Baseball America rolled out its top 10 White Sox prospects lists Monday, with 2012 White Sox first-round pick Courtney Hawkins topping the rankings. A few notes:
-- The White Sox have outfield depth. Hawkins (No. 1), Trayce Thompson (No. 2), Keenyn Walker (No. 5) and Jared Mitchell (No. 9) are all varying distances away from the majors, but it's clear the strength of the farm system is in the outfield. What's interesting, though, is the White Sox currently have their outfield locked up for the next few years, as Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza and Alex Rios are under control through at least 2014.
-- Carlos Sanchez rose fast. Last winter, Sanchez was nowhere to be found on anyone's top 10 or top 20 list, but this year debuts at No. 3 on Baseball America's rankings. The 20-year-old infielder hit .323.378.403 across three levels in 2012, and if he can continue success into 2013 could be a viable option by 2014.
-- Keon Barnum's ranking was aggressive. South Side Sox's Larry covered this -- Barnum is a raw talent with a high ceiling, but may not be a top 10 prospect right now. That being said, looking at the pool of other prospects to choose from, there may not be much separating Barnum's grade from the rest of the pack.
-- 2013 is a make-or-break year for Jared Mitchell. At 24, Mitchell will likely begin 2013 in Triple-A, where he hit .231.329.364 in 36 games in 2012. He was good with Birmingham (.240.368.440) but strikeouts continued to plague Mitchell, as the 2009 first-round pick struck out 179 times in 549 plate appearances. If Mitchell doesn't take a step forward with Charlotte in 2013, his prospect star may burn out.
The White Sox couldn’t take advantage of a 14-strikeout performance by Chris Sale on Friday night or a number of chances against Felix Hernandez.
Despite putting the leadoff man aboard five times in eight innings against Hernandez, the White Sox only produced one run in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired the last 16 batters he faced but it wasn’t enough as Hernandez and Edwin Diaz held the White Sox in check.
The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game.
But Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as Shawn O’Malley threw home on the slow roller for the force out. And Jose Abreu fouled out to leave the bases loaded.
Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run.
Hernandez erased Frazier and Shuck with pickoffs in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play.
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Diaz recorded five outs for the save.
Sale, who earned his 15th win in his previous start, allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings. But after Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired 16 in a row. The stretch included six straight strikeouts and nine overall as the five-time All-Star afforded his teammates a chance to rally.
Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale struck out 14 and walked none, allowing five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.
The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.
When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.
“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”
“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”
Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.
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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.
Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.
“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”
The White Sox acquired minor-league pitcher Colton Turner from the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in exchange for catcher Dioner Navarro.
Turner, 25, has a 1.33 ERA in 44 games this season across three levels with 70 strikeouts in 54 innings. The White Sox assigned Turner, who missed all of 2014 after he had reconstructive elbow surgery, to Double-A Birmingham.
“Ever since he got back (from pitching in Australia), he seems to have hit his stride well,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Fastball/slider mix, good command.
“You can obviously see from the numbers he has done impressive work against righties for a left-handed reliever, which is nice to see.
“We’re going to wait to get to know him better. He’s had a real nice year and we like the stuff, we like the command and we’ll see if he’s able to continue to build on what he has done this year and try to figure out that more in 2017, the role he’ll play going forward.”