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The White Sox didn't need Hawkins to do a backflip to show off his athleticism, but he did one anyway for the MLB Network after the Sox took him with 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He's a Texan with the speed and strength to be a football star, but he chose baseball and quickly became a standout. He has been a favorite of scouts since helping Carroll High of Corpus Christi win the Texas 5-A title as a sophomore in 2010, when he earned MVP honors in the clincher as a starting pitcher. The White Sox got to know Hawkins in the summer of 2011 during the Double Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field, an event honoring the history of Negro League baseball in Chicago. Hawkins helped Carroll get back to the 5-A final as a senior before signing for $2.475 million, the third-highest draft bonus in franchise history. He played well at three levels of pro ball, finishing the season at high Class A Winston-Salem and homering twice in the Carolina League playoffs. Hawkins has the kind of talent Chicago's system has lacked over the last decade, and the club might not have risked drafting him if not for the new restrictions on bonus spending, which White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf helped push through. Chicago hadn't taken a high school player in the first round since Kris Honel in 2001. Hawkins has tremendous bat speed, strength and leverage, which combine to give him well above-average power. As a 16-year-old, he launched a monster shot into the upper deck at Round Rock's Dell Diamond in the 2010 state playoffs. Though the White Sox pushed him aggressively in his pro debut, he homered 10 times in 66 games, counting the postseason. Hawkins' swing can get long, which contributes to his tendency to strike out a lot. He could improve as a hitter if he cut down on the effort in his swing, as his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time. He needs to do a better job recognizing pitches, an area he focused on during instructional league. Chicago is confident that he'll be able to make those adjustments. Hawkins has solid speed and currently runs well enough to play center field, though he may lose a half-step as he continues to mature physically, which would push him to an outfield corner. He won't be a significant basestealer but runs the bases well. His fastball sat in the low 90s as a pitcher and that arm strength is a major asset in the outfield. He's a hard worker who made a quick transition to pro ball. Hawkins has the potential to become the best all-around outfielder the White Sox have produced since they drafted Mike Cameron in the 18th round of the 1991 draft, in part because he has shown the ability to grasp the subtleties of the game. Hawkins has the makings of a middle-of-the-order hitter and solid right fielder, with an outside chance of staying in center. He'll probably return to Winston-Salem to begin his first full pro season. It will be interesting to see whether an organization starved for homegrown impact players will allow him a full season at each minor league level or shortcut his development to write him into the picture in 2015, an option year in Alex Rios' contract.
A rare above-slot signing for the White Sox, Thompson got $625,000 as a second-round pick in 2009. After repeating low Class A in 2011, he took off in 2012, leading the Carolina League in homers (22), extra-base hits (55) and RBIs (90) and reaching Triple-A Charlotte. He's the son of former NBA No. 1 overall pick Mychal Thompson and the brother of NBA players Klay and Mychel Thompson. Thompson is making his family's athletic ability translate to baseball. He offers a combination of power and speed along with the ability to play center field at a high level. He has worked hard to shorten a long, uppercut swing and use the entire field. He still strikes out too much, in large part because he gets fooled on a lot of breaking pitches. He used his solid speed to steal a career-high 21 bases in 2012 and improved his reads and jumps in center field. He has solid arm strength. Farm director Nick Capra says Thompson has a chance to be a superstar, but he also has to continue to get better. The key will be making more consistent contact after fanning 338 times in the last two seasons. He'll be tested in Double-A Birmingham in 2013 and could receive big league consideration the following year.
While the White Sox were falling behind internationally, Venezuelan scout Amador Arias still found infielder Eduardo Escobar (since traded to the Twins for Francisco Liriano) and Sanchez. The latter won the Carolina League batting title (.315) in 2012, then hit .370 in Double-A. He has played all over the infield, including an appearance at third base in the 2012 Futures Game, and first stood out with his glove in pro ball. In 2011, Kannapolis manager Tommy Thompson said Sanchez was as good defensively as any second baseman he had ever seen. He has enough arm to play on the left side of the infield and the Sox haven't ruled him out as a shortstop. He has quick hands that are good on the double-play pivot and a quick first step. Offensively, Sanchez features a short swing and good bat speed, hitting line drives all over the park from both sides of the plate. Smaller than his listed size, he offers little power and needs to walk more often. He has average speed and runs the bases aggressively. While Alexei Ramirez (2015) and Gordon Beckham (2016) are under White Sox control for several years, Sanchez could make one of them trade bait. A potential Gold Glover, he could play as a 20-year-old shortstop in Triple-A in 2013 before making a push for the big leagues before season's end.
White Sox coaches were thrilled when Johnson arrived at their Arizona complex in 2011, with one saying, "This is what we're looking for." After he recovered from shoulder fatigue in spring training that delayed his 2012 debut until June, Johnson posted a 2.53 ERA in 17 regular season starts and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs. He uses his strong build to throw a low-90s fastball that peaks at 96. His slider is a potential plus pitch with depth and bite, and his curveball is nearly as good. He's still learning to add and subtract from his changeup, which lags behind his other pitches. He worked on his changeup during instructional league, with club officials encouraged by the results. Johnson has refined his mechanics since signing, which paid off with extra velocity and improved control late in the 2012 season. He still needs to prove he can hold up over the course of a full season. White Sox scouts compare him to Curt Schilling, though realistically Johnson's ceiling is more as a No. 3 starter. He could open 2013 in Double-A and compete for a big league rotation spot in 2014.
A star defensive back in high school, Walker drew football interest from Boise State and some Pacific-12 Conference programs. He chose to play baseball at Central Arizona JC, where he led national juco players with 70 steals and became Chicago's top pick (supplemental first round) in 2011. Signed for $795,000, he topped the system with 56 swipes in his first full pro season. He missed a month with two disabled-list stints in the second half after sustaining nagging knee and shoulder injuries during baserunning mishaps. Walker's plus-plus speed allows him to run wild on the bases and cover a lot of ground in center field. He likes to play shallow and has a solid arm. His quickness also allows him to collect infield hits, and his ability to draw walks gives him strong on-base skills. However, Walker strikes out too much from both sides of the plate. The White Sox have worked with him on widening his stance and improving his pitch recognition. He doesn't have much power from either side but is a little more dangerous as a lefty. Walker struggled when he got to high Class A in mid-July, so he'll probably return to Winston-Salem to begin 2013. He'll need time to develop and may not be ready for the majors until the end of 2015.
Snodgress never put the pieces together at Stanford, going 4-7, 5.47 in three seasons. Nevertheless, the White Sox loved his size and arm strength enough to draft him in the fifth round in 2011, and he has had much more consistent success as a pro. He finished his first full pro season with eight strong starts in high Class A. Snodgress has improved his delivery and experienced a jump in velocity since signing, now operating at 91-93 mph and hitting 95 with his fastball. His curveball and his changeup also have gotten better, though the latter needs more work. He no longer telegraphs his changeup by slowing his arm speed, but he still doesn't throw it for strikes consistently. Snodgress' overall command and composure are two more areas where he has made strides as a pro. He has natural deception in his delivery, which allows him to be effective against righties as well as lefties. Snodgress should get to Double-A at some point in 2013. He still needs to throw more strikes, but if he continues to make strides toward mastering a three-pitch mix, he could develop into a No. 3 starter. At worst, he should have late-inning value as a lefthanded reliever.
Left off Chicago's 40-man roster following a disappointing 2011 season, Rienzo didn't endear himself to the club when he got hit with a 50-game suspension in April for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Once he returned, he pitched well in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. Brazil tabbed him to pitch for its World Baseball Classic team, and he could be the first pitcher from his nation to reach the majors. Rienzo's fastball usually sits it the low 90s and touches 95 mph, running in on lefthanders. Improved secondary pitches helped him hold opponents to a .206 average in 2012. He throws his overhand curveball in the upper 70s, getting swings and misses. He has started to use his low-80s cutter more often, and it too has been effective. Rienzo hasn't added much size or strength since signing, and his ultra-thin build doesn't fit the profile of a big league starter. Neither does his lack of command or an effective changeup. Rienzo is knocking on the door of the big leagues. His work in Triple-A in 2013 will determine whether he arrives as a starter or reliever. His most realistic ceiling is as a set-up man, but he also could be a No. 4 starter.
The White Sox haven't developed many power hitters in recent years, so they looked to change that by taking Courtney Hawkins with their first pick and Barnum with their second in the 2012 draft. Signed for $950,000, he has drawn comparisons to Ryan Howard and Fred McGriff. Barnum homered three times in his first five professional games, but then missed six weeks with a shoulder injury and wasn't the same after he returned to the field. Barnum has more raw power than Hawkins, using his long arms to hit balls hard and with enviable loft. He can crush all but the best fastballs and has the strength to get hits even when he's jammed. But a lot of scouts consider him a one-trick pony. Barnum struggles to control his oversized strike zone, easily gets fooled by breaking balls and can look clueless by chasing bad pitches. Chicago wants to shorten his swing, which can get loopy at times. He has fringy speed and solid arm strength. His defense at first base needs work, and he may be able to give left field a try. Barnum likely will open his first full pro season at low Class A Kannapolis. His plus-plus raw power could play well at U.S. Cellular Field, but he could need 2,000 pro at-bats before he's polished enough to be ready to play there.
Mitchell was an electrifying athlete who won national championships in baseball and football (as a wide receiver) at Louisiana State. The 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft, he signed for $1.2 million and immediately ranked as the organization's top prospect. But he hasn't been quite the same player since he crashed into an outfield fence in spring training in 2010, tearing tendons in his left ankle that resulted in him missing the entire season. Mitchell has a quick bat, the willingness to work counts and solid speed, so he should be able to hit for average. But he's patient to a fault, often falling behind in the count and struggling when he does so. He has struck out 362 times in his two full pro seasons. He has a lot of holes in his long swing and is especially ineffective against lefthanders. He has average raw power. Mitchell is still aggressive on the bases, though he's no longer the plus-plus runner he was before his injury. He was less tentative in center field in 2012 than he was the year before. He's a solid defender with an average arm. Unless he can make some major adjustments at the plate, Mitchell may not be more than a platoon player in the big leagues. He's ticketed for a full year in Triple-A in 2013.
After a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, Beck projected as a top 10 overall selection for the 2012 draft. But his stock dropped as he lost his arm slot and much of his command during the spring, and the White Sox signed him for $600,000 as the No. 76 choice. Their pick came down to him and Paco Rodriguez, who went at No. 82 and reached the big leagues in September with the Dodgers. When he's right, Beck has a classic pitcher's frame and the stuff to go with it. He worked at 91-94 mph and touched 96 in 2011, though he operated at 89-93 throughout 2012. His mid-80s slider/cutter is filthy at times albeit inconsistent, and his changeup shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. Chicago believes Beck's problems stemmed from being overweight and lowering his release point. He has to work to keep his mechanics and command in order. He seemed to find a better arm slot working with White Sox coaches but needs innings to refine the changes. Beck will open his first full pro season in low Class A. He'll advance quickly if he stays in shape and develops more consistency, with the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if it all comes together.
While the White Sox used 12 rookie pitchers in 2012, Leesman spent a full season in Triple-A as one of the International League's top starters. He might have been Chicago's 13th rookie pitcher if he hadn't torn up his left knee while covering first base during the IL playoffs, an injury that required surgery and will put him behind to start 2013. He finished second in the IL with a 2.47 ERA while improving his control and command from the previous season. Leesman has reached double digits in victories in each of his four full pro seasons since signing for $50,000. He has succeeded by mixing four pitches, including a changeup that's a plus offering at times, but his 86-89 mph fastball is a caution sign for scouts. His fastball has late life and sink, and hitters don't barrel it consistently despite its lack of velocity. He also throws a curveball and cutter, though neither is a swing-and-miss pitch. When Leesman misses with his pitches, he tends to miss down, as he has surrendered just 23 homers in 603 pro innings. He doesn't profile as more than a No. 4 or 5 starter, but he's ready for the opportunity to show whether he can hold down that role with the White Sox.
Scouts have mixed opinions on Wilkins, as some see him as a rising prospect and others think he's just a good organization player. Big and strong, he has slugged 40 homers in his two full pro seasons, but his batting average plunged to .239 last season in Double-A. Birmingham is a tough place to hit for power, and at times he seemed to overswing and become pull-conscious. Wilkins has a bat wrap that alarms scouts, though he has the bat speed to still drive balls out of the park. He has been more productive against righthanders (.785 OPS in 2012) than against lefties (.687 OPS), so he might not be more than a platoon player. He has worked hard to do a better job of staying on the ball against southpaws, and he did hit them well in the Arizona Fall League. Wilkins is adequate at first base but looked awkward when the White Sox tried him at third in 2010. He had enough arm strength for the hot corner but not much range. He's a below-average runner who's aggressive on the bases. Wilkins moves to Triple-A and a hitter's park in 2013, with Paul Konerko in the last year of his contract. If Konerko retires, as he has hinted he might, Wilkins appears first in line to replace him.
A year after the White Sox essentially traded former manager Ozzie Guillen to the Marlins for Marinez and Osvaldo Martinez, Miami had fired Guillen and Chicago had sold Martinez to the Dodgers. Marinez, however, is still in the system and on the verge of making big league contributions. He threw more strikes after working on his mechanics with Triple-A pitching coach Rich Dotson, finished the season as Charlotte's closer and demonstrated his improvement nicely in a perfect inning against the Rays on Sept. 9. Marinez's stuff got him to the big leagues as a 21-year-old with the Marlins, but he never has developed command to go along with his live arm. He may be on the verge of doing that after cutting his walk ratio from 6.5 per nine innings in 2011 to 4.3 last year. The White Sox believe his low three-quarters arm slot works for his two-pitch arsenal--a 93-98 mph fastball with late life and an 83-87 mph slider--but he battles a tendency to get under his pitches, leaving them up in the strike zone. He did a better job of staying on top of his offerings under Dotson's tutelage. Marinez will compete for a bullpen job in spring training and could make a veteran like Jesse Crain expendable, helping new GM Rick Hahn out of a payroll squeeze. Marinez profiles as a seventh- or eighth-inning arm in the big leagues but is still young enough that he could evolve into a closer down the road.
The son of former California wide receiver Eric Semien, Marcus was a three-sport standout in high school who followed his father's footsteps to Berkeley, where he focused on baseball. The White Sox drafted him in the 34th round out of high school but didn't land him until 2011, when they took him in the sixth round and gave him a $130,000 bonus. He was more highly regarded as a fielder than a hitter in college, but Chicago projected he would make major strides at the plate as a pro--and he did in his first full season. Semien shook off shoulder tendinitis in the first half to bat .290/.392/.514 after the all-star break. He opened his stance slightly last year, allowing him to barrel more pitches. Some scouts are still skeptical about his bat, questioning his strength and whether he'll get on base enough to bat anywhere but the bottom of a lineup. Semien has average speed but isn't a basestealing threat. He has solid arm strength and reliable hands, though his range is average and may push him to second base down the road. How Semien performs in Double-A in 2013 will shed light as to whether he eventually can become a big league regular or will top out as a utility type.
The Padres have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, and Tekotte found himself a victim of a numbers crunch after the worst season of his career. San Diego needed 40-man roster space and designated him for assignment in November, and the White Sox picked him up in a trade for journeyman righthander Brandon Kloess. Tekotte got knocked off course in 2012 by recurring hamstring problems and an unsuccessful attempt to change his swing to fare better against lefthanders. His plate discipline fell apart and he got away from his strength, which is to get on base and use his plus speed. He has a quick bat and close to average power, though he gets too pull-conscious at times. He's a legitimate basestealer who's aggressive on the basepaths. Tekotte is a good athlete and solid center-field defender, with his only real weakness a below-average arm. Tekotte probably will start 2013 in Triple-A, but he could win a reserve role on the big league club during spring training. He could benefit if the White Sox decide to move Dayan Viciedo to third base.
One of the system's top pitching prospects entering last season, Petricka was his own worst enemy at times and got hammered at two levels. He still has a high ceiling, but he won't reach it or have success against more advanced hitters until he can develop a reliable breaking ball and command his pitches. Originally drafted by the White Sox as a 38th-rounder out of a Minnesota high school in 2006, Petricka played in college at Iowa Western CC and Indiana State. He also had Tommy John surgery before signing with Chicago as a second-rounder in 2010. Petricka has a big-boy fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and has reached 100 mph, though he also pitched in the low 90s at times in 2012. His changeup shows the making of becoming a solid pitch, but he's handicapped by an inconsistent curveball. Even when his stuff is on, he doesn't always locate it effectively, and he needs to learn to deal with failure better. If there was a positive to Petricka's 2012 season, it was that he held up for 29 starts after missing time the previous year with back issues. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2013, and he could be headed for the bullpen if he doesn't deliver better results.
Give Omogrosso credit for never giving up on himself, and the White Sox kudos for not writing him off. He survived Tommy John surgery at Indiana State and a torn labrum in 2009 to reach the big leagues in his seventh pro season. He looked comfortable enough that manager Robin Ventura gave him big innings in a playoff race. Omogrosso has one of the highest leg kicks in baseball and comes at hitters like a modern-day Sam McDowell. His fastball sits at 93-95 mph and hits 97. He backs it up with a hard slider in the low 80s and an occasional curve. After showing better control and command than ever in Triple-A last year, Omogrosso wasn't as accurate in Chicago yet still was effective. His peak value is probably as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever, and he could slot into Jesse Crain's role if the White Sox find a taker for Crain's salary.
Phegley won a Rawlings minor league Gold Glove in 2012 after leading International League catchers with a .996 fielding percentage and ranking second by throwing out 46 percent of basestealers. He has caught 48 percent of basestealers during his pro career, thanks to his solid arm strength. Despite his Gold Glove, he's not a particularly advanced receiver. He has committed 32 passed balls in 195 games during the last two seasons and is somewhat stiff behind the plate. Phegley is still raw at the plate as well. He makes contact but lacks patience, and he also doesn't have the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He can drive mistakes and has power, but his consistently low on-base percentages relegate him to the bottom of the order. He's a well below-average runner. Phegley's throwing ability earned him a spot on Chicago's 40-man roster in November and could put him into the mix for a big league job in 2013 if the White Sox don't re-sign A.J. Pierzynski. He isn't likely to be more than a backup in the long term unless he finds a way to become more productive at the plate.
Part of loaded Connecticut teams that featured top prospects Matt Barnes (now with the Red Sox), Mike Olt (Rangers) and George Springer (Astros), Vance saved games as a closer and sometimes won them with his bat. He slid to the 19th round in 2011 after losing fastball velocity that spring, but his stock has surged since he signed for $40,000 and focused on pitching full-time. He had middling success as a starter in the first two months of last season before posting a 1.66 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 60 innings after moving to the bullpen. Vance's fastball continues to fluctuate. He'll work in the low 90s at times and the upper 80s at others, but he piles up outs because he generates weak contact thanks to his solid curveball. He also has a fringy changeup that he didn't use often as a reliever. Vance pitches with a lot of poise, digging in and throwing strikes when he's in trouble. If he can find more consistent fastball velocity and build on his success when he gets to Double-A in 2013, he could put himself in position for big league consideration before the season is over.
Castro ranked as one of the top prospects in the Padres system, leading the low Class A Midwest League in strikeouts (157) in 2009 and skipping a level and ranking second in the Double-A Texas League in ERA (2.92) in 2010. But his career took a downturn after he gave up two runs in the first inning of the 2010 Futures Game, and San Diego packaged him with Pedro Hernandez in a trade for Carlos Quentin in December 2011. Castro still has a low-90s fastball that can touch 95, but he's having trouble rounding out his repertoire. His low-80s slider has regressed and lost bite, his changeup is average at times and he flashes a splitter that might play well in the bullpen. He has significant issues repeating his delivery, costing him velocity and command. He spent time on the disabled list in the second half of 2012 with what the White Sox called general soreness before finishing the season on a tight pitch count. Chicago is tempted to make him a reliever but probably will give him one more chance as a starter when he returns to Triple-A this year.
A high-ceiling arm acquired from the Braves in a package that also included Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge and third-base prospect Jon Gilmore for Javier Vazquez in December 2008, Rodriguez has progressed slowly. The White Sox have remained patient and protected him on their 40-man roster in November because he has a live arm and has made strides smoothing out a maximum-effort delivery and improving his command. Rodriguez throws harder than most lefthanders, working at 91-95 mph and peaking at 98. He did a better job of not overthrowing and not pitching to the radar gun in 2012, though he still doesn't locate his pitches with anything close to precision. His breaking ball has evolved from a slurve into more of a true slider with depth, and it's a swing-and-miss pitch when his delivery is working. He also can mix in a changeup. Confidence has been an issue in Rodriguez's development, and his improved when he fared well in his first exposure to Double-A. He could win a big league job in the spring, but he'd benefit from extended time in Triple-A.
A three-sport athlete in high school, Ayala put himself on the scouting radar by producing against advanced prospects Max Fried (the No. 7 overall pick in 2012) and Andrew Potter in a tournament at the MLB Urban Youth Academy before his senior year. Ayala lasted until the 531st pick in June because teams thought he would honor his commitment to UC Santa Barbara. The White Sox were able to sign him for $258,800, the equivalent of fifth-round money. He had a reputation for being pull-conscious in high school and often looked overmatched in his pro debut. Chicago believes he'll improve at the plate now that his focus is on baseball, and he has solid power potential. A defensive end in football, Ayala has a nice build for a catcher. He's athletic, with good speed for the position and a plus arm, though he has a long way to go behind the plate. He needs to improve his flexibility and quicken his transfer on throws after erasing just 15 percent of pro basestealers. Ayala isn't ready for a full-season assignment at age 18, so his next stop figures to be Rookie-level Great Falls.
Like Chris Beck, who was selected two rounds ahead of him last June, Brennan passes the eye test for a big league starter. He has a power pitcher's build and a low-90s fastball that has the sink the White Sox look for at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Brennan began his college career at Oregon but redshirted as a freshman, prompting his transfer to California juco power Orange Coast for 2012. Eager to get his pro career started, he gave up a Houston commitment to sign for $320,800. Brennan's fastball sits at 91-93 mph, and he uses his high three-quarters arm slot to generate armside run and heavy sink, producing plenty of groundouts. His slider and changeup are still works in progress, but he has made strides with them since turning pro. He also needs to improve his substandard command. The difference between him and Beck lies largely with Beck's changeup and ability to change speeds. Brennan looks like he could develop into a workhorse, though he could wind up as a reliever if his secondary pitches don't get better. He'll open next season in the Kannapolis rotation.
DeMichele isn't especially toolsy, but he definitely can hit. He won the Pacific-10 Conference batting title with a .368 average as a sophomore in 2011, then hit .336 last spring to become just the sixth Arizona State player ever to lead the team in consecutive seasons. His prowess at the plate got DeMichele drafted in the third round, where he signed for $400,000. With a compact swing and impressive bat control, he held his own in low Class A during his pro debut. He uses the whole field and should be able to stay out of slumps. Most of his power comes to the gaps, though the White Sox think he has the strength to post double-digit home run totals as he develops. DeMichele played mostly DH as a Sun Devils sophomore, and it remains to be seen whether he can remain at second base. He has limited range and average arm strength, and he has work to do improving his hands. He has fringy speed but runs the bases fairly well. DeMichele could start his first full pro season in Double-A. He could develop into an Adam Kennedy type if he can field his position adequately.
Johnson is more athletic than the typical second baseman. Legend has it that he once beat former NBA No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden in a one-on-one basketball game when both were in high school, and he was the fastest runner in Chicago's 2012 draft class, clocking a 6.6-second 60-yard dash for scouts. Johnson hurt his elbow in the Cape Cod League in 2011 and tried to play through it last spring before succumbing to arthroscopic surgery and missing two months. His inactivity helped drop him to the ninth round, where he signed for $127,600. A switch-hitter, Johnson has surprising pop for his size but tries to do too much at the plate at times. He draws walks and has the speed to be a factor at the top of the order, but he doesn't focus on making contact and strikes out too often. Though he has raw speed, he needs to improve his baserunning. A below-average defender at second because he lacks soft hands, he made 10 errors in 43 pro games. He has the quickness and average arm strength to perhaps fit in center field, but he'd have a hard time profiling as a regular if he had to play on an outfield corner. He'll stay at second base as he opens his first full pro season in low Class A.
A productive hitter in college at Palomar (Calif.) JC and Oral Roberts and in his first two pro seasons, Saladino faced adversity for the first time in 2012. The year started on a positive note, as he earned a mid-spring promotion from minor league camp and caught manager Robin Ventura's eye during Cactus League action. But Saladino hit just .236 during the regular season, 46 points below his previous career average, and his .315 slugging percentage represented a 164-point drop. Though he hit 16 homers in high Class A in 2011, he projects as a line-drive hitter with occasional pop. To his credit, Saladino maintained his plate discipline through his struggles, and his on-base ability may be the best part of his offensive game. He's just an average runner but managed to steal 39 bases in 47 attempts. A surehanded fielder with a strong arm and good instincts, Saladino doesn't have true shortstop range. He could wind up at second base and played 21 games there last year. He'll try to bounce back in 2013, likely beginning the season in Double-A.
Because he spent the first half of his college career as a quarterback at Pittsburgh--even starting as a freshman and breaking Dan Marino's school record with 202 passing yards in his debut--Smith was old when he signed as a redshirt senior in 2011, turning 23 two weeks after signing for $50,000 as a seventh-round pick. He helped Great Falls win the Pioneer League title in his first pro summer and homered twice for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League playoffs last year. Smith has the strength to drive the ball to all fields. His plus raw power stands out more than his hitting ability, because he gets too aggressive and chases pitches. Smith has good athleticism for his size, though he's raw behind the plate. He's ironing out his throwing and receiving and is making progress learning to call a game. He has average arm strength and erased 33 percent of basestealers in 2012. A slow runner, he could become a serious baseclogger as he gets older. Smith will advance to Double-A in 2013. He may never become a big league regular but could have value as an offensive-minded backup.
When the White Sox were trying to pare payroll last offseason, they traded closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays in December 2011 for Molina. Santos barely pitched for Toronto before requiring shoulder surgery, and Molina was a huge disappointment as well. He was rocked early in spring training and didn't live up to his billing as the system's top starting pitching prospect. Molina threw a lot of strikes, but they were hit at an alarming rate. Command within the zone troubled him, as his 87-92 mph fastball doesn't afford him the luxury of bad location. Molina throws five pitches, but none qualify as better than average. His splitter features nice tumble at times and gets more swings and misses than his other offerings. He doesn't have much feel for a breaking ball and uses both a curveball and slider, and he also has an average changeup. Molina was briefly sidelined with elbow concerns in June, but MRIs didn't reveal any significant damage. Some scouts felt he profiled best as a reliever when Chicago acquired him, but former GM Ken Williams saw more upside in the converted third baseman. Molina still needs to prove he can get Double-A hitters out, so that's where he will start 2013.
With Nate Jones in the big leagues, Soptic becomes the system's high-risk, high-reward pitcher. He had one of the best arms in the 2011 draft, hitting 100 mph and showing easy mid-90s heat at Johnson County (Kan.) CC, but he slid to the third round because he was so raw. His inconsistent mechanics scared away a lot of teams and still cause opposing scouts to roll their eyes, but the White Sox are thrilled at the improvement he showed over the course of his first full pro season. Soptic has smoothed out his delivery a bit and was repeating it better during the fall. He still has plus-plus fastball velocity and will flash a plus slider at times, though he has trouble throwing it for strikes. He has become more willing to throw his changeup, but it remains a show-me pitch. Soptic has a ceiling as a closer, though Chicago wants to get him innings as a starter in 2013. Soptic's control, command and consistency would have to improve dramatically for him to stick in the rotation. He'll probably open the season in high Class A.
He looks like C.C. Sabathia and has similar fastball potential, so the White Sox signed Olacio for $125,000 in 2010. Two years before that, he stood 6-foot-3 and couldn't hit 80 mph with his fastball, so he has come a long way in a hurry. Chicago knows his development will take time and figured correctly that he would struggle in his U.S. debut last season. Olacio can throw 90-92 mph consistently, but he has to dial down his velocity to throw strikes, and hitters sit and wait for a diminished fastball. He has a below-average slider that he tips off by slowing down his arm speed, and he lacks feel for a changeup. He doesn't have a pitch to trust when he falls behind in the count, which happens regularly. Olacio is a true lottery ticket who will have to progress step by step through the system. The White Sox aggressively assigned him to low Class A to begin last season, but he still may not be advanced enough to succeed there at the start of 2013.
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