Thoughts on Baseball America's White Sox top prospects for 2012

I received the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook yesterday and I'll give Phil Rogers credit this year. He compiled an interesting list for the White Sox. And, given the shallowness of the White Sox system, it's difficult to criticize the placement of any player. He also managed to escape not one but two scheduled chats on BA's website, eventually leaving it to John Manuel to answer questions, so he did not have a further opportunity to say anything outrageous. And for those of you who entered the John Ely pool, he waited until all the way at the write-up for #31 to mention his boy. So congratulations to HappyHuman for winning this year's Winston-Salem Warthogs beanie.

Baseball America's full list, along with my commentary, is after the jump. As the top ten was released prior to the publication of the book, I won't repeat the comments I made on those players here. Also note that the book goes to press in December so it does not reflect the Jason Frasor or Carlos Quentin trades. From Manuel's chat, it was clear that Simon Castro would have made the top ten. It's unclear where Pedro Hernandez, Miles Jaye and Dan Webb would have been on the list, if anywhere, though I'd expect that at least the first two would have made it.

  1. Addison Reed
  2. Nestor Molina
  3. Trayce Thompson
  4. Jake Petricka
  5. Keenyn Walker
  6. Jhan Marinez
  7. Tyler Saladino
  8. Juan Silverio
  9. Ozzie Martinez
  10. Eduardo Escobar
  11. Hector Santiago
  12. Andy Wilkins
  13. Erik Johnson
  14. Charlie Leesman
  15. Jefferson Olacio
  16. Jared Mitchell
  17. Andre Rienzo
  18. Brandon Short
  19. Josh Phegley
  20. Mike Blanke
  21. Carlos Sanchez
  22. Nate Jones
  23. Gregory Infante
  24. Dylan Axelrod
  25. Jose Martinez
  26. Blair Walters
  27. Tyler Kuhn
  28. Kevan Smith
  29. Jordan Danks
  30. Deunte Heath
  31. Thomas Royse

Others: Mark Haddow, Jose Quintana, Marcus Semien, Scott Snodgress

The name that will immediately jump out is LHP Jefferson Olacio at #15. I've mentioned him in passing a few times previously. I tried to talk him up a bit to John Sickels but wasn't successful. While a ranking in a top twenty is aggressive, he certainly would have made my top 31 if I had gone that deep. He's out of the Dominican and just turned 18. He's pure projection at this point, with nothing but a fastball. But, as it's in the low 90s, that fastball is pretty good for a lefty. And he's tall at 6-7, though he's already a big boy at 230 lbs. He has very little idea where the ball is going at this point but that's not unusual. He'll probably be stateside this season at Bristol and he's one to keep an eye on.

Another aggressive ranking is "C" Josh Phegley and, as many of you already know, this is one with which I don't agree. Rogers talks about all the health issues he has had since he was drafted. And that's all fine. But this regular season he didn't miss any time (of course, as a china doll, he couldn't abide being healthy for a full calendar year and injured his wrist to ensure he missed the Arizona Fall League). And he was still pretty bad. He can't catch. He can't hit. He can't stay healthy. And yet he somehow managed to get promoted to AAA. I pity those who have to throw to this sieve.

INF Carlos Sanchez is another one who didn't make other lists and I very much like his placement by Rogers. He'll still be a teenager at the start of this season and he held his own at Kannapolis last season in his first taste of full season ball. His offense is in the mold of his fellow Venezuelan Eduardo Escobar; unfortunately, his defense is not, as he'll probably be limited to 2B. Sanchez did perform better at Low A than Escobar did at the same age. Rogers was critical of his contact rate and with a 17% strikeout rate a guy with no power isn't going to make it to the majors. Still, his .288/.341/.345 line at Kanny is impressive enough for a teenager. Another sleeper to watch.

RHP Dylan Axelrod has been up and down the various lists. I think this placement is correct. What's interesting here, though, was his write-up as Rogers made a connection that I had failed to notice previously. His uncle, Barry Axelrod, is Jake Peavy's agent. In mid-2009, Dylan was released by the Padres and signed with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League. He signed with the White Sox on August 2, 2009 - or two days after the Peavy trade. So, if Dylan ends up being worth anything, that might ameliorate the pain of the Peavy deal some. One thing I'd add to all that is that Dylan's major league debut was in the place of Peavy.

LHP Blair Walters was a surprise from the 11th round of the 2011 draft. While he was a college pitcher playing in the Pioneer League, at 21 he wasn't that old. He also had worked exclusively from the bullpen while at Hawaii but became a starter with the Voyagers. He has a decent low 90s sinker but what befuddled rookie ball hitters was his slider. With the usual age for level caveats, he could be a fast mover if the White Sox decide he to use him as a reliever.

UTIL Tyler Kuhn reminds me of Ron Paul: there are a few good things about him, lots of not so good things, he's generally ignored, his backers are rabid and they want us to return to the 1800s, where batting average was the thing. The 25 year old makes contact. And that's about the extent of his skills. He could carve out a career as a utilityman but he doesn't play any position well enough. Guys like him, though, tend to stick around long enough to make it to the majors when they've reached their peak. If he improves his defense to good enough, he'll follow that stereotype.

We've talked about C Kevan Smith before. Sickels really likes him. No one else shares that view.

RHP Thomas Royse didn't make the book but he did make the supplement. He missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery. He could at least have been described as interesting prior to that and we'll see if he remains that afterwards.

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