Simon Castro threw two innings in relief in the first game of Charlotte's double-header on Friday. It appears that the move to the bullpen may be a permanent one. Charlotte did not use a recognized starter in the second game and instead used four of their usual relievers, plus they also just signed 30 year-old journeyman starting pitcher Michael Nix out of an independent league. Castro's been pretty inconsistent as a starter and, at 25 years-old and in his 8th pro season, he's certainly had enough chances to prove himself as a starter. Add in that he'll be out of options after this season and that the White Sox should be anticipating that they will have enough starting pitching at the major league level in the short-term, finding out what Castro can do in relief is a very sensible decision.
As I've detailed in the past, the big Dominican has the repertoire to be an effective reliever and potentially a high leverage one. Focusing solely on pitching out of the stretch should help him keep his mechanics consistent and both his mid-90s fastball and sharp slider should be plus pitches out of the bullpen. He also has a decent splitter that he can mix in. Given the trouble the White Sox have had with their lower leverage right-handers, it's a good bet that we'll be seeing Castro in Chicago sooner rather than later.
The 2013 draftees who have signed are in Arizona for their pre-season mini-camp, joining the guys who have spent the last two and a half months in extended spring training. They'll head out to their respective assignments tomorrow or Tuesday. Both Bristol and Great Falls begin their seasons on Thursday.
A few weeks ago we checked in on the notable pitching prospects. This week we'll look at the hitters in the high minors who we're likely to see at some point in the near future.
Josh Phegley, of course, leads this pack, both due to his hot start to this season and the less than inspiring catcher play at the major league level. He's hitting .314/.375./.605, which comes out to a .425 wOBA. While one might quibble that his 12 home runs indicate some luck on flyballs, his .314 BABIP suggests that the numbers aren't a total mirage. Still rough behind the plate, barring injury, he's a sure call-up this season. Given that Tyler Flowers somewhat counter-intuitively hits righties better than lefties, the two could form a decent combo.
Carlos Sanchez is the youngest player in the International League and he's hitting like it. The Venezuelan will be 21 in two weeks and he appears to be the latest victim of the White Sox' aggressive promotion of prospects. He's batting just .233/.292/.286, coming out to a .271 wOBA. His strikeout rate (15.5%) and walk rate (7.2%) are almost spot-on his career averages so the problem is the kind of contact he's making. His current flyball rate is almost identical to his breakout 2012 season but his line drive rate has dipped from 21.5% to 14.6% with a commensurate increase in his ground ball rate from 47.3% to 53.5%, leading to a lowly .278 BABIP. The glove is still superb so he doesn't need to hit all that much to make it as a major leaguer. At his age, the White Sox should be patient.
Trayce Thompson is holding his own at Birmingham and, given that he'll need to be on the 40-man roster next season anyway, he's a good bet for a late season call-up. His home runs per balls in play rate has dipped from 7.1% last season to 3.5% this season. While an as yet undetermined percentage of that is likely due to the Barons' new ballpark suppressing home runs, at least part of that is simply because he's making more contact - on 70.6% of swings this year versus 67.1% last year. He's also traded a lot of his strikeouts for walks. The 22 year-old has cut his strikeout rate to 22.9% this season after consistently being at about 29% or worse in his first four professional seasons. His walk rate is 13.9% after being in the 9-10% range in the past. His strike zone judgment has improved and the most important aspect of that is that he appears to have learned to cover some of the holes in his swing. With a good defensive profile in center field, he is beginning to look like the high reward of the various high risk outfielders the White Sox drafted in the past five years. His line this season: .248/.363/.389 totaling to a .351 wOBA.