Like kids on Christmas morning tearing open their presents while bleary-eyed parents are still walking downstairs from their bedroom, general managers Frank Wren and Kenny Williams could not wait for the 2008 MLB Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday. The Atlanta Braves organization, pending physicals, has acquired Major League starting pitcher Javier Vazquez and southpaw reliever Boone Logan for a collection of prospects headed to the Chicago White Sox. Dave Cameron tackled the Vazquez breakdown, while this article will highlight those four prospects obtained by the White Sox.
Catcher Tyler Flowers is the headliner in the deal from the White Sox’ perspective. The 22-year-old just finished up his third professional season after being selected by the Braves out of Chipola Junior College with a 33rd round pick in 2005 (He had also been drafted by the club the previous year in the 27th round but declined to sign).
Flowers finally put his name to a contract as a draft-and-follow and began his pro career in 2006 in Rookie Ball. He hit immediately and managed a line of .279/.373/.465 with an ISO of .186 in 34 games. The next season at A-ball, his stats line increased to .298/.377/.488 with an ISO of 190 in 389 at-bats. Flowers also posted rates of 11.2 BB% and 19.0 K%, along with a wOBA of .367. This past season, the power-hitting catcher played in High-A ball and posted a line of .288/.425/.494 with an ISO of .206 and a wOBA of .393. His rates included a 19.2 walk percentage (98 walks in 2008) and a 24.7 strikeout percentage.
Although he had a great regular season in 2008, Flowers’ value took a huge jump when he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League and exploded. He hit .387/.460/.973 with a league-leading 12 home runs in just 75 at-bats (one home runs every 6.25 at-bats). If the Braves organization did not have Brian McCann behind the plate already – along with defence expert Clint Sammons to serve as the back-up – Flowers would not have been going anywhere.
The downside to Flowers, though, is his defence. Scouts are split on whether he’ll be able to stick behind the dish. He made 12 errors in 84 games this past season and threw out 43 of 155 base stealers (28%). Flowers is considered an excellent receiver, but he is still working on his game calling. Even if he doesn’t stick behind the plate, it appears as though Flowers will have more than enough bat to play first base. If he does remain behind the plate, though, the right-handed hitter could become one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
The most advanced player in the deal, Brent Lillibridge had a poor offensive season in 2008, which decreased his overall value. The middle infielder, who has played mostly shortstop in his career, spent last season splitting time between Atlanta and Triple-A. Despite having a career batting average of .270, the 25-year-old hit just .220/.286/.344 with an ISO of .124 and a wOBA of .280 in 355 Triple-A at-bats in his second season at that level. He also posted rates of 8.5 BB% and 25.4%. In 29 Major League games, Lillibridge hit .200/.238/.338 with an ISO of .138. The former fourth round draft pick (by the Pirates), does have quite a bit of speed and in the past three seasons he has stolen 120 bases, including 25 in 2008. He has the range and arm strength to play shortstop at the Major League level, although he could compete for the second base job in spring training depending on how the middle infielder story plays out this winter.
Jon Gilmore was a 2007 supplemental first round selection out of an Iowa high school. He has spent the past two seasons playing in Rookie Ball, although he received a late-season promotion to A-ball in 2008. At the lower level, the third baseman hit .337/.369/.473 with an ISO of .136 and a wOBA of .357. His walk rate was just 4.8% but his strikeout rate was a respectable 15.9%. Upon his promotion to A-ball, Gilmore hit just .186/.202/.196 in 102 at-bats. Although he did not display above-average, in-game power in 2008, the 20-year-old has excellent raw power. A former football player, Gilmore is a good athlete and is an average defensive third base, with an outside shot of becoming a plus defender.
Santos Rodriguez is the least-known name of the quartet. The 20-year-old southpaw is in his second season in North America and has spent both years in Rookie Ball. After posting a 6.67 ERA in 2007 (but a FIP of 4.75), Rodriguez allowed just 16 hits in 29 relief innings this past season. He posted rates of 4.07 BB/9 and 13.97 K/9 with no home runs allowed. More than just a LOOGY-in-the-making, the Dominican held right-handed batters to a .138 batting average. He has that power arm that Chicago covets in relievers, but he is extremely raw and needs to develop reliable secondary pitches.
Overall, the White Sox organization is receiving an outstanding offensive catcher, a middle infielder with average offensive potential and two very raw players who are still in Rookie Ball – for a number three starter who has pitched more than 200 innings each of the last four seasons and has struck out more than 200 batters in each of the past two seasons.
Print This Post