Minor League Update: Infield Flotsam & Jetsam
PRO: Saladino can throw baseballs. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
The White Sox have not had a highly-regarded minor league system for some time, although things have been slowly improving over the last few years. The new collective bargaining agreement, developed with lots of influence from Jerry Reinsdorf, has essentially forced all of Major League Baseball to draft in the thrifty way the White Sox had been doing to their own competitive disadvantage for years.
For several years, the White Sox were generally ranked about 30th, whereas this offseason they have generally started to inch upwards, sitting around the 25th -to-28th spot. Clearly, it’s not great, but an improvement nonetheless.
Part of this is because of a few athletic outfielders. Most people frequenting this site probably know about Courtney Hawkins, Trayce Thompson, and Jared Mitchell by now. Carlos Sanchez is pretty much the only high-profile infield prospect the White Sox have at this point. I’m going to grab a few of the guys below Sanchez on the infield pecking order and take a look at their future prognosis.
The White Sox drafted Semien in the 34th round out of high school in 2008, but he did not sign. Clearly, they really liked him and drafted him again – this time in the 6th round of the 2011 draft – out of California.
For a lot of prospects like this, who project more to be utility men if anything, the glove is the most important thing. Marcus Semien is considered the “steady, reliable” type who will probably play better at 2B than at SS. Semien has good hands, and a good enough arm at short, but his average athleticism, speed, and range would play much better further down the defensive spectrum.
The White Sox projected more from Semien’s bat than he had shown in college, and after dealing with shoulder tendinitis in the first half he hit extremely well in the second half of 2012. Semien’s overall line shook out to .273/.362/.471 with a respectable K:BB ratio of 97:55 in Winston-Salem, which is a pitcher-friendly environment. Whether or not he can maintain a serviceable bat at levels higher than A+ — he is currently at AA, and through 6 games has played 4 at SS and 2 at 2B – is questionable, but possible.
A 7th round pick in the 2010 draft, Saladino has been on the White Sox minor league radar for a while, and he has had a bit of a wonky progression. Defensively, Saladino – like Semien – can fake it at short, but would be a better fit at 2B. His assets defensively would be his arm, hands, and instincts, however his range at short is lacking. Everything I’ve read about Saladino remarks that he has great makeup, instincts, effort, etc.
Saladino’s bat has been weird. In 2011, he pounded the ball, hitting .270/.363/.501 as a 21-year old in Winston-Salem (A+), hitting 16 home runs in about 450PAs. Then last year in AA, the power and average cratered, but his plate discipline spiked, as his line shifted to .237/.359/.321, drawing 75 walks to 91 strikeouts, and earning Baseball America’s award of Best Plate Discipline of the Southern League. He also flashed speed on the basepaths all of a sudden, stealing 38 bases while being caught 8 times.
Saladino has a line-drive swing, and so the home run numbers and power of 2011 are probably never coming back. But, he’s only 22-years old and he’ll be repeating AA. If he can still play shortstop in a pinch, draw walks, steal bases, and not be a total void at the plate then he is an excellent utility candidate, and a cut above the Angel Sanchez-es and Ray Olmedo-s of the world. If all goes well, he could be a September call-up this year, but it’s more likely that he’ll be competing for a bench spot next Spring Training or even later.
Unlike Semien and Saladino, DeMichele cannot play shortstop. In fact, there are significant questions about whether he can handle 2B moving forward, as he DHed in his last year in college. However, he was also a higher draft pick than either of them, going in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft out of Arizona State.
DeMichele’s talent is his hit tool. With a short swing, he makes good contact and sprays the ball all over the field, although currently he only possesses line drive power. DeMichele has gotten off to a good start at Winston-Salem this year, hitting .316/.350/.526 through five games, but that shouldn’t be a surprise as he is a polished hitter for those levels. DeMichele’s bat is going to have to keep him moving up quickly through the ranks if he’s going to have a career. If he can scrape by at 2B and pump out line drives, that’s someone who can find a job and add value in some capacity in the majors.