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Background: A native of Panama, Lee gradually has evolved into the system's top prospect as his body has filled out and he has refined his hitting skills. He has added an inch and 10 pounds of muscle of late, and the White Sox think that he may not be through growing yet. With his increased size and strength has come increased power. In the South Atlantic League in 1996, Lee totaled eight home runs and 37 extra-base hits. In 1997 in the Carolina League, Lee led the minor leagues with 50 doubles and added 17 home runs. This year he improved his home run and RBI totals again, and batted .315-4-33 with 19 doubles in the Arizona Fall League. Strengths: Lee's real explosion in home runs will come when he learns how to turn on inside pitches. He has a compact, line-drive swing with excellent bat speed, spraying the ball up the middle and to the gaps. Lee's strikeout totals are extremely low for a power hitter, and he runs surprisingly well for his size, getting down to first base in 4.25 seconds, a click above average. The White Sox have high praise for Lee's makeup and love for the game. He plays with a boyish enthusiasm on the field and has embraced the White Sox' innovative educational program for Latin players. Weaknesses: Lee has plenty of arm strength to play third base, and his hands are soft and quick. Still, there are some questions about his ability to play third in the big leagues. The problems come from Lee's footwork, which is awkward and leads to reduced range and too many throwing errors. The White Sox had Lee try first base and the outfield in Arizona. The Future: Lee has moved through the White Sox system in perfect sequence and will probably start 1999 in Triple-A. The door is still very much open for Lee to stay at third base, but with fellow prospect Joe Crede one step behind, Lee eventually may move to either left or right field, where his athleticism should make for an easy adjustment. His future will be determined more by his evolving power potential than anything else.
Background: Crede enjoyed two building years in the White Sox system before blossoming in 1998. He contended for the Carolina League triple crown most of the year. He was the only hitter in the league to broach the .300 mark in that pitching-dominated league. Strengths: The White Sox describe Crede as a complete professional in his approach to the game. Crede has a line-drive swing and generates most of his power to right-center field, the mark of a mature hitter. His improved plate discipline also is a strength. Defensively, Crede has above-average arm strength. Weaknesses: Crede needs work on his footwork and defensive fundamentals. The White Sox believe he will learn to turn on balls and develop more home run power with experience, much like Carlos Lee. The Future: Crede and Lee are very similar players offensively and defensively, with Crede better with the glove and Lee with the bat. The White Sox will be forced to make room for both in the near future.
Background: Myette attended high school in Canada, then pitched for the University of Washington for one year before transferring to junior college in order to make himself eligible for the 1997 draft. Relatively unheralded because of his history, Myette lasted until the 43rd overall pick. Strengths: With a 91-94 mph fastball and plus slider, Myette has overmatched young hitters. The White Sox say he is the best in the organization at pitching aggressively on the inside half of the plate. Myette also has a deceptive delivery that gives hitters a short look at the ball. Weaknesses: A minor elbow problem shut Myette down for the first month of the 1998 season. He rebounded quickly and there are no concerns about future recurrence. The Future: Myette has the most advanced idea about how to work hitters and the best stuff in the system. He will be invited to big league camp and get a shot at making the major league staff. More likely, Myette will begin 1998 in Double-A and climb to the majors rapidly if the rotation disappoints.
Background: Johnson batted a lowly .182-2-17 in the South Atlantic League in 1995 but has shown steady improvement in the past three years. The higher he plays, the more his baseball skills overshadow his physical limitations. Strengths: Johnson looked right at home behind the plate in his big league debut in September. He has outstanding hands and a mature ability to call a game and work hitters. His calling card offensively is his excellent batting eye. Johnson has walked 211 times the past two years and has seen his power and average increase at the same time. Weaknesses: Johnson's throwing arm is borderline average at best. While his power and hitting ability have improved dramatically, his overall bat speed is just fair. The Future: The White Sox played very well in September with Johnson and fellow rookie Roberto Machado catching and are likely to continue that platoon early in 1999. The big question will be whether Johnson will be able to contribute enough offensively to hold the job with no Triple-A experience.
Background: Beirne was better known as a wide receiver/tight end on the Texas A&M football team while in college. He was dropped from the Aggies baseball team midway through his junior year in 1995 because of ineffectiveness but was showcased to scouts by the A&M coaching staff and showed enough arm strength to interest the White Sox. Strengths: Beirne's best pitch is a hard overhand curveball that gets excellent spin and bite. He sets up his curveball with a low-90s fastball and an improving changeup. The biggest improvement to his game has been dramatically improved command of his pitches. Weaknesses: Beirne gradually has refined both his mechanics and pitching intelligence, which were raw when he was drafted. He still needs work on his changeup to become a complete pitcher. The Future: With his strength and athletic ability, Beirne could become an innings-eating workhorse. Beirne will need at least another half season of work at Triple-A before being ready for the White Sox rotation.
Background: Leifer signed late after being drafted as a third baseman and did not debut until 1996. He was a DH most of 1997 due to elbow surgery that first moved him to left field, then to first base in 1998. Strengths: Leifer has the organization's best lefthanded power potential. The ball explodes off his bat when he is zoned in at the plate. Leifer has plenty of athleticism and range to become an above-average defensive first baseman. Weaknesses: Leifer's elbow problems have cost him his defensive flexibility, though the White Sox hope that eventually the elbow will be strong enough to allow him to play some left field. He will need to continue to build up repetitions at first base to improve his overall defense. The Future: Without his injury history, Leifer might have been a primary contender to replace Albert Belle in left field. The organization loves his bat and power but will have to juggle him with its other young corner prospects.
Background: The Cubs drafted Garland 10th overall in 1997 but traded him to the White Sox in July for reliever Matt Karchner. Garland is very young for his class and already is preparing to enter his third pro season. Strengths: In high school, Garland showed a 90-93 mph fastball and the potential for a plus curveball and changeup. He has not shown the same type of ability as a pro, though he will flash it at times, such as his first game with Class A Hickory, when he hit 95 mph consistently. Garland's arm is loose, healthy and still very projectable. Weaknesses: The Cubs were discouraged enough by something in Garland's package to trade him for a middle reliever a year after paying Garland a $1.325 million bonus. The White Sox want Garland to be more aggressive. The Future: The White Sox don't know what they have yet in Garland except that he has excellent potential. They will get a better idea this year at Class A Winston-Salem.
Background: Daneker projected as a potential first-round pick before a subpar junior season in college dropped his value. His struggles continued in Rookie ball in 1997, but Daneker rebounded in 1998. Strengths: Daneker is a classic sinker/slider pitcher with plus command of all his pitches and excellent sinking movement on his fastball. He has impressed the White Sox with his maturity on the mound and his desire to improve. Weaknesses: The White Sox feel that Daneker's struggles in 1997 were caused by mechanical problems he picked up in college. They have been corrected. He still needs work on his changeup to complement his other two pitches. The Future: Daneker is not a high-ceiling pitcher. The White Sox feel he can be a solid third or fourth starter in the big leagues. He will start 1999 in Double-A, but with the lack of certainty in Chicago's rotation, Daneker, Beirne, Myette and perhaps others will not be far out of the major league club's sight.
Background: Lundquist is somewhat on the old side to be considered a prospect, but he essentially missed the 1996-97 seasons because of elbow surgery. He cruised through three levels of the White Sox system this year and earned a place on the 40-man roster. Strengths: With righthander Lorenzo Barcelo injured all season and his future uncertain, the White Sox feel that Lundquist has the top velocity among their prospects. He clocks in between 94-96 mph. He also significantly improved his slider after gaining confidence that his elbow was sound. Weaknesses: With only 15 Triple-A innings and a major surgery under his belt, Lundquist's time is now. He must fit into the closer/setup role because of his two-pitch arsenal, but the White Sox have confidence in has abilities. The Future: The White Sox will give Lundquist a good shot at making the big league team in 1999, most likely as a bridge to closers Bobby Howry and Bill Simas.