• Chat Wrap:
Phil Rogers took White Sox questions for 4 1/2 hours
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections
of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development
personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards
of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time)
are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Like the 2004 Red Sox, the 2005 White Sox were curse-busters.
While ESPN invented the Curse of Shoeless Joe, the force behind the
franchise's 88-year championship drought never really had its own identity.
But when you've conspired to lose a World Series on purpose since you've
last won one, you can't be blamed for always feeling like you've got
one foot in quicksand.
That was the case before 2005 for the White Sox, who had lost all five
of their postseason series since beating the New York Giants in the
1917 Fall Classic. But this time they blew through October in record
fashion, going 11-1 and outscoring the Red Sox, Angels and Astros by
a total of 33 runs, the biggest run differential in playoff history.
It was a stunning success for a franchise that had known little except
disappointment since winning the American League pennant in 1959.
The biggest key to the White Sox' success was the rotation of Jose
Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia, who went 9-1,
2.84 while working 7 2/3 innings per start in October. That group strung
together four consecutive complete-game victories over the Angels in
the AL Championship Series, the first time a team had four complete
games in a row in the playoffs since the 1956 Yankees.
In late September, Chicago was headed for a potential nightmare finish.
The White Sox led the Indians by 15 games at the beginning of August
and watched their lead all but vanish before sweeping Cleveland to end
the season. Instead of being remembered as the team that blew the largest
lead ever, they won 16 of their last 17 games and will go down along
with the 1927 Yankees as the only teams to win a regular-season title
wire-to-wire and then sweep the World Series.
Buehrle, third baseman Joe Crede and center fielder Aaron Rowand were
the only homegrown regulars. But the organization's commitment to scouting
and development have allowed general manager Ken Williams to boldly
deal for key players such as Neal Cotts, Carl Everett, Garcia, Scott
Podsednik and Juan Uribe. Previous GM Ron Schueler had dealt farm-system
products to get Garland and Paul Konerko.
The system also contributed a pair of valuable pitchers for the stretch
drive. Bobby Jenks, claimed on waivers from the Angels during the offseason,
replaced injured closer Dustin Hermanson and nailed down four saves
in the postseason, including one for Garcia in a combined shutout that
clinched the World Series. Brandon McCarthy, a 17th-round pick, replaced
Orlando Hernandez in the September rotation and was Chicago's second-best
starter in the final month.
Winning a World Series didn't stop Williams from being aggressive in
the offseason. With 2003 first-rounder Brian Anderson ready for the
big league outfield, Williams traded Rowand and two of the top lefthanders
in the system (Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood) to the Phillies for
Jim Thome in November. Williams strengthened the pitching staff a month
later by getting Javier Vasquez from the Diamondbacks in exchange for
blue-chip outfield prospect Chris Young and veteran righthanders Hernandez
and Luis Vizcaino.
More talent is on the way to help the big league club or serve as trade
bait. The White Sox' recent drafts have been fruitful, and three of
their top four farm teams earned spots in the playoffs in 2005, with
Kannapolis winning the Class A South Atlantic League title.
March 14, 1981 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 270
HS—Spirit Lake, Idaho, 2000 (5th round) Signed
by: Jack Uhey (Angels)
Background: Postseason heroes come from
many places, including the bargain bin. On the recommendation of pro scouts
Gary Pellant and Bill Young, the White Sox were one of several teams to
put in a claim on Jenks after the Angels finally had enough of his shenanigans
and placed him on waivers in December 2004. Los Angeles invested five
seasons trying to develop the flame-throwing righthander from northern
Idaho, who was as rough off the field as his stuff was raw on the mound.
The Angels suspended him for violating team rules in 2002, an ESPN The
Magazine article revealed several disturbing incidents from his past in
2003, and the final straw came when he beat up a teammate while rehabbing
his elbow in the fall of 2004. At that point, Jenks also had been shut
down three times in two seasons because of a stress reaction in his elbow,
which required surgery in August 2004. Jenks was a new man with the White
Sox. Marriage and fatherhood helped him mature, as did the continuing
support of Mark Potoshnik, a coach at the Northwest Baseball Academy in
Lynwood, Wash., who has been his mentor. Chicago spent spring training
convincing Jenks, who started in the Angels system, that he could be a
dominant reliever. Sent to Double-A Birmingham, where he was surrounded
by the system's top prospects, he took off immediately. He was overmatching
Southern League hitters and led the league in saves when the Sox promoted
him to the big leagues in July. Manager Ozzie Guillen put him in low-stress
situations at the start, but Jenks supplanted Dustin Hermanson as the
closer by September. He wound up with 10 big league saves, including four
in the postseason, closing out the Indians, Red Sox, Angels and Astros
in clinching opportunities.
Strengths: No pitcher takes the mound with two more powerful
pitches. Jenks' fastball topped out at 102 mph with the White Sox, and
he blew 99-100 mph heat by Jeff Bagwell in his six-pitch strikeout in
Game One of the World Series. He complements the fastball with a power
snapdragon curve clocked at 85-89 mph. His curve is unhittable when
he throws it for strikes. Jenks also owns a hard slider and a decent
changeup--leftovers from his years as a starter--but rarely needs to
throw them. His mound presence was particularly impressive in his big
league debut, as was his ability to bounce back from blown saves.
Weaknesses: Though he has matured and emerged as a hero, Jenks
needs supervision and still has to be considered a high risk. His weight
is a concern and could become a problem if he doesn't maintain some
semblance of conditioning. His fastball doesn't always have a lot of
movement, allowing hitters to zero in on it if they can foul off a few
pitches to help them time it. His control never has been a strong suit,
and he'll go through periods where he can't find the strike zone.
The Future: Given Jenks' rocky road to the big leagues, he'll
have to prove he's more than a one-year sensation. He appeared in 73
games last season and could feel wear and tear in 2006. If he holds
together, he'll give Guillen a bullpen anchor for years to come.
2005 Club (Class)
March 11, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200
Arizona, 2003 (1st round) Signed by: John Kazanas
Background: Regarded as the system’s top
prospect heading into 2005, Anderson had a solid Triple-A season and spent
the last month and a half in the majors. He reached Chicago little more
than two years after signing for $1.6 million as a first-round draft pick,
with minor injuries the only thing that slowed him down.
Strengths: Anderson is a well-rounded player. He can drive
the ball to all fields and could develop into a 25-homer guy at
hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. He's a good outfielder with
a strong arm, and he has been solid in center field since his
college days at Arizona.
Weaknesses: Anderson is a good athlete with decent speed
but isn't a basestealing threat. While he's not terribly impatient
at the plate, he doesn't draw a lot of walks. He stayed healthy
in 2005, though he had offseason surgery to remove a plate and
some screws from his right wrist, remnants of a 2003 operation.
The Future: Anderson is ready to take the next step, which
is why the White Sox were willing to include Aaron Rowand in the
Jim Thome trade. Anderson should get the first half of the season
to settle in, but then could be challenged by prospects behind
him like Jerry Owens.
2005 Club (Class)
of Born: February
20, 1985 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-5 Wt: 205
Background: Coming out of Iowa as a prepster,
Sweeney wasn’t the most likely candidate to jump on the fast track.
But when the White Sox needed an extra outfielder in big league camp in
2004 and he responded by hitting .367, they skipped him a level. He spent
2005 in Double-A as a 20-year-old and played through a wrist injury all
year, which helps explain his modest numbers.
Strengths: Sweeney is a smart hitter with a sweet swing.
Longtime executive and scout Roland Hemond compares him to Harold
Baines. Sweeney hits the ball hard to all fields and has the bat
speed to handle plus fastballs. A pitching prospect in high school,
he has a plus arm and his right-field play is solid.
Weaknesses: Despite his fast rise, Sweeney has room to
improve as a hitter. The White Sox expect him to develop 15-20
home run power, but he has just 10 in three seasons. Though he
controls the strike zone, he could stand to be more patient.
The Future: Sweeney has been impressive in each of the
last two major league spring camps and has moved quickly. It wouldn't
hurt him to repeat Double-A and pound pitchers after two years
facing constant adjustments.
Oklahoma State, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Alex Slattery/Nathan
Background: A two-sport standout at Oklahoma
State, Fields still holds the Cowboys' record for career passing touchdowns
with 55. He comes from an athletic family, as his mother Rhonda was the
first female athlete to earn a full scholarship to Oklahoma State. Signed
for $1.55 million as the 18th overall pick in 2004, he spent his first
full pro season in Double-A.
Strengths: Fields has above-average bat speed and strength,
which could help him develop into a middle-of-the-order presence.
He has the strong arm and leadership expected from a former Big
12 Conference quarterback.
Weaknesses: Because he divided his attention between two
sports in college, Fields still has a lot of rough edges. He made
strides defensively in the Arizona Fall League, but he still can
appear mechanical at times. His plate discipline is below-average
and didn't show much improvement in 2005, in part because he can
do damage on pitches off the plate.
The Future: While the White Sox have been aggressive with
several of their recent top draft picks, they can afford to let
Fields repeat Double-A. With Joe Crede entrenched in Chicago after
a strong postseason, Fields seems a good bet to get another 500
to 1,000 minor league at-bats before being a serious consideration.
2005 Club (Class)
February 16, 1981 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 195
The Master's (Calif.), 2003 (2nd round) Signed by: Tony
Background: The White Sox worked waiver magic
in 2004. Not only did they claim Bobby Jenks in December, but they also
grabbed Alex Escobar in August and used him to steal Owens from the Nationals
in a February 2005 trade. Owens made an immediate impression on Chicago
manager Ozzie Guillen in spring training and went on to win the Southern
League batting title, reaching base in 37 consecutive games in one stretch.
Strengths: Owens had enough speed to play wide receiver
at UCLA before a broken foot caused him to sour on football. He
makes solid contact to drive the ball past drawn-in infielders,
who must respect his quickness and bunting ability. He handles
the bat well, working counts and drawing walks. He profiles in
Weaknesses: Owens is relatively inexperienced for his age,
and he's still learning the nuances of basestealing and defense.
He doesn't drive the ball much now but could develop gap power.
His arm is fringe average.
The Future: Owens spent the winter chasing another batting
title in Venezuela, where he collected 18 hits in his first 36
at-bats. He'll start 2006 in Triple-A but isn't too far from challenging
Brian Anderson for the center-field job.
2005 Club (Class)
ss Born: May
16, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 175
HS—Miami, 2003 (4th round) Signed by: Jose Ortega
Background: Valido reached high Class A Winston-Salem
before he turned 20, but he made more headlines last year when he drew
a 15-game suspension in May after testing positive for performance-enhancing
substances. He came back to set career highs in most categories and finished
the year strong in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Valido has enough speed and hitting skills
to earn top-of-the-order consideration in the future. Defensively,
he has the makings of a Gold Glover. He ranges well to both sides
and has soft hands and a plus arm. He reduced his errors from
27 in 2004 to just 12 in 2005. He has learned to read pitchers
and get good jumps, leading the Carolina League in steals while
getting caught just five times last year.
Weaknesses: Valido needs to prove his performance hasn't
been the product of steroids. He won't be able to bat leadoff
unless he recognizes the value of drawing walks.
The Future: Juan Uribe is signed for two more years, after
which Valido should be just about ready. He's in position to become
the White Sox' first homegrown regular at shortstop since Bucky
2005 Club (Class)
Winston-Salem (Hi A)
April 3, 1983 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220
Background: Liotta was drafted by the Brewers
in the 12th round out of high school, but ended up at Tulane for a year
before transferring to Gulf Coast (Fla.) CC. His first two seasons as
a pro have yielded a pair of ERA titles, the most recent in the low Class
A South Atlantic League. He was even more impressive after a late-season
promotion to high Class A.
Strengths: Liotta's best pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball
with tight, downward rotation. He has improved the command of
his curve, throwing it for strikes in all counts last season.
He also has a low-90s fastball that gets on hitters quickly. He
induces a lot of groundballs and has surrendered just seven homers
in 229 pro innings.
Weaknesses: Liotta's delivery is a bit mechanical and long,
which scouts say could lead to inconsistency, though he hasn't
had any problems thus far. His changeup improved last season but
has yet to become a weapon.
The Future: The inclusion of Gio Gonzalez in the Jim Thome
trade made Liotta the White Sox' top pitching prospect in the
minors. He has earned a trip to Double-A for 2006.
Texas Christian, 2005 (1st round) Signed by: Keith Staab
Background: A product of Grand Prairie (Texas)
High, which also produced big leaguers Kerry Wood and Kevin Walker, Broadway
began his college career at Dallas Baptist before transferring to Texas
Christian and earning All-America honors in 2005. He allowed just two
earned runs in his last 48 innings, causing his draft stock to soar down
the stretch, and tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 15 wins. The 15th
overall pick in June, he signed for $1.57 million.
Strengths: Broadway's out pitch is a plus-plus curveball
that he commands to both sides of the plate. It's a hard curve
with a sharp, late break and he can throw it for strikes or bury
it in the dirt as a chase pitch. He's a polished pitcher who locates
his average fastball very well and understands how to get outs.
Weaknesses: While Broadway has an ideal pitcher's build,
he’s not overpowering and his fastball sits at 88-90 mph.
His changeup is basically a show-me pitch, though it's improving
and he's learning to believe in it.
The Future: Broadway’s polish should help him move
rapidly. He went straight to high Class A, where he'll probably
return to begin 2006.
2005 Club (Class)
Winston-Salem (Hi A)
February 4, 1986 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-9 Wt: 160
Dominican Republic, 2002 Signed by: Denny Gonzalez/Miguel
Background: After Hernandez handled the Rookie-level
Appalachian League at age 18 in 2004, the White Sox promoted him to low
Class A Kannapolis last year but the jump proved to be too much. He showed
immaturity by losing composure at times, though he got himself back together
after a demotion to the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
Strengths: Hernandez is a strong defensive catcher, using
his plus arm and quick release to throw out 45 percent of basestealers
last season. He still has the potential to grow into a force at
the plate as well. He uses a simple approach to make solid contact
from both sides of the plate. He's a better hitter from the left
side but shows some raw power from the right side.
Weaknesses: At times, Hernandez can seem like his own worst
enemy. He put too much pressure on himself early last season and
wasn't able to snap out of his slump. His receiving and game-calling
skills have lagged behind the rest of his defense.
The Future: Hernandez should be more grounded this season
than he was a year ago and could have a breakout season that gets
him noticed as one of the top catching prospects in the game.
He should have better results in low Class A this time around.
2005 Club (Class)
Kannapolis (Lo A)
Great Falls (R)
November 14, 1980 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 210
UC Irvine, 2002 (8th round) Signed by: Joe Butler/Matt
Background: Considered to have one of the best
arms in the White Sox system, Tracey captured interest with his pure velocity
in 2004. He refined his skills last year, when his fastball lost a foot
or so, tying for the Southern League lead in wins.
Strengths: Tracey has a durable arm and lives for his
time on mound. He's willing to pitch inside and challenge hitters
every way possible. His fastball is his best pitch, but it was
more often in the low 90s in the 2005, as opposed to the mid-90s
in the past. His hard sinker is a decent pitch.
Weaknesses: Tracey's secondary pitches and his approach
both still need work as he enters his fifth pro season. He doesn't
change speeds well, which leads to lots of long at-bats as hitters
foul off fastballs until they get one they can handle. His control
The Future: Tracey probably will start in Triple-A in 2006,
but his profile and aggressiveness seem better suited for the
bullpen. The White Sox have a deep rotation and are more in need
of relief help, and he could get a callup in that role this year.
He eventually could become a top set-up man, if not a closer.
2005 Club (Class)
Hernandez: Bill Mitchell
Fields, Sweeney, Valido: Steve Moore
Jenks: Ron Vesely
Broadway, Liotta: Rodger Wood