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This Week in White Sox Minor League Baseball

Promotions kick off second half

Andy Wilkins
Andy Wilkins

This week:

We're now past the halfway point of the minor league season. The Birmingham Barons secured a first-half title so they will be in the Southern League playoffs come September. The second half also means promotion-time so let's get right to those.

RHP Erik Johnson headlines the group, getting a well-deserved promotion to Charlotte. Joining him are RHP Daniel Webb and LHP Santos Rodriguez, both relievers. 1B Keon Barnum finally made his 2013 debut with Kannapolis, after suffering a couple injuries. 2013 1st round pick SS Tim Anderson joined him there. Expect more activity in the coming weeks. In other transaction news, C Kevan Smith returned to the Dash after spending time on the DL recovering from a concussion.

To wrap-up our progress reports on top prospects, let's check-in on the position players who are probably still at least a year away.

CF Keenyn Walker is having a pretty awful season for the Barons: .207/.325/.275 for a .293 wOBA. His strikeout rate (27.4%) is down but so is his walk rate (12.0%). What little power he did have has disappeared. And his .307 BABIP is too low for a speed player in Double-A. I highlighted in my top prospects list that, while the 22-year-old plays as a switch-hitter, he can't hit lefties. His overall line is obviously putrid but the platoon split is still there: .161/.277/.286. He's also a pretty pedestrian 24 for 34 in stolen bases.

SS Marcus Semien started the season hot but has cooled significantly. His season line, however, is still quite respectable: .258/.375/.375 and a .354 wOBA. The 22-year-old has seen his strikeout rate decline quite a bit. His career average was right at 20% but it's 15% this year at Birmingham. His walk rate has seen a solid uptick, too, from 8.4% in Low-A to 11.3% at High-A and now, in his third pro season, 15% at Double-A. Another good trend is his line drive rate, which as gone from 14.1% to 20.0% and now to 24%.

1B Andy Wilkins is doing what he should be doing in his second season at Double-A: hitting the ball hard a lot more. The left-handed hitter's line last season was just .239/.335/.425, unacceptable for a first baseman. His .293/.391/.485 this season adds up to a nice .398 wOBA. The primary difference is a BABIP increase from .266 to .347. At 24-years-old, he really needs to be promoted to Charlotte soon.

OF Courtney Hawkins continues to struggle at High-A. The 19-year-old's line is pretty amazing: .188/.251/.497. The most ridiculous things are a .309 ISO and a 48.2% strikeout rate. The 13 home runs he's hit in just 164 PA is nice but the Carolina League in general, and Winston Salem's home park in particular, is a friendly place for home run hitters. I often say hitters need to make more contact but that's usually talking about guys with strikeouts rates of about 25-30%. I don't have the words for this type of whiffing.

2B Micah Johnson continues to be almost unstoppable on the basepaths. The 22-year-old leads the minors with 55 stolen bases (against just 16 caught stealings). He capped the first-half of his season with the MVP award at the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. The lefty hitter's .333/.416/.526 line is surprisingly excellent, particularly the power. While he certainly uses his speed to take extra bases, he's also hit six home runs. His .420 BABIP says regression is inevitable but his speed should also least propel him to the upper minors. He does, however, need to find a long-term defensive position, either by becoming a heck of a lot better at second base or moving to the outfield.