Chicago White Sox' Top 10 Prospects Rankings, Spring Forecasts
Courtney Hawkins: The organization's first-round draft pick in 2012 and top prospect headed into the upcoming season. // Courtesy of ESPN.com
Over the last decade, the Chicago White Sox have struggled to produce legitimate major leaguer players, with the exception being Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale—though both players were drafted with the hope of an expedited arrival in the majors.
The White Sox’s lack of impact prospects is largely a result of their draft strategy. Rather than offering big money to high school prospects, the organization has targeted raw, top-flight athletes and mid-rotation-ceiling college pitchers. However, with Rick Hahn taking over as the team’s general manager this season, it’ll be interesting to see whether a new strategy is employed.
However, the White Sox finally deviated from the aforementioned strategy last June when they selected prep outfielder Courtney Hawkins—who enters the season as the team’s top prospect—with the 13th overall draft pick. And although there is intriguing talent throughout their system, the White Sox noticeably lack prospects capable of making an impact during the 2013 season.
Here’s a look at the Chicago White Sox’s top 10 prospects.
10. Jared Mitchell, OF
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DOB: 10/13/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 205
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Louisiana State)
Scouting Notes: Two-sport star at LSU with elite athleticism; was on fast-track to big leagues until collision with outfield wall during spring in 2010 resulted in season-ending ankle surgery to repair torn tendons; still has a lot of tools, but has struggled to close the gap between athleticism and raw baseball skills.
Left-handed hitter has some pop with solid-average raw power; swing lacks fluidity at times and drags through the zone; sees a lot of pitches at the plate and draws his share of walks, but also strikes out entirely too much; still hasn’t figured out how to hit left-handed pitching; still capable of playing center field, but doesn’t have the speed or range that he once did.
Spring Training Forecast: Entering his third big league camp with the White Sox, Mitchell will be auditioning for a role as the team’s fourth outfielder later in the 2013 season.
2013 Outlook: Mitchell is ticketed for Triple-A to open the 2013 season, and if he continues to make adjustments, the 24-year-old could reach the major leagues by September.
9. Chris Beck, RHP
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DOB: 9/4/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2012 (Georgia Southern)
Scouting Notes: Appeared to be a surefire first-rounder headed into the spring at Georgia Southern, but struggled with his mechanics and command throughout entire season; velocity was down across the board, too; very projectable frame at 6’3”, 210 pounds; struggles to repeat arm slot which leads to overall inconsistency.
Beck’s fastball has reached 95-96 mph in the past, but was down in the low-90s this past season; slider still has the makings of a plus pitch and should draws more swing-and-misses when thrown from a consistent slot; changeup gives him a third average-to-above-average pitch; if he regains the consistency he showed in 2011 at Georgia Southern, Beck should be able to reach his ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in minor league camp, Beck will attempt to establish a more consistent delivery and release point before embarking on his first full season in the organization.
2013 Outlook: In need of some mechanical adjustments, Beck could open the year in extended spring training before eventually departing for Low-A.
8. Scott Snodgress, LHP
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DOB: 9/20/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 210
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2011 (Stanford)
Scouting Notes: 6’5” left-hander took a big step forward last season with his performances at Low and High-A; lacks experience and consistency; command needs refinement and stands to improve as he reaches higher levels; size, delivery and arm action adds deception to all his offerings.
Fastball isn’t as hot as one would expect given his size and reach, working in the low-90s and occasionally reaching 94-95 mph; curve is arguably his best secondary pitch at the moment; has a fringy changeup with average upside, but he really struggles to command the pitch; third pitch will determine if he sticks in the rotation or moves to the bullpen before reaching the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: As the top left-handed pitching prospect in the system, Snodgress will attempt to jump on the major league radar with a strong showing this spring.
2013 Outlook: With a solid spring, Snodgress could make the jump to Double-A to open the 2013 season, though an additional half-season at High-A might be more beneficial towards his overall development.
7. Keenyn Walker, OF
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DOB: 8/12/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Central Arizona College)
Scouting Notes: Highly impressive athlete at 6’3”, 195 pounds; premium, plus speed; should continue to steal more bases as his on-base skills improve; switch-hitter needs to put the ball in play more often and utilize his wheels; would like to see him work deeper counts and improve his pitch recognition; will never hit for power; has the profile of a top-of-the-order hitter, but will need to eliminate the swing-and-miss in his game.
His excellent speed translates in center field where he showcases tons of range in all directions; has a strong arm relative to the position; gets good reads and even better jumps; still an incredibly raw player overall; will take him much longer than expected to reach the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: Headed into this first big league spring training, Walker will try opening eyes with the hope of a favorable assignment to begin the year.
2013 Outlook: After struggling at High-A last season following a midseason promotion, Walker will likely get a second crack at the level to begin the year.
6. Andre Rienzo, RHP
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DOB: 7/5/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180
Drafted/Signed: Nov. 2006 (Brazil)
Scouting Notes: Turned in a breakout 2012 season with successful stops at three different levels: High-A Winston Salem (1.08 ERA, .185 BAA), Double-A Birmingham (3.27 ERA, .207 BAA) and Triple-A Charlotte (.200 BAA); served a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs early in the season; possesses wiry strength and a loose arm at 6’3”, 180 pounds, though it may limit his durability as a starter.
Fastball sits comfortably in the low-to-mid-90s and he’ll typically max out around 94-96 mph; secondary pitches were much more refined this past season and directly catered to his overall success; curveball is slightly above average with late, downer action; inclusion of a solid-average cutter keeps both right and left-handed hitters off his fastball; changeup is a work-in-progress and will be vital for him to start in the major leagues; if not, he still has a career as a late-inning reliever.
Spring Training Forecast: Rienzo will make a few appearances early in the spring before joining Team Brazil for the World Baseball Classic.
2013 Outlook: Depending on his workload in the World Baseball Classic, Rienzo may be eased into action this season. However, after thriving at three levels, the organization will presumably challenge the right-hander with an assignment to Triple-A
5. Keon Barnum, 1B
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DOB: 1/16/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 225
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (King HS, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: Left-handed hitter with plus-plus raw power; lofty bat path yields tape-measure shots, especially to his pull side; at 6’5”, 225 pounds, Barnum is a presence in the batter’s box; power is his only plus tool, but it’s a loud one; lacks an approach and chases breaking balls with consistency; unnecessarily expands strike zone; has the reach to hit bad pitches; will have to simplify swing if he ever wants to hit for average.
First-base-only prospect; raw defensively with average overall arm strength; footwork is inconsistent around the bag, but should improve with experience; epitome of a high-risk, high-reward prospect; ability to make adjustments will determine how quickly he reaches the major leagues and if he can stay there.
Spring Training Forecast: Barnum will head to minor league camp where he’ll work to clean up his powerful swing and improve his defense at first base.
2013 Outlook: Boasting legitimate plus-plus raw power, Barnum is essentially a one-dimensional prospect at the moment. However, there’s enough there to believe he’ll open the 2013 season in extended spring training before heading to Low-A.
4. Erik Johnson, RHP
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DOB: 12/30/1989 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 240
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011 (California)
Scouting Notes: Was excellent this past season at both Low-A (2.30 ERA, .232 BAA) and High-A Winston-Salem (2.74 ERA, .225 BAA); large, durable frame at 6’3”, 240 pounds; has an impressive arsenal that he’s still gaining a feel for; will need to refine secondary pitches as he develops.
Fastball usually sits in low-to-mid-90s with some life to the arm side; throws a pair of impressive breaking balls in a slider with tilt and sharp break, and a curveball with some downer action; still gaining a feel for his changeup, which should be at least an average pitch by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: After coming into his own last season at both Class-A levels, Johnson should have his share of innings early in the spring, as he’ll have an opportunity to make a favorable impression with the organization.
2013 Outlook: Johnson steadily improved over the course of the season at both Low-A and High-A, though his workload was monitored closely throughout the year. He should open the year at Double-A, and with a strong follow-up campaign, could a make a case for a big league debut in 2014.
3. Carlos Sanchez, 2B/3B
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DOB: 6/29/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 175
Drafted/Signed: May, 2009 (Venezuela)
Scouting Notes: Was regarded as a glove-first infielder when signed in 2009; bat has really come around over the last year; switch-hitter has an above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate; short, compact swing that yields line drives to all fields; has a knack for putting the ball in play; grinds out at-bats; successful base-stealer who gets solid jumps and knows how to read pitchers.
Defense may be calling card, as he’s capable of playing every infield position; future is most likely at second base, though he has the arm to see significant time at either third base or shortstop; quick hands and reactions; love how he positions his body towards target on defense; turns a smooth double play.
Spring Training Forecast: With serious helium headed into the spring, Sanchez may receive consideration for a bench spot on the Opening Day roster. However, he’s more likely to assume such a role after the All-Star break.
2013 Outlook: Sanchez jumped on the fast track to the major leagues last season, as he surged three levels and finished the year at Triple-A. He should return to the level to open the 2013 season, and he’s a safe bet to reach the major leagues as a utility infielder at some point during the season.
2. Trayce Thompson, OF
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DOB: 3/15/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009 (Santa Margarita Catholic HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Athletic bloodline as father and brother all played in the NBA; enjoyed breakout season in 2012, opening the year at High-A and finishing in Triple-A; highly impressive athlete who fills out a uniform; swing is long and his bat can drag though the zone on an upper-cut plane; chases breaking pitches out of the zone; questionable whether he’ll be able to touch good velocity; too much swing-and-miss, which will probably always be a part of his game; offensive tools are there but lacks overall consistency.
Natural center fielder with above-average speed; has the arm strength to move to right field if needed; defense was improved last season; more consistent reads; good instinct allows him to play the position aggressively; a lot to like as a power-speed player, but still has a long way to go in order to be serviceable in the majors.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his third major league spring training with the South Siders, Thompson will be auditioning for a potential spot in the team’s outfield in 2014.
2013 Outlook: After ascending three levels last season and finishing the year at Triple-A, the 21-year-old will likely head back to Double-A to open the 2013 season with an outside chance of a September call-up.
1. Courtney Hawkins, OF
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DOB: 11/12/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 220
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Mary Carroll HS, Texas)
Scouting Notes: Big, physically strong player at 6’3”, 220 pounds; excellent athlete who moves better than expected; plus raw power thanks to excellent bat speed and a leveraged swing; has a tendency to over-swing, which leads to excessive strikeouts; pitch recognition should improve with experience; has above-average speed but will probably never be a base-stealer.
Strongest defensive asset is his plus arm; also received looks on the mound as an amateur due to low-90s fastball; will probably continue to be developed as a center fielder, but he’ll likely have to move to right field as he physically matures; high ceiling given his athleticism and present skill set, but won't be rushed to the majors.
Spring Training Forecast: Hawkins will head to minor league camp in his first spring with the White Sox, where he’ll likely make a few mechanical adjustments before a full-season debut.
2013 Outlook: After reaching High-A in his professional debut last summer, Hawkins will likely return to the level to open the 2013 season. However, don’t expect the White Sox to rush him up the ladder, as the 19-year-old needs a full, developmental season in the low minors.