The White Sox brass claims that their farm system ranks poorly because they’re ‘too busy focusing on adding talent to major league roster’ is stretching the facts, but at least they do their part to make it true by aggressively promoting every promising prospect through the system.
Perhaps it’s a bit easier to get promoted when there’s not much to speak of in any given prospect’s way at any time, but the rationale is the same; the Sox want their guys to be helping the big league club as soon as they’re able.
Except for that one time with Dayan Viciedo. And probably a couple of other times. Circumstances can be kind of a to-do.
The White Sox are still cooking with some optimistic gas, as they appear set to promote Jared Mitchell to AA Birmingham after a turrible 2011 where he struck out in 33.8% of his plate appearances in High-A Winston-Salem. Mitchell appeared healthier in Spring Training and put up gaudy stats (.385/.407/.538) but was far from having curbed his contact issues (9 K in 27 PA).
Buddy Bell has remained a fan of Mitchell throughout his troubles and let it be known that he was thrilled with his work ethic.
"“Jared is such a mentally tough kid and maybe the most competitive kid we have here right now and people don’t understand how big of a deal that is to us. This kid cares so much and plays as hard as anyone. In some regards, he doesn’t deserve to go to Birmingham. But at the same time, the way he came into camp this year, he does deserve it.”"
It’s simultaneously encouraging that the organization remains high on Mitchell, and terrifying what kind of failure they’re setting him up for. The jump to AA is as fierce as any in the minors, and it’s something Mitchell will have to tackle while still developing a sustainable approach. It certainly lowers the bar of what kind of performance Mitchell needs to have to consider this year a success.
The Sox are obviously also going aggressive by featuring two AA-to-the-majors jumps in the bullpen with Santiago and Jones, and promoting the offensively raw Eduardo Escobar, but there’s also some mild conservatism to be found.
C Kevan Smith isn’t getting rushed after destroying rookie ball, Trayce Thompson is easing his way to High-A in line with Bell’s comments indicating he could take a while. Scott Merkin even projects Simon Castro to return to the AA Birmingham rotation after bumping his head twice at AAA with the Padres organization, and apparently reliever Dan Remenowsky will be back there too after doing the same. Nestor Molina is probably on a fast-track to Chicago if he shows he can dominate the upper-minors with consistently, but he’s in Birmingham to start. Jake Petricka is back in High-A after failing to conquer the level last season after his call-up.
That’s sensible. The Charlotte rotation is stocked with spare starters for the MLB rotation like Dylan Axelrod, Eric Stults, and yes, Terry Doyle. That loads the prospects like Molina and Castro into the AA rotation where they can establish a positive track record, and keeps Petricka from getting a promotion that he probably doesn’t deserve yet. Especially if you let him tell it.
Other natural choices include C Josh Phegley staying at AAA despite being bad, OF Keenyn Walker staying at Low-A Kannapolis because he’s bad, LHP Charlie Leesman going to AAA, LHP Jose Quintana and 1B Andy Wilkins going to AA, and Tyler Saladino going to AAA.
Well, no, he isn’t. It’s just a typo on the White Sox website (a lot of these could be!), and if I had just listened to his bit on Birmingham public radio at the start of this process, I wouldn’t have spent 40 minutes trying to wrap my brain on why the organization would have a guy who just completed his first, real full-season and still struck out quite a bit, skip AA of all the friggin’ levels.
But Saladino is actually coming off a successful season, and wasn’t the risk to get pushed beyond what his performance called for. He actually deserves it.
With no depth in the farm system to speak of, there was a legitimate fear that anyone with any talent would be riding a rocket-propelled elevator through the system. And well, for the most part the Sox went hog-wild.
There’s a bunch of rush-promotion rookies in the major league bullpen, Jared Mitchell is being asked to do a ton, and there’s enough potential for cycling throughout the year in the bullpen and for injuries in the rotation, that more reasonable placements like Castro, Molina, and Petricka can easily get aggressive mid-season pushes.
Yet for some reason, after Mitchell was revealed to be going to Birmingham, I was expecting madness, with every prospect pushed beyond the brink of reason. This isn’t that. Not yet.