Prior to the 2013 season, the White Sox system got a lot of grief for being one of the worst systems in baseball. It definitely has some glaring holes but there are some intriguing prospects that probably don’t get enough press — such as the southpaw below.
Scott Snodgress, LHP, White Sox: The Stanford alum signed his first pro contract after being selected by Chicago in the fifth round of the 2011 amateur draft. Snodgress has moved swiftly through the system and has spent the entire ’13 season pitching in Double-A.
Standing 6’6”, the tall southpaw has provided just under six innings per start and has compiled a total of 131.2 innings in 23 starts. He’s made some strides with improving his overall control but his strikeouts rate has dipped to 5.40 batters per nine innings, meaning he’s been a significant pitch-to-contact hurler in 2013.
Snodgress, 23, pitches with a low-three-quarter arm slot that provides deception but, when I saw him pitch, he was having difficulties repeating his arm slot, which caused his command to suffer. He showed a slinging arm action and his fastball, which sat in the low 90s, looked quicker than it actually is because of his deception and quick arm. He had a very fastball-heavy approach but the pitch did not have a ton of movement to it.
His best pitch was his changeup. He threw it with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball. It flashed plus at times in the game I witnessed and it had good fade. His curveball was below average on this day. Past reports have suggested his curve is ahead of his changeup but that was not the case when I saw him.
I have hope that Snodgress will continue to improve. He has an athletic frame, moves well on the mound and tall pitchers tend to develop late because it takes them longer to get comfortable with their pitching mechanics. If he can use his height to its full potential, he could eventually provide a more pronounced downward plane on his pitches, which should allow him to induce even more ground-ball outs.
He’s probably about a year away from receiving his first taste of the big leagues, but doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster (to protect from the Rule 5 draft) until after 2014, so next September may be the earliest we see him unless he makes significant improvements. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter, with the latter projection seeming a little more likely at this point.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pirates: This Pittsburgh prospect has seen his value increase significantly over the course of the 2013 season, while splitting his time between High-A and Double-A.
However, Kingham wasn’t particularly sharp when I saw him on Aug. 14 against the Red Sox’s Double-A affiliate. He lasted just 3.0 inning and allowed five hits. Three of those hits, though, were extremely weak shots: the first one was an infield hit because Kingham slowed it down with his glove too much for the second baseman to recover, the second hit just got over the third baseman’s head, and the third base knock was a dribbler up the third base line that was eventually snagged by the pitcher.
Kingham looked far more comfortable from the full windup — with a much smoother delivery — than he did from the stretch. He was struggling to keep his right shoulder closed in this game and it caused his stuff to stay up in the zone too much. When he got his heater down around the hitters’ knees, he was tough to hit.
Kingham threw the fastball almost exclusively and a few of his offerings even had a little cutting action to them. The pitch sat mostly in the 91-93 mph range. His curveball — which has gotten good grades in the past — was rarely used and he struggled to throw it for strikes. His changeup was decent.
The Las Vegas native has a sturdy build and looks like a future innings-eater with the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter but he’s going to have to do a better job of keeping his pitch count down. But that should be helped by the return of his breaking ball; I’d like to see him pitch again in the future when he’s using his full repertoire more consistently.
Other Random Game Notes: Pirates shortstop prospect Alen Hanson had some good swings on fringy fastballs but he struggled against soft stuff away; Outfielder Gregory Polanco has room to fill out his frame, which could help his power output. Facing a soft-tossing southpaw, the left-handed batter struggled in this game but has had success against both right- and left-handed pitchers in Double-A.
Deven Marrero, SS, Red Sox: The Red Sox organization has an embarrassment of riches at the shortstop position — even after the trade of defensive whiz Jose Iglesias to Detroit. Along with top prospect Xander Bogaerts, the club also has 2012 first round pick Marrero.
The Arizona State University alum has produced unspectacular numbers so far during his pro career, including a .676 OPS in 85 high-A games in 2013. Even so, he earned a recent promotion to Double-A and has five hits in his first eight at-bats through two games. I happened to see his second game for Portland and he looked good.
He saw a lot of pitches and really made the pitcher work. He had a level swing that spent a good amount of time in the hitting zone and displayed solid bat speed. In his first at-bat, with the count full, he tried to pull an outside fastball and bounced it back up the middl. It turned into an infield single when the pitcher was unable to snag the ball. He recorded a total of three hits in five at-bats during this game.
Marrero’s offence hasn’t been great but he plays a steady shortstop and also runs the bases well. He has line drive pop and also has all the necessary ingredients to eventually hit for average once he gains a little more experience and, perhaps, is a little more aggressive with hittable pitches earlier in the count. I’d also like to see him go with the pitch a little more and speed less time trying to pull the ball. With the depth ahead of Marrero, the organization can afford to be patient with him.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.