Developed for impact, White Sox prospects don't linger
Club's philosophy brought likes of Sale, Beckham to Majors; Mitchell could be next
By Scott Merkin
CHICAGO -- A quick look at the White Sox active roster points out that their Minor League system might be slightly better off than some people think.
Opening Day starter Chris Sale, closer Addison Reed, primary setup man Nate Jones, versatile reliever Hector Santiago and starting second baseman Gordon Beckham all were Draft picks developed by the White Sox. That total doesn't include left fielder Dayan Viciedo, Sunday's walk-off hero, who had previous professional experience in Cuba but fine-tuned his craft with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
And more help appears to be on the way.
"I feel we've got a lot of good young players, and just because everyone doesn't talk about some of them doesn't mean they aren't quality players," said starting catcher Tyler Flowers, who was selected by the Braves in the 33rd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but played parts of three seasons in the White Sox system.
where to watch
Where Chicago's Top 20 prospects are starting the season:
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"You go back to Gordon and guys like that who came through the system -- and Chris Sale -- it was quick for them," Flowers said. "That means there's a lot of guys that are getting up here, and maybe that's why we don't get a lot of credit down there. A lot of guys come up and make an impact."
Outfielder Jared Mitchell, the team's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, looks to be close to making a big league impact based on his strong instructional league work and an equally solid Spring Training showing. Now, he has to build on that success for Charlotte following a 1-for-15 start with seven strikeouts.
Trayce Thompson, Keenyn Walker and Courtney Hawkins -- the fast-rising 13th overall pick overall in 2012 -- are probably a little further away than Mitchell amidst highly touted White Sox outfield prospects. But the club has shown in the recent past that there's no set wait period before young talent arrives in Chicago.
See Sale and Beckham as examples. The White Sox philosophy under general manager Ken Williams was to use the system either to help the Major League squad directly or help the big league team as part of a trade. While new general manager Rick Hahn intends to continue building the system, he won't be afraid to deal a prospect to help the team move toward the postseason.
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the White Sox top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the White Sox Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/whitesox.
Despite an inauspicious 0-4 start to the International League season, don't look past Charlotte in terms of the greatest chance for 2013 White Sox assistance. Mitchell and Jordan Danks make up part of the starting outfield, with Danks consistently hitting the ball hard at the end of Cactus League action after getting over right elbow issues and widening the base in his stance.
Carlos Sanchez, a 20-year-old from Venezuela with 158 at-bats above Double-A entering the 2013 campaign, is considered a multifaceted middle infielder of the future, while catcher Josh Phegley is ready to take the next step toward the Majors in his second full season with Charlotte. Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago currently stand as the rotation replacements for John Danks, as he works his way back from Aug. 6 arthroscopic shoulder surgery. But Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo, who each lost their first 2013 start, are part of that next pack of starting options with the Knights.
Third baseman Brent Morel, who was the team's third baseman entering the 2012 season, is playing every day at the position to further show his back is healthy.
Of the White Sox Top 10 Prospects, according to MLB.com, Sanchez (No. 4), Mitchell (No. 5) and Rienzo (No. 9) are at Charlotte, while Thompson (No. 2) leads a group of five at Birmingham. That list includes right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson (No. 3), who made a lasting impression during Spring Training, left-handed pitcher Scott Snodgress (No. 6), Walker (No. 8) and right-handed pitcher Nestor Molina (No. 10).
Debuts and draftees
Hawkins had 229 at-bats after his Draft selection, with only 17 as high as Class A Winston-Salem. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder started 1-for-10 with six strikeouts for the Dash this season, but he could move quickly through the system if he performs. There's certainly no rush on the organization's top-rated prospect, aside from maybe the rush put on by Hawkins himself.
"I know I'm still in the Minors and I'm still a rookie," Hawkins told MLB.com during a recent interview. "At the same time, I do have the attitude that I want to go out there and be the best no matter what it is, but try to know that I'm still in the Minor Leagues and I just got here."
Brandon Short begins his sixth Minor League season after missing most of 2012 because of a dislocated left shoulder and torn labrum he suffered during last Spring Training. Short is trying to re-establish himself as a bona fide outfield prospect, and he started in that direction with a couple of Spring Training homers. One of those came off of Texas' Matt Harrison.
Jason Coats, the White Sox 29th-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, signed with the team in January. He hit .334 with 33 homers and 202 RBIs over four years at TCU, but he tore his right ACL on May 20 at the end of his collegiate career. The right-handed-hitting outfielder has begun his White Sox career with four hits in 19 at-bats for Class A Kannapolis.
New kids on the block
Acquisition Conor Gillaspie immediately took No. 15 on the list of Top 20 White Sox Prospects. The left-handed-hitting infielder with solid gap power also broke camp with the team, already getting playing time at both first and third base through the first six games.
Teams on TV
The Charlotte Knights and Winston-Salem Dash are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.