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February 2, 2009

Future Shock

White Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Gordon Beckham, SS
Four-Star Prospects
2. Aaron Poreda, LHP
3. Brandon Allen, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
4. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. John Shelby, CF
7. Jordan Danks, CF
8. Chris Getz, 2B
Two-Star Prospects
9. Clayton Richard, LHP
10. Brent Morel, 3B
11. Jose Martinez, RF

Just Missed: Dexter Carter, RHP; Jeff Marquez, RHP; Juan Silverio, SS

Ranking Challenges: Beckham is a first-rank talent who is head and shoulders above the others, and while Poreda has tons of potential, he also comes with a fair share of uncertainty. Allen received outstanding reviews from scouts, especially those who saw him as he was finishing up last season at Double-A Birmingham, and that gives him the edge over Viciedo, who brings both significant positives and negatives to the table. Flowers rates as an easy fifth-best, and slots six through 11 are more or less a toss-up of a half-dozen players of similar promise.

1. Gordon Beckham, SS
DOB: 9/16/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Georgia
2008 Stats: .310/.365/.500, .242 EqA at Low-A (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The top infielder in college baseball had a mammoth .411/.519/.804 season at Georgia in '07, and many were surprised when he was still available with the eighth overall pick in the draft last year.
The Good: Beckham has the rare potential to become a middle-of-the-order run producer who also plays in the middle of the infield. He has a pro's understanding of the strike zone, a quick bat, and at least average power coming out of his smallish frame, with one scout calling him a right-handed Chase Utley. Beyond the tools, he's a max-effort gamer with great defensive instincts and a knack for coming through in key situations.
The Bad: Scouts have issues with where Beckham will ultimately fit defensively. He's an average-at-best runner who falls just short of big-league range, and he'll likely need to move to second base by the time he's ready, although that opinion is hardly universally held.
Fun Fact: His father, Gordon Beckham, was an all-state high school performer in football at The Westminster School in Georgia, throwing for 25 touchdowns and running for seven more during his senior year, and he then became a quarterback for the University of South Carolina.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a shortstop with a good batting average, high on-base percentage, and 20-25 home runs annually.
Glass Half Empty: A second baseman with merely good offensive value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Alexei Ramirez has the ability to block him at shortstop if last year's Cuban rookie settles in at the position, but second base could be wide open.
Timetable: Beckham had no trouble playing in the Arizona Fall League, and he could move up quickly. Even if he doesn't begin the year at the level, he'll likely spend a significant amount of time this season at Double-A Birmingham, and he could be ready at some point in 2010.

2. Aaron Poreda, LHP
DOB: 10/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-6/240
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, University of San Francisco
2008 Stats: 3.31 ERA at High-A (73.1-67-18-46), 5.35 DERA; 2.98 ERA at Double-A (87.2-81-22-72), 4.63 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: This first-round pick from 2007 landed on the fast track with a strong second-half showing at Double-A.
The Good: Poreda's combination of size, pure power, and left-handedness is a rare combination. Despite an unorthodox and slingy delivery, his fastball sits at 93-96 mph, touches 98, and features natural sink and run. He's made some progress with a slider that flashes as plus at times.
The Bad: Poreda's future is wrapped up in the development of his secondary pitches. His slider still flattens out too often and sweeps across the plate without any dive, while his changeup is lacking in terms of arm-side deception and fade. Many early detractors still see him as a relief pitcher down the road.
Fun Fact: Poreda played his high school ball at Campolindo High in Moraga, California. Their most interesting baseball alumni is Carey Schueler, a 43rd-round pick in 1993, the first woman to be selected in the draft, and daughter of Ron Schueler, who was the White Sox general manager at the time.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an above-average major league starter.
Glass Half Empty: He'll settle for the role of a late-inning power reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: The White Sox currently have only three established starting pitchers, so if Poreda pitches well early, he'll get the opportunity.
Timetable: Poreda will be given a serious look in spring training, but current plans are for him to begin the year at Triple-A Charlotte. He should make his big-league debut at some point during the '09 season.

3. Brandon Allen, 1B
DOB: 2/12/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/235
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2004, Montgomery HS (TX)
2008 Stats: .279/.372/.527, .248 EqA at High-A (89 G); .275/.358/.614, .291 EqA at Double-A (41 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Seen internally as the organization's sleeping giant, the big first baseman had a breakout season, leading the Carolina League in slugging early on, and then tying for the Double-A Birmingham team lead with 14 home runs despite playing just 41 games there.
The Good: With a massive, muscular frame and a terrifyingly strong swing, Allen is easily the best power prospect in the system. His great leap forward was the result of much-improved plate discipline, as he made significant progress in laying off of chase pitches and recognizing which pitches he can drive. He's a fantastic athlete for his size, and at least an average runner who can really move once he gets going.
The Bad: A former top star on the gridiron, Allen still often looks like a football player learning to play a new game. His style of hitting will always lead to a significant number of strikeouts, and he needs to temper his approach when behind in the count; every time he swings the bat he takes a vicious hack. He certainly has the athleticism to improve, but he's currently a downright awful defensive player with poor footwork, bad instincts, and hands of stone.
Fun Fact: Allen took Tampa Bay's top prospect David Price deep in each of his first two Double-A at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He's going to be a mashing everyday first baseman.
Glass Half Empty: The fact that he's left-handed could give him an outside chance at a bench spot, but with his lack of defense it might be either start or bust.
Path to the Big Leagues: Paul Konerko is signed through 2010, so the situation for Allen to stick as the starter could be lined up perfectly to coincide with that.
Timetable: Allen will return to Double-A Birmingham in 2009, and if he continues his pace from last year, he'll suddenly be on everyone's radar.

4. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
DOB: 3/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Cuba, 2008
2008 Stats: None
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The White Sox continue to be a prime destination for Cuban defectors, and they signed the teenage star in November.
The Good: Viciedo has the potential to be a top-line offensive prospect. He combines brute strength with incredible bat speed, and he's one of those rare players for whom solid contact "sounds different" when he can fully square up on a fastball. Defensively, he has solid hands and an above-average arm.
The Bad: Viciedo was often out of shape while playing in Cuba, and he had ballooned to somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 pounds at the time of his signing. He's on a conditioning program this winter, and it will likely be something that requires constant attention; it could eventually move him off of third base. Scouts who saw him in Cuba noted that beyond the weight issues, he had a fondness for his cruise-control setting.
Fun Fact: Viciedo was an All-Star in the Serie Nacional, Cuba's highest league, when he was just 16 years old.
Perfect World Projection: He'll become a middle-of-the-order third baseman.
Glass Half Empty: He could eat his way to first base... or right out of baseball.
Path to the Big Leagues: There has been some hype about Viciedo being an immediate answer at third base, but that's more than a bit aggressive, though in the long term they are holding the position for him.
Timetable: His spring performance with help the White Sox figure out where to begin with Viciedo, with High-A Winston-Salem being the logical starting point.

5. Tyler Flowers, C
DOB: 1/24/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/245
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 33rd round, 2005, Chipola JC (Braves)
2008 Stats: .288/.427/.494, .271 EqA at High-A (122 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Among the many Braves draft-and-follow prospects, Flowers broke out in '08 by finishing in the Carolina League's top five in both on-base percentage and slugging, placing second overall in all of the minors with 98 walks, and ending up as a key part of the Javier Vazquez deal.
The Good: As a massive backstop with power and patience, one scout dubbed Flowers, "almost Matt Wieters light... or I guess heavy." He has a highly advanced approach at the plate and smokes balls in the zone into the gaps. He makes excellent in-game adjustments to pitching styles, and is equally effective against both left- and right-handed pitchers. On defense, he has good hands behind the plate.
The Bad: His size is an issue, and his body borders on being soft. He's not very athletic behind the plate, and his below-average arm is brought down even more by his size, which slows down his release. Some scouts wonder if he'll be able to stick behind the plate; projections of a player's value drop precipitously when moving from catcher to first base, which would be the only other option for Flowers.
Fun Fact: When batting with the bases loaded in 2008, Flowers went 5-for-13 with three doubles, two grand slams, and four walks.
Perfect World Projection: An offense-first catcher who provides enough run production to make up for his poor defense.
Glass Half Empty: The defensive issues are too much to overcome, leaving him as a big bat without a real home, la Craig Wilson.
Path to the Big Leagues: A.J. Pierzynski has two years left on his contract, after which Flowers should take over.
Timetable: He'll begin the year at Double-A Birmingham in 2009. He's now the catcher of the future for the White Sox, after having been blocked in Atlanta by Brian McCann.

6. John Shelby, CF
DOB: 8/6/85
Height/Weight: 5-10/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2006, University of Kentucky
2008 Stats: .295/.331/.510, .234 EqA at High-A (114 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: An outfielder with good bloodlines (his father, John Shelby, was a center fielder with the Orioles and Dodgers in the '80s), he continued to brighten his prospects with another solid all-around showing last season.
The Good: Shelby's tools rate as average or better across the board. His quick wrists give him good plate coverage and solid power, and he's an above-average runner with a knack for stealing bases (33 for 38 last year).
The Bad: Shelby has an aggressive approach at the plate with little patience, and he'll need to up his walk total to survive. Scouts wish that he had inherited his father's top-notch defensive skills in center; he's still adjusting to the position after starting out as a second baseman, and his jumps and routes need work.
Fun Fact: To further illustrate the lack of multi-tool players in college, Shelby ranks sixth on the University of Kentucky career home-run leader board, and seventh in stolen bases. He's the only player in the Top 30 of both categories.
Perfect World Projection: Much like his dad, he could be a 20-20 center fielder who lacks substantial on-base skills.
Glass Half Empty: He'll end up as a valuable bench outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Sox don't really have a center fielder.
Timetable: Shelby will make the big jump to Double-A in 2009, where he'll have the opportunity to place himself firmly in the White Sox' future plans.

7. Jordan Danks, CF
DOB: 8/7/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2008, University of Texas
2008 Stats: .325/.400/.625, .297 EqA at High-A (10 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: Given the opportunity to shine in a draft class weak on outfielders, John's younger brother had another disappointing season, but the Sox couldn't pass up his tools once he became available to them in the seventh round.
The Good: Danks certainly passes all of the scouting sniff tests as a tall, rangy athlete who oozes with projection. He works the count well and shows occasional pull power. Defensively, he's nearly big-league ready in center field right now, with plus instincts, outstanding range, and an above-average arm.
The Bad: Danks' longish, line-drive swing does not produce much power, prompting an interesting comment from one Arizona Fall League observer: "Didn't the White Sox already have the big-time athlete who can't hit for power? I already saw the Ryan Sweeney show, and I'm not really up for an encore." He never quite lived up to expectations at Texas, ending up with a three-year performance record that fails to inspire.
Fun Fact: Danks was selected with the 210th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Nine years prior, the Rockies used that exact same pick on Matt Holliday, another Texas-based (albeit high school) toolsy outfielder who dropped in the draft due to bonus concerns.
Perfect World Projection: The potential for stardom is there...
Glass Half Empty: ... as is the potential for a major bust.
Path to the Big Leagues: We're talking about a team that will likely open the year with Brian Anderson and Jerry Owens as their starting center fielders.
Timetable: After a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League proved to White Sox brass that he's ready for an aggressive assignment, Danks will begin the year one rung below Shelby at High-A Winston-Salem.

8. Chris Getz, 2B
DOB: 8/30/83
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2005, University of Michigan
2008 Stats: .302/.366/.448, .264 EqA at Triple-A (111 G); .286/.286/.286, .193 EqA at MLB (10 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This steady but unspectacular infielder continued his steady and unspectacular rise to the big leagues.
The Good: Getz is a true grinder who gets the most of his limited tools. He works the count aggressively, rarely swings at bad pitches, and hits line drives to all fields with gap power. He just flat-out plays the game right; he's a good bunter, can effectively hit the ball the other way, and on defense he makes the play on any ball he can get to at as many as four different positions.
The Bad: Getz's tools don't offer for much in the way of projection. He has little power, and there is little reason to think he ever will. His limited range both on the left side of the infield and in the outfield leaves him useful only in a pinch.
Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, viewers see very little of Getz's hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the vastly under-appreciated black comedy Grosse Pointe Blank. In fact, his alma mater, Grosse Pointe South High, refused to allow the filmmakers to shoot the reunion scene there since it depicted alcohol usage... by people in their late 20s.
Perfect World Projection: He should be an average second baseman who plays up because of his intangibles.
Glass Half Empty: He's a utility player.
Path to the Big Leagues: With Orlando Cabrera departing and Alexei Ramirez sliding over to shortstop, the second-base job is open.
Timetable: Getz spent the offseason recovering from a broken wrist. Provided that he's healthy, he'll compete with Jayson Nix for playing time at second base this spring, and he could even stick as a round-the-infield backup.

9. Clayton Richard, LHP
DOB: 9/12/83
Height/Weight: 6-5/240
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2005, University of Michigan
2008 Stats: 2.47 ERA at Double-A (83.2-66-16-53), 4.26 DERA; 2.45 ERA at Triple-A (44-33-4-33), 2.98 DERA; 6.04 ERA at MLB (47.2-61-13-29), 6.82 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: In a system filled with decent-at-best arms at the upper levels, Richard is a step above, and he was given work in some key innings last season during the White Sox's stretch drive.
The Good: His sinker is the best in the system. Abetted by his height, the pitch sits in the low 90s, has a bit of horizontal run to it, and Richard consistently keeps it in the lower half of the zone while painting both corners. He brings a football mentality to the mound, and his fearlessness was one of the key factors in his being brought up to The Show when the White Sox needed an additional arm.
The Bad: Richard's secondary stuff lags behind; both his slider and his changeup are below average, and he doesn't like to use either pitch unless he's well ahead in the count. His lack of a chase pitch had hitters sitting on the sinker in the big leagues, and he often got rocked.
Fun Fact: Coming out of McCutcheon High in Lafayette, Indiana, Richard was one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, garnering scholarship offers from a number of Big Ten schools, as well as UCLA and Colorado.
Perfect World Projection: He cold become a back-end starter who rarely dominates but induces enough ground balls to keep his team in the game.
Glass Half Empty: He's nothing but a situational reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: The White Sox staff has depth issues, so there should be a spot for Richard.
Timetable: Richard will compete for the job as the fifth starter this spring. If he loses that fight but still pitches well, he'll begin the year in the big-league bullpen.

10. Brent Morel, 3B
DOB: 4/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Cal Poly
2008 Stats: .375/.437/.438 at Rookie-level (15 G); .297/.359/.459, .237 EqA at Low-A (45 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: This college performer led Cal Poly in numerous offensive categories, and was very impressive in his pro debut in 2008.
The Good: Morel's mechanically sound swing and excellent bat speed allow him to make consistent hard contact with gap power that should at least make him an excellent doubles hitter. He's an above-average defensive third baseman with good instincts, soft hands, and a strong arm.
The Bad: While his swing path gives him an excellent contact rate, it also leaves him with a touch below-average power, so he doesn't profile especially well for his position. He can expand his strike zone at times, and he'll need to further develop his on-base skills in order to find work as an everyday player.
Fun Fact: While nearly 100 players have been drafted out of Cal Poly, only three have hit a home run in the major leagues, led by the not-exactly powerful Ozzie Smith's 28 career blasts. He's followed by pitcher Mike Krukow (5) and one-time Angels backup catcher John Orton (4).
Perfect World Projection: A third baseman who might fit best hitting second in the lineup.
Glass Half Empty: He doesn't have enough of a bat to start, with his lack of defensive options and his right-handedness both limiting his value as a bench player.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's behind Viciedo for now, but Viciedo might not really be a third baseman.
Timetable: After having no trouble hitting Sally League pitching as a pro, Morel may begin the year with a jump to High-A Winston-Salem.

11. Jose Martinez, RF
DOB: 7/25/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2008 Stats: .306/.359/.382, .210 EqA at Low-A (39 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: The toolsy outfielder was just beginning to hit his stride, going 18-for-41 in his last 11 games before a knee injury ended his season in mid-May.
The Good: Martinez' ceiling is as high as any outfielder in the system. His long frame and broad shoulders provide for plenty of power projection, and even now he can put a massive charge into the ball when he gets his arms extended. He's also an above-average runner who has a big, strong arm that works for him in right field.
The Bad: Martinez' biggest issue is that he's raw, especially in his approach, and the lost season put him a bit behind schedule. His power ceiling is still firmly on the potential side of the ledger, and until he's playing full-time again, we won't know exactly how much speed he's retained.
Fun Fact: During his brief stay at Low-A Kannapolis, Martinez went 8-for-16 with a home run when batting with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a difference-maker in the outfield.
Glass Half Empty: When players like this don't work out, they tend to end up somewhere between out of baseball and Juan Encarnacion.
Path To The Big Leagues: Right now, he just needs a path to a full, healthy season.
Timetable: Martinez is expected to be fully recovered this spring, and he'll get a second shot at Low-A.

The Sleeper: Brent Lillibridge, also acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade, has seen his prospect star droop considerably over the past two years, but he's still a speedster with some on-base skills who can play nearly anywhere on the diamond.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Gordon Beckham, SS
2. John Danks, LHP
3. Aaron Poreda, LHP
4. Brandon Allen, 1B
5. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
6. Tyler Flowers, C
7. John Shelby, CF
8. Jordan Danks, CF
9. Chris Getz, 2B
10. Clayton Richard, LHP

I must admit that I went back and forth with Beckham and Danks at number one here. I wouldn't put up a huge argument if someone wanted me to reverse this order; it just seems that Beckham doesn't come with much risk, and as an offensive talent he has more impact potential. Needless to say, the White Sox are not a young team.

Summary: Once among the worst systems in the game, the additions of Beckham, Viciedo, and Flowers raise the organization's spread of talent substantially, but it remains well below average due to a severe lack of depth. With an older roster that could run into issues with injuries and performance drop-offs, that could be a problem.


Up next: the Cleveland Indians.

---

Top White Sox pitching prospect Aaron Poreda talks about the development of his secondary pitches, a possible switch to the bullpen, and much more in this Top 11 Prospect edition of BPR.


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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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