Jul 3rd, 2009

Infusion of talent behind the plate

By Dan Santaromita

The days when Donny Lucy and Cole Armstrong were the best catching prospects in the White Sox system are gone, long gone.

Lucy, 26, is hitting below the Mendoza line for the Knights and Armstrong, 25, hasn’t been much better. Both have received praise for their abilities behind the plate, but have regressed offensively this season. They still could become Major League backups, but their window of opportunity is shrinking quickly with a group of Sox catching prospects working their way up the system.

The Javier Vazquez trade brought in Tyler Flowers, who is emerging as one of the top prospects in the entire system, the draft brought in Josh Phegley from Indiana with the 38th overall pick and foreign player development brought in Miguel Gonzalez, an 18 year-old backstop who is raking in the Appy League right now.

Flowers, recently named to the Futures Game, is a big power bat that has to work on his defense to stay at catcher. The Sox seem to have put a lot of faith in him defensively, saying they have no plans to move him, but scouts have questioned whether they can get away with that. Flowers needs to improve his footwork when popping up to make throws, but has shown improvement at blocking and handling pitchers. Regardless, his bat will get him to the Majors and he is currently the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski.

Phegley is another hitting catcher with defensive questions. Offensively, he killed the ball in the Big Ten the last two seasons. Some scouts have mentioned his power potential may not be all that great, but obviously catchers don’t need to be Joe Mauer to be productive. Similar to Flowers, he has a good, not great arm with problems with his footwork. Phegley has also been questioned in regards to his ability to block balls in the dirt. Phegley’s defense still projects to about average and he seems likely to stay at catcher as a pro. The one thing scouts seem to agree on most is that his makeup is excellent. Phegley should get through the system quickly and push Flowers if Tyler remains behind the plate.

Gonzalez is still mostly unknown. Right now we are calling him a prospect because he is 18 and hotter than a Matt Thornton fastball. Last year he hit .294 in the Dominican Summer League with no home runs. Even at 17, that’s not eye popping. However, he did draw 16 walks to just 18 strikeouts in 143 at-bats and was 8/9 in stolen base attempts. It’s extremely hard to base anything off of DSL stats, but he already has 2 home runs for Bristol in less than 30 AB. Gonzalez, at the very least, is a bat worth watching.

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One Response

  1. Its nice. The past couple catchers we’ve gotten the Sox have went the Kurk Suzuki model and not the Donny Lucy model . Tyler Flowers is much better than Suzuki of course, with the potential to crank 40Hr’s a season and Phegley is a guy that I anticipcate will rake and move up the system and top 100 prospect lists everywhere. It’ll be nice to have multiple quality catching prospects in our organization, especially since AJ isn’t getting any younger at the major league level.

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