The Chicago White Sox system is languishing at the bottom of the barrel in the American League, thanks in part to poor draft choices and a win-now mentality that has stripped the club of a number of key prospects. However, the Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher trades have helped to restock the system a bit and keep it from challenging Houston as the worst system in the Majors. My biggest question, though, is how can other general managers even trade for a starting pitcher from Kenny Williams after his history of (allegedly) dealing damaged goods, time and time again?
Left-hander Aaron Poreda, a former No. 1 draft pick, is close to being Major-League ready, which is good news for a club that currently has Bartolo Colon penciled in as the No. 5 starter. Poreda split 2008 between High-A ball and Double-A. In 15 Double-A starts, the southpaw allowed 81 hits in 87.2 innings of work and also posted rates of 2.26 BB/9 (His control is better than his command) and 7.39 K/9. Personally, I see Poreda as a dominating late-game reliever with a mid-90s fastball, because he has yet to develop his secondary stuff.
Clayton Richard is another southpaw who has eyes on the No. 5 spot in the rotation. He relies on his secondary stuff (especially the change-up) more often than Poreda and averages out around 90 mph with his sinker. He was lit up in his MLB debut and allowed 61 hits in 47.2 innings. He also posted rates of 2.45 BB/9 and 5.48 K/9. Richard does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground and has allowed just 23 home runs during the past three seasons.
Brandon Allen has massive power – the best in the system. The first baseman was originally drafted in the fifth round out of high school in 2004. He struggled to hit for average during his first three pro seasons but has taken huge steps forward in each of the past two seasons, positioning himself to eventually replace Jim Thome or Paul Konerko. Last season between High-A and Double-A, Allen slugged 29 home runs and maintained an average above .275. He’s also made strides in reducing his strikeout rates, with a respectable (for a power hitter) 26.8 K% at Double-A.
Cole Armstrong, 25, does not have a huge ceiling, but the organization is short on catchers and he’s close to being MLB ready after splitting 2008 between Double-A and Triple-A. At the senior level, Armstrong hit .275/.310/.406 with rates of 3.5 BB% and 19.6 K%. He is a good defender, which will help him carve out a career as a back-up. His 2009 chances are hurt by the fact he hits left-handed (like No. 1 catcher A.J. Pierzynski).
John Ely, 22, had a nice 2008 season even though his ERA was 4.71. He allowed just 142 hits in 145.1 innings and posted rates of 2.85 BB/9 and 8.30. His FIP was 4.02. Ely had a rough July when batters hit .354 against him and his FIP was 6.04. He turned things around in August, though, and held batters to a .206 average. Ely has a low-90s fastball, a plus change-up and a good breaking ball. He should begin 2009 in Double-A.
Gordon Beckham was the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2008 and is an offensive-minded shortstop. He signed late and appeared in just 14 games, but he hit .310 with three home runs in A-ball. Beckham also showed patience at the plate in a small sample size. After the regular season, the 22-year-old infielder lit up the Arizona Fall League with a line of .394/.468/.652 in 18 games. He hit .529 with runners in scoring position. Potentially, he could begin the year in Double-A.
John Shelby Jr.’s 2007 and 2008 seasons (in A-ball and High-A) were very, very similar – which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. On the plus side, he hit right around .300 both seasons and also showed 15 home run power. He increased his stolen base total from 19 in 2007 to 33 last season. On the negative side, the 23-year-old prospect continues to be overly aggressive at the plate with walk rates in the past two seasons of 6.8 and 4.7 BB%. Defensively, he is an average outfielder at best, having been moved off second base, where he was below average.
Only 20, Dayan Viciedo will not step right in to the Major League roster like fellow Cuban Alexei Ramirez did last season. The third baseman will likely begin his career in High-A ball and could move up to Double-A around mid-season if the hype surrounding him is somewhat justified. He has plus-power potential, but there are concerns about his conditioning and drive.
Jordan Danks, the brother of White Sox hurler John Danks, could have been a first-round draft pick out of high school, if he had not contacted teams and asked them not to draft him because he wanted to attend the University of Texas. Danks, though, never developed the power scouts had expected so he slid to the White Sox in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He is a gifted defensive outfielder but it remains to be seen how well he will hit. Danks did manage to hit .325 in 10 A-ball games after signing.
The White Sox tend to favor a college approach to the draft so the prospects in the lower minors tend to be quite raw. Right-hander Dexter Carter is the best of the bunch, although he was a college draft pick pitching against much younger competition in rookie ball. He allowed just 44 hits in 68.2 innings and posted rates of 3.28 BB/9 and 11.67 K/9. He should begin 2009 in A-ball. Carter can touch 96-97 mph but his control is iffy and he could end up as a late-game reliever.
Up Next: The Milwaukee Brewers
These lists do not include all the talented prospects in each system – just a snap shot. Some players have been left out because I have covered them recently and not much has changed (You can link to the older posts from each player’s FanGraphs page) or I am planning a separate post on them in the very near future.
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