The Sox have surprised many people with their play this season. The team predicted to be middle of the pack and far from a playoff contender at the beginning of the season finds itself three games up in their division and playing with great confidence at the All-Star break. Lets take a look at how the rest of the organization performed during the first half.
The Good: Triple-A catcher prospect Josh Phegley has been good but not great this season. I have him labeled as the top Charlotte performer because he has shown flashes of brilliance and, in all honesty, this roster is not exactly what you would call loaded. Phegley is hitting .266 with 30 RBIs thus far. What I really like about this kid is the fact that he is not afraid to battle at the plate. The 24-year-old is a tough customer at the dish who refuses to strike out, a la A.J. Pierzynski. In fact, both catchers have 37 Ks in 70-plus games played. I am strongly in Phegleys corner because Tyler Flowers does not appear to be the backup catcher Sox fans want to see on A.J.s off days. We have watched pitchers burn fastballs past Flowers like hes an innocent bystander all season. If Phegley can find a way to put together a couple productive weeks, he might just get his shot on the South Side.
The Bad: Much like their major-league counterparts, the Charlotte Knights are three games up in the division at the All-Star break, but the difference lies within their goals. In my opinion, minor league baseball is much less about winning championships and more about building a solid farm system teeming with young, capable prospects whose skills will later translate to big-league success. The Knights are finding a way to win games but the prospect talent is spread paper thin. There is no star on this team who is a shoe-in at the next level. Someone needs to emerge as such during the second half because each day is a day closer to the future of White Sox baseball.
The Watch List: Charles Shirek has been a silent assassin this year, quietly and systematically mowing down opposing offenses each start. The 6-foot-3 righty has been by far the most outstanding pitcher for Charlotte this season. He is 7-4 with a 3.61 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Over the span of his 18 appearances, Shirek has amassed 109.2 innings of work. This is the most of any pitcher in the entire International League. My only concern is can he keep up this blistering pace for the rest of the season? Shirek is a 26-year-old journeyman who has been in the system since 2007. If he has any shot at all, its going to have to be sooner rather than later.
The Good: Minorleagueball.com ranked shortstop Tyler Saladino as the No. 3 prospect in the Sox system before the season and the 2010 seventh-round sleeper has done a decent job of justifying his rank. While is numbers are not exactly Triple Crown caliber (.2524 HR31 RBI) Saladino has found a way to get on base and manufacture runs. His above average athleticism is evident in his 30 stolen bases, the most in the Southern League. I would like to see Saladino have an All-Star second half to cement his position at the top of the Sox prospect list.
The Bad: This was supposed to be the year. Back to 100 percent, a healthy Jared Mitchell was finally going to show us what his freaky athleticism could do for the White Sox organization, and he has. Jared Mitchell is capable of striking out in mass quantities. The total has reached the astronomical number of 106, one short of worst in the league. However, Mitchell has shown signs of life with his 18 stolen bases, 31 extra base hits and .815 OPS. There is no doubting this kids athletic ability but I fully doubt his plate approach. He strikes out 1.26 times a game with a K-rate of 35.8 percent and numbers like that are not going to get you to The Show. I like Jared Mitchell and I am a fan of what he can do on the base paths and in the field but being an athlete can only take you so far. Tick-tock Jaredtick-tock.
The Watch List: Nestor Molina appears to have a bright future ahead of him. Despite his 4-7 record, he has shown the ability to dominate opposing lineups. He simply needs to find a way to be overpowering all the time. Unfortunately, Molina is still on the seven-day disabled list due to what is being called minor tendinitis in his right elbow. This is the exact reason I have him on my watch list. It will be interesting to see how and when Molina bounces back from injury.
The Good: White Sox No. 7 prospect Jake Petricka has been solid for his club thus far. The lanky righty is 5-foot-5 with an impressive 78 strikeouts, good enough to put him in the Top 10 of the Carolina League. Petricka, 24, is getting to the age where it is vital to take the next step forward in his career. If he can keep decent bite on his sinker, he will get another opportunity in Birmingham soon.
The Bad and the Watch List: My player to watch at the High-A level is Trayce Thompson. The California product has made it clear that he can flat out swing the bat. He is Top 10 in doubles (22), Top 5 in triples (5), second in home runs (16) and third in RBIs (64) and total bases (157). Contrarily, Thompson does carry a downside -- in Mitchell-like fashion, he leads the league in strikeouts (114), hence his less-than-stellar .231 average. I believe with a refined plate approach and some fine tuning, Thompson could be a good one.
The Watch List: Rangel Ravelo has done everything asked of him to this point in the season. He has grinded to boost his average to a respectable .291 after a few rough patches, showing he is more than capable to work through adversity. Sox fans, keep a close eye on this youngster because he is talented and has the demeanor of a true ball player.
Joe Musso contributed to this report