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November 17, 2009

Future Shock

White Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Four-Star Prospects
1. Daniel Hudson, RHP
2. Jared Mitchell, OF
3. Tyler Flowers, C
Three-Star Prospects
4. Jordan Danks, CF
5. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
6. Brent Morel, 3B
7. Clevelan Santeliz, RHP
8. Trayce Thompson, OF
Two-Star Prospects
9. Santos Rodriguez, LHP
10. David Holmberg, LHP
11. C.J. Retherford, 2B

Four More:

12. Jhonny Nunez, RHP: Nunez has a 93-95 mph fastball and a very good slider, both of which should fit in a big-league bullpen, though he falls short of being the late-inning type.
13. Josh Phegley, C: The 2009 draftee is the rare college catcher with power and patience, but there are way too many questions about his defensive prowess.
14. John Ely, RHP: Ely has consistently gotten minor league hitters out, but on a pure scouting level, he has merely average stuff and command.
15. Nathan Jones, RHP: Standing 6-foot-5, he's projectable as all get out and dialed up heat clocked up to 97 mph this year; he'll also be 24 in January while having yet to get out of A-ball.

1. Daniel Hudson, RHP
DOB: 3/9/87
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed:5th round, 2008, Old Dominion University
2009 Stats: 1.23 ERA (22.0-15-2-30) at Low-A (4 G); 3.40 ERA (45.0-31-13-49) at High-A (8 G); 1.60 ERA (56.1-37-10-63) at Double-A (9 G); 3.00 ERA (24.0-22-9-24) at Triple-A (5 G); 3.38 ERA (18.2-16-9-14) at MLB (6 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Though Hudson was initially a moderately obscure fifth-round pick, he was the breakout pitcher of the year in the minors, pitching for five teams, beginning the year at Low-A and finished it in the big leagues.
The Good: Hudson combines plus stuff with well above-average command. His 92-94 mph fastball can touch 96 and features good tailing action, and he throws strikes to both sides of the plate with it. His best secondary offering is a plus changeup that is a true swing-and-miss pitch, which lessens the concerns about his slingy, low three-quarters arm action.
The Bad: Hudson's slider flashed average, but it is inconsistent. He'll need to establish it more as a starter in the big leagues. He tends to work up in the zone and gives up fly balls. Despite the enormous leap forward, many scouts think he's maxed out projection-wise.
Ephemera: Hudson's 295 strikeouts rank second in Old Dominion history behind Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who punched out a remarkable 427 batters in his three years with the Monarchs.
Perfect World Projection: Even with Hudson's tremendous growth in 2009, some scouts don't see room for much more, seeing him as a good third starter at best. Others think he'd be even better as a late-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he's not fully big league-ready, Hudson is awfully close.
Timetable: Hudson's 2010 will be determined by the White Sox' offseason. He could begin the year in the big-league bullpen as the team's sixth starter, or he could get more refinement with some starts back at Triple-A.

2. Jared Mitchell, OF
DOB: 10/13/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Louisiana State University
2009 Stats: .296/.417/.435 at Low-A (34 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: One of the toolsiest players in the draft, Mitchell actually played his best after being selected by the White Sox, earning the Most Outstanding Player award in the College World Series.
The Good: Mitchell's tools are nothing short of explosive. He's an elite-level athlete with plus-plus speed and plenty of raw power. He didn't focus solely on baseball until this year, and many feel like he's just scratching the surface of his potential. Unlike many players with his profile, Mitchell has a keen understanding of the strike zone. He gets good grades for his makeup and plays with a lot of intensity.
The Bad: Many aspects of Mitchell's game need refinement. He's yet to turn his wheels into a game-impacting skill, as his routes in the outfield and his instincts on the base paths need work. He did not hit a home run in his pro debut, there's always been a good amount of swing-and-miss in his game, and he may need a longer-than-average adjustment period to wood bats. His arm is a tick below average.
Ephemera: Mitchell and current LSU lefty Chad Jones are the only two college athletes to be on both a BCS football title winner and a College World Series champion.
Perfect World Projection: If it all comes together, Mitchell could be the impact center fielder the White Sox have been wanting for years.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's behind Jordan Danks on the organizational depth chart, but he could move to a corner to accommodate Mitchell if both develop without issues.
Timetable: Mitchell's rawness means he could take a bit longer than most major program college players. He'll begin 2010 at one of the organization's A-level affiliates.

3. Tyler Flowers, C
DOB: 1/24/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/245
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 33rd round, 2005, Chipola JC (Braves)
2009 Stats: .302/.445/.548 at Double-A (77 G); .286/.364/.438 at Triple-A (31 G); .188/.350/.250 at MLB (10 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: Flowers was the big name picked up in the Javier Vasquez deal. He hit about what was expected, but he made tremendous strides behind the plate.
The Good: Flowers has the kind of offensive skills rarely found in a catcher, with plus power and an excellent approach at the plate. Scouts were universal in their praise for how much he improved defensively, and team officials talk about how he bought into the need to improve from day one. Over the season, Flowers became an average defender to go with his plus arm.
The Bad: Flowers' swing is a bit stiff, and while he makes up for it by consistently getting himself into hitter's counts, he has a lot of holes to exploit and will always have a high strikeout rate. His arm loses some of its zing because of a very slow release, and his big, beefy build makes him a well below-average runner.
Ephemera: Flowers' teammates on the 2005 Chipola team included Milwaukee third-base prospect Mat Gamel and Twins outfield sleeper Rene Tosoni.
Perfect World Projection: Flowers could be envisioned as a catcher with a lower batting average, but with 20 home runs and 80 walks to go with average defense. That's well above average for the position.
Path to the Big Leagues: The contract of the White Sox's starting catcher since 2005, A.J. Pierzynski, expires following the 2010 season.
Timetable: While there's some talk of using Flowers in the big leagues next year as a backup catcher who also gets some time at first base and designated hitter, he'll likely play the majority of the year at Triple-A in order to get consistent at-bats.

4. Jordan Danks, CF
DOB: 8/7/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2008, University of Texas
2009 Stats: .322/.409/.525 at High-A (30 G); .243/.337/.356 at Double-A (73 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: Danks is an impressive athlete who seemed to be on the verge of a breakout season during the first month of the year, but he struggled at Double-A while dealing with a wrist injury.
The Good: Danks certainly looks the part, as he's a long-bodied, graceful athlete with excellent bat speed that allows him to turn on any fastball. He also has a sound approach at the plate. He has enough speed to play a solid center field, and his long strides allow him to glide into both gaps effectively.
The Bad: Despite his size, Danks doesn't hit for much power-he never has-and scouts don't see much projection in that department, with multiple evaluators throwing out Ryan Sweeney comparisons as a player who looks like he should have power, but just doesn't. Breaking balls gave him trouble at Double-A. If he does fill out, he could lose a step and be forced to move to a corner.
Ephemera: During his one-month stint with Winston-Salem, Danks hit just .195 during day games, but a whopping .390/.494/.623 under the lights.
Perfect World Projection: Danks projects as a good everyday center fielder, but he's probably not going to be a star.
Path to the Big Leagues: The White Sox have been looking for a permanent answer in center for some time.
Timetable: Finally healthy, Danks has been hitting quite well in the Arizona Fall League, leading some team officials to believe he'll be ready for Triple-A in 2010.

5. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
DOB: 3/10/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Cuba, 2008
2009 Stats: .280/.317/.391 at Double-A (130 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: The big-money Cuban defector had a disappointing pro debut, but Viciedo did get better as the season went on, as he hit .313/.350/.464 after the All-Star break.
The Good: Viciedo has fantastic bat speed, which also gives him good pull power. He made adjustments in the second half that led to him using the opposite field much more than simply using his barrel skills to make hard contact. His arm is a plus.
The Bad: Viciedo was out of shape all year, which cost him range in the field and lengthened his actions at the plate. Like many Cuban players, his approach at the plate is borderline non-existent. His arm, while strong, lacked accuracy.
Ephemera: Viciedo hit .316 when batting fifth in the Barons' lineup, but just .244 in any other slot.
Perfect World Projection: Underneath the struggles and the fat, many scouts do see a potential star. To be fair, others completely destroyed him in their reports, with one referring to Viciedo as a "complete bust."
Path to the Big Leagues: With Gordon Beckham sliding back over to second base, Mark Teahen shouldn't provide too much of a roadblock should Viciedo improve.
Timetable: Viciedo's Arizona Fall League season was cut short by a minor elbow injury, but he'll be healthy for spring training. He'll begin the year at Triple-A, where his weight will be watched as much as his performance statistics.

6. Brent Morel, 3B
DOB: 4/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Cal Poly
2009 Stats: .281/.335/.453 at High-A (128 G)
Last Year's Ranking:10

Year in Review: Morel moved up the prospect list with a strong showing at High-A, and he made improvements throughout the year.
The Good: He's a very good hitter who has fantastic plate coverage, rarely strikes out, and has a knack for centering the ball. While he's thickly built, he's very athletic for his size, and at least an average runner with excellent instincts on the basepaths. His defense and arm are solid, and he's a great makeup player who brings a lot of intensity to the field.
The Bad: Morel's power ceiling is limited, as most project him to hit 15-20 home runs annually, so he'll need to continue to hit for average. He could increase his value with a more patient approach, but some scouts think his aggressiveness works for him in a way where deeper counts could be a negative for him.
Ephemera: For players drafted out of Cal Poly, the all-time big-league home run leader is Ozzie Smith, who had 28. Even if Morel gets to the big leagues, he could have competition from Grant Desme, Oakland's Arizona Fall League masher, who was a teammate of Morel's for two years.
Perfect World Projection: Morel projects as an everyday third baseman in the big leagues, but maybe more of a second-division type.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's behind Viciedo on the depth chart, but not by much.
Timetable: Morel took Viciedo's place in Arizona and has more than held his own, flirting with .400 in his first two weeks. He'll get a big test in 2010 with an assignment to Double-A Birmingham, a tough offensive environment.

7. Clevelan Santeliz, RHP
DOB: 9/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2009 Stats: 0.96 ERA (56.1-43-35-52) at Double-A (40 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Santeliz is a strong-armed Venezuelan who thrived with a permanent move to the bullpen, putting up a 0.96 ERA at Double-A.
The Good: Santeliz has always had an electric arm, but he made a lot of refinements in 2009 to finally harness his stuff. His fastball routinely gets into the 97-98 mph range, and his slider flashes plus at times. He's added a splitter to his repertoire to give hitters a different look, and his command improved throughout the season; he walked nearly seven batters per nine innings in the first half, but just 3.4 after the break.
The Bad: Santeliz remains inconsistent, especially with his secondary stuff and command. He's a bit on the small side and has a violent delivery, while his fastball is a bit straight.
Ephemera: Santeliz gave up only one earned run at home in 2009, a span of 20 appearances at Regions Park.
Perfect World Projection: Without a second true wipeout offering, Santeliz' ceiling problems stop him at the eighth inning, as he's good, but not quite a closer.
Path to the Big Leagues: Who doesn't need a bullpen arm with plus-plus velocity?
Timetable: Santeliz has continued to dominate this winter in Venezuela, and if that kind of performance continues next year at Triple-A, he could be in the big leagues by the second half of the season.

8. Trayce Thompson, OF
DOB: 3/15/91
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Santa Margarita HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .188/.247/.247 at Short-season (25 G); .238/.333/.245 at Rookie-level (7 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The son of Mychal Thompson, a former first overall pick in the NBA draft, many teams saw Thompson as a raw product who was unsignable and headed for UCLA, but the White Sox earned praise for properly gauging his signability and nabbing him in the second round.
The Good: Thompson offers plenty to dream on. He's a long, muscular athlete with all of the tools. He has plus raw power, is a tick above average in speed, and he has a very good arm. He's driven to improve, putting in extra work with coaches, and his family background gives him a unique maturity about professional athletics rarely found in a teenager.
The Bad: Thompson is still relatively new to baseball, and to simply call him raw doesn't do justice to how unrefined his game is, especially with the bat. One West Coast scout quipped, "He wasn't even the best hitter on his high school team, and the best hitter was a non-prospect." His swing is long, he flails at breaking balls, has poor instincts in the outfield, and he seems lost at times on the basepaths. He's the definition of a project, and few in the game have a wider gap between what they are now and what they can become.
Ephemera: Located in Orange County, Santa Margarita High is known much more for its football program than any other sport, as NFL starting quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez are among the school's alumni.
Perfect World Projection: There's star possibility based on the tools alone, but he's so raw that he's a bit of a lottery ticket.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's so far away at this point that it's not a concern.
Timetable: As strange as it might sound, Thompson's .188 batting average in the Appy League was seen as a pleasant surprise, and he continued to make impressive strides in the instructional league. With a good spring, he could surprise people with an Opening Day assignment in Low-A.

9. Santos Rodriguez, LHP
DOB: 1/2/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006 (Braves)
2009 Stats: 1.33 ERA (27.0-18-18-42) at Rookie-level (19 G); 0.00 ERA (4.0-3-1-8) at Low-A (3 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: One of the lesser names acquired in the Javier Vasquez deal, Rodriguez continued to dominate in the short-season leagues. He now has 130 strikeouts in 88 1/3 pro innings.
The Good: Rodriguez has rare velocity for a left-hander, parking his fastball in the mid-90s and touching 98 mph. With his height, long arms, and almost frail build, there might even be projection for a bit more. His over-the-top delivery makes the pitch hard to pick up, and he's very aggressive, going right after batters, almost daring them to hit it.
The Bad: Rodriguez is still a one-pitch arm for the most part. He has a hard, slurvy breaking ball that most classify as a slider, but it's sweepy at best and needs a ton of refinement. His mechanics are ugly, with lots of moving parts, creating an inconsistent release point and difficulty throwing strikes at times.
Ephemera: Appy League batters facing Rodriguez with runners in scoring position and two outs went 1-for-16, including ten strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: If he can figure some things out, it could be a closer-level projection.
Path to the Big Leagues: While he's spent his first three years in Short-season ball, he still could move relatively quickly if he keeps missing bats at this pace.
Timetable: Rodriguez will finally pitch an entire year, likely staying in the bullpen for Low-A Kannapolis in 2010.

10. David Holmberg, LHP
DOB: 7/19/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd Round, 2008, Port Charlotte HS (FL)
2009 Stats: 4.73 ERA (40.0-40-18-37) at Short-season (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: One of the most polished high school arms in the draft, Holmberg received just over $500,000 as a second-round pick.
The Good: While it's rare to find one quality secondary pitch from a high school pitcher, Holmberg has two. His looping curveball features plenty of break, and he already understands how to drop it in for strikes or use it as a chase pitch. His changeup is highly advanced for his age, with depth, fade, and deceptive arm action. He has a big frame and is built for a heavy workload.
The Bad: The biggest question about Holmberg revolves around his fastball. He currently sits at 86-89 mph, and for every scout who sees some projection in him, there's another who think he's already maxed out. He'll need to improve his command as he moves up the ladder, and he might always be forced to pitch backwards.
Ephemera: Holmberg became the first player ever drafted out of Port Charlotte High School, although Indians slugger Matt LaPorta did attend the school before transferring later in his high school career.
Perfect World Projection: Holmberg profiles to be a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, let's see how Holmberg's stuff works at the A-level.
Timetable: Holmberg's pitching ability alone should allow him to succeed in the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2010. We might not have a good feel for how good he can be until he reaches Double-A.

11. C.J. Retherford, 2B
DOB: 8/14/85
Height/Weight: 5-10/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Undrafted, 2007, Arizona State University
2009 Stats: .297/.340/.473 at Double-A (128 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Undrafted out of college, Retherford kept moving up the ladder and kept on hitting, tying for the minor league lead with 46 doubles.
The Good: While Retherford is your classic grinder, scouts believe in the bat. He has a quick, compact swing, makes consistent hard contact, routinely lines balls into the gaps, and occasionally punishes mistakes. He makes all the plays he gets to at second base, and scouts love his effort.
The Bad: Retherford is anything but a toolsy player. He's short, squat, and a below-average runner. His range, even at second base, is a bit short. He's a classic overachiever who doesn't have much of a ceiling.
Ephemera: Retherford was a better pitcher than hitter at Hamilton High in Arizona, as he hit .325 his senior year, but he went 10-1 on the mound, earning the win in the 2003 5A state title game.
Perfect World Projection: It won't surprise anyone to see Retherford have a career as a utility player, and maybe even an occasional second-division starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: With Gordon Beckham moving to second, his future with the White Sox is more than a bit cloudy.
Timetable: As long as Retherford keeps hitting, the White Sox will keep advancing him. He'll begin 2010 at Triple-A.

The Sleeper: While the White Sox are rarely big players on the international scene, they might have found something in 18-year-old Venezuelan catcher Miguel Gonzalez, who combines a good bat with power potential and impressive catch-and-throw skills.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Gordon Beckham, 2B/3B
2. John Danks, LHP
3. Daniel Hudson, RHP
4. Jared Mitchell, OF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jordan Danks, OF
7. Dayan Viciedo, 3B
8. Brent Morel, 3B
9. Clevelan Santeliz, RHP
10. Trayce Thompson, OF

After needing just 59 minor league games to reach the big leagues, Beckham has true face-of-the-franchise potential; three years from now, US Cellular field could be filled with fans in Beckham jerseys. Danks wasn't as good in 2009 as he was in 2008, but his peripherals remained strong, and he could still be three to five years away from peaking.

Summary: The quick advancement of Beckham and the Jake Peavy trade has left the White Sox system quite weak, but there are a number of high-ceiling players who could move the overall state of the system up significantly in the next year or two. In addition, their collection of high velocity bullpen arms could pay big dividends.

Next: the Cleveland Indians.

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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