White Sox VP/assistant general manager Buddy Bell doesn't care for prospect rankings. In late January, Bell explained to a small crowd gathered at the final seminar of SoxFest how various top prospect lists can get in the heads of players, instilling overconfidence or doubt depending on where a player is or isn't ranked.
But to the general public not privy to the White Sox internal list, prospect rankings generally give us a decent idea of where a certain player stands in the team's farm system. 2012 first-round pick Courtney Hawkins, for example, is No. 1 across the board, while Trayce Thompson, Carlos Sanchez and Erik Johnson are all ranked in the top five.
Below is a chart of where six major prospect rankings slot 26 different White Sox prospects. Something to keep in mind: Baseball America, Keith Law (ESPN) and Baseball Prospectus only list 10 prospects, while FanGraphs ranks 15 and MLB.com and John Sickels (Minor League Ball) go with 20.
And now, to the board:
A few thoughts:
-- As mentioned above, there's a clear consensus: Courtney Hawkins is the best prospect the White Sox have. Hawkins, who turned 19 in November, hit .284/.324/.480 with eight home runs and 11 steals over 59 games in his professional debut last summer.
-- Another consensus, although one not listed here: Nobody likes the White Sox farm system. Most of these lists began with the caveat of "it's a weak/thin system," or something along those lines, as has been the case for the last few years.
-- Jared Mitchell, unsurprisingly, is all over the map. He's ranked as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 14 despite showing some promise last season (a .358 OBP with 21 steals). Mitchell, though, struck out 179 times in 549 plate appearances. While general manager Rick Hahn said Bell "wouldn't shut up" about Mitchell after seeing him in Arizona last fall, the 24-year-old outfielder has a lot to prove to those ranking him in these lists.
-- Simon Castro and Nestor Molina were the prized acquisitions of last winter, but underwhelming 2012 seasons dropped both in these rankings. Castro will be 25 in early April and has yet to succeed at the Triple-A level in his career (61 IP, 53 R, 85 H, 30 BB, 43 K, 8 HR) while an elbow issue slowed Molina with Double-A Birmingham.
-- Erik Johnson and Scott Snodgress take over as the top two pitchers in the Sox system, with both ranked in every top six. Johnson, a second-round pick in 2011, posted a 2.53 ERA in 17 starts between Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last season; Snodgress, a fifth-round pick in 2011, had a 3.00 ERA between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.
-- Last year, Kevin Goldstein (now of the Houston Astros' organization) was the only one to rank pitcher Myles Jaye. This year, his BPro prospect guru successor, Jason Parks, was also the only one to rank Jaye. Parks sees the 21-year-old righty, acquired from Toronto on New Year's Day 2012 as part of the return for reliever Jason Frasor, as an extremely raw but projectable starter down the road. Pitching with Class A Kannapolis last year, Jaye had a 6.04 ERA with 65 strikeouts, 39 walks and six home runs allowed. As Parks writes, though: "at this stage of the developmental game, logging innings and finding his pitching rhythm is more important than the production."
-- Of the players on this list, very few have a chance at helping the White Sox in 2013. Carlos Sanchez may have a shot if he's able to replicate his 2012 success in Triple-A and there's some attrition with the big-league club, while Jhan Marinez is the only player on this list with any MLB experience (5 1/3 career innings). Charlie Leesman and Santos Rodriguez could emerge into bullpen options, while Leesman could also get a look as a spot starter if needed. Mitchell is more of a longshot, although a successful summer could put him in the mix to be a fourth outfielder or September call-up.