White Sox Top-15 Prospects of 2011
1. Chris Sale | LHP | Age – 22 | Grade – A-/B+
2. Brent Morel | 3b | Age – 24 | Grade – B-
3. Jared Mitchell | OF | Age – 22 | Grade – B-
4. Jacob Petricka | RHP | Age – 21 | Grade – B-
5. Trayce Thompson | OF | Age – 20 | Grade – C+
6. Addison Reed | RHP | Age – 23 | Grade – C+
7. Eduardo Escobar | SS | Age – 22 | Grade – C+
8. Tyler Flowers | C/1b | Age – 25 | Grade – C+
9. Greg Infante | RHP | Age – 23 | Grade – C+
10. Thomas Royse | RHP | Age – 22 | Grade – C+
11. Andre Rienzo | RHP | Age – 22 | Grade – C+
12. Tyler Saladino | SS | Age – 21 | Grade – C+
13. Brandon Short | OF | Age – 22 | Grade – C+
14. Anthony Carter | RHP | Age – 25 | Grade – C
15. Matt Heidenreich | RHP | Age – 20 | Grade – C
› Prospect Primer (Grading Criteria Explained)
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ALSO SEE – White Sox Top Prospects, No’s 6 – 15
Grades are based on a prospect’s projected value over the course of his career and how likely it is that prospect will fulfill his projected value. Various factors are accounted for including upside, red flags, actual performance, and closeness to the majors. See the 2011 Top Prospect List Primer for more information as it relates to prospect grading and philosophy.
Hitters must have 100 or fewer Major League ABs to qualify for this list. Starting pitchers must have 50 or fewer Major League innings to qualify. Relief pitchers must have 25 or fewer Major League innings to qualify. Ages are listed as of May 1st, 2011. Levels are based on the highest level in which a prospect played in 2010. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the season starts.
Prospects 1 and 6 are available for everyone to read. All other scouting reports can be accessed by Premium Members only.
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Quick Rundown on Prospects 1 – 5
- 1. Chris Sale | LHP | Age – 22 | Grade – A-/B+ … See his in-depth report below…
- 2. Brent Morel | 3b | Age – 24 | Grade – B- … Average hitter with borderline plus-plus defense.
- 3. Jared Mitchell | OF | Age – 22 | Grade – B- … Making his way back from a torn tendon in his left ankle. Time in the AFL didn’t show many lingering effects, but he was rusty…
- 4. Jacob Petricka | RHP | Age – 21 | Grade – B- … Power arm misses bats and induces ground balls…debate over whether he’ll end up in the bullpen or make it as a starter.
- 5. Trayce Thompson | OF | Age – 20 | Grade – C+ … Highest upside talent in the system besides Sale and maybe Mitchell, but he’s still extremely raw. Click here for a pitch-by-pitch report on Thompson
- *Dayan Viciedo is no longer considered a prospect based on the criteria set forth for these lists.
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Fastball – 65 Now | 65 Future
Slider – 50/55 | 60
Change-Up – 60 | 65
Control – 50 | 55
Command – 50 | 60
Pitchability – 50 | 60
ETA – 2011
Final Grade – A-/B+
Body Type – Tall and very slim…not a body type with a lot of room to fill out.
Fastball – Will range anywhere from 91 – 96, hitting higher in shorter stints. The pitch has very good life and is predominantly thrown down in the zone, which leads to ground balls. Sale’s command of the pitch can be inconsistent, but he flashes an ability to spot the pitch to both sides of the plate. He’s a guy who will lose a couple of mph on his fastball late into ball games and that will be a factor in the decision of whether to put him in the rotation or relegate him to the bullpen, something I address a little further down.
Change-Up – A plus, sometimes plus-plus pitch. The deception on the pitch is excellent since it comes out of Sale’s hand looking like a fastball. Sale does a tremendous job of maintaining his arm speed and selling the pitch. The pitch gets the table pulled out from under it very late, which has many hitters well out in front.
Slider – This is Sale’s most inconsistent pitch. The quality will range from fringy to plus. He might actually throw two versions of the pitch. One is clocked in the 83 – 86 mph range, while the other is slower, clocked in the 79 – 82 range. At it’s best, the pitch has solid depth and a relatively late break. At its worst, there is no depth and the pitch looks closer to a cutter with an earlier break.
I do think Sale’s breaking ball plays up because of the quality of his fastball and change-up. They all come from the same arm slot and you can see how the pitch acts as a good change of pace just by watching the hitter’s reaction when the breaking ball is at its best: they get wobbly legged. Below you can see each pitch’s action. Fastball is on top, change-up is in the middle, and slider is on the bottom:
*Credit to Minor League Baseball
There is plenty of debate that swirls around Chris Sale. It’s not his talent that is in question; it’s his role. The White Sox decision to quickly rush Sale through the minors and into their bullpen fueled more questions about his future role.
Personally, I like Sale as a starter. I see a guy with two plus pitches and another potentially above average one (maybe better), to go along with pretty good control and potential command that will need to improve. The overall package he brings to the table looks like a potential front of the rotation starter to me.
However, you also have to look at his body size (skinnier pitchers have a higher attrition rate than other body types). Some also don’t believe he has the command and/or breaking ball to be a starter — I disagree. And there are many who look at his very unorthodox mechanics and find it hard to envision him being able to repeat his delivery for 100+ times a game even though he did it in college. Let’s take a brief look at Sale’s mechanics…
*Credit to MLB Advanced Media
The first thing I notice is he’s a drop-and-drive pitcher (notice the bend in Sale’s back leg as he begins to stride home). He’s also very herky-jerky, which is something that can throw off hitters facing him.
I know some are worried about his arm action. I think those worries are overblown. If you are worried about his elbow going above his shoulder, the first thing I’d say is that the inverted arm action theory is just that: a theory, and it doesn’t mean a pitcher is guaranteed for an injury-plagued career. The second thing I’d point out is that the height of Sale’s elbow is exaggerated since his torso is hunched over, distorting the elbow’s position as it relates to the shoulder.
Also, Sale’s arm slot requires the elbow to drop back down to below shoulder’s level. The elbow comes down before the period of maximum stress on one’s shoulder. Remember, even those who completely buy into the inverted arm action theory will tell you it’s not that the elbow goes higher than shoulder’s height, it’s if the elbow is above shoulder’s height as it begins external rotation. You also have look at the front shoulder. Those who subscribe to the inverted arm action theory are concerned with a pitcher’s timing. If the arm is not vertical and the front shoulder has begun opening, then you have a timing problem — I tend to agree with this.
If you look at Sale’s mechanics, you’ll notice he does a good job of keeping that front shoulder closed. In fact, Sale’s front side mechanics are extremely sound. He firms up the glove out in front of his chest and brings his chest into the glove. As a result, he’s able to keep his front shoulder from flying open and achieve excellent finish and extension on his pitches as well.
While Sale’s mechanics are indeed unique and unorthodox, they seem to fit him well and he doesn’t have any major issues repeating them. Also, while there is some effort to his wind-up, he doesn’t go max effort with each pitch. So I stand by the mindset that Sale is a starter.
If the White Sox do decide to make Sale a starter, he will likely be sent to Triple-A to build up stamina and innings. However, if the decision is made to keep him in the bullpen, Sale will likely be a member of the big league roster from the outset of the season.
Best Case Outcome – Front of the rotation starter
More Likely Outcome – Elite set up man that can go multiple innings. I’m not confident the White Sox will pass up the immediate benefits he will provide them in the bullpen. If I were, I’d give him a straight A- letter grade.
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