ESPN Chicago – Even before the first Chicago White Sox trade has gone down, the team has started the retooling process with the move Friday to call up catching prospect Josh Phegley.
The White Sox announced three moves Friday. In addition to Phegley being recalled, catcher Hector Gimenez was designated for assignment. Outfielder Blake Tekotte was also called up. He will replace Jordan Danks, who was optioned to Charlotte on Thursday.
The move to call up the 25-year-old Phegley means he will miss his opportunity to play in the July 14 Futures Game in New York, not that the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder will mind. He is also will miss his chance to play in the July 17 Triple-A All-Star Game.
Fangraphs - The Chicago White Sox dumped light-hitting backup catcher Hector Gimenez on Thursday. In his place, the organization promoted rookie backstop Josh Phegley — the 38th overall selection from the 2009 amateur draft. The Indiana University alum reached Double-A in his first full pro season but his meteoric rise was interrupted by a serious medical condition, which threaten to end his playing career and affect his way of life. For more on that, check out this piece by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin from 2010. Luckily for Phegley, he’s back and — although it took some time for him to get back into playing shape — finally realizing the potential that caused me to rank him as the organization’s eighth-best prospect as recently as pre-2011.
Phegley, 25, opened 2013 in Triple-A after spending the entire 2012 season at the same level. He posted a .680 OPS last season but was up to .966 at the time of his ’13 promotion. The young catcher’s 15 home runs is a career best (prior was nine) and it’s tied for ninth in the International League and six more than the next closest catcher (Tony Sanchez, who had nine before he was promoted to Pittsburgh on June 21 — and interestingly enough was selected in the same draft).
I recently saw Phegley play a Triple-A game against Indianapolis on June 24. He was facing rehabbing big league pitcher Wandy Rodriguez of the Pirates. In his first at-bat, the prospect swung at the first two pitches and rolled over on an off-speed pitch, grounding out to the shortstop. He then struck out in his second at-bat on a big league curveball from Rodriguez. His third at-bat resulted in a first-pitch single up the middle on a poorly-placed fastball. You may have noticed a trend: Phegley is a very aggressive hitter, as witnessed by his modest career walk rates (5.8% in ’13). On the plus side, he has good contact rates (14% K-rate in ’13) for someone with the type of raw power that he possesses. The Indiana native has modest bat speed but he utilizes a short stroke at times, but he gets in trouble when his swing gets long.
I was pleasantly surprised with the improvements Phegley has made behind the plate. Early in his career, he was an offense-first player with a lot of work to do on defense. When I saw him, he showed soft hands and offered a quiet setup and target. I did think that he offered his target a little late at times and there were certain situations where he tipped location/pitches with the placement of his glove. Phegley moved well behind the plate and was quick to get down to block pitches. He nailed two base runners with accurate throws to second base.
Phegley definitely struggled against off-speed stuff in the game I watched but is a strong fastball hitter. Big league pitchers — like Rodriguez, who isn’t exactly a top-tier talent — will certainly pepper the rookie with a plethora of off-speed stuff once they recognize his weakness. Although he was hitting more than .300 at Triple-A, I fully expected him to produce a modest batting average, perhaps in the .240-.260 range, with a healthy amount of doubles and home runs mixed in. That may not sound overly enticing, but he should provide solid offence for a catcher — and certainly better than what incumbent big league catcher Tyler Flowers has produced in his big league career (.669 OPS).
Thoughts on this guy? Any value outside of very deep and/or AL Only Leagues?