Birmingham Outfield A Bust For White Sox
From a distance, it appears as if the White Sox recent draft strategy of loading up on “toolsy” outfielders has fallen flat on its face. In Double-A, 2011 supplemental first round pick Keenyn Walker is barely over the “Mendoza Line” with a .201/.326/.280 triple slash line. Early in 2012, I published a piece at FanGraphs regarding his being all tools. Not much has changed. At 22, he has time to develop further, but Walker’s gaudy tools haven’t blossomed into production yet.
Teammate Trayce Thompson, a 2009 second round pick, has posted a .234/.332/.379 line as a 22-year old as well. After seasons of 24 and 25 home runs respectively, his stumbling at the upper levels is a blow to an already weak organization. Of White Sox prospects I’ve scouted, Thompson was the safest bet to become a decent big leaguer of the bunch.
Finally, first round pick Jared Mitchell has bottomed out. Currently on the 7-day disabled list, his .178/.317/.288 line in 219 plate appearances points to a year of development lost to injury. Mitchell will turn 25 in two months and is on the hairy edge of not being considered a prospect anymore, if it hasn’t happened already.
Bring in the reinforcements….
At the trade deadline, the White Sox flipped Matt Thornton for a personal favorite of mine, Brandon Jacobs. To be honest, I have no idea why the former Red Sox prospect has floundered this season, but he was one of the best hitting prospects I scouted in 2011 as a member of the Greenville Drive.
Jacobs is built like a truck and has the ceiling of a Major League regular in left field, it not a bit more. If things break right, he has the ability to hit .260 with 20+ home runs while pushing double-digit stolen bases. That’s plenty for an OF4 or OF5 in deeper fantasy formats.
Next, the White Sox received Avisail Garcia from the Tigers as part of the Jake Peavy three-way. Being younger, and playing at a higher level than the other players mentioned, Garcia jumps to the front of the pack in terms of prospect status first crack at a big league job.
In the off-season, it’s easy to envision the White Sox trading Alex Rios and clearing his 12.5 million dollar salary and opening the season with Garcia in right. But this isn’t the point of the piece.
In Arizona, I was introduced to a high level industry source with a team in the South Atlantic League. In passing, I joked, “So when you watch your team play Kannapolis (White Sox), are you ever tempted to just give them your bench so you have some real prospects to play against?” His response, “I often wonder if certain organizations even have a player type? Since when did 5-foot-9 and stocky become an asset.”
And while the White Sox has taken tools in the early rounds, the results have been similar to what was expected from the stocky. And now, those players are being passed by acquisitions from outside the organization. It’s easy to review stats from a distance and come to the assumption a draft strategy is not working. but because numbers are secondary when it comes to player development, those assessments are often incorrect on some level.
An oft ignored aspect of the trade deadline is it affords a glimpse into the future plans of an organization. Avisail Garcia became a prime target not only because of talent, but need as well. If the White Sox were happy with their internal options in the outfield, then they might have targeted another position. In this instance, it’s correct to view both Garcia and Jacobs as an admission their push for “toolsy” outfielders has flopped.
2 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
Tags: White Sox
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