COMMENTARY | The Chicago White Sox have been playing for a month and a half and despite a few injuries, they have not had to have too many minor-leaguers on the big-league club.
Many top prospects are playing in the lower levels and are not yet ready for MLB, even as injury fill-ins. As the White Sox approach the end of the Paul Konerko era and have the end of Adam Dunn's and Alex Rios' contracts in sight, there will be many openings in the foreseeable future. While the pitching staff is currently strong, there will always be room for high-performing arms as well.
Hot Starts to Watch
Josh Phegley - C, AAA Charlotte
Phegley, a second-round draft pick in 2009, has had a tough professional career. While he was widely considered nearly MLB-ready when drafted, he had hardly gotten his feet wet as a professional before being diagnosed with a terrible illness. Finally back on his feet with two healthy seasons under his belt, he appears to be breaking out.
Entering May 16's action, he carried a .327 average with 9 HRs and 9 2Bs, unprecedented power to this point in his career. Phegley may push Tyler Flowers for the catcher position if Flowers does not heat up, and he could find himself an injury replacement for Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn if he stays hot.
Micah Johnson - 2B, A Kannapolis
Finding yourself is important in life, and maybe even more important in baseball. Micah Johnson, who ran the fastest 60-yard dash time of any White Sox draft pick last season, realized that his speed could be an asset if he honed his baserunning skills.
And 34 games into the 2013 season, he has a scorching 35 steals in 42 attempts. Johnson stole only 32 bases in 133 games in his collegiate career and 19 over 69 contests in his first professional season. To pair with a good ability to hit for average, Johnson has decided his speed should not go to waste. He is at least a year or two away from the big leagues, but great base-stealers are a rare commodity nowadays.
Erik Johnson - RHP, AA Birmingham
This 2011 second-round draft pick has been a quick riser since he got his first full-time look at the A-level last season. After making a good impression in this season's spring training, Erik Johnson was assigned to AA Birmingham. He has wasted no time there, striking out 47 in 45 1/3 innings with a 2.58 ERA. This righty has impressed with both talent and mound presence and may get his first taste of the big leagues as early as this season.
Cold Starts to Watch
Courtney Hawkins - OF, A Winston-Salem
The White Sox's 2012 first-round draft pick has followed an impressive debut campaign with a troubling start to his first full season. Through his first 79 at-bats, he has struck out a staggering 45 times. That is not a typo. His strikeout rate was very manageable in low-A Kannapolis last season, so his alarming rate early in the season does not have a clear explanation.
Less than a year removed from high school, Hawkins has always been raw so this should not be a huge source of concern. He has also flashed his power and run-producing ability by hitting 7 home runs and a double despite the low-contact rate. He suffered a minor knee injury on May 1 and is likely to return in June, so he should have some time to work on his approach before then.
Trayce Thompson - OF, AA Birmingham
A second-round draft pick out of high school in 2009, Trayce Thompson has often been considered the most talented player in the White Sox's minor-league system. He possesses great power, speed, batting eye, and defensive ability in the outfield. His main roadblock thus far in his career has been his ability to make consistent contact, posting rather putrid strikeout rates in each of his minor-league seasons.
Midway through last season in A Winston-Salem, he found his power stroke while eliminating a good portion of his strikeouts, eventually earning promotions to AA and AAA in September. He has gotten off to a slow start in 2013, with just a .237 average and only 3 home runs in 38 games. The encouraging sign is a dramatically lower strikeout rate, which makes him a much more legitimate prospect moving forward. He will have to carry his .294 average in his last 10 games a little longer to get his season numbers up to par, though.
Carlos Sanchez - 2B/SS, AAA Charlotte
Carlos Sanchez was the White Sox's best minor-league surprise in 2012, batting .315 in A Winston-Salem before posting an even more impressive .370 average in AA Birmingham. He possesses a good ability to take walks to go along with positive reviews on defense as well. Phil Rogers called him a sleeper pick to make the White Sox's opening-day roster in 2013. He failed to earn the spot on the MLB roster, blocked by Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, and things have not been smooth in his first extended playing time in AAA Charlotte either. He has just a .217 average and .560 OPS through 37 games and hasn't shown any signs of breaking out yet, either.
Only 20 years old, Sanchez is one of the youngest players at his level and may simply need some time to acclimate himself after a very quick rise through the minor leagues. While some White Sox fans may have hoped Sanchez could provide immediate help to the big league club, he is likely a year away at best.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago White Sox
- Paul Konerko
- Micah Johnson