The White Sox farm system has had plenty of bright spots through about two months of games, with some quality players emerging in the low levels of the system.
Granted, the news hasn't been all good — top prospects Erik Johnson and Matt Davidson are struggling in Triple-A, as is Trayce Thompson in Double-A. But the good news may outweigh the bad news, a promising sign as the White Sox compete in the AL Central with an eye on the future.
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CSNChicago.com caught up with White Sox director of player development Nick Capra to run down five prospects who've shown promise this year:
Chris Beck (RHP, Double-A Birmingham)
Through 14 starts, Beck has a 3.39 ERA with 40 strikeouts, 23 walks and seven home runs allowed. Those aren't great peripherals, but he's generated a ton of ground balls — 269 in 79 2/3 innings — with a power sinker.
The White Sox would like to see his strikeout total increase, and a way that may happen is by Beck developing his curveball into more of a swing-and-miss pitch. Right now, Capra said that pitch is more of a contact generating offering.
Capra said the organization's goal is to get Beck to Triple-A at some point this summer.
Rangel Ravelo (1B, Double-A Birmingham)
The 2010 draft may not be done paying off for the White Sox. Ravelo, a sixth-round pick that year out of Hialeah High School in Florida, is having another excellent season getting on base in the minors, posting a .295/.390/.432 slash line with 32 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Ravelo, 22, hasn't developed power yet — he only has four home runs, albeit while playing half his games in a pitcher's park in Birmingham. But he has 17 doubles and the White Sox hope, eventually, those doubles begin translating into a slugging percentage more befitting for a first baseman.
"His doubles numbers aren't bad and hopefully that correlates into maybe some home runs down the road," Capra said. "But he's definitely an interesting kid. He's put his name on the map, and if that power comes somewhere down the road we may have something."
Frank Montas (RHP, Single-A Winston-Salem)
Montas, whom the White Sox acquired from Boston in last summer's Jake Peavy trade, has a dominant 1.76 ERA with 49 strikeouts, 11 walks and one home run allowed in eight starts.
At 21, he's still young for his high-A level and he's responded well to the tweaks the White Sox made. Specifically, the White Sox cleaned up some mechanical issues and have Montas standing taller on the mound.
Whatever it is, it's working.
"We knew he had the power arm, command was an issue, breaking ball/changeup were an issue," Capra said. "He's starting to put it together. We're starting to see a lot of things out of him. He's commanding the strike zone with all three pitches."
Courtney Hawkins (OF, Single-A Winston-Salem)
The 20-year-old former first-round pick is doing much better in his second go-around with Winston-Salem, already drawing more walks (31) in 65 games than he had in 103 games a year ago (29). He's hitting .252/.341/.457 with 10 home runs, showing good power for someone who's still very young for his league.
A year ago, Hawkins hit .178 with 29 walks and 160 strikeouts, but Capra's seen a more selective aggressiveness from Hawkins this year.
And too, Capra said the defensive improvement of Hawkins, who the White Sox project as a left fielder, has been "tremendous." But it'll be his offense that moves him through the system quickly, and that's taken a step forward this year.
"He's slowing the game down a little bit, he's got his legs underneath him and everything he's doing, and you're seeing better results," Capra said. "He was out of control last year, he wanted to swing before the pitcher threw the ball. Now he's starting to figure it out, his at-bats are much better than they were last year, they're much more quality at-bats."
Tyler Danish (RHP, Single-A Winston-Salem)
Danish's first go-around in the Carolina League hasn't gone too well, but he's only 19 — about four years younger than the league's average player — and his problem hasn't been with control.
Danish has issued four walks against 19 strikeouts and two home runs in five starts, resulting in a 3.74 FIP that looks far better than his 5.48 ERA. This is Danish's first taste of failure in a long time — he didn't allow an earned run his senior year of high school — but the White Sox remain high on the right-hander, thanks in part to his competitive nature.
"This kid's mentality is off the charts," Capra said. "There's not a whole lot of highs or lows, he's kind of an even keel kid. Boy I tell you what, I wish we had 100 like that."
— Single-A third baseman Trey Michalczewski may be someone to keep a close eye on moving forward. The 19-year-old has a .288/.370/.455 slash line with Kannapolis, hitting 16 doubles and five home runs with a consistency that's exceeded the organization's expectations.
— 2013 first-round pick Tim Anderson is hitting .298/.328/.469 with Winston-Salem, but only has seven walks against 59 strikeouts in 259 plate appearances. The White Sox think Anderson's plate discipline will develop as he gets more plate appearances, and won't try to force a patient approach on an aggressive young hitter.
— Lost in the glut of Triple-A infielders has been a fine season from shortstop Tyler Saladino, who's hitting .297/.354/.470 after some struggles with Charlotte a year ago. The White Sox envision Saladino as a utilityman who can play all over the field. "He's got a chance to do a whole lot of different things for us," Capra said. "There's a lot of value with Tyler Saladino."