Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Which White Sox nonroster invitees will be worth watching?
Several of the players on the list are retread veterans, including five who saw time with the Sox last season -- Dylan Axelrod (pictured), Brian Omogrosso, Hector Gimenez, David Purcey and Blake Tekotte.
Most Sox fans would just assume never see those guys on the South Side again. At best, these players are nothing more than organization depth.
Another group of players on this list are castoffs from other organizations, guys who stand little or no chance of making a big league roster. They include pitchers Parker Frazier, Omar Poveda, Zach Putnam and Mauricio Robles, infielder Alex Liddi and outfielder Denis Phipps.
All that said, one of the best parts of following spring training is seeing how some of the organization's prospects fare. Among those the Sox will be looking at this year are pitchers Chris Bassitt, Chris Beck, Cody Winiarski and Scott Snodgress; infielders Micah Johnson, Mike McDade and Andy Wilkins; catchers Miguel Gonzalez and Kevan Smith; and outfielder Keenyn Walker.
Who on that list will be worth your attention this spring? Well, I'll give you two names: Beck and Johnson.
Beck, 23, is the No. 9 prospect in the Sox organization according to Baseball America. He went 13-10 with a 3.07 ERA in 2013, splitting time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham. He won two playoff starts in helping the Barons to the Southern League championship. He's a strike-thrower with a low-90s fastball, a good sinker, which should help him if he ever plays at U.S. Cellular Field, and a decent changeup. His breaking stuff still needs to be refined, but he could be a reasonable back-of-the-rotation option for the Sox as early as 2015.
Johnson, a 23-year-old second baseman, is the No. 6 prospect in the organization. He is intriguing because he has game-breaking speed. He led all minor leaguers with 84 stolen bases in 2013. He was the MVP of the South Atlantic League All-Star Game before being called up to Birmingham, where he hit .368 in the postseason. We'll have to wait and see whether Johnson's hit tool develops enough to be a major league player. As they say, you can't steal first base. But, this is a player who can steal second and third if he can find a way to get on first consistently.
You never know which prospects will take a leap forward in a given year, but if I were to take an educated guess, Beck and Johnson would be the two I'd pick.