Joey DeMichele, the White Sox's third-round pick in the 2012 draft, has his fans around here. He also has his supporters in the prospect world, but there's a surprising lack of middle ground. When it comes to lists, he either ranks in the top 10, or not even in the top 20.
The book on DeMichele in a sentence: He's an accomplished collegiate hitter with some pop who is trying to stick at second. He started his pro career in fine fashion last year, acing 12 games at Bristol and flashing extra-base power in 51 games at Kannapolis (.261/.319/.436). With his background, FanGraphs and Baseball America both said that DeMichele might skip High-A and proceed to Double-A, but the White Sox opted against the super-aggressive path.
Early on, the restraint looks wise. He's hitting .208/.240/.333 with two walks and 16 strikeouts in his first 51 plate appearances with the Dash. Then again, a five-game slump (1-for-21, 12 strikeouts) takes up nearly half of his 12-game sample, so it's way too early to say anything.
The Dash game I attended on April 11 took place right before that slump started. At the plate, he performed as advertised. He went 1-for-4, bouncing into a double play in his first at-bat, but doubling off the base of the wall in his third trip. Here's a look:
I was more curious about how DeMichele looked in the field at second base, since reviews of his defense are inconclusive at best.
DeMichele (pronounced "dee-Michael") made a couple nice plays in the field. He ranged to his right for one grounder, stopping on one knee, popping up and making a good throw to first for the out.
He also made a strong turn on a double play. With runners on the corners and one out, Frederick shortstop Sammie Starr hit a soft bouncer was hit to third. I thought the play developed too slowly to turn two, and Jeremy Farrell would've been better off throwing home. But Farrell showed me -- he threw to second, and DeMichele stepped back and showed enough arm strength to beat Starr by a step at first.
There was grounder that got past a diving DeMichele to his left, but it didn't qualify as routine. I might expect somebody of Gordon Beckham's caliber to snare it, but most second basemen would've been lucky to get a glove on it. I won't make any bold proclamations based off one game, but he looked competent enough for the variety of plays thrown at him. And since he's pretty new to the position, there's a good chance he has room for improvement with reps, even if I caught him on an unusually good night.
On the start of his pro career
"I went to a big college; that kinda prepared me. Arizona State -- it's sink or swim, you know? Going to college helped me mature. It's been a pretty smooth introduction."
"(I'm working on) just saying healthy, staying in shape for the long year. 140 games is a lot different from what we're used to in college."
"Hitting-wise, I've always believed if you can hit, you can hit, and that'll be with you wherever you go. "
"I think simpler's better. With these pitchers, and how good they are, the more you can simplify things, the more success you'll have. I'd say my swing's simple and short to the ball, hopefully, on the good days."
"Freshman year, didn't play. Sophomore year, I DH'd, broke into the lineup just by hitting. Junior year was my first year playing a position in college."
"I think I've made a lot of progress. We have wonderful instructors, and just doing it every day, you can really focus on things to get better at."
On perceived ceilings
"You can probably say that about hitters after a full season of pro ball. If somebody calls me a polished hitter, I'll take it as a compliment. I'm capable of hitting home runs, I know that."
"I guess it can be kind of backhanded if you think about it -- no room for improvement -- but I certainly don't see it that way."