Outfield, pitching depth headline White Sox system

Hawkins, Thompson and Mitchell among top five prospects for South Siders

Outfield, pitching depth headline White Sox system

The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.

Courtney Hawkins performed the Draft-day backflip, but he isn't the only White Sox outfield prospect poised to garner attention this year.

Three of the club's top five prospects roam the outfield, as Hawkins checks in as the organization's No. 1 youngster, followed by outfielders Trayce Thompson at No. 2 and Jared Mitchell at No. 5.

Hawkins, the team's first-round selection in last year's First-Year Player Draft, batted .284 with eight homers, 33 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 59 games between the club's Rookie-level team, Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem.

Thompson, a second-round Draft pick in 2009, slugged 25 homers and drove in 96 runs in 136 contests, mostly with Winston-Salem. He also saw brief action at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Overall, he batted .253 and swiped 21 bases, though he did strike out 166 times.

Whiffs have also been an issue for Mitchell, a former two-sport athlete (football) at LSU. A first-round Draft selection by the White Sox in 2009, Mitchell missed the 2010 campaign with a torn tendon in his ankle, an injury that he said served as a blessing in disguise.

"Having a setback, a moment of adversity, it helps a whole lot in shaping you and helping you realize that it doesn't always happen the way you want it to happen," Mitchell said.

Despite piling up 402 strikeouts in 293 career Minor League games, including 179 in 130 contests last season, Mitchell has demonstrated an ability to reach base and effectively use his speed. He only batted .237 last year at Birmingham and Charlotte, but still reached base at a .358 clip. He also tallied 24 doubles, 13 triples and 21 stolen bases.

"It's still not where I want it to be," Mitchell said, "but at the same time, it's not like I go up there any at-bat and think, 'I don't want to strike out here.' You know it's going to happen. It's part of the game. It's not something I'm going to worry about. I try to make sure that in my everyday progression and work, I'm doing what I need to do to become a better player."

Top 20 prospects

After the slew of outfielders stacked atop Chicago's list of top prospects, pitching reigns supreme. Erik Johnson (No. 3) and Scott Snodgress (No. 6) pace the pack of hurlers ranked among the organization's best young up-and-comers, before a run of pitchers occupies spots nine through 15 on the list.

Johnson, a second-round Draft choice in 2011, posted a 6-5 record and 2.53 ERA in his first full professional season. The right-hander averaged nearly a strikeout per inning.

Snodgress, a lefty, went 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in eight starts following a promotion to Winston-Salem, where he fanned 44 batters in 42 frames.

Andre Rienzo, a right-hander, compiled a 7-3 mark and 2.53 ERA in 18 starts between Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte. He checks in as the ninth-ranked prospect in the White Sox system.

Nestor Molina, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays for closer Sergio Santos prior to last season, went 6-11 with a 4.55 ERA in 23 games for Birmingham and Charlotte. In 2011, the right-hander dazzled to the tune of a 12-3 record and 2.21 ERA. He is rated the No. 10 prospect.

Under the radar

Ryan Kussmaul, RHP: The 26-year-old has pitched admirably at every stop on his Minor League journey. He posted a 2.51 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings for Winston-Salem in 2011, and boasted a 1.11 ERA and 13 saves in 37 appearances for Birmingham in 2012.

Michael Gunter, RHP: The sample size is small, but Gunter, a 22-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., performed well last season. In nine appearances, he logged a 2.70 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 10 innings. He ended the season pitching at Double-A in his hometown.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year

The White Sox will be doing backflips if Hawkins can take his production from an abbreviated first professional season and repeat it over a full schedule in 2013. The 19-year-old played for three different teams in 2012, and could vault up the Minor League ladder again this year if he continues to hit.

Pitcher of the Year

Snodgress dominated in his eight starts at Winston-Salem, and the imposing southpaw can back up his No. 6 ranking in the White Sox system by continuing that effectiveness on the mound. He finished the 2012 season with a 7-3 mark and a 3.00 ERA and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

Zack Meisel is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.