never be more than an average hitter but the glove could make him a valuable player for a big league club. If he doesn’t hit enough to play regularly, he should have a nice career as a utility player. Escobar has the speed to steal 10-15 bases in the Majors but he doesn’t get great reads off the pitcher.

8. Josh Phegley, C
Acquired: 2009 supplemental 1st round (Indiana University)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: R/A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 23

Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 30%

Notes: Phegley appeared in just 48 games in 2010 after being diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura [ITP], a platelet disorder that causes blood clotting issues. It’s an unfortunate disorder for any athlete but certainly for a catcher who could be cut or bruised by a foul ball or a back swing. Phegley is undergoing treatment and is expected back on the field in 2011 but the disorder is often chronic in adults and the probability of remission is estimated at 20-40%. When healthy, he’s an offensive-minded catcher who has above-average power potential despite questionable bat speed. Defensively, he’s considered a below-average fielder. A move to another, less dangerous, position (first base is really the only option) will certainly impact his value but it won’t take away from any of his key strengths.

9. Trayce Thompson, OF
Acquired: 2009 2nd round (California HS)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A
Opening Day Age: 20

Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 25%

Notes: We have yet to get a solid, extended look at Thompson, whose 2010 season – his first full year in pro ball – was interrupted by a thumb injury. The young outfielder appeared in just 58 games, as a result, and he hit just .229/.302/.433. Thompson is athletic but raw as a baseball player. As witnessed by his .205 ISO rate in low-A ball, he has good power potential (due to plus bat speed), plus running speed and projectable defensive abilities but he needs to improve his pitch recognition at the plate, as well as his read of balls off the bat while playing in centerfield. Thompson has a simple load and a quiet swing, which will benefit him in the long run; he just needs to shorten the stroke. He could be a 20-20 player down the road but could fill out – and slow down – in his late 20s.

10. Santos Rodriguez, LHP
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (by Atlanta Braves)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 23

Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0
Likelihood to Reach Peak: 30%

Notes: Along with Tyler Flowers (and sleeper Jon Gilmore), Rodriguez was part of the loot that was acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade with Atlanta in late 2008. He’s seen his value increase since the trade, although injuries took a bite out of the second half of his season. Even so, he’s expected to be healthy for spring training. When he’s on, Rodriguez features a mid-90s fastball and promising slider. He’s also developing his changeup. His heater has good sink and he hasn’t allowed a homer in the past three seasons. Rodriguez clearly needs to improve his control (7.14 BB/9) and he’ll need his changeup to combat right-handed hitters in the upper levels of pro ball




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

22 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The Chicago White Sox”

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  1. Eric says:

    That’s a bit better than expected for the worst-rated system. Especially at the top there are some useful parts.

    It seems better than other recent-vintage bottom-dwellers, but I may be mis-remembering.

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  2. Marc Hulet says:

    A lot of their ranking is based on the lack of depth in the system… there are definitely some interesting player. I like Petricka’s potential and have really warmed on Escobar.

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    • Eric says:

      Thanks for responding. That makes sense. It already seems they fall off a bit in the lower half of the *top* ten.

      How would you compare this group to other 30th ranked organizations of recent years? This group seems a little better to me (I’m a White Sox dis-liker, so I won’t be broken-hearted if my recollection is wrong).

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  3. Luke in MN says:

    Sorry if this has been hashed out in some other comment string, but I find the “peak WAR” and “likelihood to reach” stats sort of confusing. If that is the absolute peak WAR you’d ever expect from someone, wouldn’t by definition there be a very small chance that they’d make it? That is, if there’s something like a 50% chance they’ll reach their “peak WAR”, isn’t there some smaller chance that they’ll be even better?

    It seems by varying the chance they’ll acheive their peak, you’re redefining what the “peak” is for each player. Why not just make the peak, say, 50% likely for each player so the standard of comparison is the same?

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  4. MikeS says:

    I’m dissappointed but not surprised to find the White Sox sitting dead last. People want to get rid of KW for the trades he makes but they really don’t bother me. He rarely gives away anything useful and often picks up servicable or better players.

    If you are going to make an argument to fire Kenny, the minor league system si the one to make. The top ain’t so great and the depth is just awful.

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  5. James says:

    No mention of Leesman who was covered by the Chicago Tribune/Chicagosports.com recently. But maybe the White Sox are just trying to boost his trade value.
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/ct-spt-1101-white-sox-charlie-leesman20101031,0,4617074.story

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    • larry says:

      one issue with leesman, who is indeed a favorite within the organization, is his fastball. sure, we saw it get into the mid-90s in spring training out of the bullpen like the article says. but he’s pitching in the AFL right now, also out of the bullpen, and he’s only occasionally getting to 91 and more often sits at 88-89. which is the reality going forward? lefties who barely crack 90 don’t make good bullpen arms. and there’s serious questions about his ability to stick as a starter.

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      • Kris says:

        “lefties who barely crack 90 don’t make good bullpen arms. and there’s serious questions about his ability to stick as a starter”

        God that makes me appreciate what Mark Beuhrle has somehow done over his career.

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  6. marc hulet says:

    Leesman came in around 11 or 12 on my mock list and was briefly considered for the Top 10.

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  7. Max says:

    The whole Peak WAR thing is a bit silly.

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    • Ben says:

      I personally like the concept of a peak WAR. It is useful to know what an informed person think a prospects ceiling is.

      On the other hand, not that I think it is a poor idea, but I am having problems wrapping my head around the percentage to reach the peak WAR. As said earlier, it seems like a percentage for a prospect to reach their ceiling should be much lower.

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  8. CesarV says:

    Their system will never be deep, but their system is one of the most productive ones in the majors. They seem to graduate a starting caliber player every year such as Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Viciedo, and Sale just the last couple of years. They do trade some of their young players for more established ones, but they also grab guys like Danks, Jenks, Floyd, and Jackson in trades for prospects.

    What I’m trying to say is that KW is unfairly criticized for a system that does what systems are supposed to do, HELP THE BIG LEAGUE TEAM.

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    • baty says:

      “What I’m trying to say is that KW is unfairly criticized for a system that does what systems are supposed to do, HELP THE BIG LEAGUE TEAM.”

      These pieces are slowly becoming WHAT’S LEFT OF MOST OF THE BIG LEAGUE TEAM. While Kenny has kept the team in contention over the last several years, he has done this at the ultimate cost of a long term future.

      Hopes of being a competitive organization post 2013 seem grim, and this should be the last year of working to assemble a “highly” competitive ball club. Although the starting rotation is full and nicely talented going into the 2011 season, being able to save its core while transitioning through the loss of each over the next 3 years is very slim. It looks like the W Sox missed the boat for extending E Jackson (FA 2011) and J Danks (FA 2013). Chris Sale is really all they have at this moment as a replacement. With E Jackson and Buehrle (FA 2011) maybe heading out as early as July, I hope Sale starts the year as a SP in the minors, even if Gavin Floyd (FA 2013) is traded away for a hitter before the start of the season. I imagine Peavy (FA 2013?) will demand to be shipped out, if the W Sox loose their competitive edge.

      While there are definitely players that appear to be ready to slide in and fill holes throughout the lineup, expecting all, if any to be prepared enough to produce at a playoff contending caliber at this point is unrealistic. None of the hitting prospects seem to be the type guys you can count on building a future lineup with unless you can get your hands on at least a long-term legitimate #3 type hitter to balance expectations. For 2011 and on your legitimate regulars might be…

      CA
      1B
      2B Gordon Beckham
      SS Alexi Ramirez (FA 2014?)
      3B Brent Morel
      LF Jared Mitchell (still a ways away)
      CF
      RF Alex Rios (FA 2015?)
      DH Carlos Quentin (FA 2013) / Dayan Viciedo / Tyler Flowers

      (I owuld be surprised to see the W Sox start a rookie behind the plate for 2011 with this particular starting rotation unless it’s the only option)

      Kenny may rip apart the MILB system (again) if he wants to assemble a lineup that can score just enough to make one last run at a WS championship, and I think he’ll be tempted to go all in (just as he typically does). Either way, I can’t see anything but a loose loose situation. The W Sox have missed out time and time again with their 1st and 2nd round amateur draft selections, and the resulting emptiness may start showing it’s face as early as May-July of 2011.

      One thing is for sure… there’s no way of knowing what Kenny will do. He always seems to surprise with trades and under the radar signings that get lots of production out of players and prospects that have fallen out of favor with other organizations. But as the organization’s overall value keeps declining, sooner or later the W Sox be left with pieces that aren’t enough to make the usual Kenny Williams-esque recovery.

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    • max 2 says:

      True, KW hasnt really given up any prospects that have turned out to be studs in his deals, although for about 6 months it looked like he screwed the pooch on Chris Young, Gio Gonzalez seems to be looking ok, and the Jackson/Hudson deal is a head scratcher.

      The problem I have is that he makes too many deals. When you do that, you eventually make a deal that gets you hamstrung when the player gets hurt and you have to pay him anyway (peavy) or you just give up too many trade chips for too little in return (peavy, pierre). Maybe none of the young players he gave will turn out to be any good, but they were obviously worth something in a trade which could have been spent in better ways. Now that the farm is pretty bare, you are going to start to see more “lesser of two evil” calls being made like what we are likely to see when KW has to decide between an old and declining AJ or a young and stock dropping prospect in Tyler Flowers.

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  9. Sox27 says:

    It’s clear that for the Sox to be a constant threat to contend for the AL pennant (which is what I expect of them year in and year out, while probably unrealistic) they have to continue to have an influx of low-cost, serviceable players to complement the solid core pieces they have. We’ve seen this improve in recent years, with Sale and Beckham. I know many detractors will say Beckham is not a top level young talent based on his poor 2010 season, I however believe he is still a guy capable of a .350 wOBA and solid defense at 2B. My hope is Mitchell can recover from his injury and continue to develop his raw skills. There is some hope, but overall the depth has to be improved.

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  10. The Ancient Mariner says:

    On Phegley, you say, “the probability of remission is estimated at 20-40%.” Do you indeed mean *remission* there — which is to say, that the probability of his condition going away is just 20-40% — or do you mean *recurrence* — i.e., that there’s an estimated 20-40% chance that his disease will come back?

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  11. Marc Hulet says:

    We’re definitely still feeling out the WAR peak/likelihood to reach, etc. so welcome feedback.

    As for Phegley, I did in fact mean remission. From what I’ve read, and according to a lengthy study on the disease, it’s not likely to go away altogether.

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  12. Roger A says:

    This looks to be one of my places to comment. White Sox are my adopted mistress to my baseball wife who treats me cruelly The Mets. Simlarities are profound aren’t they? Also have effection for the Toronto Blue Jays but they’re Canadian so they can’t quite crack the Top 2.

    Anyway back on task. There seems to be a trend of rushing top prospect Starters to the Majors and stashing them in the bullpen. This is seen in Chris Sale. Let him develop his 3rd pitch in the minors. Getting a relief pitcher to catch lighting in a bottle is a lot easier than a starter. Most great relievers are failed starters anyway. Hope the White Sox let Sale develop for at least half a season in AAA. Mitchell and Robinson are both very raw

    Kenny Williams is a more successful GM version of Jeff Francoeur. Nice guy, means well but doesn’t get the entire concept of building a team for the short term and long term. Got to give him props for aggressiveness though.

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    • johng says:

      I think that a “trend” would be illustrated by more than one example. Sale making the ML roster was part of his signing agreement, and a large part of how the WSox were able to “steal” him at 17, and sign him relatively cheaply.

      From all I’ve read, the WSox will give him every opportunity to develop as a starter, and he might even make it back to the majors this season, although, if they resign sweaty Freddie, or reasonable facsimile, he could go to spring of 2012.

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  13. striker says:

    Marc,

    A lot of fans and bloggers put a lot of emphasis on the minor league system but you should do a study on how much it really matters. A couple things you could measure are:

    1. Look at the top 10 teams in 2010 and see what percentage of their players came up through their own minor league system.

    2. Look at the top minor league system 4,5,6 years ago. Are those same teams tops at the major league level today? If not, than who cares how good their minor league system is.

    3. Look at the top 100 prospects over the past 6 years. What percentage of those players are on a major league roster? What percentage of those players had a positive WAR in 2010? What percentage of those players made the all star team?

    I think it’s good to have a productive minor league system but it doesn’t necessarily translate to success later at the major league level.

    Kenny Williams might not be able to develop talent but he sure can scout it from other teams (Jenks, Thornton, Floyd, Danks, Quentin, Rios).

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