Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.
I'll be starting in just a minute or two, wrapping up a phone call. Thanks for your patience.
Ben (Leland Grove): How big of a tumble did Mitchell take on your top 30 this year, and how troubling is his K rate?
OK, thanks everyone. Here's a good place
to start. Mitchell fell into the 15-20 range. For me, he gets a pass on
this season. His K rate is obviously an issue, but talking to a couple
of scouts about him this year, I got two different ways to look at the
same guy. He is inexperienced—no other way to put it. This was his
first year playing baseball full-time and playing baseball in July and
August. Every other year he'd either been playing football or been hurt
(2010). So the fact he hit .134 in August, you don't write it off but
you put it in context. Second, he still showed that he could turn on
velocity (talked to a scout who saw him hit a HR off a 96 mph fastball).
So the bat speed is there; he has some patience. The Sox will need
patience with him. He may not be a regular until age 26-27, and that's
if everything works out.
Frank (Chicago): Andy Wilkins put up respectable numbers in the CAR last season. Whereabouts did he land on your top 30 and why?
Wilkins barely missed the top 10. If he
had a bit more athletic ability, I think he'd have made it; the soft
body still gives scouts pause as it did in high school. Personally, I
see a second-division 1B regular as his ceiling. He makes pretty good
contact for a power-oriented hitter and should have enough strength to
compensate for his good but not great bat speed. He's just OK against
LHPs (sub-.700 OPS) and is going to have to improve there to be more
than platoon or second-division guy.
Grant (NYC): Jordan Danks - prospect or suspect?
He dropped precipitously in our rankings
so I guess you'd call him more of a suspect. I wrote about him quite a
bit in the run-up to the Rule 5 draft; I was surprised he was not
protected because of his defensive ability, lefty bat and speed. A
change of scenery probably would have helped; he was rushed, and now if
he goes back to Triple-A, it will be his third straight year there. If
he doesn't figure out how to make more consistent contact this year,
it's hard to see him figuring it out as a White Sox.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Between Kevan Smith and Mike Blanke, who came closer to your top 10, and who has better skills behind the dish? Thanks.
Blanke; scouts are all over the place on
him but he's younger, he's got just as much raw power and he's got much
better defensive tools. I got a 70 on Blanke's throwing arm, though
others have given it lower grades. Smith's hitting ability is superior
but Blanke has real raw power and has a chance to be a Mark Parent type,
if not a bit more.
Matt (Naperville, IL): How far did Eduardo Escobar fall on your list this year, and what are his biggest shortcomings?
Escobar made the top 10 in the prospect
handbook, before the White Sox's Janus-faced offseason where they
haven't figured out if they're rebuilding or not. He's a big league
utility guy for me; he has one big shortcoming in that he can't really
hit enough to be a regular. It's a hellacious .666 career OPS in the
minors, and he doesn't steal bases efficiently or make a ton of contact.
So yeah, he has some shortcomings.
Ben (Leland Grove): Between Kyle McMillen and Erik Johnson, who are you higher on, and what are their ceilings?
We went starter over reliever with Johnson
ranking in the 11-30 mix and McMillen not even making the 30. McMillen
surprisingly didn't come up much when we did our Draft Report Cards in
the fall, whereas the White Sox were pretty high on Johnson at the time
and see him as a innings-eating starter. I've gotten a Curt Schilling
body comp on Johnson in the past; obviously that's an unrealistic career
comp seeing as how Schilling's a borderline Hall of Famer, but it gives
you an idea that scouts see Johnson as the kind of guy who could log
200 innings annually. He has some mechanics to smooth out transitioning
to full-season ball, but the White Sox have a good track record of
developing guys with big arms. A lot of continuity in their minor league
pitching program, and they've had success with it.
Carlos (Chitown): Between this year's top 10 and last year's, which one would you give the nod to in terms of ceiling?
I would actually have to vote last year
because pre-injury, I was all in on Jared Mitchell. I would take Chris
Sale over Addison Reed, and Dayan Viciedo has taken a big step forward.
It's just not a good farm system right now, or even an average one. It's
Harry (Gary, IN): We know about Castro coming over from the Padres, but what about the "other" guy Pedro Hernandez? Is he in your top 30?
The book was done by the time that trade
was made; Hernandez obviously didn't make the top 10, same for Miles
Jaye and Dan Webb in the Jason Frasor trade. We broke down Hernandez in
Roger (St Louis): Is Brandon Short still on your radar?
He is in the 15-20 range. Not a lot of
hitters in this system, and Short's aggressiveness gets him in trouble.
He doesn't really have one plus tool. But he does a lot of things fairly
well; he's fairly similar in my mind to Dave Sappelt, recently traded
by the Reds to the Cubs. For me, Short's a fourth outfielder more than a
regular, unless he gains better control of the strike zone and gets on
base more frequently.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Are you optimistic that Trayce Thompson won't become a players in the mold of Cody Johnson - a potential 40 HR/200 K type?
Not a similar player but yes, they could
have similar numbers. Thompson has a ton of adjustments to make but has
much more athleticism than a player like Johnson. He's more similar to
former White Sox farmhands like Chris Young or Mike Cameron in terms of
being a power guy with athleticism and some speed, though he's not going
to steal as many bases as those guys and profiles more in right field.
He's also fairly similar to Marlins farmhand Marcell Ozuna; a bit more
athletic but a little less raw juice and arm strength. If you're
searching for a comp, you can do better than Cody Johnson.
Ken (Tampa): Hey, Phil. What can you tell us
about Kyle Bellamy? He put up great numbers until being promoted to AA.
Good closer-type down the line?
Well, that was in 2010. Bellamy was hurt
all year, missed 2011, and is a submariner in the Chad Bradford mold
anyway (maybe not knuckle-scraping but he's a low-slot joker). Bradford
of course was drafted by the White Sox and made it to the majors with
them first so they like Bellamy but let's see if he's healthy first.
He's not a closer type.
Sammy (Chicago, IL): While we realize you don't help to compile BA's top 100 prospects, do you think any of your top 10 guys have a legit shot?
Phil doesn't but I do. This is a one-trick
pony organization. Nestor Molina and Simon Castro are not Top 100
material; Reed will make it, probably in the 51-75 range.
Kyle (Dallas, TX): I see Jeff Soptic has the best FB in the system. What else does he bring to the table?
Right now, that's about it on a consistent
basis. His lack of life on his fastball, which has touched 100, is a
concern. He has a ton of work to do but fits in with the White Sox's
general philosophy: 1) Get power arms. 2) Speed them through the minors.
Then your flow chart shifts to 3a) Trade power arms for other stuff, or
3b) Put them in the big league bullpen. 4) Repeat.
Darrell (Los Angeles): So, the Sox pick 13th in
June. Do you see them going after a HS bat, of which there are many to
choose from this year, or will they likely stick to a college arm?
I think the bigger question is how much
will they spend. We're not going to call the new CBA "slots," it's more
of an "assigned value of the pick," and Jim Callis and I have a friendly
wager on what percentage of their assigned value the White Sox will
spend for their first 10 rounds. Jim's betting below 90% of the assigned
value. I'm guessing they'll spend 90%.
@Jaypers413 (IL): The Sox have reacquired
Dexter Carter. What are the chances of him putting up the kind of
numbers he did in his 2009 season? Or has that train passed already?
I like Dex, but that 2009 year is the aberration.
Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): What are your
thoughts on outfielder Mark Haddow and pitcher Blaire Walters who tore
up the Pioneer League? Whats your guess as to where they start the 2012
Both solid college picks who are probably
organizational guys. Haddow has intriguing tools, he's fairly athletic
for his size and has some raw power. He's Phil's Sleeper in the book.
Walters, on the other hand, made the book, he's in the 26-30 range. He's
got a carrying tool in his cutter; this organization likes cutters,
teaches a lot of guys cutters, and here's a lefthander with good size,
decent velo and a ready-made cutter. He could move very quickly into
Chicago's bullpen picture.
Ryan (Arizona): Wouldn't reed be more valuable
developed as a starter? Wouldn't a potential 2 or 3 be more valuable
than a set up man or closer?
That question, to me, is one of the many
that has me wondering if the White Sox can't make up their minds about
rebuilding or not. I think they want to rebuild; I actually think Kenny
Williams wants to rebuild. I also think it's impossible to do that with
all their dead-weight contracts like Rios, Dunn and Peavy. That's $43
million right there. How do you rebuild with that on the books? I think
the Sox are trying to do that, but on the off-chance those guys have
decent seasons, Reed could help that bullpen in the short-term. So while
long-term I think you have a good point, I tend to lean to having Reed
in the bullpen for 2012, and we have him as the closer in our long-term
lineup as well.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the hurlers moving from short season teams to full season Kannapolis, who are your favorites?
Johnson leads that list; Soptic would be
next. Kyle McMillen will be interesting as well. I forgot to add earlier
that McMillen had an injury issue that led to his signing bonus being
reduced, and there's a health question with him moving forward, so
that's a big reason why he didn't make the top 30. Walters obviously
fits here as well. The other guy to watch is former Stanford LHP Scott
Snodgress�good arm strength, has touched 95 and has a curveball with
potential. Cody Winiarski is a nice pitchability guy to watch, he should
have some A-ball success at the least.
Jadam (Herv, NY): Why does Reed rank above
Molina? I would think that with both having closer potential and Molina
having a better chance of staying in the rotation, Molina might have
gotten the edge.
Molina is more of a fourth starter type. A
true closer, an impact reliever like Reed can be, is harder to find, I
believe, than a control-oriented fourth starter with no real separator.
The White Sox got a guy like that in Phil Humber off the waiver wire
last year. I like Molina some but he's really not a No. 1 prospect. His
ceiling is less than that of Simon Castro, but Castro's been pretty
messed up mechanically the last year-plus, so Molina got the nod. But 2
and 3 are closer than 1 and 2 for me.
Greg T (London, ON): Hi - SS Tyler Saladino's
numbers have looked very solid for the past two seasons. Projecting him
as a future utilityman would seem to underestimate his hitting ability?
In a year or two it wouldnt be surprising to see him outproducing 3B
Morel or perhaps 2B Beckham?
There's hope for Saladino to hit his way
into an everyday role, and he has shown a consistent bat. I would say
Beckham has a lot more offensive upside. I could see Saladino usurping
Morel if Morel's September was a mirage; Morel had a bad year but a
very good September. I like Morel more than most and see Saladino as
more of a utility guy, but if he's an everyday guy for Chicago, 3B would
seem to be his best bet.
Scott (Troy): I saw Charlie Leesman was added
to the 40 man and was graded as having the system's best Changeup. Does
he have a future as a back of the rotation guy, or is he better suited
as a Lefty out of the Pen? He seems to have had problems with control
based on his BB/9 in the minors.
Sounds like he's a reliever who just
doesn't have the consistency to start. He has a starter's repertoire but
not a starter's focus or ability to go through a lineup multiple times.
He's still a sleeper for me in their system; top 10 upside but not top
10 performance or consistency.
Aaron (Texas): In your years doing the White
Sox top 10 minor leaguers evaluation for BA, is this the shallowest pool
of talent that you have encountered?
Obviously Phil has a deeper reservoir of
Sox knowledge but talking to two scouts about this system recently, they
both thought (a) the Sox are having a hard time rebuilding without
really committing to it and (b) this is as bad as their system has been
in a long time. I don't know that it's epic in its badness though.
Frankly I don't think Cleveland's system is much better, or the Marlins.
It's not worst than the Astros were heading into 2010; the 2010
Handbook Astros, where Chia-Jen Lo, Jon Gaston, TJ Steele and Jay Austin
were all in the top 10 ... that's the worst system in recent memory for
me. As his boss, I'm sorry to Ben Badler for assigning that to him, and
I put myself on the Astros the next two seasons to make it up to him.
Rich (NJ): Your thoughts on Michael Blanke's yr., future potential and where he ranks in the team's prospect list (top 15?). Thanks
Phil ranked him 20th. Just prepping to do
this chat in his stead, I hear that's a bit low. He's got a big arm, and
raw power. I will say that other reports we have on Blanke are less
impressed, and he's always been a bit of a mixed bag; I got no real buzz
on him out of Tampa, but Phil said the White Sox really liked him last
year out of the draft. He's being moved quickly and could surpass Josh
Phegley�who was drafted 10+ rounds earlier�in the system's pecking order
if he hasn't already.
Jason S (Chicago, IL): What are your thoughts
on Andre Rienzo? I saw he was listed as a top 30 prospect last season
and numbers showed well in 2011. Was he close to a top 10 prospect?
He moved up but not a ton; obviously the
White Sox weren't too impressed because they risked losing him in the
Rule 5 draft, leaving him off the 40-man. His arm strength is still
there, secondary stuff is lacking. Kind of your typical arm-strength
White Sox relief type.
chisox2005 (St. Charles, IL): I recently heard a
radio interview with White Sox minor league director, Buddy Bell. He
was very impressed with the Instructional League performance of Jared
Mitchell and felt that he was fully recovered from the spring training
injury of 2010.
Is Mitchell possibly ready to reclaim elite prospect status?
He's still athletic but it's going to all
be about the bat. He has to see a lot of pitches and make up for a lot
of lost development time, time lost (a) to football and (b) to the ankle
injury. What else would you expect Buddy to say? "Our 2009 first-round
pick is already done for ..." That's not what he's going to say. I'm
rooting for Mitchell but I don't expect him to reclaim elite status in
2012. I would like to see him hit .250 with some pop and with fewer than
150 K's first.
Rick (Toronto): Hello John, thanks for the
chat. Looks like a fairly weak system, if Nestor Molina remained in
Toronto, where would he rank on their top 10? With Jared Mitchell
striking out at a 40% clip, would you write him off at this point.
On the Molina front, he was, I believe,
No. 18 according to Nathan Rode. Tells you a bit about those two very
different franchises. Miles Jaye didn't even make the Jays' 30, he'd be
11-20 range for me on this White Sox list. I should have listed Jaye in
the earlier question about short-season Sox graduating to Kannapolis;
the White Sox think Jaye might pitch with two plus pitches eventually in
his fastball and slider, so they like him and he's intriguing.
StatMan (Kenosha, WI): Seventh round pick Kevan
Smith, a catcher, tore up Rookie ball after he was drafted. What can
you tell me about his long term prospects and his defense, particularly
his arm strength?
Smith's a former Division I QB (Pitt) and
has athleticism and solid arm strength. His throwing mechanics are
inconsistent but he's in the top 30. With Blanke ahead of him, likely at
Double-A, you could have Phegley at high A and Smith in Kannapolis in
2012, though I also could see Smith moving faster than that.
Dave (Kenosha): Hector Santiago LHP came up to
the Sox last year and really looked good: strike thrower, composed, got
outs, etc. He was returned to AA and didn't get the 9-1 call up? What
are your thoughts on him?
I'll finish here ... I like Santiago and
he came close to the top 10 as well. He struggled going back to the
minors after his initial callup; sometimes I think it's hard for those
guys to see the big leagues and go back down, that's a tough adjustment.
The Sox are trying to figure out his best role, and I think it goes
back to are they contending or not. If they are, then Santiago's best
chance short-term is to help in the bullpen. If not, and if they can
trade Gavin Floyd or dump Peavy's contract, then innings open up for
Santiago and they can see if he can start. I get the feeling talking to
people that they'd like Santiago to get some innings in Birmingham or
Charlotte to start the year and then move accordingly.
Jake (Philly): For those of us eagerly awaiting the Handbook, how many of the Sox top 10 prospects graded "Safe" on the risk factor scale?
I see this news is leaking out; I guess
Jake from Philly is a digital subscriber. I'm very excited about the BA
Grades we're rolling out in this year's book, which includes a Risk
factor as well. I think it will make a great book even stronger. We were
very stingy with handing out Safe grades; I believe there are fewer
than 10 in the entire book. No Sox prospect got a Safe, not even Reed.
But look for JJ Cooper and I to podcast on the grades when the book gets
here to be shipped out and for us also to post a story on the site
explaining the grades (which we also do in the Handbook).
John (Louisville, KY): No Tyler Kuhn in the Top
Ten?? Interesting. I saw that you had him as "Best Hitter for Average"
but that was all?? When do you start rewarding someone who
CONSISTANTLY succeeds at every level he's been at?? Thoughts?
Very quickly, Kuhn looks like a utility
guy at best; he's easy to root for because he does hit and he plays
exceedingly hard. He's in the Top 30 for the Handbook. But he doesn't
have any real big tools other than his ability to make consistent
contact. He's not a guy scouts love but he is getting closer to hitting
his way to the majors.
OK, I've got to run. I hope I pinch-hit in
a satisfactory manner for Phil, though I know I'm leaving some
questions on the board here. Thanks for your time, if you have questions
for Phil, I'm sure he'll take them at @ChiTribRogers and I'll take any
more at @johnmanuelba