You have seen a detailed report on the must-follow prospects in the White Sox system, and Marc Hulet’s ranking of the top 10 guys in the system. This is a list of the other guys, who you haven’t read about today, that the die-hard fans will know and want mentioned.
Given the White Sox International Scouting Department problems, and the issues they had with bad drafting for a few years, the lack of depth in this system should not be a huge surprise. The farm system hasn’t been a commodity as valued in a Kenny Williams-run organization as his competitors. It’s a tool to use in trades, and at some point, that philosophy is going to thin things out until your scouting director can replenish them. We are, at least, a year away from this happening for the White Sox.
This means the problems really exist at the upper levels. For example, I don’t know if scouts would have bothered to take notes on a single Birmingham Baron (Double-A) in the time between when Brent Morel left and Eduardo Escobar and Charlie Leesman arrived (fine, one: Gregory Infante). Add Deunte Heath, who was released from the Braves in the spring after being charged with two prostitution-related misdemeanors, and you have the only four talented potential Major Leaguers that played in Birmingham. Look up to Triple-A, and the list doesn’t grow bigger, giving us just Jordan Danks and, depending on our optimism levels, maybe Brandon Hynick or Carlos Torres.
The best of that group is probably Leesman, because he’s the rare lefty that can throw into the mid-90s with movement. But command has been an issue, along with finding an out pitch breaking ball. These are hurdles difficult to overcome. Danks hasn’t improved much in any season, and at some point, his inclusion on this list becomes a product of his last name. The skills are still worth betting on, but it’s hard to be valuable like Drew Stubbs if you don’t have Stubbs’ power. Hynick is a groundball and command guy with little upside, Torres is a cutter specialist with little upside. Maybe you’ll find something to like in Heath and his 13+ K-rate, but if the make-up isn’t bad, the command certainly is.
Ultimately, what we’re going to find here is a lot of relievers, be it hard-throwers like Heath or specialists like Torres. I like Gregory Infante quite a bit, as he’ll touch 97-98 mph with trust in two offspeed pitches, but the belief is that his command pushes him to the bullpen. The potential WAR here is very limited, and he’s the best of the bunch. Say what we might about a guy like Kyle Bellamy or Dan Remenowsky, but the difference between them and replacement might as well be non-existent.
The hope for the back-end of this farm system, as far as I can see it, lies in the breakout of three players drafted before 2010, and then the most recent draft. Leesman is one of the high-ceiling pitchers, and the closest to the Major Leagues. Nevin Griffith was drafted a year before Leesman, but he can’t stay healthy. He’s a groundball specialist with a good walk rate, but his stuff hasn’t been as live as when the White Sox drafted him. Lost development time can’t help in the strikeout column, either. You see a similar profile from Matt Heidenreich, who is more projectable at 6-foot-5, but also needs work with his offspeed stuff.
So, the vast majority for hope in the depth department comes from the 2010 draft, from whom so far you’ve only heard of the top two picks, Chris Sale and Jacob Petricka. The team added two college pitchers with, stop me if you’ve heard this before, some sink and solid command. Addison Reed is the better of the two, with a good breaking ball and some upside potential. I’m not sure the same can be said of Thomas Royse, who seems to be one of those guys you hope becomes an innings eater.
Offensive depth in this system is non-existent, as you can see. We haven’t mentioned Brandon Short, but he doesn’t excite scouts much, so again, it will have to be the 2010 draft that fills the minors with some hitting prospects. I credit Baseball America and Matt Eddy being the first to make me aware of Mike Blanke, the team’s 13th-round pick from the Division II University of Tampa. Blanke hit .329/.400/.508 in the Pioneer League, where Eddy ranked him as the number seven prospect. He wrote, “…he would have gone much earlier had clubs had any inkling that he would show plus power, arm strength and receiving skills in his pro debut.”
I can’t help but wonder if Tyler Saladino would have gone any higher, too, hitting .309/.397/.442 in 200 plate appearances in Low-A after winning Summit League Player of the Year honors at Oral Roberts this spring. His strikeout rates are high, though, and his power is low, so he’d better stick to shortstop, and he’d better keep walking at a 10+ percent clip. The team is looking to fifth-round pick Andy Wilkins as a power source at first base, but it was his 33/31 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 256 Pioneer League plate appearances that was most noticeable. The team’s hope he works at third base seems unfounded, but they might have found the next Mitch Moreland.
Next season will be a rebuilding year for the White Sox farm system, as perhaps the 2011 draft and some breakouts will help make up for the depth, as well as replace the graduations we’ll see from the front half of their top-10 list. The team needs to make good on their promise to start drafting for upside, and they need to find talent on the offensive side. Wasting time with drafting relievers should be a thing of the past. Relievers just might be the only thing they have with any depth.