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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Before the White Sox selected Gordon Beckham with the eighth pick in the 2008 draft, 17 years had passed since they had a choice among the top 10. Beckham may have been worth the wait.

After taking righthander Alex Fernandez with the fourth overall pick in 1990, the Sox averaged picking 20th overall. They watched scores of no-brainer choices go elsewhere, without drafting a single position player who would develop into a homegrown all-star. Beckham should change that.

In his first full season as a pro, the 2008 NCAA Division I home run leader jumped to the big leagues and hit .270/.347/.460 while playing a solid third base. Beckham flashed leadership skills and unusual poise for a 22-year-old. It looks like he'll give the Sox something they have missed since the days of Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura: the chance to market and build a team around a hitter who could spend his entire career in Chicago.

While Ken Williams has made more trades during the last decade than any general manager, he would love to assemble a long-lasting core around Beckham. Williams said he's excited about a couple of other hitters from the 2008 draft, third baseman Brent Morel and center fielder John Danks, and was thrilled to add center fielder Jared Mitchell with the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Williams has used other means to acquire position players who could be building blocks, signing Cuban defectors Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo to major league contracts in the last couple of years, and acquiring catching prospect Tyler Flowers in a trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the Braves a year ago.

Flowers, a hitter with power and an advanced knowledge of the strike zone, joined righthander Daniel Hudson (another 2008 draft pick) as the most productive players in the White Sox farm system last year. He hit .297/.423/.516 between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte last year, earning a promotion to Chicago in September. He offers the White Sox an alternative to re-signing veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who's eligible for free agency after the 2010 season.

The arrival of young talent should please Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He quietly cut the White Sox payroll by $8.3 million last season and will monitor it closely in future seasons as he awaits an economic recovery. A year after winning the American League Central, Chicago dropped to third place at 79-83, the second-worst record of manager Ozzie Guillen's tenure.

Williams' flexibility to make major moves in preparation for 2010 was hampered by two moves he made 11 days apart last summer. He traded four young pitchers—Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter—to the Padres for Jake Peavy, then claimed Alex Rios off waivers from the Blue Jays. The White Sox assumed $116 million in salary obligations in the two transactions.

Williams has developed a reputation for being willing to trade top prospects for veterans. He was at it again in 2009, dealing three of the top six players from this list a year ago (Poreda, Richard and first baseman Brandon Allen) and four former first-round picks (Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Lance Broadway and Poreda). It's not always popular with his scouts and player-development staff, but that's how he built the 2005 World Series champions and he hasn't been badly burned by the youngsters he has traded away.

1.  Jared Mitchell, of   Born: Oct. 31, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 5-11Wt: 192
 Drafted: Louisiana State, 2009 (1st round)/strong> • Signed by: Warren Hughes
Jared MitchellBackground: Mitchell is a winner. He won two national championships in his career at Louisiana State, one as a backup wide receiver on the football team that beat Ohio State in the BCS title game in January 2008, and another as outfielder on the baseball team that won the 2009 College World Series. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the latter event, hitting .348 with two homers among his five extra-base hits. Mitchell flashed first-round talent in 2006, when he batted .506 for Westgate High outside New Orleans and was the Louisiana high school player of the year. He fell to the Twins in the 10th round of the draft, however, because he wanted $1 million to give up football. Minnesota made him a significant offer but didn't reach seven figures, so he went to Louisiana State. He joined the baseball team after spring football practice in his first two years, and got permission from Tigers football coach Les Miles to focus on baseball last spring. The extra work on the diamond paid off, not just with a national title but also with Mitchell going 23rd overall in the 2009 draft. The White Sox signed him for $1.2 million and sent him straight to low Class A Kannapolis, where he had few problems transitioning to pro ball.

Strengths: Mitchell played football because his skills pushed him toward the field, but his real passion is baseball. He's a terrific athlete with plus-plus speed who projects as a center fielder and leadoff man. He has been clocked from the plate to third base in 10.3 seconds. He's a patient hitter who's willing to work counts, ranking fifth in NCAA Division I with 57 walks last year, yet he hit in the middle of Louisiana State's lineup because he also flashes power. He has the quickness to cover huge swaths of ground in center field. "He takes control in center field like he's been playing professionally for a while," Kannapolis manager Ernie Young said. Mitchell has impressive instincts, especially given that he hadn't focused solely on baseball before 2009. He has solid instincts, especially given that he hasn't focused solely on baseball until now. He loves the biggest stages.

Weaknesses: Mitchell still has work to do at the plate, both in his technique and approach. Sox coaches are working to smooth out some uppercut in his swing, and he strikes out more than he should because he takes hittable pitches while trying to work counts. He's also working on getting better reads and jumps as a basestealer, as he has the speed to swipe bags more frequently and more successfully than he does now. Mitchell played right field in college but doesn't have the arm strength to stay there as a professional, and his arm is his only below-average tool. The White Sox will develop him as a center fielder, but like Carl Crawford he could eventually move to left. He drifts on fly balls at times.

The Future: Mitchell performed above expectations after signing, so Chicago could skip him to Double-A Birmingham to open his first full season. With Alex Rios and Jordan Danks ahead of him in the organization, Mitchell won't have to be rushed. He's exactly the kind of pure athlete that White Sox GM Ken Williams has exhorted his scouting staff to sign, though he'll require time to hone his skills after being distracted by football for so long.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kannapolis (Lo A) .296 .417 .435 115 13 34 12 2 0 10 23 40 5
 
2.  Tyler Flowers, c   Born: Jan. 24, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 220
 Drafted: Chipola (Fla.) JC, D/F 2005 (33rd round)Signed by: Al Goetz (Braves)
Tyler FlowersBackground: The headliner in the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for four young players, Flowers has been everything the White Sox hoped. He hit as expected and while many scouts thought he'd have to move to first base, he held his own behind the plate in Double-A and Triple-A last year. Chicago rewarded him with a September callup.

Strengths: Flowers combines light-tower power with plate discipline, making it easy to project his bat into the middle of a big league lineup. He generates his pop through his strength and size, and he has good hand-eye coordination and advanced pitch recognition. Pitchers like throwing to him because he's a good communicator and works hard on gameplans. Managers rated him the top defensive catcher in the Double-A Southern League last year. He has an average arm and has improved his footwork and release, thowing out 29 percent of basestealers last year.

Weaknesses: Flowers' size can be a problem behind the plate, limiting his quickness in blocking and handling tough pitches. One scout said Flowers "spent more time at the backstop than Bob Uecker" early in 2009, but that he improved throughout the season. Though he's athletic for a catcher, he's still a below-average runner.

The Future: Flowers is ready to hit in the major leagues, but the White Sox have A.J. Pierzynski in the final year of his contract. They want Flowers playing every day and continuing to polish his defense, so he'll open 2010 at Triple-A Charlotte.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Birmingham (AA) .302 .335 .548 248 54 75 18 2 13 43 57 76 3
Charlotte (AAA) .286 .364 .438 105 13 30 10 0 2 13 10 32 0
(AL) .188 .350 .250 16 3 3 1 0 0 0 3 8 0
 
3.  Dan Hudson, rhp   Born: March 9, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-4 • Wt: 220
 Drafted: Old Dominion, 2008 (5th round)Signed by: Chuck Fox/Nick Hostetler
Dan HudsonBackground: After an up-and-down career at Old Dominion, Hudson went in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and signed for $180,000. In his first full season, he picked up wins at five different levels, including the big leagues. He ranked second in the minors in opponent average (.200), sixth in strikeouts (166 in 147 innings), seventh in wins (14) and ninth in ERA (2.32).

Strengths: Hudson throws three solid pitches from a three-quarters arm slot with a crossfire delivery, a la Jered Weaver. His motion gives him natural deception, making his lively 91-93 mph fastball seem even quicker. His second-best pitch is his changeup, which elicits swings and misses. He also has a low-80s slider with average tilt, and he occasionally throws a slow curve. He pounds the strike zone and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate.

Weaknesses: Hudson's delivery can be high maintenance, sometimes requiring adjustments early in games. His pitches tend to flatten out when his arm drops below his preferred slot. Advanced hitters were able to elevate his pitches, which won't play well at U.S. Cellular Field. His defense and pickoff move are raw.

The Future: Hudson could open the 2010 season in the big leagues, but with Freddy Garcia signing to fill out the rotation, there's no rush. The White Sox have developed starters with an apprenticeship in the big league bullpen, but Hudson would be better served by more regular work in Double-A.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kannapolis (Lo A) 1 2 1.23 4 4 0 0 22 15 0 2 30 .190
Winston-Salem (Hi A) 4 3 3.40 8 8 1 0 45 31 3 13 49 .195
Birmingham (AA) 7 0 1.60 9 9 0 0 56 37 1 10 63 .188
Charlotte (AAA) 2 0 3.00 5 5 0 0 23 22 1 9 24 .247
Chicago 1 1 3.38 6 2 0 0 19 16 3 9 14 .225
 
4.  Brent Morel, 3b   Born: April 21, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 220
 Drafted: Cal Poly, 2008 (3rd round)Signed by: Gary Woods/Derek Valenzuela
Brent MorelBackground: The White Sox rated Morel as a second-round talent in the 2008 draft, but they didn't have a pick in that round and were thrilled to get him in the third and sign him for $440,000. He's off to a good start as a pro, hitting .304/.361/.496 in the second half last year at high Class A Winston-Salem before winning the Arizona Fall League batting title with a .435 average.

Strengths: Morel is a manager's dream, with solid tools, outstanding instincts and a blue-collar work ethic. He's one of the system's top pure hitters, making good contact with a compact, line-drive swing. He has excellent pitch recognition and attacks fastballs. He has the power to hit 15 homers per year, and could show more as he matures. He runs well enough for a third baseman and is a good baserunner, but he doesn't project as a basestealer. He's a natural third baseman with first-step quickness and a plus arm.

Weaknesses: Morel's power is just borderline average for a third baseman. He can be overly aggressive at times, working himself into pitcher's counts. He would benefit from taking more pitches and drawing more walks, though he doesn't strike out a lot.

The Future: Gordon Beckham's move to second base opens up third for the long term, and Morel could reach Chicago within the next two years. He'll open 2010 in Double-A.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Winston-Salem (Hi A) .281 .335 .453 481 82 135 33 1 16 79 38 66 25
 
5.  Jordan Danks, of   Born: Aug. 7, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 210
 Drafted: Texas, 2008 (7th round)Signed by: Keith Staab/Derek Valenzuela
Jordan DanksBackground: John Danks turned down the White Sox's initial attempt to sign him to a multiyear contract last spring, but he may soon may have more motivation to stick around—the chance to play with his younger brother. Drafted by Chicago in the 19th round out of high school and then again in the seventh round out of Texas, Jordan signed for an above-slot $525,000. He needed just 40 games as a pro to reach Double-A, where wrist and thumb ailments sabotaged his production.

Strengths: Danks is an excellent athlete and a hard-nosed player. He's a natural hitter with good bat speed, gap power, surprising bunting ability and above-average speed. He has the range and instincts to play center field, and he also has a solid-average arm.

Weaknesses: His swing is sound, but Danks is prone to slumps when he gets pull-happy or faces a steady diet of breaking balls. He can struggle with pitch recognition at times, and he never has hit for the power projected for him coming out of high school.

The Future: The White Sox filled their immediate need for a center fielder with Alex Rios. But he and Danks could play right field, so it's easy to project them playing side by side, perhaps even in the second half of 2010. After leading the Arizona Fall League with 31 runs and ranking fifth with a .458 on-base percentage, Danks figures to start the season in Double-A but shouldn't stay there long.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Winston-Salem (Hi A) .322 .409 .525 118 25 38 11 2 3 21 18 32 5
Birmingham (AA) .243 .337 .356 284 50 69 12 1 6 20 37 73 7
 
6.  Trayce Thompson, of   Born: March 15, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Santa Margarita, Calif., 2009 (2nd round).Signed by: George Kachigian
Trayce ThompsonBackground: The White Sox haven't taken a lot of high-risk, high-reward picks in recent drafts, but Thompson is that kind of player. The son of Mychal Thompson, the No. 1 pick in the 1978 NBA draft, he turned down a scholarship at UCLA to sign for $625,000 as a second-round pick last summer.

Strengths: Thompson has everything scouts look for—athleticism, bat speed, power, speed and arm strength. He's unusually coordinated for his size. He can catch up to good fastballs and drive bad breaking pitches a long way. He has range to play center field and the arm to fit in right. He showed intensity and a competitive nature during his introduction to pro ball.

Weaknesses: Thompson has a lot of work to do as a hitter. He has a long swing and struggles against curveballs, often chasing pitches outside of the zone. He doesn't trust his bat speed, committing himself too soon. Chicago expects him to develop power but doesn't want him to force the issue at this stage in his development. He needs work at getting better jumps, both in the outfield and on the bases.

The Future: Thompson's could start his first full pro season in low Class A, but the White Sox may prefer to let him have some time in extended spring training before heading to Rookie-level Great Falls. He may wind up on an outfield corner but will remain in center field for the foreseeable future.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Bristol (R) .188 .247 .247 85 8 16 3 1 0 10 4 33 2
Great Falls (Rookie) .238 .333 .238 21 2 5 0 0 0 0 3 8 1
 
7.  Dayan Viciedo, 3b   Born: March 10, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 240
 Signed: Cuba, 2008Signed by: Doug Laumann/Jose Ortega
Dayan ViciedoBackground: A Cuban defector who signed a four-year, $10 million major league contract in December 2008, Viciedo looked overmatched at times in his pro debut. The White Sox were generally pleased with his performance in Double-A, but some club officials felt he would have been better off at Winston-Salem. Elbow inflammation forced him to leave the Arizona Fall League after four games.

Strengths: Viciedo can drive the ball to all fields and possesses tremendous opposite-field power. He can put on a show in batting practice and punish fat pitches. He has soft hands and an average arm at third base. He took a serious approach to his conditioning, a major issue when he signed. He did a nice job of making adjustments on and off the field in his first season in the United States.

Weaknesses: Viciedo sits on fastballs to the point where he often looks helpless against offspeed pitches, doesn't consistently center hittable pitches and chases out of the strike zone too often. He doesn't look natural at third base, where he lacks range and has trouble on balls to his right and rollers in front of him. He's easily a below-average runner. He'll have to stay on top of his weight.

The Future: Kendry Morales needed part of four seasons in the Angels system to make the climb from Cuba to the major leagues, and Viciedo is younger than Morales was. The White Sox hope he can stick at third, but he could be a candidate to replace first baseman Paul Konerko, whose contract expires after 2010.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Birmingham (AA) .280 .317 .391 504 72 141 20 0 12 78 23 89 5
 
8.  David Holmberg, lhp   Born: July 19, 1991B-T: R-LHt: 6-4Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS—Port Charlotte, Fla., 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Joe Siers
David HolmbergBackground: Holmberg led the Florida high school ranks in strikeouts as a junior, creating some first-round talk, but a soft body and a fastball that only occasionally hit 90 mph caused him to slip to the second round last June. He had committed to Florida but signed with the White Sox for $514,000 as the fourth of their four picks before the third round.

Strengths: Other young pitchers may have better velocity or nastier breaking pitches, but few are as skilled at pitching. Holmberg has great secondary stuff and an advanced feel for changing speeds and locating pitches. Using a classic overhand delivery, he throws a 12-to-6 curveball with plus break and depth, and his changeup is nearly as good. The quality of his secondary pitches allows him to get swings and misses with a fastball that sits at 86-88 mph. It has late movement, making it tough to square up. He's intelligent and an excellent learner.

Weaknesses: Scouts have described Holmberg's body as pear-shaped and raised questions about his conditioning, but his legs and core appear strong, like a young David Wells. Radar guns don't love him, but some club officials believe he could gain velocity as his body matures. He moves slowly off the mound and projects as a below-average fielder.

The Future: Holmberg has some projection but looks like a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse at best. Because he's so young, Chicago will limit his innings in low Class A this season.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bristol (R) 2 2 4.72 14 7 0 0 40 40 5 18 37 .256
 
9.  Clevelan Santeliz, rhp   Born: Sept. 1, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 160
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004Signed by: Roberto Espinoza
Clevelan SantelizBackground: Animated on the mound and armed with a fastball/slider combination that can be eye-popping, Santeliz is hard to miss. He served as a set-up man for Fernando Hernandez at the start of the season in Birmingham, then converted 10 of 11 save opportunities in the final month. He pitched well in the Venezuelan League during the winter.

Strengths: Santeliz models himself after fellow Venezuelan Francisco Rodriguez, daring hitters to dig in against him. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can climb to 95-96 mph. When he's on, he shows a plus slider with good depth and has the ability to locate his two pitches in the strike zone.

Weaknesses: The challenge for the White Sox is to help Santeliz stay under control without losing his flair. He still has trouble throwing strikes at times, and his slider lacks consistency. He never developed much of a changeup or much trust in the pitch. He hasn't had any serious injuries, but he has had trouble handling a full workload as a starter or reliever.

The Future: The Sox would like to use Santeliz as a starter, but he believes he's a closer. Better suited to be a set-up man unless he significantly improves his command, he'll open 2010 in Triple-A and could make his major league debut later in the year.
 
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Birmingham (AA) 4 0 0.96 40 0 0 10 56 43 2 35 52 .216
 
10.  Miguel Gonzalez, c   Born: Dec. 3, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 200
 Signed: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Amador Arias
Miguel GonzalezBackground: There were no headlines when the White Sox signed Gonzalez, but he has grabbed attention with his play and approach ever since. He hit .302/.372/.481 in his U.S. debut last season, which included an emergency three-game stint in Triple-A in the final week.

Strengths: Gonzalez is a true two-way catcher, strong at the plate and behind it. He has the bat speed to hit a good fastball, prompting teams to pitch backward against him. He's a line-drive hitter who should add power as his thin upper body fills out to match his thick legs. He threw out 35 percent of basestealers last season with his plus arm, and he's a sound receiver with an an advanced feel for running games.

Weaknesses: Gonzalez already has a thick lower half, and he'll have to maintain his conditioning to retain the agility to play behind the plate. He's working to quicken his release on throws. He only has 305 pro at-bats and much more advanced pitching awaits at higher levels.

The Future: Gonzalez is on the fast track. He'll open 2010 in low Class A as a 19-year-old and could appear on the big league radar in the second half of 2011. Two large obstacles loom ahead in Tyler Flowers and 2009 sandwich pick Josh Phegley.
 
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Bristol (R) .311 .385 .503 151 24 47 15 1 4 19 16 25 2
Charlotte (AAA) .182 .182 .182 11 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 0

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