Marcus Semien made a dramatic leap on this year's final list thanks to an MVP performance at Double-A.
The Chicago White Sox did one heck of a job strengthening the farm system this season. Not that it was all too difficult to do, but the White Sox had some prospects take significant steps forward and—if early returns are indicative of future performances—made some wise choices in the 2013 MLB first-year player draft.
Now, it's time for little recap action to see what the prospect rankings look like after the minor league season has come to a close.
To provide a little clarity, players who were activated before the September call-ups are not included. That means you will not find Josh Phegley, Andre Rienzo and Jake Petricka in the prospect rankings. That is a good thing, actually, because it gives other deserving players a chance to be featured.
This list was compiled using several factors. MLB.com’s draft expert Jonathan Mayo provided an organizational framework, while raw numbers and a sampling of sabermetrics filled in the rest.
That means, for instance, that Courtney Hawkins could not be excluded from the top 10 because he hit below .180 and struck out 160 times, but that he also did not garner top billing. Instead, he fell somewhere in the middle. Time may prove me wrong, but based on 2013 efforts, the White Sox have prospects who performed better and have a higher upside than he does.
Using production—and not just potential—also helped a guy like Marcus Semien make a dramatic jump up the rankings.
Here is B/R’s list of the top 10 White Sox prospects after the 2013 minor league season.
Frankly, Chris Bassitt was dominant in 2013. Completely overlooked as a prospect when the season began, Bassitt shot up the rankings.
He opened the season by going 7-2 with a 3.46 ERA at High-A Winston-Salem before getting promoted to Double-A Birmingham. There he started eight games, went 4-2, posted a 2.27 ERA and finished with a .231 BAA. Bassitt wasn’t finished, though.
He started the first game in each of the Barons’ playoff series, giving up one run and striking out 14 in 12.2 total innings. Featuring an excellent sinker, solid fastball and a three-quarter slider that bites hard, low and away from right-handed hitters, Bassitt has a complete repertoire.
As I noted in a column last week, the most impressive thing from this season was the fact that his WHIP went down after he was promoted to Double-A. Often times, a pitcher’s WHIP will go up after a promotion as he gets used to the league. That was not the case here.
Bassitt will pitch for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League after the MLB season ends.
2013 Stats: 11-4, 3.08 ERA, 26 GS, 149.0 IP, 138 K, 59 BB, .226 BAA
ETA: Late 2014
Overall, 2013 produced mixed results for Trayce Thompson.
Trayce Thompson was on a roll in May and June, hitting .292 and .314 in each respective month. That run covered 198 at-bats, and it seemed as though Thompson had finally turned the corner from high-upside, no-patience prospect to legitimacy.
Well, he had a .196/.270.343 slash line in the second half of the season and finished the year going 7-for-40 over his last 10 games. Not exactly the way you want a campaign to end.
To be fair, Thompson delivered during the playoffs, hitting the game-winning home run during Game 2 of the Southern League Championship Series. He was a very large reason the Barons took down the Mobile BayBears in five games.
Future Sox wrote that “he has shown big time power and a decent walk rate. The only thing keeping him from being an elite prospect is his tendency to strike out due to a long swing.”
They got that right. Thompson struck out 139 times this season in 507 at-bats. Cut down on the Ks, and he has a chance to be something special.
2013 Stats: .229/.321/.383, 15 HR, 73 RBI, 23 2B, 5 3B, 25 SB, 139 K
Carlos Sanchez needs to improve upon his performance next year.
Carlos Sanchez is nothing if not consistent. In May, June and July, Sanchez hit .255, .253 and .255, respectively. He tailed off quite a bit in August, batting only .209, but has established himself as solid defensive shortstop who is not so bad at the plate that a fairly productive major league career is out of the question.
If there is a knock on Sanchez, it is that he regressed this season after hitting .323 across three levels in 2012. Then again, perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that his performance last season was repeatable. After all, he went from Class-A to Triple-A in less than three months and had an incredibly high .403 slugging percentage.
MLB.com’s draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo wrote that Sanchez “may not have the highest ceiling in the world, but he’s the kind of player who finds his way onto winning ballclubs.” Let’s hope that’s an apt description for the White Sox in the coming seasons.
At 21 years old, Sanchez has more than enough time to work out the holes in his swing.
2013 Stats: .241/.293/.296, 28 RBI, 20 2B, 2 3B, 16 SB
ETA: Late 2014
Tyler Danish has looked the part of third-round draft choice this year.
Assigned to the Bristol White Sox in the Appalachian League, Danish appeared in 13 games (starting one) and gave up four earned runs, while striking out 22 batters in 26 innings before getting promoted to the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators.
Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com’s resident draft and prospect expert, had this to say about Danish:
Danish has some pretty intriguing stuff. Using a low, three-quarters delivery that creates deception, Danish will throw his fastball in the low 90s with plus movement. He throws a slider that can be very sharp at times and will show an ability to sink a changeup as well.
Best known for his funky delivery and his top-flight slider, the right-hander will likely start next season back at Low-A, but the expectation here is for him to move up to High-A—if not Double-A—in a short amount of time.
Now there were—still are, actually—questions about Danish. The White Sox used him primarily as a reliever, but is that really what his future holds, and will his elbow withstand the stresses his three-quarter delivery puts on it?
Time will tell on both of those, but Danish is a very promising prospect.
2013 Stats: 1-0, 15 G, 1 GS, 1.20 ERA, 30.0 IP, 5 BB, 28 K
Oh, Johnson also won the Double-A Southern League Championship Series MVP for the Birmingham Barons. In the series against the Mobile BayBears—which the Barons won in five games—he hit .474, with one home run, four RBI, two stolen bases and scored six times.
Johnson’s success does not appear to be fleeting. He has a rounded approach at the plate, which Nathaniel Stoltz, writing for RotoGraphs.com, summed up quite well in an article he wrote earlier this year.
While Johnson does have the ability to drive the ball, it doesn’t manifest itself all that often—he usually adopts a slashing swing aimed at ripping the ball back up the middle or lining it toward the gaps, and he uses his speed to take extra bases and inflate his power numbers. To that end, he has already racked up nine triple this year. His emphasis on the small-ball approach works well, as he doesn’t overswing and abandon his greatest strength.
To be sure, Johnson is relatively suspect in the field, but defensive technique is more easily taught than, say, changing a batters approach at the plate.
Hitting the ball up the middle and possessing power to the gaps will serve him well in the major leagues. Expect a late-season promotion in 2014 for the young infielder who is slated to play in the Arizona Fall League.
2013 Stats: .312/.373/.451, 7 HR, 58 RBI, 84 SB, 24 2B, 15 3B
ETA: Late 2014
Courtney Hawkins has immense talent, but has yet to put it all together.
Courtney Hawkins continues to fall in B/R’s rankings. He opened the season at No. 1 before falling to No. 4 after the 2013 first-year player draft. Now, he finds himself at No. 5 for a reason.
Yes, he has an incredible amount of power. And yes, he is an above-average defender who can run the bases very well. He is not, however, anywhere close to being ready to hit Double-A pitching.
Sure, Hawkins finished this past season with an IsoP (difference between OBP and BA) of .206, but that is because 38 out of his 68 total hits went for extra bases. What will continue to hinder his development it the utter lack of discipline he displays at the dish. He collected 160 strikeouts this season in only 383 at-bats, for example.
There is some speculation that the White Sox were too aggressive with the 19-year-old. That may very well be true. In his first full professional season, perhaps an assignment to High-A Winston-Salem was a too aggressive. Until he shows some patience at the plate, though, no amount of raw talent will be enough for him to find his way onto a 25-man roster.
Expect Hawkins to open the season at Winston-Salem again next year.
2013 Stats: .178/.249/.384, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 16 2B, 3 3B, 10 SB, 160 K
Chris Beck followed almost the exact same season arc as No. 10 prospect Chris Bassitt.
Beck opened the season at High-A Winston-Salem before earning a promotion to Double-A. At Winston-Salem, the right-hander went 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 42 walks in 118.2 innings pitched. With the Barons, he had a 2-2 record and struck out 22 in 28.0 innings, while finishing with a 2.89 ERA.
In the postseason, he tossed 11.0 innings, surrendered one earned run and struck out 12 batters. Along with Bassitt, Beck anchored the starting rotation for the Barons.
Beck features a mid-90s fastball, changeup, cutter and an above-average slider with a ton of movement. He does pitch to contact quite a bit, but keeps most of the balls on the ground, which is one of the reasons he had a 1.036 WHIP at Double-A.
If the right-hander can find the strike zone on a more consistent basis, he will be in Triple-A before the All-Star break next season with a chance for a late-season promotion to the big league club.
2013 Stats: 13-10, 3.07 ERA, 26 GS, 146.2 IP, 45 BB, 79 K, .260 BAA
ETA: Late 2014
Tim Anderson—the White Sox’s first-round selection in the 2013 MLB first-year player draft—had a fine season. Like other top picks, Anderson skipped rookie ball and was instead assigned directly to Low-A Kannapolis.
To a certain degree, he responded very well. In June, for example, Anderson hit .327 and stole five bases in only 11 games. July, however, saw the young shortstop bat .235 in 28 games before rebounding in August to hit .303 in 109 at-bats.
It is pretty apparent that following an initial surge, Anderson had a steep learning curve during his first season of professional ball. The positive to take away is that he grew as a player.
If there is a negative to his game, it would be his defense. Although he is quite young, Anderson can kick the ball around the infield a bit and may be best suited playing a corner outfield position. Regardless of where he plays in the field, his offense figures to be the difference maker for the East Central Community College product.
Anderson hit .324 over his final 10 games. He may open next season at High-A Winston-Salem. If not, it will only be a short time before he is on the Dash's roster.
2013 Stats: .277/.348/.363, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 10 2B, 5 3B, 24 SB
Marcus Semien had an exceptional season. He hit 15 home runs and compiled a .903 OPS at Double-A Birmingham before earning a promotion to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
In his 32 games with the Knights, Semien only hit .264, but his overall body of work was impressive enough to earn a promotion to the White Sox when the roster expanded at the beginning of September.
Flat out, Semien has a future in the major leagues, which is a sentiment Ben Duronio from FanGraphs.com shares.
…Semien also produces a very solid approach at the plate, which is one of the big reasons that I like his chances to sustain solid production at the major league level. In 483 Double-A plate appearances he had a 17.4% walk rate and a 13.7% strikeout rate, showing that he was clearly far ahead of the pitchers at this level.
Semien has good size and athleticism on top of the solid approach, which has me even more confident that he can be a regular in the majors. His ISO numbers are not incredible in the minors, but for a middle infielder he packs an interesting combination of power and speed.
The only disagreement I have with Duronio regards his ISO splits, which are actually quite good. His IsoD is .117, and his IsoP (difference between slugging and batting average) is a stellar .195. In other words, he draws plenty of walks and can hit for sustained power.
His performance with the Barons this season earned him the Southern League MVP. Like Bassitt and M. Johnson, Semien will join the Desert Dogs in Arizona.
2013 Stats: .284/.401/.479, 19 HR, 66 RBI, 32 2B, 6 3B, 24 SB
ETA: On Roster
Erik Johnson is far and away the best prospect the White Sox have in the minor league system.
Consider that at the time Johnson was promoted to the White Sox, he had double-digit victories (12), a WHIP below 1.000 (0.986), an ERA under 2.00 (1.96), a BAA under .200 (.197) and had allowed only seven home runs in 142.0 innings.
Featuring a dynamic curveball, moving slider, developing changeup, mid-90s fastball and terrific mound presence, Johnson is the real deal. His body of work leaves little to the imagination. It is now a matter of translating minor league dominance to major league success.
To be sure, that is easier said than done, but he has the stuff and the moxie to do it.
2013 Stats: 12-3, 1.96 ERA, 24 GS, 142.0 IP, 40 BB, 131 K, .197 BAA
ETA: On Roster