Catcher Josh Phegley has been minor bright spot
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com May 23, 2013 10:03PM
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Josh Phegley #75 of the Chicago White Sox at bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training at Camelback Ranch on February 28, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Phegley
Updated: May 24, 2013 10:43PM
The White Sox’ farm system isn’t exactly teeming with major-league-ready players or depth in certain areas, but they do have reason to feel good about their catching situation.
Josh Phegley, 25, has turned some heads with a hot start for Class AAA Charlotte and is “probably the most major-league-ready [prospect] in terms of having an impact,’’ said assistant general manager Buddy Bell, the Sox’ former farm director.
Through Wednesday, Phegley was hitting .333 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 28 RBI in 34 games. His OPS is 1.051. As important, the minor-league Gold Glove winner is already more than adequate defensively, Bell said.
“Everybody is talking about Phegley right now,’’ Bell said. “Phegley is having a great year defensively and offensively. We’re really happy with his progress. He’s done a nice job.’’
The 5-10, 220-pounder was drafted in the first round (38th overall) by the Sox out of Indiana University in 2009. After being limited to 48 games in 2010 because of a rare autoimmune disorder that lowers platelet count, Phegley is fully healthy.
The Sox put a premium on defense and handling pitchers for their catchers, and that’s why Tyler Flowers, 27, isn’t at risk of getting laid off from his job despite his .202 average and one home run in the last 35 days. This is Flowers’ first go at catching full-time in the majors, and the Sox are prepared to give him a long look.
Phegley’s defense, while characterized by Baseball America as “unrefined,” is good enough to give the Sox assurances that as a Plan B, he’s solid if Flowers doesn’t measure up.
“He’s really good; he’s comparable to Flowers,’’ Bell said. “They both throw well and block and have some energy. So we feel pretty good where we are defensively catching-wise.
“His balance is good from a defensive standpoint and offensive standpoint.’’
The Sox want Phegley to play every day and develop with the rest of the young catchers in their system, so bringing him up as a backup to Flowers won’t happen.
“Our catching is really good,’’ Bell said. “With Phegley, [Mike] Blanke [at Class AA Birmingham] and Kevan Smith [Class A Winston-Salem], I think our depth in catching is really an advantage for us. That’s always a position to be strong at, and we are. We feel really good about that, especially defensively.’’
The same can’t be said for the outfield prospects, on whom the Sox have invested deeply with high-round draft packs. First-round pick Jared Mitchell was demoted from Class AAA to AA, while 2011 sandwich pick Keenyn Walker (.200) and 2009 second-rounder Trayce Thompson (.231) are off to slow starts for Birmingham. First- rounder (2012) Courtney Hawkins is 14-for-79 (.177) with a whopping 45 strikeouts for Winston-Salem.
“You can always use more of those guys,’’ Bell said, “because all those guys aren’t going to be impact guys. Hopefully there’s one that performs at the level you’re hoping for.’’
Bell said right-hander Ramon Troncoso (1.50 ERA) and 31-year-old lefty David Purcey (3.57) are performing well. Both are relievers who could get a call to help a bullpen that has struggled of late.
“Purcey has made some strides,’’ Bell said. “He throws strikes and has a good arm. He might be a guy who could help.’’