Friday, April 26, 2013

Local Product Rice Released by White Sox, Conlin's Take

Rice with Lakewood in 2011
On Thursday, Sewell, NJ's Bill Rice was released by the Chicago White Sox.  Rice, a Washington Township High School product who played at Gloucester County College prior to transferring to the University of South Carolina-Aiken, was signed previously by the Phillies out of a tryout camp at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park in 2010. The Phils decided to part ways with Rice during spring training last year.  The 5-foot-11 185-pounder quickly signed with the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League and was later inked by the White Sox and assigned to their Class A Kannapolis club.  This year, Rice made the leap to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and hadn't produced to the best of his abilities.  Through 12 contests, Rice posted a .171 average along with three doubles, one triple and four steals. 

According to the 24-year-old Rice his weekend plans were ruined by the release, as his Winston-Salem Dash were set to begin a series against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals affiliate) in Delaware.  Friends and family galore were set to pack Frawley Stadium and cheer on Rice all weekend long, but now he's again looking for a team that wants him.

According to Rice, who was quite disappointed by not having the opportunity to play in front of his loved ones, the hiatus between teams shouldn't be long.

"I got a few calls into a couple guys I know, so, hopefully, it'll just be a short hiatus again," Rice who is in the area working out with former Phillies minor league organization mate Chris Duffy, stated.

Duffy has been playing recently with the Camden Riversharks, after being released by the Phillies during spring training this year.  That could possibly be telling of a potential landing spot for Rice, but as Camden's season has just begun and they have a full roster, timing could be an issue.  Regardless, Rice, a focused and positive individual, is ready for whatever comes next and doesn't intend to stop playing and expects to return to affiliated baseball.

"I'm going to play with whoever tells me they want me, until an affiliate calls again," said Rice, who admits that Camden is an ideal destination right now.  "We'll see what happens."

On the matter of Rice's release and the manner in which the White Sox handled him and other outfield prospects at their Class A Advanced level, long time Philadelphia sports columnist Bill Conlin, who follows Rice's career closely, had the following to say...

Keenyn Walker (1st round pick, 2011), Trayce Thompson (2nd round pick, 2009), Courtney Hawkins (1st round pick, 2012) and Joey DeMichele (3rd round pick, 2012) are all hitting under .200. Hawkins is overmatched in High A. He was moved so fast last year nobody had time to get a book on him. They sat him down for two games this week to clear his head, etc., etc. Was back Wednesday and shared a Hat Trick with Rice, but wrapped his chapeau around a monster home run. Thursday night he only struck out two times.    

While minor league strikeout stats are sketchy, the all-time single season record is 220 by Wes Kent, at High A San Jose in 1984. With 39 strike outs in 59 at bats, Kourtney is on pace for 321, based on a 140 game season. That would break all strikeout records known to man, beast, fish or fowl. With a termination average of .171, Rice fell in the middle of the above high draft picks. Rice got a $75 discount plane ticket from the Phillies and nothing from the White Sox. However, the Sox had to pay the Atlantic League purchase price of $5000 to sign him. Bummer.
If you are into Supply Side economics, Rice's 67 strikeouts in 144 career games have an intrinsic debit of 47 cents divided into $75 for a total valuation of $35.25.  Kourtney's 95 strikeouts in 76 games have an intrinsic value of $1.25 divided into his bonus of $2.475 million for a total Sox debit of $1.98 million. So Billy Rice came $1,979,964.75 cheaper than Courtney Hawkins. Rice takes a .269 batting average with him into unemployment for his 75 game extended cup of coffee at Class A Kannapolis and High A Winston-Salem. What the hell did they expect for $35.25, Mike Trout?

But the penny-pinching White Sox might be looking for a better return than Hawkins' adjusted $1,979,964.75 cost basis. At 19, time is on his side, of course. Ironically, thanks to his good numbers during whistle stops at Bristol, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last season, Hawkins' career average is now .270, just a point better than released Rice's White Six average of .269. (I don't have any reference materials in front of me, but I wonder if any minor leaguer who hit for the cycle -Rice hit for the cycle last July for Kannapolis against Greensboro- was released less than 100 games later. Just sayin')

Of course, Rice gets that point back -and then some- when it comes to sheer speed. Hawkins runs well for a big man. Rice runs fast for ANY man. He has been clocked to first on a bouncer to short as low as 3.70 seconds. Hawkins, who takes a huge swing and runs from the right-handers side hits 4.2 at best. Rice has been clocked as low as 11.0 running out a triple with a slide and averages 11.4 easing up. Rice has 31 stolen bases in 144 minor league games and was leading the Dash with a 4-for-4 when he was told, after just 12 games and 41 at bats, that his game sucks and to get lost.

At least the Phillies had some people who felt Rice was unfairly released last spring and helped him catch on with both the Riversharks and the White Sox. These Chicago clowns assigned him to the major league spring training roster for a week and then signed off on him being kicked in the nuts and dumped onto I-85..
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