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January 25, 2011

Future Shock

Chicago White Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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 Previous Rankings2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: Chris Sale falls into their lap in the 2010 draft, saving the system from the indignity of being without a five-star prospect.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Chris Sale, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Eduardo Escobar, SS
3. Brent Morel, 3B
Three-Star Prospects
4. Dayan Viciedo, 1B/3B
5. Jared Mitchell, CF
6. Jacob Petricka, RHP
7. Greg Infante, RHP
8. Trayce Thompson, OF
Two-Star Prospects
9. Addison Reed, RHP
10. Thomas Royse, RHP
11. Andre Rienzo, RHP

Nine More:
12. Tyler Saladino, SS: Last year's seventh-round pick had a stunning pro debut, and he's a legit shortstop.
13. Tyler Flowers, C: His offensive and defense both went backward in 2010, leaving many to see him as a Quad-A player who can't catch in the big leagues.
14. Brandon Short, OF: He can definitely hit, but he has very few secondary skills.
15. Anthony Carter, RHP: The Sox' Double-A closer has mid-90s heat, but he lacks a second plus pitch.
16. Josh Phegley, C: He sure can hit, but he also sure can't catch.
17. Matt Heidenreich, RHP: This 2009 fourth-rounder has great control of solid stuff that should get better.
18. Charles Leesman, LHP: Leesman is a big, physical lefty who had a strong second half, but his lack of a deep arsenal could get him moved to the bullpen.
19. Santos Rodriguez, LHP: This long southpaw has killer stuff, but he also has poor control and an inability to stay healthy.
20. Jordan Danks, OF: Well, at least he still has some tools.

1. Chris Sale, LHP
DOB
: 3/30/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/170
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Florida Gulf Coast University
2010 Stats: 2.25 ERA (4.0-3-2-4) at High-A (4 G); 2.84 ERA (6.1-3-4-15) at Triple-A (7 G); 1.93 ERA (23.1-15-10-32) at MLB (21 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: The top college pitcher in the draft somehow fell to the White Sox with the 13th overall pick, and he reached the big leagues quickly.
The Good: Sale is a long, angular southpaw with outstanding stuff. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s as a starter, but it bumped up to 95-99 mph in short relief stints as a pro. His changeup is a true plus offering with depth and fade, while his slider is at least average and can flash plus. His all arms-and-legs delivery adds deception to his delivery, and he earns high grades for his poise and makeup.
The Bad: Sale's quick ascension to the big leagues confuses his future; to remain a starter, he needs to find more consistency with his mechanics and improve his command. He's rail thin, leaving some to wonder if he can handle a starter's workload, but at the same time he held his stuff deep into his starts in college.
Ephemera: Of the 26 batters Sale faced in Triple-A last year, 15 of them struck out.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an upper-tier starter or shut-down closer.
Fantasy Impact: It's big either way.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sale is preparing to start this year, but the White Sox front office remains divided as to his future role. The range of possibilities for April range from Opening Day starter at Double- or Triple-A to big-league closer.
ETA: 2011

2. Eduardo Escobar, SS
DOB
: 1/5/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/150
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2010 Stats: .285/.327/.402 at High-A (87 G); .262/.294/.376 at Double-A (49 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Glove/bat

Year in Review: A talented defensive player, Escobar finally showed some life with the bat.
The Good: Escobar earns high marks defensively, with good instincts, soft hands, and one of the better infield arms in the system. What excited scouts in 2010 was the progress he made at the plate, as he showed a quicker bat and started to drive more balls.
The Bad: While scouts think Escobar will be an everyday player, he can't fit toward the top of the lineup without improving his impatient approach. His newfound power led to some power-hungry swings, and he's prone to strikeouts. He's only an average runner and can't afford to lose a step.
Ephemera: Escobar went just 4-for-26 (.154) at the plate when playing second base for the Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, but hit .333/.395/.590 as the team's shortstop.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good everyday shortstop with more than enough bat to easily play every day.
Fantasy Impact: His value is as a good defender/solid hitter, so there won't be much fantasy value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Escobar will begin the year at one of the upper-level affiliates and could get a look by September.
ETA: 2012

3. Brent Morel, 3B
DOB
: 4/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2008, Cal Poly
2010 Stats: .326/.376/.440 at Double-A (49 G); .320/.348/.503 at Triple-A (81 G); .231/.271/.415 at MLB (21 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: The organization's top third-base prospect accelerated his development by hitting at both Double- and Triple-A, eventually reaching the big leagues.
The Good: Scouts adore Morel as a makeup player who gets the most out of his tools. That said, he's a truly good hitter who has outstanding wrists and hand-eye coordination, with the ability to make hard contact to all fields with gap power. His defensive fundamentals are top-notch, to the point where he can play shortstop in a pinch, and his arm is a tick above average. Few players in the minors get higher grades for their makeup, as Morel is a hard worker who loves playing the game.
The Bad: Morel's line-drive swing is not conducive to power, and he projects for just 12-15 home runs per year, well below the average expectation for third basemen. He's a good athlete for his size, but he's still a bit slow. Many scouts see him as an is-what-he-is prospect without much room for growth.
Ephemera: With his September call-up, Morel became the first position player drafted out of Cal Poly to reach the big leagues since 1987 first-round pick John Orton.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid-but-unspectacular everyday third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: He will be usable, but he won't be an early pick.
Path to the Big Leagues: Morel heads into spring training as the favorite in the fight for the big-league third-base job.
ETA: 2011

4. Dayan Viciedo, 1B/3B
DOB
: 3/10/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Cuba
2010 Stats: .274/.308/.493 at Double-A (86 G); .308/.321/.519 at MLB (38 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: The system's latest Cuban import translated his power to in-game situations in his second stateside season, then hit well in the big leagues.
The Good: Viciedo has massive raw power thanks to one of the fastest bats among prospects and plenty of raw strength. He makes more contact than most pure sluggers, and should be able to maintain a solid batting average in the big leagues. His arm is a plus tool in terms of both strength and accuracy.
The Bad: Viciedo has never seen a pitch he didn't like, and his swing-at-anything approach was often exploited in the big leagues. He's big, getting bigger, and has a body that skates the border between huge and soft. He's a below-average runner with limited range at third base, with some scouts thinking he has no future there in the big leagues. He absolutely crushes southpaws, but is merely solid against righties.
Ephemera: Let's name names, as the only two pitchers to walk Viciedo in the big leagues had the same limited experience of The Show: Tigers reliever Robbie Weinhardt (on five pitches) and Indians bullpen arm Vinnie Pestano (on six).
Perfect World Projection: The No. 5 hitter in a big-league lineup.
Fantasy Impact: He'll bring power and a bit of average, but not much else.
Path to the Big Leagues: Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn leave no room at the inn for Viciedo, but the White Sox are playing with the idea of seeing if he can become an acceptable left fielder to get his bat in the lineup.
ETA: 2011

5. Jared Mitchell, CF
DOB
: 10/13/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, LSU
2010 Stats: Did not play
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/arm

Year in Review: This 2009 first-round pick injured his ankle during spring training, causing him to miss the entire regular season.
The Good: Mitchell still has the best tools in the system, beginning with plus-plus speed that makes him dangerous on the basepaths and gives him plenty of range up the middle. He has enough strength for gap power and projects to have double-digit home-run totals down the road. While he's very raw for a hitter, he does have a good approach.
The Bad: Mitchell's football background means he was more unrefined than most his age, and the lost year sets him back even further, as he's now a 22-year-old with just 34 games of pro experience. He looked exceptionally rusty in the Arizona Fall League, and needs to simplify his swing to quicken it into the zone. Nearly every part of his game needs work, as he's still learning how to translate his athletic ability onto the diamond.
Ephemera: When batting with runners in scoring position for the Saguaros, Mitchell went 1-for-25 with 11 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a speedy center fielder with gap power, but he's arguably further from that ceiling than he was a year ago.
Fantasy Impact: He will have stolen bases and 10-12 home runs annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Staying healthy is more important than production for now, and the White Sox will see if Mitchell can get off to a good start at High-A Winston-Salem before moving him up to Double-A.
ETA: 2013

6. Jacob Petricka, RHP
DOB
: 6/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010, Indiana State University
2010 Stats: 2.86 ERA (34.2-25-7-38) at Rookie (8 G); 3.72 ERA (9.2-13-8-10) at Low-A (9 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: Lightly regarded as a prospect entering the spring, this right-hander gained velocity throughout the spring, which moved him up to the second round in June.
The Good: Petricka can bring the heat, sitting at 93-95 mph with a smooth, easy arm action and touches as high as 97-98. He has better control than most young power arms, and has refined his power breaking ball into a true slider than projects as an average pitch in the majors.
The Bad: Petricka frustrates some scouts, because while his size and arm strength are outstanding, his arsenal isn't well-rounded; his slider still flattens out at times, and he doesn't throw his below-average changeup with much 
confidence.
Ephemera: The best pitcher ever drafted out of Indiana State is former Braves lefty Zane Smith who, like Petricka, was selected with the 63rd overall pick in the draft (1982).
Perfect World Projection: He could be a mid-rotation starter or late-innings reliever.
Fantasy Impact: He should have a decent ERA and some strikeouts.
Path to the Big Leagues: Petricka impressed enough in his pro debut to begin his first full-season at High-A.
ETA: 2013

7. Greg Infante, RHP
DOB: 7/10/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela
2010 Stats: 3.48 ERA (33.2-32-15-35) at High-A (31 G); 3.42 ERA (26.1-23-12-34) at Double-A (24 G); 0.00 ERA (4.2-4-2-5) at MLB (5 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/control

Year in Review: This power-armed Venezuelan began the year in the Carolina League, but ended it in the big leagues.
The Good: Infante has an electric arm, pumping gas that sits at 94-96 mph and touches 99; his fastball features good movement in addition to the velocity. He gets decent spin on a 82-84 mph slurvy breaking ball. He seemed unfazed by his quick rise to the big leagues.
The Bad: A former starter, Infante's velocity comes with a violent delivery and mechanics that can get unhinged quickly, leading to trouble throwing strikes. He has a tendency to overthrow his breaking ball, causing it to come in flat and lose break. His changeup has always been well below average.
Ephemera: Infante gave up three home runs in an August 3, 2009 start, and hasn't given up one since over a span of 61 games.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: It all depends on if/when he closes.
Path to the Big Leagues: Infante will get a long look this spring to make the new-look White Sox bullpen.
ETA: 2011

8. Trayce Thompson, OF
DOB
: 3/15/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009, Santa Margarita Catholic HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .229/.302/.433 at Low-A (58 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/hit

Year in Review: A high-ceiling outfielder, Thompson showed plenty of promise in an injury-plagued full-season debut, but he also showed plenty of holes in his game.
The Good: Thompson's size and tools excite scouts. The son of former NBA center Mychal, Thompson has big-time raw power and puts on a show in batting practice with plenty of leverage and long arms leaving him capable of moon shots when he gets fully extended. He's a average runner, and has more than enough arm to play right field.
The Bad: All of Thompson's tools rate as average or better, except for his bat. He's an exceptionally raw hitter, with a trigger to his swing that leaves him behind on good fastball, and even the most pedestrian of breaking balls can make him look foolish. He's still filling out and will likely move from center to a corner as he matures.
Ephemera: While 14 players drafted 61st overall have hit home runs in the big leagues, former first baseman Mike Jorgensen is the all-time leader with 95; no other player drafted in that spot has more than 20.
Perfect World Projection: Thompson's ceiling is as high as any position player in the system, but he still comes with tons of risk.
Fantasy Impact: If he hits his ceiling, it will be enormous, with tons of power and a bit of speed.
Path to the Big Leagues: Barring a sudden turn of events, Thompson is still at least 400 games away from the big leagues, and might have to repeat Low-A to begin 2011.
ETA: 2014

9. Addison Reed, RHP
DOB
: 12/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, San Diego State University
2010 Stats: 1.80 ERA (30.0-17-6-44) at Rookie (13 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/changeup

Year in Review: While he's not quite Stephen Strasburg, Reed stepped into San Diego State's Friday starter role last year and pitched his way into the third round.
The Good: Reed has excellent command and control of a three-pitch mix. He pounds the strike zone with a 89-92 mph fastball that can touch 94 and got as high as 96 during his days as a reliever. His slider and changeup both rate as average pitches to a tick above, and he mixes his offerings well. His big frame and silky-smooth delivery is designed for a big workload.
The Bad: Reed is hardly sexy, and as a starting pitcher he lacks a single consistently plus offering. That leaves a much smaller margin for error in his game, and he'll need to prove himself at every level.
Ephemera: Reed was known more for his play at first base than on the mound at Los Osos High in California, as he pitched just two innings as a junior and 36 as a senior but hit .446 with 13 home runs at the plate.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good third or fourth starter.
Fantasy Impact: He will be an innings eater, but that's about it.
Path to the Big Leagues: What Reed lacks in upside, he makes up for with polish. He'll begin the year at High-A with a shot at moving quickly.
ETA: 2013

10. Thomas Royse, RHP
DOB
: 9/7/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, University of Louisville
2010 Stats: 3.41 ERA (34.1-28-6-28) at Rookie (10 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/fastball

Year in Review: Louisville's ace worked his way up draft boards and landed in the supplemental third round.
The Good: Royse is nearly Reed's doppelganger. He has a power pitcher's frame, but is in fact more of a finesse arm who depends on location and movement. His 88-91 mph has some cutting action, but it's his ability to pinpoint the pitch within the strike zone that makes the pitch so effective. He has a solid-average slider and changeup combination, and like Reed, a very good feel for his craft.
The Bad: Scouts worry that Royse's secondary stuff won't be enough to make up for a lack of velocity, and he'll be forced to pitch backward at the upper levels. He has a history of back issues, but he was healthy all spring.
Ephemera: While 49 pitchers have been selected out of the University of Louisville, Mets reliever Sean Green remains the only one to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Royse is similar to Reed, projecting as a solid rotation option who can eat up innings.
Fantasy Impact: Like Reed, it's limited.
Path to the Big Leagues: Royse had Tommy John surgery in the offseason and will likely miss all of 2011 recovering.
ETA: 2014

11. Andre Rienzo, RHP
DOB
: 7/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Brazil
2010 Stats: 3.65 ERA (101.0-95-32-125) at Low-A (20 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: A rarity as a Brazilian right-hander, Rienzo jumped onto the radar with a strong year at Low-A Kannapolis.
The Good: Scouts thought Rienzo had one of the better fastballs in the Sally League, as he has well above-average command of a 92-94 mph heater than can touch 96 and bores in on left-handed hitters. He has long levers and good arm action, and while he's already 22, he has come a long way considering his experience level.
The Bad: Rienzo succeeded at Low-A with one plus pitch and needs to work on both his slurvy breaking ball and below-average changeup. His delivery is long in the back and off-balance, but it doesn't seem to hinder his ability to throw strikes.
Ephemera: Of the five home runs Rienzo surrendered in 2010, all of them came with runners on base; he didn't give up a home run to any of the 248 hitters he faced with the bases empty.
Perfect World Projection: He could become very interesting if his secondary stuff develops, or he could move to the bullpen.
Fantasy Impact: The ceiling is there, but it's hardly assured.
Path to the Big Leagues: There's not a ton to watch in the White Sox system next year, but the Winston-Salem rotation is certainly something to monitor.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: While he's nearly 25 and has yet to get out of A-Ball, Nathan Jones remains a 6-foot-5 righty who can touch the upper 90s, and some scouts think he could take off with a move to the bullpen.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. John Danks, LHP
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Chris Sale, LHP
4. Eduardo Escobar, SS
5. Brent Morel, 3B
6. Dayan Viciedo, 1B/3B
7. Jared Mitchell, CF
8. Jacob Petricka, RHP
9. Greg Infante, RHP
10. Trayce Thompson, OF

If there's some kind of wager on a Gordon Beckham return to form in 2011, sign me up. The talent is still there, and he hit .310/.380/.497 after the All-Star break. Even with that, it's hard to put him ahead of Danks, as above-average lefties who throw 200 innings per year are worth their weight in gold. Or even more, as based on Monday's closing, that would be less than $4.5 million.

 Summary: Under general manager Kenny Williams, the White Sox are always one of the most aggressive teams in terms of trades and free-agency signings. That game plan has yet to be applied to drafting or the international market, and the White Sox continue to lag behind in terms of prospects.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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