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.
Frank (Chicago): Between this year's top 10 and last year's, which has the higher ceiling overall and why? Thanks.
Thanks for the patience. Took us a bit to
get set up. I'll start with an easy one. The White Sox's top 10 is much
improved this year. They've added high ceiling players across the board,
with Hawkins the most apparent. I like Beck a lot too, and Erik Johnson
has shown why he was a high-ceiling pick when he came aboard.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Hi, Phil. Thanks for the chat. Who would you say has better plate discipline between Thompson and Mitchell at this point?
Hey Jaypers. Neither are exactly the
second coming of Dustin Pedroia. I might give Mitchell the edge but he's
got holes in his swing that make him vulnerable, especially against
left-handers. I think Thompson is going to do a better job making
contact when he swings at good pitches.
Sammy (DC): Between Nestor Molina and Simon Castro, who came closer to breaking into your top 10? Thoughts on their seasons?
Hey Sammy. Both of those guys had tough
seasons, and neither was real close to the top 10, but I know the White
Sox are still excited about both of them. I still put Molina a tick
above Castro because he throws so many strikes but Castro has better
stuff. So I'd say Castro has a higher ceiling but Molina has a better
chance to get to Chicago. Not a lot of difference between the two.
Ben (Leland Grove): While we realize you don't contribute to BA's top 100 prospects list, how many of your top 10 do you believe are worthy?
Hey Ben. I know Courtney Hawkins is going
to be a top 100 and I'll be surprised if Carlos Sanchez isn't. He might
not been seen as a high-ceiling guy but he has been such a good hitter
the last year and a half that I don't know how he isn't included. That's
probably it although Erik Johnson or Chris Beck could jump onto it next
year. So could Keon Barnum.
Ty (Morristown NJ): Your opinions of Brandon Brennan?
Very interesting guy. He did not miss the
top 10 by a whole lot. His fastball was 91-93 in the Pioneer League.
Beck has a better changeup than any of Brennan's secondary stuff, which
gives him an edge now, but I know Curt Hasler and other White Sox
coaches were very happy with Brennan and Beck after Instructional
League. Interesting guy to watch next year.
Grant (NYC): What did scouts have to say about Tyler Saladino's year and his overall game?
Hey Grant. Lots of questions about what
happened to Saladino's bat. He seemed ready for a big leap forward and
instead went backward a little. I don't know if many people project him
as a possible regular at this point but his versatility gives him a
chance to be a utility guy. Carlos Sanchez flew by him, and I'm not sure
Saladino knew how to handle that.
Paul (Tampa FL): I noticed none of the pitchers in the top 10 made your 2016 lineup card. Could you elaborate on this for us? Thanks, Phil.
Thanks for the question, Paul. I just did
some research and you're right. I can say that I had Erik Johnson and
Andre Rienzo on my list when I sent it in but Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy
were added in. Seems highly unlikely those guys will be around — Floyd
especially — but BA's guideline is that you can't drop a guy off
because of upcoming free agency. Makes it a weird list to put together.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Did Jake Petricka's stock take a fall for you? Is he still in your top 30, and could he be a Major leaguer someday?
Hey Jaypers. I'll go with yes, yes, and
yes. But I feel the shakiest about the third yes. His stock tumbled, in
part because he had didn't do the greatest job handling a lack of
success, but he was clearly still a top 30 guy and there's no reason he
can't bounce back to get on course. It was a disappointing year for him
but not the end of the road, by any means.
southside cliffy (chicago,il): Do the Sox have
any 3rd base prospects? I can't get excited about Sanchez or Ravelo due
to a complete lack of power. Anyone at all?
Hey Cliffy. I saw Sanchez at the Futures
Game and he sure looks like a middle infielder. I have my fingers
crossed that Salt River Rafters make the AFL championship game so we can
all watch him on the MLB Network. He's a little guy. But if you get
power elsewhere, you could fit him into third base. I do think he winds
up at shortstop or second. The only other guy is Juan Silverio. He's
been around forever but is still young. He's a top 30, for me.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the pitchers moving from Bristol to Kannapolis, which impress you the most?
Absolutely, Karl. I'm told his changeup
was very good in Instructional League. He has also smoothed out his
delivery. He's a guy that could take a big leap next year.
The Office Manager (Lumberyards): Will the
promotion of Rick Hahn to GM and Kenny Williams to EVP effect draft and
player development? Or is this not really a responsibility change and
only a title change?
Hey OM. It's open for interpretation but I
do believe that Rick Hahn has taken over and that KW will be in a
secondary, advisory capacity. If that's the case, I think it's a huge
step forward for player development. I do not think Rick will be as
quick to trade young guys and he will support his scouts better, in my
opinion. I thought it was a very good sign that Rick said last week he
is hiring five or six scouts immediately, with at least four in Latin
America. KW improved the situation in his last year as GM but it seemed
very odd to me that he ignored the foundation while constantly throwing
money at big-league free agents and veterans. He was not a builder. I
think Rick will be.
Grant (NYC): Is C Kevan Smith a viable prospect to you, and how do his defensive skills rate?
Smith is a good athlete but people I talk
to wonder about his quickness behind the plate. He has an average arm.
He will probably sink or swim with his bat but he could improve. Not
sure anyone would see him with the ceiling of a big-league starter,
though. The guy the Sox have who could do that is Sammy Ayala, from the
Dave (Atlanta): Do you think Deunte Heath will be in the White Sox' bullpen next season? Why did he not get more of a shot in 2012?
I would expect Heath to get a chance,
assuming he stays on the 40-man. He'd be Rule 5 material if he was
dropped off. I think when Brian Omogrosso pitched well it kind of filled
the need that Heath would have been given a shot to fill. I know some
guys with the White Sox still like him a lot. So do Baseball America
types. His age works against him on these lists, as it does Omogrosso
and Donnie Veal.
Not Jaypers (Wisconsin): Phil, is the ETA on Trayce Thompson late 2013, or more llikely 2014?
I'll say late 2013. His defense in center is an edge and his power means he could get a shot if a regular goes down.
The Office Manager (Lumberyards): What players in the top ten do you think could make significant contributions to the fighting Ventura's in 2013?
Carlos Sanchez, for sure. I think he's a
very good fit as the White Sox look for higher on-base guys with more
speed. The question is whether to sort of force fit him at third base or
listen to trades for Alexei Ramirez and/or Gordon Beckham. I think
either of those guys could be moved to open a spot for Sanchez. His
showing at Double-A down the stretch and in the Fall League has guys in
the Sox system convinced he is just about ready, if not completely
ready. I'm intrigued. Beyond him, I think Rienzo could be a guy at some
point. Thompson only in a pinch and I think Mitchell is further away
Patrick (Sandpoint, Idaho): The Sox system has
been notoriously weak in recent years. What are the MLB projections
for Trayce Thompson? If he's #2 in this system, then he's #? in an
Hey Patrick. Thompson just barely made No.
2 on my list. I easily could have gone Carlos Sanchez above him. But
the speed-power combination gives Thompson a higher ceiling. The
strikeouts are a big problem, which is why the basic MLB projection on
his is as the dreaded second-division regular. He has improved a little
bit every year, though, and has a good work ethic. He could play his way
into a long big-league career. He has really developed nicely and still
has a ways to grow. He might benefit a lot from repeating a level again
at some point, like he did Kannapolis in 2010-11.
Jean-Yves Hebert (Montreal): Carlos Sanchez is
listed as a future 3B here....is that just BA fitting in the pieces or
do you expect some real pop out of his bat? How does his power and bat
He doesn't fit the eye as a third baseman
but he drives the ball. It jumps off his bat. He could be like Chone
Figgins when he was a contributor as a third baseman. But I think
everyone believes he'd have more impact in the middle infield, if there
was someone else to play third.
Jon (Peoria): Hi Phil: I know that we need to
take the future lineups with a grain of salt. With that said, is there
anyway that Carlos Sanchez can come close to profiling there in the
I'm gonna take one more on this one
because I think it's an interesting topic. Why couldn't you have a high
OBP, speed guy as the third basemen? You've got to get power elsewhere,
obviously, but I think he could contribute as a third baseman. I'm not
sure that's the best thing to do to him, however, because he might be an
All-Star if he hits .300 in the middle infield.
Greg (Ohio): Why do the Sox seem to like these reclamation project college pitchers like erik johnson, snodgress, and now chris beck?
Hey Greg. I think it's trying to get top
value for a pick out of the top 25 or so, where the studs go. The Beck
pick this year illustrates it. The White Sox had very good reports on
Florida lefty Paco Rodriguez, who wound up pitching for the Dodgers down
the stretch, but they took Beck over him because Beck has a higher
ceiling. Lots of teams like these type of guys.
Bob (Santa Monica, CA): Phil,
With Kenny Williams at least theoretically Rick Hahn's boss, do you
expect a material change in the Sox's treatment of it's minor league
system (at least below first rounders) as mainly a vehicle for trading
You have properly criticized trades like those of Gio Gonzales, Dan
Hudson, and some of the other top young talent in the organization.
What reason is there to think the Hahn era will be any different?
Hey Bob. I think the transition of the
White Sox is interesting. None of us know how this will play out. But I
don't think Rick is as impatient and impulsive as Kenny could be. I know
Rick will talk to his scouts more and really listen when he does talk
to them. Rick, in my opinion, really held the organization together
after 2005 as Kenny just wanted to go for the jugular every year. Rick
and Buddy Bell are really key guys for player development. Rick is going
to trust Buddy a lot. But Rick has told me he's going to consider the
same kind of tomorrow-for-today trades that I think helped sink Kenny.
But to be clear, my feelings about the White Sox under Kenny weren't
just trades. I think he paid lip service to the idea of building and
somehow survived by spending a ton of Jerry Reinsdorf's money. I'm not
sure that was real good management. He inherited a very strong farm
system and didn't leave his successor his fair share in the cupboard.
Steve (Los Angeles): Phil,
How high do you expect Marcus Semien to go in the Top 30? Do you see
either he or Tyler Saladino succeeding Alexei if/when Alexei gets too
expensive to keep?
Thanks for the time you put into this each year. For many of us, it's a
highlight of the winter!
Hey Steve. Thanks for the kind words. It's
fun for me to do (but I'd suggest skiing if this is really a
highlight). Semien should slot into the top 30 around 20, and would go
higher if the White Sox had editorial control. Their organization is
higher on him than the broad view. I'm not sure he's an everyday
shortstop but he could become one. He has a big platoon difference as a
hitter, pounding left-handed pitchers, so I think he could be a useful
guy if he develops a little more versatility, even if he isn't a
regular. I think Carlos Sanchez is the guy who takes over at shortstop
(unless he becomes the regular second baseman and Alexei stays).
Paul (Chicago): Phil, thanks for the chat. How
close was Beck for the 10th spot on the list? I have read some
skeptical comments about him wondering if this is as much a reflection
of CHISOX depth as a reflection of his potential.
Hey Paul. I pushed for Beck in the top 10
so I'm glad he stayed. He definitely has the ceiling to be here but is a
project. I doubt there are a lot of other systems where he would have
been top 10 but I do think this is a better top 10 than it was a year
@SoxNerd (HomeOfficeUSA): Who is closer to being big league-ready: Shirek or Leesman?
Leesman for sure. Assuming he recovers
well from the knee surgery he had after getting injured in the
International League championship game, he could get to Chicago in a
hurry. The surgery could hamper him in the spring, however, forcing him
to wait until mid-season or so to again become a big-league
consideration. But he's on the threshold. Shirek popped onto the radar
with a jump in velocity last year. He could sneak into the picture as a
bullpen arm, maybe, but I think Leesman is still a safer bet.
JD (AZ): Phil, Sox went overslot for power
hitting catcher Sammy Ayala and he struggled a bit offensively.
Wondering what you have heard about him and whether he will find his way
onto the top 30.
Yeah, how about that? The new CBA allowed
the White Sox to take some more guys like Ayala — over slot types —
and I think he's a decent gamble. He seemed headed for college but they
got him and are thrilled that they did. He may be over his skis a little
at the start of 2013 — most young catchers are — but he's ultra
athletic and is expected to catch on quickly. Some people think he may
have to move to another position eventually but good left-handed hitters
behind the plate are awfully valuable. He's going to be in the top 20
this year and could be a real consideration for the organization's top
10 next time around. Good name.
Joe (Riverside, Ca): It appears like the Sox
have a well balanced group of young players. With the recent drafts of
Marcus Semien and Joey Demichele up the middle, is this something we
should be excited about and is there reason to think the Sox are finally
The White Sox have definitely reversed
their slide in player development. DeMichele is an interesting hitter,
for sure. He could be a high OBP guy and maybe a double-figure home run
guy but the question is about his defense, and whether he can stay at
second base. The Sox were encouraged after Instructional League.
Larry (Chicago): What's the status of Rangel
Ravelo? He left Kannapolis in early July, rumored to be related to a
family emergency, and he never returned.
Good question. He did disappear and is currently on the restricted list. The White Sox expect him back next spring.
John (Portland): What is Keon Barnum's ceiling?
You said that you have heard comparisons to Ryan Howard, do you belief
that is a reasonable comparison?
Here's a viewpoint: If Barnum does have
Howard's ceiling, will the White Sox have the patience to let him get to
the big leagues? Howard took forever to develop, and the Sox haven't
done that with many guys. He does draw those type of comparisons,
although it's probably not fair to him. I can't wait to see what he does
in a full season.
Bob (Santa Monica, CA): Nestor Molina and Simon
Castro were supposed to coups for Kenny Williams, the next two starters
to crack our rotation. They've both been underwhelming, to say the
least, in their first years in the Sox organization. What happened?
Neither was 100 percent last year, but I'm
not sure you ever read where I called them coups. Here's a funny thing
about the Molina trade. I wrote this in the Chicago Tribune at the time
but I'm not sure it got a lot of play. Williams said that Molina was
pitching well in winter ball — RIGHT NOW! — when he announced the
trade, and the Sox distributed Molina's winter ball stats, to back up
what a good prospect he was. The trouble was that the Blue Jays wouldn't
let him go to winter ball last season, and the winter ball performance
they were trumpeting was from 12 months earlier. I think Kenny had his
facts wrong when he made the trade. He has said he misspoke, but I think
he might have been covering himself.
chisoxer (St. Charles, IL): Hi Phil,
Was the performance by Carlos Sanchez after being promoted to AA just a
late season blip or another sign that he is coming very fast? May the
Sox consider him for a Major League utility role in 2013?
Based on how Sanchez has hit this winter, I
wouldn't call it a blip (although .370 is going to be tough to repeat).
I've seen balls jump off his bat. He's a better hitter than a utility
guy. He might be a .300-plus hitter in the big leagues, and those guys
play every day. Everyone who sees Sanchez likes him as a player, but
it's not clear where the Sox are going to play him. That will be one of
the most interesting questions they face next spring and in the months
leading to it.
@SoxNerd (North of the oorder): Which of the farm system's catchers are closest to contributing?
Josh Phegley will be in the big leagues in
2013 after winning a Minor League Gold Glove last year. He could back
up Tyler Flowers if the Sox don't go get a catcher or re-sign A.J.P. The
question with Phegley is whether he'll be overmatched at the plate.
greg (ohio): is it just me or does Andre Rienzo look like Joey Votto's long lost twin brother?
Hmmmm. I'll have to consider that one. I
do agree with an old friend of mine who said that his name songs like
that of an opera singer. So when I refer to him now, I call him the
Paul (Illinois): Thompson's fall league manager
compared him to Stanton, but with the ability to play a excellent
centerfield. Could a Matt kemp type player be in the future if he cuts
down the k's like he did in AA?
He's an intriguing player but Matt Kemp?
I'm not even sure Justin Upton can be Matt Kemp, at this point. What if
Thompson could be Chris Young, with fewer strikeouts? That would be a
very good center fielder.
Noel (Portland, OR): Is it safe to assume Hawkins is the only one on the list who makes BA's top 100?
BA hasn't been high on White Sox players
lately, for sure. But I think Sanchez might be able to hit his way into
the top 100. Last time I bugged Jim Callis he said he hadn't yet
submitted his list. It will be interesting to see.
@SoxNerd (Wisconsin): What are the realistic chances of Carlos Sanchez starting at third base for the 2013 White Sox?
Very. The tight payroll and his recent
surge suggests he's a guy you could look at somewhere in the infield,
and third is where the opening is.
Bob (Los Angeles): Phil,
It's obviously too early to judge the 2012 draft, but other than the top
couple picks, none of the picks in the first 8 rounds (and very few in
the entire draft) performed well in their first professional seasons.
And only two of the 2011 draft picks are in your Top 10. I know he has
only been in charge for 4 drafts, but, with the Sox's minor league
system still generally panned (including by BA), is Doug Laumann secure
in his position with Rick Hahn now in charge?
I'd have to say that Doug is secure, as I
haven't heard anything to suggest otherwise. Until 2012, the White Sox
scouts had their hands tied by the organizations' unwillingness to spend
in the draft — they were No. 30! I think you are right to wonder how
much things will change with a new GM but Rick worked closely with KW,
so I wouldn't expect much visible change.
Rick (Boston): I love Courtney Hawkins. If he were to reach his ceiling what type numbers would you project for him?
Well, I'm no Nate Silver, but how about
.285/.360/.460? That would be a good big-league over-under for him five
years into his career, and you could find people to take the over. He
looks very good at this point.
D'arcy (Cincy): Thompson sounds quite
intriguing. If the hit tool doesn't improve, what's his most likely
scenario, still a solid regular with power/speed, or more likely
If he fulfills the defensive projections
in center he could stick as a big-league regular without huge contact.
Devon White, maybe? Drew Stubbs?
Aaron (West Palm Beach): Under Kenny Williams,
there was a preference to trade even their top prospects for players who
might be able to improve the team, like Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, etc,
unless they could help the team immediately like (Addison) Reed.
Will this change under Rick Hahn, and also, are there any current minor
leaguers who the White Sox confidently project onto their future roster?
Covering old ground and I'll probably skip
questions on both topics from now on but yes, I am pretty sure this
will change. The White Sox will build more patiently and be less likely
to trade Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson (oof!) with Rick in charge.
Sanchez is the guy who projects most confidently onto the 2013 White Sox
southside cliffy (chicago,il): KW had a real
love for footballers who played baseball. Do you think Rick Hahn will
go away from this? It hasn't really worked out all that well. Thanks!
Back-handed answer: Did you see James
Casey playing for the Texans last night? He was the guy closest on the
play that was incorrectly blown dead. Good player for the Texans, and
former White Sox minor-league pitcher. Seventh round from a Texas high
school and released after three years in rookie balls. Great kid who
pitched independent ball with Luke Hochevar and then tried football at
@SoxNerd (Wisconsin): I heard reports of Jeff Soptic consistently hitting 100 mph at Kannapolis. What are his long term prospects?
He can hit triple-digits. He threw more
strikes last year than the year before, when he was drafted, and that
along with his secondary pitches will determine his development. I'm
told they're going to continue starting him but you'd figure he will get
to the bullpen — maybe sooner rather than later — if he throws
high-90s strikes. Could be a guy like one of the many the Royals have in
chisoxer (St. Charles, IL): Phil, what can you tell us about guys who just missed your top 10?
One guy we haven't said a word about is
Andy Wilkins, who has had a good Fall League. He has showed power at
every level he's played and could be in line for consideration if Paul
Konerko really does retire after 2013. He's not the kind of tools guys
scouts rave about but he's a productive hitter. We might look back one
year and wonder why he wasn't a bigger prospect.
@SoxNerd (The Planet LoveTron): Is Joe DeMichele 2012speak for Chris Getz?
Nice call. Getz's name does come up with
DeMichele. In the top 30 capsule I put together I used another
comparison — Adam Kennedy.
@SoxNerd (Strawberry Fields): Speaking of football players, what is the book on Mitch Mustain? Also, thanks for doing this chat. Appreciate it!
Mustain had sort of a rough transition
getting back to baseball. Seems like White Sox coaches are working to
get him to trust himself and think of himself as a pitcher rather than
just trying to overpower hitters. He got a taste of baseball this year
and will get the real test next year.
I guess that's going to wrap it up here.
Thanks to everyone who asked questions. I really do enjoy doing this.
It's fun to see guys starting out and imagine where they're going to
wind up. One last thing: If you have the MLB Network, set the DVR for
the AFL championship game this weekend. Looks like the Rafters are going
to be there. Adios.