COMMENTARY | After a fireworks-filled day at the ballpark, the Chicago White Sox opted to keep things exciting by calling up their hottest prospect, catcher Josh Phegley, from Triple-A Charlotte. Phegley made the "hot" list on my most recent minor league update and has been hands-down the best hitter in the minor leagues for the White Sox this season.
According to Dan Hayes, the likely corresponding move is the designation of backup Hector Gimenez for assignment. Gimenez was batting just .191 and had struggled defensively before his sudden de facto release on Thursday.
For his part, Tyler Flowers is batting .208 with 8 home runs and 22 RBIs as primary starter for the White Sox. Flowers dealt with rather frustrating passed ball issues in the early part of the season and needed some mechanical adjustment to improve his throws to catch basestealers. The 27-year-old catcher has shown flashes of high potential in parts of several seasons as a backup, but has quite clearly performed below expectations offensively and defensively.
Josh Phegley was drafted by the White Sox with the 38th overall pick in 2009 out of Indiana. He was considered a nearly MLB-ready bat at the time, but needed work defensively. His fast track to the major leagues hit a huge roadblock shortly after his career began, as he was diagnosed with ITP, a serious illness.
After missing most of one season dealing with illness, he came back and had spotty performances at lower levels, due to his time off from baseball and a few nagging injuries. Due to his age as a college draftee, the White Sox continued to promote him aggressively through the minors, winding up in Triple-A Charlotte last season.
In 2012, Phegley survived, but did not thrive in Triple-A. He batted .266 with a .306 OBP to go with just 6 home runs and 48 RBIs over 394 at-bats. He did, however, win the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at catcher, representing an apparent leap in progress defensively. The award is given to the best minor leaguer at each defensive position.
2013 has been a completely different year for Phegley, who has found his first real sustained success at the plate since departing Indiana. He has mustered a .316 average to go with a stout .955 OPS. His 15 home runs lead the Knights and are double any home run total he has compiled at any other level.
While Phegley's season seems to be an outlier, this type of production was the original expectation when he was drafted several seasons ago. This hot streak may be a fluke, but it just as likely the result of Phegley finally being healthy and getting a chance to get consistent at-bats at a level appropriate for his age and experience level.
A call to the major leagues is not an unreasonable or overly aggressive move, given Phegley's talent and recent production. This does leave questions open as to the status of the catcher position on the White Sox, though. It seems highly unlikely that the White Sox would call their most MLB-ready prospect to the major leagues just to back up the struggling Tyler Flowers.
However, as both are right-handed, there are no neat platoon-like ways to split time at the position. Chances are that days are numbered for Flowers and he may be on his way to a career of backing up. With Paul Konerko on the disabled list, though, Flowers may get some at-bats in the designated hitter role as a means to try to prove himself one last time.
Less than a month before the trade deadline promises to bring personnel changes to the Chicago, Josh Phegley is ready to give fans a change to be excited about.
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 owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago White Sox
- Josh Phegley
- Tyler Flowers