Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Phil Rogers
1. Joe Borchard, of
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Stanford, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Joe Butler/Ed Pebley.
Background: There was no way Joe Borchard was going to be inconspicuous last season. The record $5.3 million bonus he got in 2000 blew his cover. But even if it hadnt, the switch-hitting Borchard would have stood out because of his tools and how well he used them in the first full season of baseball in his life. Despite playing in a pitchers park, he led the Southern League in RBIs and finished second in homers. According to football scouting guru Mel Kiper, Borchard could have been one of the first players taken in the 2002 NFL draft had he continued to play quarterback at Stanford.
Strengths: His performance was validation for White Sox scouting director Duane Shaffer, who says Borchard has the best power of any college hitter since Mark McGwire. He maintained a football players flair for the big moment while avoiding the long funks associated with the baseball grind. He homered from both sides of the plate on April 10, his fifth game of the season, and went 4-for-8 with two homers and a double in three all-star games. Borchard is a better hitter from the left side but didnt have pronounced platoon differences in 2002. He has a plus arm but still is making the transition from quarterback to outfield. Last year, he moved from right field to center, which could be his quickest route to the big leagues. Effort isnt an issue, as he comes early and stays late.
Weaknesses: The White Sox hope Borchard will give away fewer at-bats as he gains experience. Theyre willing to accept strikeouts if he provides power, especially from center field. While Borchard is an excellent athlete, it takes him time to get his 6-foot-5 frame moving. His range is considered below-average in center but some scouts believe its his best position. He seemed tentative when used on the corners in the Arizona Fall League.
The Future: Borchard should fit in well at the remodeled Comiskey Park, which turned into a launching pad after the fences were brought in. Hes a good bet for 30-plus homers as a rookie, with the better question being whether it happens now or in 2003. Borchards ability as a student will determine whether he can make better contact and get to more balls in the outfield.
2. Jon Rauch, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-11. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Morehead State, 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Larry Grefer.
Background: Shoulder problems cost Rauch, Baseball Americas 2000 Minor League Player of the Year, a chance to establish himself with the White Sox last season. He made just six starts before having surgery to clean out his shoulder. Otherwise he may have made the same kind of leap as fellow 2000 U.S. Olympians Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt.
Strengths: Rauch is an inch taller than Randy Johnson and has unusual command for such a tall pitcher. His mechanics are solid and he locates his pitches well. His fastball should return to the mid-90s. Rauch complements it with two above-average breaking pitches and has made progress with his changeup. His height gives him arm angles that are foreign to hitters.
Weaknesses: Rauch is a good athlete who moves around well. He figures to have more trouble with comebackers and bunts than other pitchers, forcing him to bear down on his fielding. He has yet to establish his durability.
The Future: Rauch is a future No. 1 starter but could need at least one more season in the minors before making the jump to Chicago. His health will be watched closely until he reestablishes himself.
3. Corwin Malone, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSThomasville, Ala., 1999 (9th round). Signed by: Warren Hughes.
Background: Everything came together in 2001 for the hard-working Malone, who planned to play linebacker for Alabama-Birmingham before the Sox drafted him. After relieving in the low minors, he soared when given the chance to start, beginning the year in the low Class A South Atlantic League and ending it with a victory in the Southern League playoffs.
Strengths: While Malone has great tools, hes also a top student. He has a 93-94 mph fastball, and hitters react as if its in the high 90s. Of his other pitches, the best is a snapping curveball. He gained confidence in his curve throughout last season, throwing it for strikes even when behind in the count.
Weaknesses: Malone averaged 7.9 walks per nine innings in his first two pro seasons, but cut that figure to 3.6 in 2001. He didnt throw many changeups as a reliever and still is developing the pitch.
The Future: Jason Bere helped the White Sox win a division title in 1993 after starting the previous season in low Class A. Malone could have that same kind of sudden impact, but his likely ETA is mid-2003.
4. Matt Guerrier, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Kent State, 1999 (10th round). Signed by: Larry Grefer.
Background: At first glance, it doesnt appear theres anything special about Guerrier. He may not dominate but he wins, compiling a 26-8, 2.80 record in three pro seasons. He rang up 38 saves in his first two years in the system but pitched even better when given a chance to start, leading the minors with 18 wins in 2001.
Strengths: Guerrier is out of the Greg Maddux mold. His fastball averages 88-89 mph but is one of four pitches he can throw at any time in the count. His curveball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches and he does a tremendous job of establishing, then following, a plan of attack. He holds runners well and fields his position.
Weaknesses: With his velocity, Guerrier doesnt have much margin for error. The Sox will watch closely to see how he rebounds from pitching 200 innings (including 20 in the Arizona Fall League) last year.
The Future: With the major league rotation uncertain beyond Mark Buehrle, Guerrier is a sleeper to watch in spring training. He could do what more heralded prospects like Kip Wells and Jon Garland could not, nailing down a spot in his first try.
5. Joe Crede, 3b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSWestphalia, Mo., 1996 (5th round). Signed by: Paul Provas.
Background: A two-time minor league MVP, Crede has become a staple on this list but almost certainly will graduate this time around. Many expected him to become the regular third baseman last season but he failed to break through, instead spending his first year in Triple-A. The White Sox drafted his brother Josh in the 48th round but didnt sign him.
Strengths: Crede is a productive hitter, especially when he trusts himself to drive the ball to the opposite field, and has shown the ability to come back from long slumps. Hes a smooth fielder with good range and a plus arm. He could be part of a much-needed defensive upgrade for the White Sox.
Weaknesses: Expectations have been high for Crede since he was Carolina League MVP at age 20. He expects so much from himself that hes too critical at times. Despite playing in more than 600 games, he hasnt shown signs of cutting down his triple-digit strikeout totals.
The Future: With Herbert Perry out of the picture, the Sox appear ready to give Crede 300-400 at-bats this season. Hell need to produce to play for a team with playoff aspirations.
6. Tim Hummel, 2b/ss
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Old Dominion, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Alex Cosmidis.
Background: Hummel was a polished hitter when the White Sox drafted him. He has moved all over the infield, settling in at second base in the second half of 2001. He spent his first full season as a pro in Double-A and then continued to be pushed in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Hummel is an offensive player with lots of upside. Hes a rare righthanded hitter described as having a stylish swing. He hits for average and is selective at the plate, traits that have given him a career .380 on-base percentage as a pro. Hummel uses the whole field. He showed power last season but projects more as an ideal No. 2 hitter. He has a plus arm for second base.
Weaknesses: Hummel needs to work on his first step in the field. His range is limited, though he compensates with good positioning. He isnt fluid on the pivot but makes up for it with solid throws.
The Future: With Ray Durham in the last season of his contract, Hummel could be a 2003 regular. For that to be a successful transition for the White Sox, however, Hummel must improve enough defensively to be superior to Durham, a consistent liability through the years.
7. Kris Honel, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSNew Lenox, Ill., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Nathan Durst.
Background: Following in the footsteps of the Athletics Mark Mulder, Honel is the rare first-round pitcher who has survived an education in the batting cages around Chicago. He was projected as a possible top 10 pick before slipping to 16th overall. Thats the highest an Illinois high school pitcher has been selected since the Angels took Bob Kipper with the eighth pick in June 1982.
Strengths: Honel is big, strong and has excellent mechanics. He has hit 94 on guns and averages 91-92 with good movement. Thats plenty of heat, considering he has two pitches better than his fastballa knuckle-curve that acts like a slider, and a plus changeup.
Weaknesses: Like most kids just out of high school, Honel has some growing up to do. His emotions can get the better of him on the mound. He was bothered by minor elbow problems after signing, which caused his velocity to sink to the mid-80s at times.
The Future: Scouting director Doug Laumann considers Honel to be the Mark Prior starter kit. If he makes steady progress the next three years, he could become a homegrown star in his hometown.
8. Miguel Olivo, c
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Miguel Garcia (Athletics).
Background: The White Sox pitching surplus allowed them to trade Chad Bradford to Oakland for a potential long-term catcher in December 2000. Olivo responded to the deal by turning in excellent seasons in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League, where managers voted him to the all-prospect team. After never playing more than 77 games in a season, he held together for 111 between the two stops.
Strengths: Arm strength always has been Olivos calling card, but he has developed into a promising hitter, putting up on-base plus slugging percentages better than .800 in both Birmingham and the AFL. Scouts still rave about his strong arm, with one saying it was the best he saw all season.
Weaknesses: Olivo is prone to strikeouts. By all accounts, he still needs work on his receiving skills. His ability to call games and work with pitchers is the last hurdle between him and the big leagues.
The Future: Olivo will open 2002 in Triple-A but could figure in Chicagos catching mix at some point this season. Hes a strong candidate for regular duty in 2003 and is putting pressure on veteran Mark Johnson and second-year man Josh Paul.
9. Dennis Ulacia, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSMiami, 1999 (8th round). Signed by: Jose Ortega.
Background: Ulacia was one of the biggest success stories in the organization last season. The Sox knew the potential was there, yet had to be amazed at how he bounced back from a 4-14 season in low Class A to go 14-5, 2.86, including a complete-game victory in a Triple-A emergency start. He threw a four-hit shutout in the Southern League playoffs.
Strengths: Nothing bothers Ulacia, whose mound presence belies his age. He has a complete selection of pitches, complementing a low-90s fastball with a plus breaking ball. He does a good job changing speeds.
Weaknesses: Ulacias changeup is a work in progress. His quick rise may have left him lacking in defensive fundamentals.
The Future: Ulacia has made just four starts above Class A but is likely to advance quickly. He has shown the White Sox hes mentally tough, making him a candidate to pitch in the big leagues soon. Hell probably begin the year in Double-A.
10. Aaron Rowand, of
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 1998 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Ed Pebley/Ed Crosby.
Background: Rowand spent more than half of last season with the White Sox, including 34 starts in the outfield, but still qualifies for this list. The most memorable moment of his first season came when he crashed into a wall taking away an extra-base hit to temporarily preserve a Mark Buehrle bid for a no-hitter. Rowand played with a sore shoulder and watched his batting average slide from .316 on Sept. 1.
Strengths: Rowand is a promising run producer who shortened his swing with big league batting coach Gary Ward. Rowand also tightened his strike zone, chasing fewer pitches. He has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last three seasons, but is a line-drive hitter. He has spent most of his career playing the outfield corners, but did a decent job in center for the White Sox. He has a strong arm.
Weaknesses: He doesnt truly fit any of the outfield positions. Rowand runs OK but not as well as a typical center fielder. He also doesnt have quite the home-run power of a corner outfielder.
The Future: Rowand could spend 2002 as Chicagos regular in left or center, depending on the status of Carlos Lee and Chris Singleton.
Rest of the Best:
11. Edwin Almonte, rhp
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