Thoughts on Baseball America's Top 31 White Sox Prospects

Brent Morel is the #4 White Sox Prospect, ladies. Come get him.

First, the list. After the jump, some musings.

  1. Jared Mitchell
  2. Tyler Flowers
  3. Daniel Hudson
  4. Brent Morel
  5. Jordan Danks
  6. Trayce Thompson
  7. Dayan Viciedo
  8. David Holmberg
  9. Clevelan Santeliz
  10. Miguel Gonzalez
  11. Josh Phegley
  12. John Ely
  13. Sergio Santos
  14. Stefan Gartrell
  15. C.J. Retherford
  16. Carlos Torres
  17. Lucas Harrell
  18. Santos Rodriguez
  19. Eduardo Escobar
  20. Nevin Griffith
  21. Christian Marrero
  22. Jhonny Nunez
  23. Dan Remenowsky
  24. Kyle Bellamy
  25. John Shelby
  26. Nate Jones
  27. Charlie Leesman
  28. Jon Link
  29. Jose Martinez
  30. Justin Collop
  31. Nick Ciolli

Yes, Baseball America put the book to bed December 13 so the Juan Pierre trade that took place two days later wasn't taken into account, thereby leaving Ely and Link on the list.

Most readers are already aware of my dislike of lists because they essentially lack context.  What does it mean to be the #10 prospect in a system if you don't know how good that system is? What does it mean for two players to be ranked #4 and #5? Are they close together in terms of potential or is there a big gap? You need to read the scouting reports (and use your own head) to figure it out. 

Of course, I'm just giving you a list from a book. So, other than my comments below, what can we all learn from it.  One easy thing is to simply compare it to other lists you've read.  One thing you see is Daniel Hudson ranges from #1-3, suggesting perhaps a lack of consensus about his prospect status (and, by extension, the other usual suspects, Tyler Flowers and Jared Mitchell) - which is borne out when looking at overall top prospect lists, where, for example, Keith Law doesn't even rank Hudson in his top 100 while John Sickels rates him as the #24 pitching prospect (which, while John doesn't combine his hitters and pitchers into one list, suggests a ranking somewhere around #50 overall). Indeed, amongst the three editors of Baseball America's book, Hudson was only on one of their top 50 lists (#37, Will Lingo) while both Mitchell (#28, Lingo; #39 John Manuel) and Flowers (#29, Lingo; #41, Manuel) made two. I guess, like Law, Jim Callis hates the White Sox system - and, by extension, all White Sox fans and kittens - since he doesn't see one top 50 prospect.

Another thing is understanding the biases of a listmaker.  For example, Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein is known as an upside-whore with a particular predilection for young Latinos.  If you were signed at age 16, speak Spanish as your native language and are described as either "toolsy" or "flame-throwing", you will automatically be ranked at least 50 spots higher than on most other prospect lists.  In Baseball America's case, you often see a bias towards players the organization likes as it is believed that they lend more weight to the opinion of club officials. So, when reading their list, particularly as you get outside the top 10 or 15, you tend to see some guys who aren't as highly touted elsewhere but make the list because of club favoritism.

I (and others) talk a lot about the top guys so I'm going to focus more on the lesser knowns.  Obviously, I like the placement of David Holmberg because it jives with my top ten list.  While he doesn't have good velocity, as a lefty, he can get away with that.  Both of his secondary offerings, a curve and a changeup, are considered plus offerings already - and he graduated high school seven months ago.  While there isn't a great deal of projection left in him, pitchers like him can be #3/4 starters.

This is the first list that another of my favorites, Miguel Gonzalez, made the top ten.  I struggled with his placement on my list and he was a late cut simply because he lacked experience above Rookie league.  He's going to be in Kannapolis next year as a 19 year old but he could be on a fast track.

Stefan Gartrell's placement at #14 is a combination of Phil Rogers' input and an example of organizational bias slipping in.  Gartrell, even in a weak system like the White Sox', probably doesn't even belong in a top 31.  Lucas Harrell and Eduardo Escobar are more examples of this.  Harrell has long been a favorite - he was added to the 40 man two years ago despite being oft-injured with shoulder problems.  Escobar simply cannot hit a lick and, while his fielding is wonderful, the glove doesn't carry you to the big leagues if you barely crack a .300 OBP in two seasons in Low A.

Everybody roots for Dan Remenowksy, who went undrafted and was signed out of the independent leagues.  He mowed down A ballers to the tune of 15.5 K/9 but a fastball that doesn't usually crack 90 usually spells doom for a right-handed reliever.

Charlie Leesman is a Rick Hahn favorite and as arguably the most advanced lefty in the system - despite being a 2008 draftee and having no experience above A ball - he can probably expect to be pushed aggressively.

Jose Martinez is another example of club bias seeping through.  Had plenty of talent but he hasn't played since May 2008 due to knee problems.  His placement shows that the club is still thinking of him but how much to expect after that sort of layoff - even for a player just 22 - is highly speculative.

And I'd be remiss to not bloviate on another favorite, Nick Ciolli, who made the pamphlet supplement to the book.  Obviously he's the type who needs just about everything to go right for him to even make AAA but I like the line drive swing and I like the intelligence and acumen it takes to steal 23 bases in 27 attempts while having only average speed.

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