|It's a make-or-break season for outfielder Jared Mitchell. (USATSI)|
Before the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The White Sox have consistently ranked near the bottom of prospect lists for the last couple of seasons. The poor showing is mostly justified because they failed to draft enough impact players from 2000 to 2007. The club was finally able to hit on a major-league impact player in 2008 with Gordon Beckham, but his performance has fallen off since a strong rookie year. Aside from Chris Sale, the White Sox haven't received a ton of value from first-round picks in quite a long time. But there's some reason for hope on the South Side. The Sox have added their most exciting prospect in at least a decade with 2012 first-round pick Courtney Hawkins.
2013 Impact Player
Sanchez isn't an elite prospect, failing to make most top-100 lists this year. But he was the talk of the team's system throughout the offseason. Sanchez managed to jump three levels in 2012, hitting .323/.378/.403. He should start 2013 in Triple-A, where he ended last season. Sanchez is not going to hit for power but could hit for a decent average and provide 20-plus steals in a full season. Sanchez has played short, second and third in his minor-league career, making him an intriguing option if the team tires of second baseman Beckham or doesn't get enough production from Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie at third. He might not have great upside, but he might be better than the players the team currently has in the infield.
Hawkins made a name for himself on draft day by doing a backflip after the White Sox selected him with the 13th pick in the 2012 draft. Entering his age-19 season, Hawkins remains incredibly raw. The team did push him last season, giving him time at three levels, but he still only finished the year in High-A. Hawkins gets high marks for his strength and athleticism, but, like many raw players, needs to focus on his approach at the plate. The White Sox haven't had a prospect like Hawkins in a long time. He'll need plenty of seasoning before he's ready to contribute at the major-league level, but White Sox fans should start following his performance this year.
Mitchell, a first-round pick in 2009, missed most of 2010 with an ankle injury. Given that Mitchell was considered extremely raw when he was drafted, the injury was about the worst thing that could happen to him. Mitchell finally started to show signs of improvement last season, but mostly struggled. He displayed some power and patience in Double-A but hit .240/.368/.440 due to a high 30.9 percent strikeout rate. After three years in the minors, Mitchell has barely progressed since he was drafted. He remains a good athlete but needs to produce this year if he wants to stay on the team's prospect radar. On many other teams' prospect lists, he wouldn't be a standout player.
Much of the hope for the White Sox's farm system lies in Hawkins. If he can hone his approach and improve his skills, the White Sox could have their best prospect in quite some time. The rest of the farm system remains questionable due to poor drafting and the aggressive promotions of Beckham and Sale. The team's strategy of taking raw, high-upside players has produced a lot of risk. And although it's a better idea than going after safe, low-upside guys, neither approach has worked for the team over the last decade or so. The White Sox have a long way to go before their system rates well among analysts, but drafting Hawkins was a major step in the right direction.