The minor league regular season is down to its final two weeks. Obviously players are always trying to make an impression but, in the home stretch of the season, they have a finish line in sight and the opportunities to make their goals for the season are dwindling quickly.
"Getting better" is always the amorphous goal. More tangibly, though, players are now vying for high profile things like September call-ups or Arizona Fall League ("AFL") assignments. For prospects particularly in the lower minors, they're looking to get invites to the organization's fall instruction league camp to help cement their status in the organization. Fringe prospects or journeymen are looking to impress scouts for foreign winter league clubs so they can keep making money this offseason. Oh. And get better.
In the midst of all this, pretty much all players know about the Rule 5 draft in December and have some concept of how this impacts 40-man roster additions. Regardless, all players know that they want to be on the 40-man, because it means more money (more than $41K for first year on 40-man) and strongly suggests that the club thinks they have a future on the major league team.
Essentially, high school and international players who signed in 2010 and college players who signed in 2011 will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December at the Winter Meetings, unless a club "protects" them by adding them to the 40-man. It costs a club $50K to draft a player, so a rather nominal fee, with the rub being that the player essentially has to be kept on the 25-man roster the whole season (see, e.g., Adrian Nieto). So who are the likeliest White Sox candidates for protection (either by virtue of a September call-up or as an offseason roster addition) and how have they done this season?
RHP Frank Montas: The 21-year-old Venezuelan has had an injury-checkered season, with knee surgery first on his left then on his right knee. Still, he's now back on the mound rehabbing with the AZL White Sox and will be playing in the AFL. While he hasn't pitched above High-A yet, he's certainly a guy a team would be fine drafting and putting in their bullpen, as he has good-enough present stuff to survive in the majors and big upside. 62 IP, 45 H, 14 BB, 56 K for the Dash.
LHP Scott Snodgress: The lefty was a reliever at Stanford but the White Sox used him as a starter until he was promoted to Charlotte last month. The 24-year-old is probably a reliever long-term. He certainly has good-enough present stuff to survive in the majors, throws with his left hand - and is a likely September call-up anyway. Control can still use some work. 26 G, 21 GS, 122.2 IP, 119 H, 55 BB, 89 K.
RHP Chris Bassitt: This 25-year-old also has had an injury-checkered season, missing most of it with a broken right hand. Like Snodgress, he's probably a September call-up. I covered him in more detail last week. 4 G, 24 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 26 K for Birmingham.
RHP Myles Jaye: This 22-year-old has had an uneven season but the talent is certainly there. Demoted to Winston-Salem midseason, he's been better for Birmingham since returning. Repertoire of low to mid 90s fastball, low 80s slider and mid 80s changeup is average-ish but all three show a chance of being above-average/plus. Has late inning potential. 25 G, 143 IP, 148 H, 51 BB, 78 K for Winston-Salem and Birmingham.
LHP Jefferson Olacio: The big lefty has very loose control and command - in large measure because his size makes it difficult for him to repeat his delivery. The 20-year-old Dominican has a walk rate approaching 12% but his 21.6% strikeout rate shows he has solid stuff. Probably a long-shot to be drafted but when/if he grows into his delivery and can repeat it, he's going to have a good shot at being at least a solid bullpen piece. 34 G, 4 GS, 63.1 IP, 80 H, 36 BB, 67 K.
C Kevan Smith: Competent catchers are not easy to find (see, e.g., the Chicago White Sox) and are popular Rule 5 picks (see, e.g., the Chicago White Sox). That's why they're almost always protected. Still a major work-in-progress behind the plate, has the potential to be an offense-first back-up. .305/.389/.456 for Birmingham.
1B Rangel Ravelo: The offensive bar is really, really high for first basemen but the 22-year-old can certainly make contact and he has plus strike zone judgement, evident in his 10.3% walk rate and 13.8% strikeout rate. Whether the power can translate remains to be seen. .318/.397/.491 for Birmingham.
1B Andy Wilkins: The 25-year-old was Rule 5 eligible last year and obviously drew no interest. His season in Triple-A probably will change that. I certainly question whether the bat is enough in the majors. But I'd certainly be willing to pay the nominal fee to draft him and at least take an up-close look at him because left-handed power is left-handed power. .297/.340/.565 for Charlotte.
UTIL Tyler Saladino: Another guy who would be Rule 5-eligible for a second time, he might just have been in the picture for a September call-up before he tore his UCL. While he'll probably be back in time for Opening Day, he's now in an interesting position and his fate probably depends upon what the White Sox do with other players more than anything. The 24-year-old had a strong season for Charlotte, suggesting he may be ready for the majors. But there are a ton of middle infielders/utility types in the organization and the ones in the upper minors are all likely ahead of him on the depth chart and have or will have spots on the 40-man roster. Unless some of those players are moved, he probably won't get a spot. And a drafting team may look at Saladino as a player the White Sox would be willing to trade and thus nullify the Rule 5 draftee roster requirements. .310/.367/.483 for Charlotte.
SS Cleuluis Rondon: Further complicating things in the middle infield picture is this 20-year-old Venezuelan. Considered a superlative defender but his bat is weak. His glove might just be enough to entice a team to draft him and he'll be giving teams more opportunities to see him as he'll likely play in an offseason league. .244/.307/.303 between Low-A and High-A.