Zack Collins

Kevan Smith heads to Angels on waiver claim, clarifying White Sox catching situation

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USA TODAY

Kevan Smith heads to Angels on waiver claim, clarifying White Sox catching situation

A crowded White Sox catching situation got slightly less so Friday.

Kevan Smith is heading to the Los Angeles Angels, who claimed the 30-year-old catcher off waivers.

Smith was one of three catchers the White Sox had at the end of the 2018 season, along with Omar Narvaez and Welington Castillo. Smith didn't make the Opening Day roster but ended up playing in 52 games, getting far more action than expected thanks to Castillo's 80-game drug suspension.

The White Sox were likely going to face a decision on which of those three catchers to jettison come the spring, with Smith out of options and it being very unlikely they would carry three catchers on the major league roster in 2019. That decision was going to get trickier with catching prospect Seby Zavala needing to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft in December.

And all of this is without mentioning 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins, one of the White Sox 10 highest-ranked prospects, who is perhaps still the favorite to be the team's catcher of the future. He and Zavala will both likely start 2019 at Triple-A Charlotte, and strong showings there could mean one or both of them finding their way to the big leagues before season's end.

So to put it simply, there wasn't room left for Smith.

Quietly, though, Smith was one of the team's better offensive players in 2018, a reflection on the White Sox less-than-ideal team-wide offensive production rather than Smith's statistical excellent. He finished with a .292/.348/.380 slash line in 187 plate appearances, ranking second on the team to Narvaez in batting average and on-base percentage.

Narvaez led the team in those two categories and ranked second to Jose Abreu in OPS, perhaps making him the best choice for the starting job next season. That being said, Castillo is under a multi-million-dollar contract for one more season (with a team option for 2020) and without a suspension taking away half his season, he could finally emerge as the veteran presence the White Sox were hoping he'd be in 2018, helping the young pitching staff evolve into the staff of the future.

More love for White Sox farm system, with five prospects nominated for MiLB awards

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USA TODAY

More love for White Sox farm system, with five prospects nominated for MiLB awards

There's no shortage of love for the White Sox loaded farm system.

MiLB.com is the latest to recognize the organization's cadre of highly touted prospects, with a host of future White Sox nominated for the site's annual awards.

Dylan Cease — already named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year — is in the running for MiLB's Top Starting Pitcher honor after his sensational season. Cease posted a 2.40 ERA and struck out 160 batters in his 124 innings, splitting time between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and also made a ninth-inning appearance at the Futures Game during All-Star festivities in Washington, D.C.

Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball, is up for Top Offensive Player thanks to his .337/.384/.577 slash line, 22 homers, 28 doubles and 75 RBIs in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Jimenez, the organization's top-ranked prospect, could make an early season appearance on the South Side in 2019.

The White Sox have a pair of nominees for Top Relief Pitcher. Caleb Frare was nominated for his work in both the White Sox and Yankees organizations. Acquired in a midseason trade, Frare had a 0.62 ERA in 31 appearances at Double-A Trenton before joining Triple-A Charlotte, where he allowed just one run in 12.2 innings. And 2017 draft pick Tyler Johnson was excellent in 2018, turning in a 1.40 ERA in 58 innings between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem.

The aforementioned Winston-Salem Dash are up for Best Team after going 84-54 and boasting a large chunk of the White Sox top-ranked prospects. Omar Vizquel was named the Carolina League's Manager of the Year for his work with the Dash this season.

The White Sox are up for Best Farm System, alongside nine other nominees. They've got a strong case, of course, with seven players ranked in MLB Pipeline's top 100.

And finally, Zack Collins is in the running for Top Home Run. He homered twice in the same inning on Aug. 10 — the second shot a grand slam — a game in which he drove in six runs.

Fans can go vote to help the White Sox toward these various awards.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Zack Collins wins HR derby

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Zack Collins wins HR derby

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Zack Collins wins the Southern League Home Run Derby, June 19.

Collins was the first round pick of the White Sox in 2016 based on a strong batting eye and big time power. He got to show off that power in the Southern League Home Run Derby.

Birmingham hosted the derby and all-star game, but it's not a park known for cheap home runs. Regions Field is 400 feet to center field, 320 feet in left and 325 feet in right with 12-foot walls in the corners.

Collins cranked out eight in two rounds, including five in the final round to take the trophy.

Collins' season: It was a mixed year overall for Collins. The home run derby put his power on display and Collins finished the season with 15 bombs in 122 games.

The former Miami catcher showed off his batting eye as well. He totaled 101 walks in 2018, giving him a .382 on-base percentage. The downside is that Collins struck out 158 times and finished with a .234 batting average. Another downside is that he had an .890 OPS in the first half (.267/.429/.460), but slumped to a .685 OPS (.204/.333/.352) in the second half.

If Collins can stick at catcher, his ability to draw walks and hit for power makes him a dangerous bat for that position, even if he won't ever hit for average. However, if he has to move to first base or DH, his bat will have to improve for him to be valuable.