Chicago White Sox: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Chicago White Sox: Scouting Reports




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, 2009.

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Chicago White Sox

In the end, after his big league team had survived three elimination games in three days against three different opponents, Kenny Williams was left with good memories of 2008. But the pendulum generally swings wildly for the White Sox and their general manager, and that remains as true as ever.

While Chicago won its third American League Central title in Williams' eight seasons in charge, turbulence below the surface left him with little time to relax. Assistant general manager Dave Wilder was canned in May after being identified in an investigation into bonus-skimming from players signed in the Dominican Republic, and in the aftermath, Buddy Bell replaced Alan Regier as farm director. It marked the second year in a row that Williams made a major in-season change, as longtime scouting director Duane Shaffer was sacked in June 2007.

Williams' characteristic aggressiveness has rewarded the White Sox handsomely in many cases. They wouldn't have made the playoffs in 2008 without signing Cuban free agent Alexei Ramirez or trading first-base prospect Chris Carter to Arizona for Carlos Quentin, who might have won the AL MVP award had he not broken his hand in September. Acquiring John Danks and Gavin Floyd in the 2006-07 offseason has put their rotation in good shape for years to come, a credit to Williams' deal-making ability.

Nick Swisher did turn in a disappointing season after the White Sox sent their top two prospects (lefthander Gio Gonzalez, righthander Fautino de los Santos) and best position prospect (outfielder Ryan Sweeney) to Oakland for him last January. But that move is unlikely to change Williams' modus operandi of using his farm system to acquire productive veterans.

The White Sox rarely have developed their own impact players under Williams, and in recent years have done an especially poor job of advancing hitters. The regression of third baseman Josh Fields, who was sent back to Triple-A after delivering 23 homers as Joe Crede's injury replacement in 2007, and outfielder Jerry Owens continued a trend that Williams is at least paying lip service about ending.

Fields, second baseman Chris Getz and maybe even Owens may get a chance to become regulars in 2009. Further away but more promising is a group of 2008 draftees—shortstop Gordon Beckham, third baseman Brent Morel and center fielder Jordan Danks—who have significantly replenished the system's inventory of promising position players. First baseman Brandon Allen also took a huge step forward in 2008 and appears on the verge of moving into the conversation as an eventual replacement for Paul Konerko as Chicago looks to get younger and more athletic.

The system's pitching depth took a hit with the Swisher trade, though lefties Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard are close to being ready to assume prominent roles with the White Sox. Richard was their most impressive pitcher in the AL Division Series against the Rays. Righty Adam Russell also had his moments in the bullpen, winning three games in one nine-day span.

Bell, who joined the organization after managing the Royals, figures to play a valuable role. He changed five of the six managerial jobs in the system, most notably hiring Chris Chambliss for Triple-A Charlotte, and is taking a hands-on approach to educating players.

1.  Gordon Beckham, ss   Born: Sept. 16, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: Georgia 2008 (1st Rnd.)Signed by: Nick Hostetler/Kevin Burrell
Gordon BeckhamBackground: With the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 draft, the White Sox picked in the top 10 for the first time since they landed Alex Fernandez with the fourth choice in 1990. The choice came at a time when Chicago had few impact position players in its system, and taking Beckham filled two needs—for a power bat and a middle infielder. Signed for $2.6 million two days before the Aug. 15 deadline, he was the top college shortstop and one of the most polished players in the draft. The son of a former South Carolina quarterback, Beckham starred in both football and baseball at the Westminster School in Atlanta but went undrafted as a senior. He turned down a chance to play quarterback at the Air Force Academy in favor of focusing on baseball at Georgia. He led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish at the 2008 College World Series, hitting .474 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 14 NCAA tournament games. His 28 homers set a school record and tied for the Division I lead, while his .411 average was Georgia's best since 1982. His 53 career homers established another Bulldogs mark. Beckham hit the ground running as a pro, playing well in 14 games at low Class A Kannapolis before an impressive tour of duty in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Hitting will be Beckham's ticket to the big leagues. He doesn't have a classic stroke but has strong forearms and quick wrists, generating impressive bat speed. Though he isn't built like a power hitter, he centers the ball well and the ball jumps off his bat. He led the Cape Cod League with nine homers in 2007, suggesting that his power comes from more than a metal bat. He's willing to use the entire field and was well coached at Georgia, developing a strong knowledge of the strike zone and a willingness to walk. He has unusual pitch recognition for a young hitter. A good athlete, Beckham has average speed and the arm and instincts to stick at shortstop. His game has drawn comparisons to Michael Young's. He also has strong makeup and says his goal is "to lead the White Sox one day the way Derek Jeter leads the Yankees."

Weaknesses: The biggest question with Beckham is whether he'll remain at shortstop. Before the draft, scouts were split on his defensive ability, but the White Sox believe he can stay there. His hands aren't the softest, and he'll have to work to get smoother at fielding grounders. Though he moves well, he doesn't project as much of a basestealer.

The Future: Beckham's chance to become Chicago's first homegrown shortstop since Bucky Dent hinges on how well Alexei Ramirez takes to a planned move from second base to short in 2009. If Ramirez establishes himself at shortstop, Beckham likely will move to second or third base in the near future. He has enough bat to carry him at either position. Beckham probably will open the season at high Class A Winston-Salem and finish it at Double-A Birmingham. He could be in Chicago by 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kannapolis (LoA)
.310
.365
.500
58
11
18
2
0
3
8
5
7
0
 
2.  Aaron Poreda, lhp   Born: Oct. 1, 1986B-T: L-LHt:6-6Wt: 240
 Drafted: San Francisco, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Joe Butler/Adam Virchis.
Aaron PoredaBackground: The 25th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Poreda caught Ozzie Guillen's eye in spring training, when the Chicago manager called him "a real No. 1 guy." Poreda finished his first full season in Double-A and then displayed one of the most impressive arms in the Arizona Fall League. GM Kenny Williams refused to give him up when the Rockies wanted him in a proposed Brian Fuentes trade—a high compliment given Williams' willingness to deal prospects.

Strengths: Poreda's calling card is his fastball, which generally parks in the mid-90s and has touched 100 mph. White Sox coaches have helped him develop a power slider, and while it isn't a plus pitch, it does keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He throws strikes easily and is built for durability.

Weaknesses: Poreda still is refining his slider, and he doesn't have a lot of trust in his rudimentary changeup. His fastball straightens out at times, making him hittable. To succeed against big leaguers, he'll have to learn how to change speeds and possibly develop a cut fastball, a weapon favored by White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

The Future: Poreda's AFL performance was so good that he forced himself into consideration for Chicago's 2009 staff. He'll probably open the season at Triple-A Charlotte. Some scouts see Poreda as a dominating reliever, but he will remain a starter.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Winston-Salem (HiA)
5
5
3.31
12
12
1
0
73.1
67
1
18
46
.238
Birmingham (AA)
3
4
2.98
15
15
1
0
87.2
81
5
22
72
.249
 
3.  Clayton Richard, lhpBorn: Sept. 12, 1983 Ht: 6-5Wt: 240
 Drafted: Michigan, 2005 (8th round). Signed by: Nathan Durst/Mike Shirley.
Clayton RichardBackground: A backup QB at Michigan, Richard rarely was considered more than a fringe prospect before 2008. He went from not earning an invitation to big league camp to pitching quality innings in the Division Series, with plenty of highlights along the way. He started in the Futures Game, was offered a spot on the U.S. Olympic team before Chicago called him up and took a shutout into the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium in a September start.

Strengths: At 6-foot-5, Richard is a taller version of Mark Buehrle. He works quickly and throws strikes with three pitches, including an 88-92 mph fastball with natural sink that induces lots of groundballs. He has exceptional command and mound presence.

Weaknesses: Richard lacks a put-away pitch and had trouble missing bats for much of his big league stint. His changeup is average at best and his slurvy breaking ball lacks consistency. He may be better off working as a reliever who can focus on his sinker.

The Future: Richard could be consistent enough to have a long career as a starter, if not quite the second coming of Buehrle. He has shown the ability to bounce back quickly out of the bullpen, enhancing his chances to break camp with the White Sox in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Birmingham (AA)
6
6
2.47
13
13
1
0
83.2
66
2
16
53
.217
Charlotte (AAA)
6
0
2.45
7
7
1
0
44
33
3
4
33
.204
Chicago
2
5
6.04
13
8
0
0
47.2
61
5
13
29
.303
 
4.  Brandon Allen, 1b   Born: Feb. 12, 1986 B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 235
 Drafted: HS—Montgomery, Texas, 2004 (5th round). Signed by: Paul Provas/Keith Staab.
Brandon AllenBackground: Allen had a difficult transition to pro ball, batting .248 with 379 strikeouts in 362 games over his first four seasons. A commitment to nutrition and conditioning turned him into a physical specimen and made all the difference in 2008. He led the high Class A Carolina League in slugging (.527) and homered twice off David Price in his first Double-A game.

Strengths: Power had been Allen's only real strong suit, but he also showed the ability to hit for average in 2008. A former football prospect as a linebacker, he improved his speed as well and nearly matched his previous career total with 17 steals. He also showed much better agility at first base.

Weaknesses: Allen no longer looks like a DH but must continue to work on his fielding. His hands are suspect and he's not comfortable making quick throws. He swings and misses a lot, especially against lefthanders, and might whiff 150 times a year in the big leagues.

The Future: With Jim Thome in the final year of his contract and Paul Konerko signed only through 2010, Allen is emerging at an opportune pace. The last hitter to show this much power at Birmingham was Chris Young, who hit 32 homers for the Diamondbacks two years later. Allen could return to Double-A to start 2009 but should finish in Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Winston-Salem (HiA)
.279
.372
.527
319
57
89
26
4
15
44
41
83
14
Birmingham (AA)
.275
.358
.614
153
30
42
6
2
14
31
19
41
3
 
5.  Jordan Danks, of   Born: Aug. 7, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-5Wt: 205
Drafted: Texas, 2008 (7th round). Signed by: Keith Staab/Derek Valenzuela.
Jordan DanksBackground: The younger brother of White Sox lefty John Danks was the first member of his family on the club's radar. Chicago drafted Jordan out of high school in 2005, 22 months before trading for John. Jordan's stock slid somewhat when he didn't show much power during his college career, but the White Sox had to give him an above-slot $525,000 bonus to sign him as a seventh-rounder.

Strengths: Danks is an excellent athlete with a big frame and keen instincts. He has good bat speed and gap power, and he should hit for average and have an on-base percentage worthy of the top of the order. He's a plus runner, which helps him on the bases and in center field, where he has the skills to develop into a Gold Glove fielder. He has excellent range and a plus arm. His work ethic is strong.

Weaknesses: Danks hit just 13 homers in three years at Texas. Some scouts believe his power will come once he adds strength to his lanky frame, while others think his swing mechanics and timing are lacking. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and cut down his swing when he's behind in the count.

The Future: It's easy to see Danks as a big league center fielder even if he doesn't hit for power. It's his goal to play behind his older brother, and that could happen as early as the end of 2010. He'll open his first full pro season in high Class A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kannapolis (LoA)
.325
.400
.625
40
10
13
4
1
2
7
4
14
1
 
6.  Chris Getz, 2b   Born: Aug. 30, 1983B-T:L-RHt: 6-0 Wt: 185
 Drafted: Michigan, 2005 (4th round). Signed by: Mike Shirley.
Chris GetzBackground: The most advanced hitter in the system, Getz recovered from a 2007 stress fracture in his left leg to add to his resume. He hit .302 and continued to control the strike zone while showing newfound power. He played in the Futures Game and might have made Chicago's postseason roster if a pitch hadn't broken his left wrist in late August.

Strengths: Getz gets on base by working counts and making consistent line-drive contact to all fields. He uses his first-step quickness to get more than his share of infield hits and to steal a few bases. A versatile defender, he saw time at second base, shortstop, third base and left field in 2008. He's not flashy anywhere but makes the routine play.

Weaknesses: Getz never had hit more than three homers in a season before getting 11 in 2008, when he was based in a hitter's park. While he occasionally pitched in relief at Michigan, some scouts question his arm, which limits him on the left side of the infield and on the double-play pivot.

The Future: With Alexei Ramirez moving to shortstop, Getz is the White Sox's best in-house option for second base in 2009. If his wrist limits his hitting in spring training, he'll open the season in Triple-A. Long term, he projects as more of a utilityman than a regular.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Charlotte (AAA)
.302
.366
.448
404
60
122
24
1
11
52
41
53
11
Chicago
.286
.286
.286
7
2
2
0
0
0
1
0
1
1
 
7.  John Shelby, of   Born: Aug. 6, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 185
Drafted: Kentucky, 2006 (5th round). Signed by: Mike Shirley.
John ShelbyBackground: The son of former big leaguer John "T-Bone" Shelby, "Treybone" is one of the best athletes in the system. A second baseman in college, he moved to the outfield in mid-2007. A Carolina League all-star in 2008, he led White Sox farmhands with 33 steals while playing through hamstring problems. He went on to finish with 80 RBIs, owned a league-best .515 slugging percentage and was second in the circuit with 37 doubles.

Strengths: Shelby has the best combination of power and speed in the system. Though he's only 5-foot-10, he's strong for his size. He adds to his plus speed with good baserunning instincts and could develop into an even bigger stolen-base threat. He's improving in center field and has an average arm.

Weaknesses: Shelby's strike-zone judgment is lacking. He often gets himself out swinging at bad pitches early in the count and rarely walks. He'll have to improve his on-base percentage if he's going to use his speed at the top of the order. He has the tools for center field but still needs better jumps and routes.

The Future: Shelby will be tested in 2009 at Birmingham, a notoriously tough park for hitters with a lot of ground to cover in center. He and Jordan Danks will battle to be the long-term center fielder for a team that has tried 11 different players there since trading Aaron Rowand following the 2005 season.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Winston-Salem (HiA)
.295
.331
.510
447
81
132
37
7
15
80
22
98
33
 
8.  John Ely, rhp   Born: May 17, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
Drafted: Ohio, 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Mike Shirley/Keith Staab.
John ElyBackground: In his first full season as a pro, Ely skipped low Class A and struggled initially, going 3-11, 5.51 through mid-July. But he rallied to go 7-1, 2.86 in his last eight starts, helping Winston-Salem reach the playoffs. He has a history of winning, going 69-25 dating to his days as a star at Homewood-Flossmoor High in the Chicago suburbs.

Strengths: Ely's best pitch is a plus-plus changeup, and he does a nice job of setting it up with an 88-94 mph fastball with good movement. His 12-to-6 curveball can be an out pitch at times, too. Ely works fast, throws strikes and has never missed a start. He's a fierce competitor and fields his position well.

Weaknesses: Ely's curveball remains inconsistent and gets hit a long way when he hangs it. He sometimes seems reluctant to work inside, minimizing his advantage against righthanders. He lacks a big frame and a traditional delivery, and there's a lot of effort in his delivery.

The Future: With a solid rotation and prospects such as Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard ahead of him, there's no reason to rush Ely. He'll move to Double-A Birmingham and could figure in midseason trade speculation, especially if the pitchers ahead of him continue to progress.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Winston-Salem (HiA)
10
12
4.71
27
27
0
0
145.1
142
18
46
134
.259
 
9.  Cole Armstrong, c   Born: Aug. 24, 1983B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 220
Drafted: Chipola (Fla.) JC, 2003 (16th round). Signed by: Al Goetz (Braves).
Cole ArmstrongBackground: Armstrong was coming off a .228 season in low Class A when the White Sox plucked him from the Braves system in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 draft. He made big strides as a hitter in 2007, earning a spot on the 40-man roster, and has continued that development. In the Arizona Fall League, he emerged as a middle-of-the-order bat for the hitter-heavy Peoria Saguaros.

Strengths: Armstrong has solid power and has worked hard to improve his ability to hit for average, use all fields and work counts. Managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the Double-A Southern League. He has an average arm and threw out 36 percent of basestealers in 2008, and he's a good receiver who works well with pitchers.

Weaknesses: Armstrong is prone to extended slumps at the plate. He overthinks at times and falls into funks. He's not patient, looking to put the ball in play early in the count and drawing few walks. He runs like a catcher.

The Future:  He enhances his value by being a lefthanded-hitting catcher, but the White Sox already have one in A.J. Pierzynski, so Armstrong may spend much of 2009 in Triple-A. He could take over in Chicago once Pierzynski's contract expires after 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Birmingham (AA)
.252
.293
.413
218
27
55
17
0
6
31
10
31
0
Charlotte (AAA)
.275
.310
.406
138
12
38
12
0
2
17
5
27
0
 
10.  Eduardo Escobar, ss   Born:Jan. 5, 1989B-T: B-RHt: Wt: 150
 Signed: Venezuela, 2006. Signed by: Amador Arias.
Eduardo EscobarBackground: The diminutive Escobar didn't arrive until April but still made the most of his first season with a U.S. visa. He opened eyes in extended spring training and did so well in his first week at Rookie-level Great Falls that he was promoted to low Class A. He slid over to second base when first-round pick Gordon Beckham arrived at Kannapolis in August.

Strengths: Escobar is a fluid fielder in the mold of Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel, with good range, excellent hands and a solid arm. A switch-hitter, he has some pop when he centers the ball. He's an adept bunter who's comfortable with a small-ball approach. His plus speed allows him to get infield hits.

Weaknesses:  Escobar often seems defensive at the plate, slapping the ball around. He has limited power and rarely drives the ball into the gaps. He also lacks basestealing instincts, so his offensive value might be limited to his batting average.

The Future: With college shortstops like Beckham, Sergio Miranda, Greg Paiml and Tyler Kuhn also in the lower levels, the White Sox face a challenge developing Escobar, who's behind those three as a hitter. He'll likely stay in low Class A and possibly force a position change for Kuhn. Escobar is a better defender, and he'll advance as quickly as his bat allows.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Great Falls (R)
.417
.464
.708
24
6
10
2
1
1
4
2
3
1
Kannapolis (LoA)
.267
.302
.300
243
37
65
6
1
0
22
13
65
4


Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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