On The Farm Report: Recent Promotions Could Signal Impending Rebuild

While we’ve highlighted numerous prospects in recent weeks as guys Sox fans should begin to know a bit more, it’s been a while since we’ve put out a full-blown farm report that takes a look at what’s happening throughout the system.

It turns out that this White Sox off-day is perfect timing for one, as the past couple of days have been busy for Rick Hahn. The organization has decided to promote some prospects up for AA to AAA, showing which players the team thinks can contribute soon and could be call-up candidates if and when the team decides to rebuild.

With the call-ups, the draftees being placed, and players still tearing it up, there’s a lot to discuss. Let’s get right to it…

Johnson, Wilkins, Rodriguez, Webb join the Knights

Four different prospects moved a few states northeast over the past few days, as starting pitcher Erik Johnson, first baseman Andy Wilkins, and relievers Santos Rodriguez and Daniel Webb were promoted from AA Birmingham to AAA Charlotte.

Johnson (pictured above) was promoted to AAA before Sunday’s game, and he actually made the Sunday start for the club. He picked up right where he left off in Birmingham, going six innings while allowing just one run on five hits while striking out six.

With his AA success this year (8-2, 2.23 ERA, .189 opponents average) and his success in both A-ball stops in 2012, the 2011 second round pick is now the club’s top pitching prospect. His recent promotion to AAA suggests that if he pitches well, he’s in line to get at least a September call-up and possibly a spot start in the event of a rainout or cancellation. If a starting pitcher on the current club gets traded, it would now be a surprise if Johnson is not the guy who gets the nod.

Wilkins, who Zach recently highlighted in his "Getting to Know the Future" series, was promoted Monday to AAA after hitting for a .288 average with 10 home runs and 49 RBI for the Barons. While he’s never really been viewed as a top ten prospect in the system, it’s obvious that he’s raising some eyebrows this season based on his promotion.

As a first baseman, Wilkins doesn’t have any room on the big league club right now with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn on the roster. However, if one of those two guys gets dealt and Wilkins holds his own in AAA, he presumably would get the call.

Rodriguez and Webb were promoted over the weekend, and both players dominated in AA. Rodriguez, who the Sox received along with Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge from Atlanta for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan after the 2008 season, is a left-hander who struck out 25 and walked 14 over 23.1 innings with a 2.35 ERA. Webb, a right-hander the Sox received from Toronto for Jason Frasor after the 2011 season, allowed just four runs in 20.1 innings.

Since both prospects are still relatively young (Rodriguez is 25, Webb is 23), promotions to AAA likely mean the Sox view them as potential pieces for the future. It’s well documented that two of the team’s main trade pieces are Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton, so don’t be surprised if Rodriguez and Webb get the first crack at those spots if the veterans are dealt. Zach will take an in-depth look at both Rodriguez and Webb in his “Getting to Know the Future” series tomorrow.

Anderson jumps Rookie ball

With the 2013 draft over, Rick Hahn went to work and did a good job of signing key members of the draft class quickly. Both rookie-level affiliates, the Bristol White Sox and Great Falls Voyagers, began play last week with rosters filled with mostly 2013 draftees.

However, one big name from the class was missing off the rookie-ball rosters: first-round pick Tim Anderson. The shortstop, who turned 20 on Sunday, has hit second for the Class-A Kannapolis Intimidators in all four games he’s played, going 5-for-17 in those contests. However, Anderson has committed three errors already.

The addition of Anderson almost coincided with the return of last year’s supplemental round draft choice: first baseman Keon Barnum. With Anderson at shortstop, Barnum at first base, and second baseman Micah Johnson (who has 55 steals and a .335 batting average) all in Kannapolis’ starting infield, the Intimidators may be the system’s most intriguing team to follow from here on out.

Other News and Notes

– The Josh Phegley watch continues, as the man we've highlighted many times in this blog just keeps raking. Phegley just has not slowed down, as he now has a .327/.385/.614 slash line. That comes out to a .999 OPS, which ranks second in the international league.

– Phegley is not the only player in Charlotte to take note of, as Brent Morel has also performed well. He’s raised his average to .285 with an OPS of .825. Morel is in a tricky spot with Conor Gillaspie currently holding down third base on the big league club, so it will be interesting to see how the Sox handle Morel if he keeps hitting.

– A couple of highly touted outfield prospects are making some news in AA Birmingham. Trayce Thompson struggled mightily for the first two months of the season, but it appears he’s turned the corner, raising his average to .262 after seeing it below the Mendoza line for a long stretch. Also, Jared Mitchell has returned from his oblique injury, and is hitting .241 over his last 10 games.

– What’s a farm report without an update on top prospect and GSB! Interviewee Courtney Hawkins? He went on an absolute tear earlier this month after returning from a shoulder injury, but he’s now ice cold. Over his last 10 games, he’s 2-for-38 with 22 strikeouts, and now has an average of just .183.