The Arizona Fall League, which begins its 2010 schedule on Tuesday, has typically been viewed as the starting point for future big-league stars much further down the road.
It’s turning out to feed players to the major leagues much sooner than that, though, and the White Sox are proof.
Take Brent Morel, for example. The third baseman made a name for himself last month as a September call-up and established himself as a favorite to be the White Sox’s starting third baseman on Opening Day in 2011. He led the Fall League last year with a .435 batting average.
For the most part, though, the AFL is still is used to prep guys who are still a few years away from setting foot in the major leagues. Morel wasn’t the only White Sox prospect to have success in last year’s Fall League. Jordan Danks led the league with 31 runs scored.
So who did the White Sox send to shine in Arizona this year as players for the Peoria Saguaros?
The pitchers include: right-hander Anthony Carter, left-hander Charles Leesman, right-hander Johnnie Lowe and right-hander Henry Mabee. All four of those pitchers will work under the White Sox’s Triple-A Charlotte pitching coach Richard Dotson.
The Saguaros also will be comprised of White Sox catching prospect Josh Phegley, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Jared Mitchell.
Carter is a Georgia native, who has progressed from a 26th-round pick in 2005. After starting his first four seasons in the White Sox organization, he was converted to a reliever in 2010 and had 22 saves and a 3.92 ERA with Double-A Birmingham.
Leesman, who was a non-roster invitee to spring training this year, is a Cincinnati, Ohio native who was picked in the 11th round in 2008. After going 9-4 with a 5.10 ERA at Single-A Winston Salem this year, he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham and went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts.
Lowe is a resident of the San Diego area, who was a sixth-round pick in 2007. Tabbed as having the best fastball in the White Sox’s draft class that year, he posted a 3.96 ERA over 25 appearances (24 starts) at Double-A Birmingham. Despite that highly-regarded fastball he has never been much of a strikeout guy, registering 74 Ks in 120 1/3 innings this season.
Mabee is a Canada native who was a 19th-round pick in 2007. He has been used exclusively as a relief pitcher in his four seasons in the White Sox chain. This past season at Double-A Birmingham, he posted a 3.65 ERA in 49 appearances (86 1/3 innings).
Phegley is an Indiana native and Indiana University alum, who was a sandwich pick in 2009, taken as the 38th overall selection. Phegley also participated in the Arizona Instructional League, getting increased playing time later in the year because he missed time this summer reportedly with ITP Syndrome, a condition that causes a low platelet count.
Escobar is a native of Velezuela, who was signed as a free agent in 2006. The shortstop entered the 2010 season ranked by Baseball America as the best defensive infielder in the White Sox’s chain. He showed he could hit a little bit to, batting a combined .277 over two minor-league levels, although he did strike out 111 times in 570 at-bats.
Mitchell, the LSU product who was the team’s first-round pick in 2009 (23rd overall) is the most intriguing White Sox prospect in the AFL. Coming off ankle surgery when he was injured in spring training, Mitchell was recently working out in the Arizona Instructional League. He was touted by Baseball American as the club’s No. 1 prospect, its fastest baserunner, best athlete and best defensive outfielder before he was injured. He is being touted as the White Sox’s future lead-off hitter, possibly as early as 2012 once Juan Pierre is gone.