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Top Ten Prospects: Chicago White Sox
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Phil Rogers
January 25, 2006

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.

1. BOBBY JENKS, rhp      Born: March 14, 1981 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 270
Drafted: 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) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Birmingham (AA) 1 2 2.85 35 0 0 19 41 34 1 20 48 .224
Chicago (AL) 1 1 2.75 32 0 0 6 39 34 3 15 50 .225

2. BRIAN ANDERSON, of        Born: March 11, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200
Drafted: 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.

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.


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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Charlotte (AAA) .295 .360 .469 448 71 132 24 3 16 57 44 115 4 2
Chicago (AL) .176 .176 .382 34 3 6 1 0 2 3 0 12 1 0

3. RYAN SWEENEY, of    Born: February 20, 1985 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-5 Wt: 205
Drafted: HS—Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2003 (2nd round)  Signed by: Nathan Durst

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.

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.


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.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Birmingham (AA) .298 .357 .371 429 64 128 22 3 1 47 35 53 6 6

4. JOSH FIELDS, 3b       Born: December 14, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 210
Drafted: Oklahoma State, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Alex Slattery/Nathan Durst

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.

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.


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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Birmingham (AA) .252 .341 .409 477 76 120 27 0 16 79 55 142 7 6

5. JERRY OWENS, of        Born: February 16, 1981 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 195
Drafted: The Master's (Calif.), 2003 (2nd round)   Signed by: Tony Arango (Expos)

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.

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 center field.


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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Birmingham (AA) .331 .393 .406 522 99 173 21 6 2 52 52 72 38 20

6. ROBERT VALIDO, ss      Born: May 16, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 175
Drafted: 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.

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.


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 Dent.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Winston-Salem (Hi A) .288 .320 .417 513 86 148 28 7 8 59 21 64 52 5

7. RAY LIOTTA, lhp      Born: April 3, 1983 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220
Drafted: Gulf Coast (Fla.) CC, 2004 (2nd round)  Signed by: Warren Hughes

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.

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.


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.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kannapolis (Lo A) 8 3 2.26 20 20 1 0 115 108 5 35 107 .252
Winston-Salem (Hi A) 6 2 1.45 8 8 0 0 50 46 1 16 37 .254

8. LANCE BROADWAY, rhp    Born: August 20, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 195
Drafted: 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.

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.


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) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Winston-Salem (Hi A) 1 3 4.58 11 11 0 0 55 68 4 20 58 .306

9. FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ, c       Born: February 4, 1986 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-9 Wt: 160
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002   Signed by: Denny Gonzalez/Miguel Ibarra

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.

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.


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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Kannapolis (Lo A) .222 .292 .314 153 15 34 5 0 3 18 13 29 0 0
Great Falls (R) .349 .405 .524 212 37 74 19 0 6 34 19 25 0 1

10. SEAN TRACEY, rhp      Born: November 14, 1980 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 210
Drafted: UC Irvine, 2002 (8th round)    Signed by: Joe Butler/Matt Hattabaugh

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.

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.


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 is streaky.


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) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Birmingham (AA) 14 6 4.07 28 28 2 0 164 154 13 76 106 .257

Photo Credits:
Hernandez: Bill Mitchell
Fields, Sweeney, Valido: Steve Moore
Jenks: Ron Vesely
Broadway, Liotta: Rodger Wood

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