Kannapolis, N.C.—Between last year's draft, the signing of a Cuban defector and dealing righthander Javier Vazquez to the Braves, the White Sox have added several quality bats to their farm system over the past year. White Sox roving hitting instructor Jeff Manto was with low Class A Kannapolis for the first week of the season and shared his thoughts on some of the team's young hitters.
On SS Gordon Beckham: "He's probably as polished of a college player as I've ever seen. He can do it all. There's not too many chinks in his armor right now—just solid across the board. His weaknesses have not been exposed, but his strengths are numerous. He hits the ball for power, for average, he knows the strike zone and knows his strike zone, so we're really, really excited about him. He's polished. He's ready to play and he needs some minor league at-bats, no doubt, but he's definitely the closest of everybody in our system."
On 3B Dayan Viciedo: "I think the biggest thing with him will be just adjusting to the lifestyle. I think we have to remember that, you know, to go through what he went through, it's definitely not easy to come to a new culture, to a new world and perform at the level that he wants to play. So we're going to have to be patient with him and let him get his feet wet and get comfortable. I think the biggest thing for him also, is to be able to trust the people around him. The sooner he does that, the better off he's going to be. He has great power to right-center field, he has a good, strong foundation, has fast, fast hands and really has an idea what he's doing. It's going to take time to see where he's at, only because of the adjustment coming over. Another thing, as far as his approach at the plate goes, is learning a new culture and how we pitch. I know baseball is baseball, but I know people who go to other countries have a tough time adjusting to the sequence of pitches and to how the game's played—why pitches are thrown in different situations and what to look for. Some of the players have an idea of what pitchers are going to do because we've faced them in A-ball, Double-A, we've faced them all the way up , but Viciedo has no history with anybody, so he's got to be learning from scratch, basically. But, once he does, he's going to be a pretty good talent."
On C Tyler Flowers: "He's big and strong, man. This guy is very, very strong. He has strong hands, he has a good foundation and looks to have power to all fields. I know that, as it appears now, he has a lot of power to the opposite side and if you go ahead and try to go inside, he has enough bat speed to pull too. So, he's a really exciting player. I don't know how he's going to end up, because he's just so versatile. He looks like a big power hitter, but the next thing you know he'll get a base hit and you'll go, 'Where did that come from?' He can do a lot of things with the bat—he's not just a big guy that goes up there and swings for the fences."
On 1B Brandon Allen: "Brandon Allen is probably the most fun I've had in working with a hitter. I mean, this guy, we ask him to do different things at the plate, look for different pitches at different times, and he's made adjustments as quick as anybody I've had to deal with. He's definitely going to be a force in the future. He has the ability to hit the breaking ball, he has the ability to hit lefthanded pitching, which sometimes you don't see with young hitters. Lefty-on-lefty, they seem to bail, but Brandon, he accepts the challenge and when lefthanders are pitching, he actually enjoys it because it's definitely a challenge for him. He too, he's not a typical power hitter, he can hit the ball in the gaps and hit the ball over the fence, like Flowers. He can do many things at the plate. He's very unselfish. He'll move runners, he's just not looking to drive the ball into the gap—he's very versatile also."
On OF Jordan Danks: "Jordan Danks is probably the most exciting player we have right now. He's a guy that is going to develop power. He doesn't have the power yet, nor do I think he's going to sit on a bunch of home runs, but he's going to be a plus hitter. He's going to hit for average and he's going to hit for a little bit of power. He can run and he's just, he's not afraid. Like Brandon Allen, he loves facing lefthanded pitchers because he knows it's a challenge and he knows there's a stigma about lefty-on-lefty, with the young guys especially, and he definitely is one of our most exciting players. But, like I said, the big thing about him is that he's not afraid. He's not afraid to steal bases, he's not afraid to strike out, he's not afraid to hit in pressure situations, he's just a lot of fun."
On 3B Jon Gilmore: "Gilmore, he's a typical young kid. He has a ton of upside. Right now, he just needs his reps, man. He's 20 years old and he's facing guys with college experience and once he gets it and once he begins to learn the strike zone and learn himself, his ceiling is very, very high. The way he runs, the way he moves at third base, we're definitely happy with what we got there. When he gets it, it's going to be exciting. With the wind blowing in, he hit a few home runs and several balls off the wall today during batting practice and he's as strong as that indicates. His raw power is definitely exceptional and once he gets it and once he figures it out and once he gets all the information we're giving him and gets it all lined up, he's going to be a real good player."