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November 7, 2007

Future Shock

White Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Fautino de los Santos, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
3. Aaron Poreda, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Chris Carter, 1B
5. John Shelby, CF
6. Jose Martinez, OF
Two-Star Prospects
7. Jack Egbert, RHP
8. Ryan Sweeney, OF
9. Lance Broadway, RHP
One-Star Prospects
10. Brian Omogrosso, RHP
11. Kyle McCulloch, RHP

Just Missing: John Ely, RHP; Christian Marrero, 1B; Jerry Owens, OF

1. Fautino de los Santos, RHP
DOB: 2/15/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2005, Dominican Republic
2007 Stats: 2.40 ERA at Low-A (97.2-49-36-121); 3.65 ERA at High-A (24.2-20-7-32)

Year In Review: Beginning the year as an obscure Dominican arm in a weak system, de los Santos first blew away the coaching staff in spring training and then was almost literally unhittable in the Sally League, allowing one hit for every two innings pitched.
The Good: Built like a tree trunk, de los Santos gets tremendous drive. His fastball sits at 91-95 mph, touching 98 at times; it also has late movement, and he commands it very well. His breaking pitch is a power curve with hard late bite, and it's a true out pitch when he's on. He understands the importance of developing an offspeed pitch, and he improved his changeup over the course of the year.
The Bad: De los Santos gets into bad habits at times, and can overthrow all of his pitches, costing him life on his fastball, break on his curve, and decreasing the velocity gap between the heat and his changeup. Some worry that his aggressiveness might work against him when facing more advanced hitters, and that he needs to learn how to set up batters and be more aware of the count, as opposed to challenging hitters with every pitch. If his changeup doesn't continue to improve, some fear he'll be limited to a relief role.
Fun Fact: In 18 fifth innings, de los Santos allowed just three hits while striking out 26.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level starter or closer.
Timetable: De los Santos has the highest ceiling of any player in the system, but he's still at least two years away. He'll likely begin 2008 at High-A, with an expectation than he could be ready for a look at some point in 2009.

2. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
DOB: 9/19/85
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: R/L
Draft: 1st round, 2004, Monsignor Pace HS (FL)
2007 Stats: 3.18 ERA at Double-A (150-116-57-185)

Year In Review: After a one-year sojourn in Philadelphia, Gonzalez returned to the team that drafted him but then dealt in the Freddy Garcia trade. He pitched much better in his second Double-A season, leading the minor leagues in strikeouts.
The Good: Gonzalez has average velocity (89-91 mph) on his fastball, but he can reach back and touch 93 at times, and it features natural lefty movement, almost looking more like a cutter on occasion. He uses it effectively to get ahead in the count and set up his curveball, which is among the best in the minors. It's a hard-breaking power pitch that comes in fast, then falls off the table. His changeup is improving, and his control made significant strides from the previous season.
The Bad: Gonzalez' smallish frame is a concern for some, but he's proven to be highly durable so far in his career. Some wonder if he'll need to pitch backwards more in the majors, and worry that he depends too much on the curve at times. Despite the improvements, his control problems still flare up from time to time.
Fun Fact: Monsignor Pace's most famous alum is actress Catherine Keener, although political commentator Bill O'Reilly taught history at the school for a brief time in the early 1970s.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average left-handed starter.
Timetable: Gonzalez will begin the year at Triple-A, and should see the big leagues at some point in 2008.

3. Aaron Poreda, LHP
DOB: 10/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-6/240
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2007, University of San Francisco
2007 Stats: 1.17 ERA at Rookie-level (46.1-29-10-48)

Year In Review: After being mandated by upper management to take a power arm, the White Sox found the hardest-throwing lefty in the draft. Poreda completely overmatched Pioneer League hitters, although he had more experience than most players in the league.
The Good: Poreda provides an intimidating presence on the mound, and fires a 92-95 mph fastball that touches 98-99 on occasion. His slider flashes as a plus pitch at times. He maintains his stuff deep into games, and is a good athlete for his size.
The Bad: Because of his low arm slot, Poreda isn't able to take advantage of his size in the same manner as most big power pitchers. His slider is highly inconsistent--at times, it's an above-average offering, and at other times sweepy and very hittable. His changeup is rudimentary, but he's shown some feel for it since focusing on the pitch as a pro.
Fun Fact: During his brief debut, batters with runners in scoring position went 0-for-17 against Poreda.
Perfect World Projection: Poreda is clearly a big-time power pitcher, but scouts are split as to whether his future is as a starter or as a bullpen ace.
Timetable: Poreda's early-career dominance likely has the organization comfortable will him skipping Low-A and making his full-season debut in the Carolina League. He'll remain a starter for now, but a move to the bullpen could accelerate his advancement through the system.

4. Chris Carter, 1B
DOB: 12/18/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 15th round, 2005, Sierra Vista HS (NV)
2007 Stats: .291/.383/.522 at Low-A (126 G)

Year In Review: The hulking first baseman proved that last year's Pioneer League breakout was anything but a fluke by finishing third in the South Atlantic League with 25 home runs.
The Good: A true slugger with tremendous strength and power to all fields, Carter has made great strides in his approach, drawing a good number of walks while greatly reducing his strikeout rate from a year ago. He hits lefties and righties equally well, and has no significant weaknesses against any pitch type.
The Bad: Originally a third baseman, Carter is a poor defender, even at first, and needs to improve his positioning and footwork. He can be guilty at times of trying too hard to muscle up his swing when his natural strength is more than adequate. He's a below-average runner in terms of both speed and instincts.
Fun Fact: Wikipedia has entries for seven Chris Carters, none of whom are this Chris Carter.
Perfect World Projection: Your classic first baseman, a middle-of-the-order run producer.
Timetable: The White Sox see Carter as a one-level-at-a-time prospect, and he'll follow that course with an assignment to High-A in 2008.

5. John Shelby, CF
DOB: 8/6/85
Height/Weight: 5-10/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 5th round, 2006, University of Kentucky
2007 Stats: .301/.352/.508 at Low-A (122 G)

Year In Review: Starting the year as a second baseman, Shelby got off to an average start, but exploded in the second half when he moved to center field, the position his father played. Shelby hit .361 in the final month of the season, with 10 of his 16 home runs on the year coming in his last 28 games.
The Good: Shelby has impressive tools, as his quick bat and strong wrists provide above-average power, and he makes consistent hard contact. He's a slightly above-average runner as well, and he had surprisingly few difficulties moving to center field. He's a hard-working diamond rat who plays with a lot of energy and has an excellent feel for the game.
The Bad: Shelby isn't especially big or physical, which limits his projection. He still needs to work on his jumps in the outfield, and his arm is average at best. He needs to refine his approach at the plate and work the count more effectively.
Fun Fact: The oldest of six kids, Shelby's younger brother Jeremy survived Hodgkin's disease in high school to become a 46th-round pick by the Padres in 2005. Jeremy then hit over .300 this year at Columbia State.
Perfect World Projection: A 20/20 outfielder, one with much more value if he can stay in center.
Timetable: As a college product, Shelby was a bit older than many of his Sally League brethren, but his late-season performance provided cause for optimism. The White Sox will likely pair him up with Carter once again, but he could move up quickly to Double-A if he continues his torrid pace from the end of this past season.

6. Jose Martinez, OF
DOB: 7/25/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2006, Venezuela
2007 Stats: .282/.348/.437 at Rookie-level (65 G)

Year In Review: The Venezuelan outfielder made his state-side debut in the Appy League and showed off one of the more impressive packages of tools in the circuit.
The Good: Martinez offers plenty to dream on. Tall, skinny, and long-limbed, one scout compared Martinez physically to a right-handed Darryl Strawberry. He has good strength and is capable of moon shots when he gets his arms fully extended. He's an above-average runner with a gliding stride, and a solid outfielder with an above-average arm.
The Bad: There are still a lot of rough edges to Martinez's game. While he works the count well, he's still prone to flailing at breaking pitches, and left-handers in particular give him trouble. He's overly pull-happy at times, and needs to use all fields better, especially with pitches on the outer half of the plate. His outfield play can get sloppy at times, and he needs to improve on his decision-making defensively.
Fun Fact: When hitting third in the Bristol lineup, Martinez hit .338/.389/.592 in 142 at-bats. Anywhere else, he hit just .204/.291/.223 in 103 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: Martinez has true star potential.
Timetable: While arguably possessing a higher ceiling than any other position player in the system, Martinez is still very much a diamond in the rough. He'll make his full-season debut at Low-A, and is at least three years away from a sniff of the majors.

7. Jack Egbert, RHP
DOB: 5/12/83
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 13th round, 2004, Rutgers
2007 Stats: 3.06 ERA at Double-A (161.2-138-44-165)

Year In Review: After putting up solid numbers at the A-ball level, Egbert surprised many by not only maintaining but improving upon his previous numbers in a full season at Double-A.
The Good: Egbert does two things exceedingly well--throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground. His upper-80s sinker is hard to get lift on, as he gave up just three home runs all year, and he can give batters a different look with a four-seamer than gets up to 91-92 mph. His changeup is a true plus pitch with excellent deception and late fade.
The Bad: Egbert's curveball grades out as average by the more optimistic scouting reports, and some question just how far he can go without plus velocity or an above-average breaking ball; they wonder what he can depend on as a go-to pitch at the major league level.
Fun Fact: Egbert made 14 starts at home, and 14 on the road in 2007. He had a 6-4 record in both situations, recording 84 strikeouts against 22 walks at home, and 81 against 22 on the road. Despite all that balance, he had a 1.94 ERA at Birmingham, and a 4.25 mark away from his home park's friendly confines.
Perfect World Projection: A solid, dependable back-of-the-rotation starter.
Timetable: While Egbert doesn't offer much in the way of upside, there isn't much risk in him either. He'll begin the year as part of a solid Triple-A rotation, and could be among the first called up should the need arise.

8. Ryan Sweeney, OF
DOB: 2/20/85
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 2nd round, 2003, Xavier HS (IA)
2007 Stats: .270/.348/.398 at Triple-A (105 G); .200/.268/.333 at MLB (15 G)

Year In Review: The former first-round pick spent his second year at Triple-A and went backwards. Many believe it's time to stop talking about projection with him.
The Good: Sweeney is big, athletic, and not without some offensive skills. He has a quick, short stroke, gap power, and a nice feel for contact. He works the count well and doesn't strikeout often. He's an average runner who can play center field in a pinch, and his arm is among the best in the system.
The Bad: Always projected to develop power, Sweeney is now stuck as a tweener--without true center field skills or the power to play everyday in a corner. He's always struggled against good lefties, and failed to make adjustments in 2007 to address the problem. He played with little energy down the stretch, and did not get a September callup.
Fun Fact: While at Triple-A Charlotte, Sweeney hit .314 while playing center field, but just .234 when penciled into one of the outfield corners.
Perfect World Projection: At this point, it's hard to see Sweeney as more than a fourth outfielder and occasional starter, though he still has some believers among scouts.
Timetable: While Sweeney has clearly stagnated, it's hard to see him avoiding a third year at Triple-A without a monster spring training. This next year is absolutely pivotal for him.

9. Lance Broadway, RHP
DOB: 8/20/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Texas Christian University
2007 Stats: 4.65 ERA at Triple-A (155-155-78-108); 0.97 ERA at MLB (10.1-5-5-14)

Year In Review: Yet another polished college arm in the system, Broadway was downright mediocre at Triple-A, but shined in a brief big league showing.
The Good: Broadway is sturdily built, and gets praise for his composure and pitchability. His curveball is a slow breaker that he likes to bury in the dirt, and his changeup features excellent arm action.
The Bad: Broadway is forced to pitch backwards, as his fastball generally sits in the 85-89 mph range. His overall package is kind of a mismatch in many ways, as he has the arsenal of a command/control specialist, yet his walk rate is unacceptable, even for a power arm.
Fun Fact: Despite having over 40 pitchers drafted by big league teams, Broadway is already tied for third among Texas Christian alumni with one big league win; former Oakland reliever John Briscoe is the all-time leader with five.
Perfect World Projection: An innings-eating fringe starter and/or long reliever.
Timetable: Broadway's late-season performance opened some eyes with the big league staff, and he'll be given every opportunity to earn an Opening Day roster slot during spring training--most likely in the bullpen.

10. Brian Omogrosso, RHP
DOB: 4/26/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/230
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 6th round, 2006, Indiana State
2007 Stats: 3.74 ERA at High-A (120.1-94-57-108)

Year In Review: The Tommy John survivor began his full-season debut in High-A as a closer, but finished it in the rotation, putting up a 3.39 ERA in 14 starts and delivering quality starts in four of his last five outings.
The Good: Unlike many side-armers, Omogrosso doesn't use the unique delivery to mask substandard stuff. It's his naturally developed motion, and he can get his fastball into the low 90s, touching 93-94 mph. He throws both a two- and four-seam fastball from the side, and also mixes in a solid slider and surprisingly effective changeup.
The Bad: Like most side-armers, Omogrosso has problems against hitters from the opposite side, and lefties slugged 70 points higher against him than right-handers. He needs to throw more strikes and find more confidence in his secondary pitches, which he seems hesitant to throw late in at-bats.
Fun Fact: If he gets to the big leagues, Omogrosso will be the first player in major league history with O-M as the first two letters of his last name, not counting those with apostrophes.
Perfect World Projection: While he impressed as a starter, it's hard to see him remaining in the role, but as a power side-armer, the White Sox are dreaming that he could be the next Pat Neshek.
Timetable: Omogrosso's starting job was based more on need than a change in direction, but it looks like he'll stay there for now and pitch every five days at Double-A this year. If he moves back to a relief role, he could be in the majors by the end of the year.

11. Kyle McCulloch, RHP
DOB: 3/20/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2006, University of Texas
2007 Stats: 3.64 ERA at High-A (121-116-42-88); 6.41 ERA at Double-A (26.2-38-11-16)

Year In Review: Last year's first-round pick was solid but unspectacular at High-A in his full-season debut, but finished the year by getting hammered in six Double-A starts.
The Good: McCulloch's best pitch is a plus changeup, and he sets the pitch up with a well-commanded 87-90 mph fastball and decent curve. He throws strikes, and has an advanced feel for pitching. He's shown excellent stamina, and his mechanics are clean--as is his health record.
The Bad: Scouts see little projection in McCulloch, and wonder if his stuff is good enough for a big league starter and to justify his first-round selection. He became too reliant on the changeup at Double-A, and needs to get back to setting up the pitch, as opposed to relying on it.
Fun Fact: McCulloch was a 12th-round pick in 2003 out of Bellaire High School in Houston, a seven-time state champion in baseball that also produced Arizona star Chris Young and former All-Star Chuck Knoblauch.
Perfect World Projection: A fifth starter who rarely goes more than six solid innings, but usually keeps you in the game.
Timetable: McCulloch will begin 2008 by getting a second chance at Double-A, though his rotation job might be in a small amount of jeopardy. The back-to-back first-round selections of Broadway and McCulloch are the reasons why the organization overhauled its scouting staff and is now focusing on guys with arm strength.

The Sleeper: Seventh-round pick James Gallagher is the highest-drafted player since the Nationals' Larry Broadway to come out of Duke, which is better known for developing pro basketball players. After hitting .332/.418/.534 in the Pioneer League, Gallagher was one of the team's most impressive performers during the instructional league.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Fautino de los Santos, RHP
2. Gio Gonzalez, LHP
3. John Danks, LHP
3. Aaron Poreda, RHP
4. Chris Carter, 1B
5. John Shelby
6. Jose Martinez, oF
7. Danny Richar, 2B
8. Jack Egbert, RHP
9. Ryan Sweeney, OF
10. Boone Logan, LHP

Danks put together some impressive starts during the first half of the season, but he regressed throughout the year, and by the second half was a liability, posting a 7.11 ERA in his final 10 starts. He's still young with good stuff, but his performances have rarely matched his scouting reports. When the White Sox traded away Tadahito Iguchi in their summer housecleaning, Richar was given the opportunity to cement the second base job for 2008, but the jury is still out as to whether or not his .230/.289/.406 showing was enough to win him any job security. He's not without skills, and could be an average second baseman in the end. Logan will likely never be a star, but as a big lefty who can get his fellow lefties out with good consistency, he'll be around for a long time.

Two years after winning the World Series, the White Sox are now a 90-loss team with an aging roster and little help coming from a poor farm system. How quickly things change.

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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