2017 White Sox; Garcia and Hawkins Anchors Struggling Lineup


June 18, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox first round draft choice Courtney Hawkins throws out the first pitch before a game against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

We previously profiled the exciting future lineups of the second division Twins and Cubs. Those teams may be struggling now, but their farm systems are stacked, and their paths rather bright. But then there are teams who’s minor league systems are as starved for talent as their major league clubs, and who’s futures are rather bleak. There is no greater example of this, than the Cubbies’ crosstown rivals, the White Sox. While the team will likely see their farm system transformed by higher draft picks and a shift in organizational philosophy, for now their 2017 lineup looks rather thin and the rebuilding project they are about to undertake, rather extensive.

The crown jewel of this farm system is teenage outfielder Courtney Hawkins, although its questionable whether or not any other team in baseball would place him as their top prospect. Just 19, Hawkins was highly regarded enough out of high school to be taken 13th overall by the White Sox in last year’s amateur draft. From there, Courtney distinguished himself from the other prep draft picks in the class by raking to an .804 OPS and 8 home runs between, rookie, low and high A ball in 2012. This year, however, was a different story for the young center fielder. He displayed plus power by launching 19 big flies, but that was probably the only positive note of the season. Hawkins proceeded to strike out 160 times in just 425 at bats, leading a dismal .178 batting average, and because he could only muster up 25 walks, an equally disappointing .249 on base percentage. Granted, Hawkins is still very young and was playing in a league that was by in large comprised of players a year or two older than him. He has ample raw power, and a plus arm and range that could win him a gold glove in right, but the numbers are still very troubling for a former first round pick.

Filling out the outfield are a pair of 22 year olds, Trayce Thompson and Avasail Garcia. Thompson, taken out of high school in 2009, has, for better or worse, a similar profile to Hawkins. Fast, with an even faster bat, Thompson flashes a solid glove in center and the corner, and unleashed over 24 home runs in each of his first two seasons. This past season, however, the fleet footed hitter struggled in his first full tour of AA, as his generally mediocre average dipped to .229, and his power totals dipped to 15 home runs and a .383 slugging percentage. With over 160 strikeouts in two of his three full minor league seasons, its unclear if Trayce will ever hit enough to play every day in the majors. On the off chance he can, Thompson could be a gold glover 20-20 threat.

Garcia was picked up from the Tigers in the three team summer blockbuster that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. A five tool

June 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Avisail Garcia (34) at bat against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

outfielder, Garcia has torn apart both the farm and majors this year, boasting a .379 average and .561 slugging percentage across a handful of minor league stops, and then hitting .317 with two home runs in 110 major league at bats. The only problem for Garcia is a lack of plate discipline that will likely be exposed as the league sees him more. The young rookie has never walked more than 20 times in the minors, but has accrued over 100 strikeouts twice, and has a poor 28:5 K:BB ratio with the White Sox. These peripherals have to change if Garcia is to succeed.

Leading the infield ranks, is 2013 draftee, 20 year old shortstop Tim Anderson. Fast and athletic with a smooth, line-drive swing, the young shortstop is still far off but could hit .300 in the majors with 50 stolen bases. So far, he has impressed in the minors, hitting .277 with a .348 OBP in A ball. That being said, I’m predicting, as are many scouts, to move over to third once he reaches the show, thanks to a deficiant glove and the presence of a superior defender, Leury Garcia.

Acquired from the Rangers in August in exchange for Alex Rios, Garcia is a plus defender at short. His speed will allow him to steal 30+ bases in the majors, as he has done in the minors, but his bat is still a question mark. The future gold glover did manage to hit .294 last year in AA, but he only managed a .265 average in the minors’ highest level this season, a number not dissimilar to his marks from 2011 and 2010. With virtually no power, Garcia will have to at least hit in the .260s to be a competent shortstop.

2B Marcus Semien and 1B Keon Barnum fill out the right side of the infield. Semien, 22, is one of the few White Sox positional prospects to have a standout 2013 campaign. The young middle infielder hit 19 home runs with a .284 batting average between double and triple A, while stealing 20 bases. More important for his future major league success is his plate discipline, as Semien walked 98 times, leading to a .401 on base percentage and surprising september call up. Keon Barnum, by contrast, is still a ways away from the big leagues. He was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, but is very raw out of high school. Scouts rave about his innate power, leading MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo to list him as the 8th best first base prospect in the game, but his natural hitting ability has yet to manifest itself in a game situation. The 20 year old prospect has hit only 5 home runs in 201 A level at bats this year.

Sep 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox catcher Josh Phegley (36) hits a single against the Detroit Tigers during the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Behind the dish, the White Sox’s future seems to rest in 25 year old rookie, Josh Phegley. A first round pick in 2009, Phegley did not break out until this year, when he hit .316 with 15 home runs and a .966 OPS in 61 AAA games before receiving a promotion to the big league level. He may have struggled mightily since his call up, but he may only need an adjustment period before he becomes a productive hitter.

Under the direction of general manager Rick Hahn, this lineup will look radically different than these projections, which are based solely on players currently in the organization. An injection of batting talent will be sorely needed as even if every player meets his projection (an impossible task), this lineup still needs serious help.