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Top Ten Prospects: Chicago White Sox
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Phil Rogers
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.
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