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In the Mouth a Desert: A Sad Sad Look Into '08 White Sox Pitching Prospects

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Having already braved the barrens in order to examine White Sox hitting prospects, I was forced to take some time off to recover from the exhausting mental expedition.  Once again rested, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I felt compelled to finish the job.  Thus follows my report on White Sox pitching prospects in Aught Eight.

Oh, another note.  I found that batted ball breakdown by level from FI that I'd been pining for.  It looks like this:

      GB   LD   OF   IF BUNT
A- 51% 14% 25% 8% 1%
A 49% 14% 28% 8% 1%
A+ 48% 14% 29% 8% 1%
AA 46% 15% 29% 8% 1%
AAA 46% 18% 28% 7% 1%
MLB 44% 19% 30% 6% 1%

The takeaway is that conceding a batted ball is far less damaging in the minors than in the majors because it's much easier to achieve a ground ball and avoid line drives.  It also means we're looking for really superlative GB rates rather than anything above 50%.

Kannapolis

  • The Rest - Perhaps somewhat harsh, but it's probably easier to talk about Kanny as a staff.  There are no standouts (Anthony Carter received a promotion to Winston Salem and will be discussed there), but there are some intriguing arms.  First, it's interesting to note that the staff has averaged 9.24 K/9 compared to a 7.82 league wide average.  K rates look to be inflated across the board to some extent, but Kanny is still leading the way despite lacking in bona fide prospects.  My personal favorite is Nathan Jones.  When not K'ing 10+ per 9, he's allowing a .925 OPS against.  He was drafted in the 5th round last year and is part of a trio of early-ish round picks from that draft that ended up in Kanny this year along with Leroy Hunt and Johnnie Lowe (currently on the 7 day DL).  Another potentially interesting name is Jason Rice.  He's 22 and was drafted in the 11th round of the 2005 draft.  He's been moved back and forth between starting and relieving and couldn't stick in W-S as a reliever last year, but he has posted nice K rates consistently.  At 6'0'' we're likely talking about a max effort type delivery if he's got legitimate stuff.  I assume that his W-S promotion was an effort to see if he could move quickly as a reliever.  Now he's filler unless he can bring his walk rate around.

Winston-Salem

  • Anthony Carter - His first start as a Warthog went terribly, but his Kanny stats certainly warranted a promotion.  He was second in the SAL in K/BF according to firstinning at 27.8% through 61 2/3 IP.  For context, DLS managed 31.8% in 97 2/3 IP.  Like Nathan Jones, then, he's got a near-dominant K rate.  The difference is in control.  Carter gave up just 11 free passes, good for a K/BB ratio of 6.  This is likely Carter's ticket going forward, since I doubt he's got the stuff to maintain those K rates.  He was a 26th rounder in 2005 and was no where near as dominant in Bristol and Great Falls.  Absent a scouting report and in light of uninspiring GB rates, I'm not going to give him the benefit of the doubt given his pedigree.
  • John Ely - Last year's 3rd round pick out of Miami-Ohio, Ely is a polished right hander who does everything pretty well.  Gets a solid number of ground balls (48%), decent K rate (22%) and is good about avoiding walks (6.5%).  According to a blurb I got from BP, Goldstein thinks he's got "good stuff" with rough mechanics, so this kind of early success bodes well, particularly the low walk rates.  The fact that this kind of pitcher is available in the 3rd round really gives the lie to the McCulloch-Broadway theory of drafting.
  • The Rest - No one especially notable.  Somewhat infamous spare parts Michael Dubee and Jacob Rasner are doing well enough and closer Kanekoa Texeira is getting a good number of grounders, though I wish his K rate was in the 9+ per game range.  This isn't a very good pitching staff, sadly.

Birmingham

  • Aaron Poreda - The other recent promotion and by far more notable.  Until Beckham signs, Poreda is our top prospect and one of the very few with a major league fastball in the entire system.  That and his left handedness probably guarantees a major league career of some kind (barring injury of course).  In fact, judging by his splits, he could probably already be a LOOGY. He got 73 1/3 IP in Winston Salem and demonstrated good control and kept his H/9 below 9.  The bigger questions are how many ground balls will he get and how many strikeouts?  His K rate was below average for the league and 55% of batted balls stayed on the ground.  Personally, I think that's a bit underwhelming for a guy who is living off his fastball at the moment.  He may struggle in AA if his secondary stuff is as lackluster as the poor K rate suggests.  On the other hand, it's clear that Kenny thinks very highly of Poreda.  He's not afraid of exposing him to levels Aaron may or may not be ready for and, as opposed to leaving Gio in AA for the entire year to dominate and grow his stock, the White Sox have made a commitment to getting him to the big league club.  Kenny is either completely certain that he won't struggle or doesn't mind letting the rest of the league see him do so.  Either way, it gives me faith beyond the numbers that Poreda will do well in the long run.
  • The Rest - Cheat fave Lucas Harrell has only thrown 13 IP so far with 9 K to 1 BB.  Recovering from shoulder surgery is a tall order, so here's hoping.  JRE likes Carlos Torres, so I'll give him a blurb.  He repeated W-S and is now repeating Birmingham.  If KW liked him at all, he'd be in Charlotte.  Whatever he's got, it looks like no one thinks it'll play at a major league level.  Justin Cassel is a personal favorite of mine.  He was lighting up W-S with a 65% GB rate until he was shut down for the year.  He's only at 56% in B-ham and is walking too many and K'ing too few.  Is it too harsh to presume Kyle McCulloch isn't a prospect?  His peripherals are right in line with Cassel's and McCulloch already had 26 1/3 IP in B-ham last year though he is 6 months younger.  Brian Omogrosso has imploded so far this year despite being put on Goldstein's Top 11 White Sox Prospects.  In sum, Birmingham is almost entirely bereft of talent.  Ugh

Charlotte

  • Clayton Richard - Somewhat old (Sept '83 DOB) and somewhat boring, he's still a tall lefty (6'5'' 225 lbs) who can get ground balls.  Somewhat underwhelming pedigree, too, as he's from Michigan and was drafted in the 8th round back in '05 after a single season of baseball and came to Michigan as a QB recruit in the same class as Chad Henne.  This year, he's demonstrated even better control, getting his BB/PA just under 5% and has bumped his K rate from 14.5% of batters faced to 16.2%.  Like I said, he's somewhat boring.  But I'll take 52% GB rate from a lefty, particularly one who's held righties to a .219/.256/.330 line.  He's a pretty decent 5th starter candidate who will probably be in Charlotte by the end of the year. **EDIT** Larry informs me Richard just got promoted and is starting tonight in Charlotte.  So I cut/pasted him down to Charlotte.
  • Jack Egbert - Perhaps the reason Poreda is getting the call.  Prior to his injury and subsequent struggles, he was who we'd launch on alert 5 if Floyd or Contreras implode.  Give him time and hopefully he repairs his GB and BB rates.  They aren't way off, but those were the primary factors in his success up to this point.  Pitching to contact is a careful balance and extra base runners and line drives upset the balance significantly.  K's, from this writer's perspective, are gravy.  We should probably push somebody out of Charlotte's rotation so Richard can move up, frankly. 
  • Lance Broadway - It's a little hard to afford him prospect status when I denied McCulloch, but the scouting reports on his secondary offerings are good and I've not heard similarly of McCulloch.  I've been trying to assume the worst given the information I've got, so confirmation of a 60 curve and a 55 change is actually pretty heartening.  If moving to the pen gets his heat an extra notch or two, he's certainly as good as Nick Masset.  It'd also be nice if he could cut his walk rate a bit considering how much contact he allows. 
  • The Rest - Adam Russell is getting grounders but needs to halve his walk rate.  Resident knuckleballer Charlie Haeger would do well to do the same, but controlling the knuckler is the essence of the problem.  He's going to be gone before he becomes effective, isn't he?  Too bad.  Here's a fun fact: not half of the pitchers who have appeared in a game for Charlotte are under 30.

On the whole, it's just as sad as the hitting prospects, though at least here there is a caveat, namely the Swisher trade.  Nonetheless for a team with such a poor connection to Latin America to have consistently performed so badly in the draft from 2003-2006 explains much about 2007 and our dire outlook prior to KW's wheeling and dealing.  We really ought to laud Kenny for the squad he's forged this year.  Danks, Floyd, Ramirez, Quentin and Swisher were all unexpectedly acquired and Floyd, Ramirez and Quentin have definitely outperformed their projections.  Add to that Poreda, Egbert, Fields and Beckham and that isn't a bad bunch of 27 and unders.