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The Kids Will Play

“The Kids Can Play.” Behind that slogan, the 2000 Chicago White Sox won 95 games in route to winning the AL Central. Twelve seasons later, the White Sox may be going with a similar slogan. As our good friend Peter Gammons reported Monday, White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams will “let the kids play” next season. The last time the White Sox embraced the rebuilding process, it ended in a division title. The second time around, they might not be so fortunate.

After the highest payroll in franchise history led to nothing but disaster, it appears Williams’ has finally admitted it’s time for a rebuild on the South Side. The rebuild is a long time coming, as Williams has constantly put his faith in aging veterans and free agent signings to keep the White Sox competitive in recent years. With the Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy contracts preventing the team from adding much payroll this off-season, Williams will finally have to put his faith in “the kids.”

Problem is, “the kids” aren’t all that impressive. Due to poor drafting and development, the White Sox farm system rates as one of the worst in baseball. After the White Sox spent first round picks on Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch in consecutive years, Williams told his scouts to focus more on high upside players early in the draft. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t worked out for the White Sox just yet.

While Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale reached the majors shortly after being drafted, it’s tough to get too excited about their performances. After two seasons of regression, it looks like Beckham may never live up to his promising rookie season. Sale has already established himself as a dominant reliever, but it’s hard to get fired up over a pitcher whose ceiling is 80 innings. According to Williams, Sale will be moved to the rotation next season — making him one of the few “kids” that may be worth watching. Jared Mitchell, the White Sox 2009 1st round pick, was seen as a project when selected. Due to various injuries, he’s still as far from the majors as he was on draft day.

Other members of the youth movement don’t necessarily inspire confidence in the rebuilding plan either. Unless you believe in his September surge, Brent Morel did nothing to show he deserves a starting job in the majors. Tyler Flowers, the main prospect the White Sox acquired for Javier Vazquez, has fizzled since joining the team. Even though Dayan Viciedo has experienced some success in his young career, he’s still a prospect without a position or a proper understanding of the strike zone. Addison Reed looked like a potential stud reliever after posting a 14.73 K/9 in 7.1 innings last season, but his value will be limited by his role.

A rebuild on the South Side is a long time coming, and Williams should be credited for finally tearing down the team and starting from scratch. Unfortunately, no team is more ill-equipped for a rebuild than the White Sox. Their poor drafting in recent seasons have really put them back at square one. The veterans are getting older, and the prospects just aren’t good enough to bridge the gap. While it’s the right idea, it might be a long time before the White Sox find themselves at the top of the AL Central if they choose to go into full rebuilding mode. The kids will play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can play.