Baseball America released its list of Top 10 White Sox prospects, and John Manuel, like other prospect evaluators this offseason, is finding much more to like than usual.
For the first time since at least 2000, when the White Sox had the game’s No. 2 farm system, the organization has prospect depth. [...]
A major reason for the improved talent and depth in the White Sox system is the club’s decision to spend on scouting and player development, which is directly related to the current labor agreement. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf disdained the old draft rules and restricted his club’s spending on amateurs, and from 2007-11, Chicago spent just $18.3 million on bonuses, barely half the league average. Under the new rules, however, the White Sox have spent every penny of their signing bonus pools, and under assistant to the GM Marco Paddy, they are working hard to be a factor in Latin America.
It doesn't look like the Sox have a top-half farm system, but the progress is noteworthy. You can tell by the lists themselves -- like the Hall of Fame ballot, it's difficult to settle on just 10 selections.
They don't have enough impact players in the high minors to escape the bottom half of the league completely, but there are far more players worth following, as the comparison between BA and Baseball Prospectus shows.
You can't quite compare the lists, because Jason Parks made his list at BP before the Addison Reed-Matt Davidson trade, and didn't include Jose Abreu for philosophical reasons (he would've been No. 1 on his chart otherwise). But the Sox don't need Abreu to come up with 10 interesting names in their farm system.
|Baseball America||Baseball Prospectus|
|No. 1||Jose Abreu||Erik Johnson|
|No. 2||Erik Johnson||Tim Anderson|
|No. 3||Tim Anderson||Courtney Hawkins|
|No. 4||Matt Davidson||Chris Beck|
|No. 5||Marcus Semien||Tyler Danish|
|No. 6||Micah Johnson||Marcus Semien|
|No. 7||Courtney Hawkins||Carlos Sanchez|
|No. 8||Trayce Thompson||Micah Johnson|
|No. 9||Chris Beck||Trayce Thompson|
|No. 10||Jacob May||Francellis Montas|
The two lists field a combined 13 names, and Micker Adolfo (Zapata) isn't one of them. That's an unusually high amount of actual prospects for this system, even if some are far from certain to reach the majors.
These lists aren't perfect. Montas seems like a reach at No. 10, and you can quibble with BA handing Hawkins and Sanchez stiff punishments for down years during ambitious assignments -- especially Sanchez, who fell off the list from the No. 3 spot the year before. At least Hawkins is still in comfortably in the picture.
But being exiled outside the top 10 isn't as grave an insult as it used to be. Sanchez's plummet (which Manuel attributes to physical shape as much as his stats) allowed May to sneak into the picture, but May has an argument for inclusion on his own merits. In the chat, Manuel said that May didn't impress during his final collegiate season, but his introduction to pro ball forced him to reconsider, and quickly.
I have to admit I was not high on Jacob May in the spring, even though I saw him hit a home run in a midweek game at North Carolina in April. His reputation preceded him and he played down to it in that game with his lack of effort defensively on a ball to the gap. But he has some pretty loud tools and certainly played a ton of games this year as a pro, wrapping up in Australia. I hope you saw the piece our Josh Norris did on him recently about his long season. He has a chance to be an everyday center fielder.
(Parks debated giving May a top-10 spot as well, saying "scouts really seem to really like this kid.")
A better argument could've been made for giving Danish the Sanchez vacancy. In the chat, Manuel said he gave it serious consideration, and the answers to other questions about Danish were all positive:
- "Scouting director Doug Laumann told me a great story last week about a scout at the Winter Meetings hugging him and lauding him for his guts for drafting Danish as highly as he did."
- "Danish stands out from the crowd. He has the toughness, stuff and backstory to endear him to just about any scout. I haven’t talked to a scout who didn’t want to like him yet, despite the very low slot and the amount of effort (or if you like him energy) in the delivery."
- "The White Sox drafted him because they believe he can start. Peavy and Daniel Hudson are two examples of low-slot starting pitchers, and the Sox have experience with both. Their pitching track record is pretty good, so I give them the benefit of the doubt."
In previous years, far worse writeups ranked much higher. Danish probably would've been a top-six candidate when the Gregory Infantes and Anthony Carters and Clevelan Santelizes roamed the Earth. This time around, BA can find enough names to fill out a top 10, even though the reports on Danish are all enthusiastic, and his debut half-season supports it.
Even if you're among the saintly herd (Tyler Danish anagram) comprising those who are ardently his (another anagram) fans, this is a good sign. Same goes for those who think Micah Johnson's stolen-base explosion and lack of position makes him a prime hydrogen prospect. It seems like Hawkins deserves priority over Johnson, and you can argue that Sanchez does as well, but they're all interesting, and this kind of depth is exciting and new for White Sox bloggers and their upstanding blog community members.
A few years ago, Jared Mitchell's ankle injury and subsequent performance decimated the upside of the Sox's prospect list. This year, when another first pick like Keenyn Walker faces a steep rebound, the shockwaves aren't nearly as far-reaching.
Amassing intriguing names is only half the battle. The Sox still need to finish some of these players. A larger pool of legitimate talent should aid this development, and not just because there's strength in numbers. The hope is that the Sox can create a line of succession with their prospects, which would create more of an order to their advancement, instead of the unpatrolled fast lane for whichever prospect stands out that month.