The All Star Break poses a convenient stopping point in the season to evaluate the state of the organization. The White Sox have been a respectable squad this year - certainly compared to last year - but it's pretty clear that the 2015 edition has a better chance at the playoffs than the 2014 one. In the interest of optimism, this post is a chance to look at some of the success stories from the first half in the minor leagues - including the guys who might help that hopeful 2015 playoff push.
Micah Johnson: The second baseman has continued his progression toward the majors in 2014. He started at AA and thrived, hitting .329/.414/.466 over 37 games before getting promoted up to AAA. Although he stalled initially while he adjusted to Charlotte, and his secondary skills haven't quite emerged, he's still doing just fine for a 23-year old middle infield prospect at that level, hitting .297/.329/.382. His BB:K numbers were very good at AA, and they've been adequate in Charlotte.
The one thing that raises eyebrows at a glance is that the 2013 Minor League SB king has only logged 16 steals while being caught 11 times so far this season. Johnson has had to fight through a hamstring injury, so that might explain it to an extent. In a conversation with Eric Karabell, he also expressed the fact that he has already demonstrated he can run the bases and it's not really his focus at the moment. Not sure how much stock to put into that, but if he's had a hamstring injury it may make sense for him not to worry too much about burning up stolen bases that don't really count.
Micah Johnson apparently had what should have been an infield single in the Futures Game on Sunday, although it was robbed by a blown call. Keith Law had his speed as a 70 or better. A Baseball Prospectus prospects writer on Twitter had him as an 80 runner. His fielding percentage is still bad, but it has steadily improved as the season has gone on, meaning he may actually stay at 2B after all.
Johnson has put himself in a position to be called up in September of this year and possibly break camp in the majors next season. If Gordon Beckham does get traded after all it appears that Carlos Sanchez is ahead of him in line, but that could change.
Francellis Montas: Montas, like Johnson, was selected to the Futures Game. Unfortunately, he was unable to play - and will like remain shelved until season's end - due to an injury to his right knee.
Although it's troubling that he has now injured both his left and right knees by age 21, at least neither of those was to his throwing arm. And that's pretty much all the bad news. The good news is that Montas pitched 62 dominant innings at A+ as a starter and is still only 21. He's 6'3'', throws really hard, and had improving reports on his breaking pitch. Pretty hard to complain about a guy with huge velocity producing an ERA of 1.60 with 56Ks against only 14 walks.
If everything goes well, Montas can get some work in over the fall and winter, and perhaps get up to 100-120 IP range in AA next season. He could make an appearance in the majors in the second half of 2015, although 2016 appears more likely. If Montas can stay healthy and his offspeed stuff keeps progressing, he could be an excellent asset.
--Trey Michalczewski continues to smash the ball at Kannapolis -- .290/.371/.464 as a 19-year old in Low A. Given his age, the level of competition, and his scouting reports, his ceiling is looking excellent. There's a long road between where he is and the majors - the jump to AA is brutal, as is the jump from AAA to MLB - but so far so good.
--Tyler Saladino is another reason among many that Leury Garcia may not be long for the major league roster. Saladino can play third, second, and short, and possesses a jack-of-all-trades offensive profile, having shown a little pop, a decent amount of speed, and is even hitting for average this year. He's 25, but he's hitting .310/.367/.483 and has flashed the ability to take a walk in the past. Saladino looks like a surefire September call-up at the latest.
--Rangel Ravelo is hitting .315/.405/.459 at AA as a 22-year old.
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