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Top Ten White Sox Prospects, Midseason 2014

Updating my offseason list


As requested, here's an updated top ten list. First, some caveats. If you're not interested in reading about process, just skip right to the list.

I didn't put a great deal of thought into this. I spend a lot of time on the offseason list. On this, I spent about ten minutes thinking about it and an hour writing it. I'd call this a high precision, decent accuracy list. While I've seen all of the listed player play, I find major league playing time to be a relatively highly-weighted factor in my offseason analysis. That ordinarily doesn't happen until late in the season (if at all). So that's an item that can't be factored into this list. Obviously, there's still almost two months of the minor league season left for most of these players. And fall/winter ball is missing, too. Finally, the sobering impact of elapsed time on analysis isn't possible. I watched some of these players this morning.

So what's gone into this list that wasn't there in the offseason is spring training and, at most, about 100 minor league games. Substantial data but, for me, ordinarily not enough to effect major changes in position on a top ten list, unless there's a significant injury. In addition, players obviously lose their prospect status based on major league action and the amateur draft happens so a few more names are in the mix. No relevant names have been added or subtracted via trade or other similar acquisition.

On to the list. Offseason ranking, if any, in parentheses. Position is current and not necessarily projected major league position. If you want more detailed scouting reports, you can find most of them in the offseason list.

1. LHP Carlos Rodon (NA)

This should be self-explanatory. I'd argue he was the best player available in the draft. A reasonable projection is a #2-#3 starter. That's going to get you to the top of a lot of team lists. And I can certainly buy the notion that he'd be major league ready sometime in 2015.

2. SS Tim Anderson (1)

The one spot "drop" doesn't have anything to do with him. I said a lot of people would be revising upward their assessment of this still raw 21-year-old after this season and that's happened. Shortstop continues to look like a stretch but the bat will play at a lot of other positions.

3. 3B Matt Davidson (4)

He got off to a very poor start in 2014. If full seasons of poor results don't hold a lot of sway with me (see, e.g., Carlos Sanchez' or Courtney Hawkins' 2013 seasons), a couple months sure won't. Major league ready, he just needs a roster spot to open up.

4. LF Courtney Hawkins (3)

He's had the bounceback year I expected in his second try at High-A. He's drastically cut the strikeouts, from 37.6% to 25.1%, and raised his walk rate without losing any power. And, of course, his .259 batting average is a lot higher than his very sub-Mendoza 2013. Pitch recognition, though, hasn't advanced as much as it needs to.

5. 2B Micah Johnson (NR)

I've already done it informally but I now concede defeat formally. While he should have been ranked in my offseason list, I'm still not hopping on the impact player bandwagon. Looks like a good utility type with a decent shot at being more. Needs to get some reps in the outfield because second base ability is questionable and needs to learn the craft of stealing bases to maximize speed skill. Three arm surgeries still make me very wary.

6. 2B Carlos Sanchez (6)

Another guy who had the bounceback year I expected. As I said previously, the 22-year-old is pretty much the ideal utility infielder. If pressed into a full-time role, second base is his best position. Most ready to replace Beckham should a trade happen.

7. RHP Tyler Danish (9)

19-year-old is learning how to be a starting pitcher while being tossed directly into the fire, in typical White Sox fashion. What I've seen this year makes me even more confident that he's a starter long-term. 5th-youngest player in all of High-A.

8. 3B Trey Michalczewski (NR)

Another 19-year-old who has been impressive. Decent fielding, switch-hitting third baseman with good power? Yes, please. A lot of swing-and-miss in his game but certainly has ability and time to improve. Work-in-progress at third base, too.

9. CF Jacob May (10)

I figured he'd be tired after his ridiculously long 2013 season, which actually spread well into 2014 given that he played winter ball in Australia. Slow start but now finding his legs in High-A. Love the contact, defense and speed. Unsure the power will be enough.

10. RHP Chris Beck (7)

The most significant downgrade from the offseason list, I keep wanting to like Beck but he keeps doing the thing that makes me not like pitchers: low strikeouts. 12.2% is just not enough, even if he's walking just 7%. Stuff needs to take a sizeable step forward.


Most of you know that I eschew numeric lists in favor of groupings, which I think more accurately display the difference, or lack of difference, in value amongst players. But chicks dig lists, just ask Bleacher Report. If someone wants to re-order my numeric rankings while remaining within the same player grouping, I'm not going to argue with them. So here's that.

1st group: Rodon and Anderson. Both top 50 prospects in the game, I can certainly see the argument for discounting Rodon further based on a pitcher's inherent elevated injury risk.

2nd group: Davidson, Hawkins and Johnson. Hawkins is a high risk/high reward type. Big bust potential but pretty big upside. Davidson and Johnson are safer, as both are decent bets to be major leaguers, though certainly questionable whether that's in the full-time role.

3rd group: Sanchez and Danish. Sanchez is high floor. He's going to be a major leaguer (a lot more than one game) and probably will have a long career. He's just not likely to be more than average. Danish is another high risk/high reward type. Obviously, injury risk is massive. Also, he certainly could end up just being a reliever. But there's a potential big reward if he's a starter because his stuff is that good.

4th group: Michalczewski and May. Both young guys in the low minors, Michalczewski young in age and development while May is young in development. You can certainly see a development path for each that makes them potential impact players but they're a ways off.

5th group: Beck and quite a few others. Varying shades of high upside types and high floor types.


The players dropping out:

Erik Johnson (3): Exceeded innings limit so not eligible but good lord has he been bad. If he's not carrying an injury, I don't even know what to say.

Marcus Semien (5): Exceeded plate appearances limit. He looks more like the utility type I thought he was and the White Sox now adding to his position versatility is a good thing for his future.

Trayce Thompson (7): Shows no improvement in his second try at Double-A. 4th outfielder at best.


Preempting questions on fashionable prospects:

Rangel Ravelo: Yes, he can hit. But he's a first baseman (stop asking about position changes) and real question whether he can hit enough for that position. James Loney-esque upside but there's no fallback plan with his skill-set.

Tyler Saladino: Has a chance to be a utility player but far more speculative chance than Johnson or even Sanchez and limited upside.

Frank Montas: I talked about him a lot here. Summary: excellent but very limited 2014 season and successive injuries to the left then the right knee make me think he's a reliever.

Micker Adolfo and everyone else playing Rookie-level, including 2014 draftees: Video is very limited on these players. I don't like ranking players high if I haven't seen them play with my own eyes at least a bit, unless there's overwhelming scouting reports.