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While his big frame attracts attention, Rauch wasn't drafted out of high school and received only one Division I scholarship offer, a combination athletic/academic ride at Morehead State. He showed his potential as MVP of the wood-bat Shenandoah Valley League after his sophomore season, going 8-1, 1.69 with 126 strikeouts in 85 innings. Rauch slid in the 1999 draft after an unimpressive junior season, during which he dropped 50 pounds because of a bout with viral meningitis. The White Sox gambled $310,000 he would regain his form of the previous summer, and they hit the jackpot. Rauch, who at 6-foot-11 will become the tallest pitcher in big league history, was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in his first full season. He capped his season with 21 strikeouts and no walks in 11 innings for the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team. Rauch is a polished pitcher with the advantage of the unusual angles that result from his height. He only recently regained the 93-95 mph fastball he had before the meningitis. He sustains his velocity deep into games--he didn't have a fastball clocked below 91 mph in a 14-strikeout, two-hit shutout in his final minor league start in August. Hitters can't sit on the fastball because he has an above-average slider and curveball, both of which he throws for strikes. While many tall pitchers struggle with their mechanics, Rauch is fundamentally sound. He also has excellent control. Rauch didn't have a reliable changeup when he signed but has made progress developing one. Perhaps because he challenges every hitter, he's prone to giving up home runs. His durability is unproven, as his 177 innings (including the Olympics) were a career high. Rauch has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. With youngsters Kip Wells and Jon Garland expected to open the season in the White Sox rotation, there's no reason to rush Rauch. He has pitched just 230 innings as a pro. He's likely to return to Double-A Birmingham, but it would be no big surprise if he spent most of the year at Triple-A Charlotte. He'll be promoted only if the Sox are positive he can help out down the stretch of a playoff race.
The White Sox committed a record $5.3 million bonus to keep Borchard from continuing his two-sport career at Stanford, where he had been expected to be the starting quarterback. Some scouts believe he's the best college power prospect since Mark McGwire. He can drive the ball to all fields from both sides of the plate. Borchard's father, an outfielder drafted by the Royals in 1969, had him switch-hitting by age 11. Borchard is a good outfielder with an excellent arm. Stanford coach Mark Marquess says he's the most competitive player he ever had. Borchard left the Arizona Fall League because of back pain. The White Sox blame the injury on football and say their conditioning program will prevent long-term problems. The Sox may be asking too much for Borchard to develop into a center fielder. He'll begin 2001 in Double-A and could be promoted at the end of the year. His situation is complicated by the White Sox' young corner outfielders, Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez.
Crede picked up MVP awards in the Double-A Southern League and the Class A Carolina League in the last three seasons. The year he wasn't an MVP he was limited by a foot injury. He may have completed his minor league education with a tour of the Arizona Fall League. A pure hitter with a solid approach, Crede has been compared to Scott Rolen. His bat speed generates power without requiring him to pull the ball or swing for the fences. He has shown the mental toughness to recover from slow starts. He's a solid fielder and cut his error total dramatically in 2000. Crede never had a lot of speed and has slowed down after twice having surgery on a toe in 1999. His strikeout total rose above 100 for the first time last season. The only real question is whether Crede will open 2001 as Chicago's third baseman or will displace veteran Herbert Perry along the way. If Crede can win the job in spring training--problematic given Perry's importance to the 2000 team--he could emerge as a rookie-of-the-year contender.
Ginter ranked second in the Southern League in ERA and was selected for the U.S. Olympic team in 2000, his first full pro season. He withdrew from the team when the White Sox said they wanted to consider him for the postseason roster, which he didn't make. Ginter has a plus fastball that he can throw in the mid-90s, but his best pitch is a tight slider that can overmatch righthanders. He's a versatile pitcher who could project as either a starter or a reliever. He's willing to knock hitters off the plate, which helped him hold Double-A hitters to a .233 average. Ginter seemed almost in awe when he was promoted to the big leagues. He respected big league hitters too much, falling behind in too many counts while nibbling around the edges of the strike zone. He gave up five homers in nine innings. Ginter was on the fast track before his September troubles. The White Sox probably will give him a full season at Triple-A. He projects as a reliever but could fool the Sox and wind up in the rotation in 2002.
In his first full pro season, Wright overcame the inconsistency that dogged him throughout his college career. He made tremendous strides toward harnessing the promise that made him a second-round draft choice despite a 2-15 record in his last two years at Arkansas. He held Double-A hitters to a .187 average and performed well in the Southern League playoffs. Wright may be the hardest thrower in the Sox' stable, which is saying something. His fastball consistently hits 95 mph and has been as high as 98. He has a nasty knuckle-curve with a sharp, downward break. He can be dominating when he's on his game. Control can be a problem for Wright, but the Sox say that also should improve. The key for him now is to build on the confidence he developed in 2000. Outside of perhaps Jon Rauch and the unsung Corwin Malone, Wright has as much upside as any Chicago pitching prospect. The Sox have enough pitching to take their time with Wright, which they will, so he might not be in the big league picture until 2003.
Considered the prize prospect from the 1997 White Flag trade, Barcelo was on a fast track to the big leagues before Tommy John surgery. He came back strong in 2001, making his big league debut and serving as a middle reliever in the playoffs. Barcelo is a skilled pitcher with unusual command for such a big man. His fastball, which was approaching 100 mph before surgery, has returned to the mid-90s and is expected to continue making gradual improvement. His best pitch in 2000 was a sweeping slider that he learned while recovering from surgery. His changeup is another solid secondary pitch. Strength and stamina are still an issue. The White Sox believe Barcelo holds back when he's used as a starter, limiting his velocity and effectiveness. Most organizations would love to have a guy like Barcelo in the starting rotation. The Sox are convinced he's best suited for relief. He'll begin 2001 as a setup and long reliever, but eventually could emerge as a closer.
A highly regarded linebacker, West turned down a football scholarship at Texas A&M to sign with the White Sox. His potential as a power pitcher translated to a $1 million bonus. West was just 19 when he pitched in the Class A Midwest League all-star game, an impressive achievement for his first full season. He earned a promotion to the Carolina League but looked tired in two outings there. West is a terrific athlete with an intimidating build. He has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a decent curveball. He pitches down in the strike zone unusually well for a raw power pitcher. West still is developing an offspeed pitch. His control is sometimes shaky, which is why his strikeout-walk ratio belied his stuff in 2000. He needs to learn how to put away hitters. The White Sox will take it one step at a time with West, who is likely to open the 2001 season with high Class A Winston-Salem. He's at least two and probably three years away from getting serious consideration for a big league spot. He's the kind of kid who could stick around for a long time once he gets there.
In another organization, Rowand might be well known by now. But his steady development has been obscured by the meteoric rise of Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez. Rowand nevertheless has made an impressive climb, posting all-star seasons in the Carolina and Southern leagues. By leading the Southern League in RBIs in 2000, Rowand added to his reputation as a run producer. He generates power from a short, quick swing and tremendous upper-body strength. He has decent speed and has used his instincts to develop into an above-average baserunner, though he doesn't project as a basestealer. He's a good right fielder with an arm that managers rated the best in the SL. Rowand may feel that he must hit home runs to get attention. His strikeout-walk ratio has gotten worse for two straight years, with his on-base percentage declining to .321 in 2000. He needs to improve his plate discipline. Roward could challenge for a job on the bench but needs a trade to get a shot at regular playing time. The Sox can have him spend the 2001 season in Triple-A, but something has to give.
A closer at Florida, Fogg has been used almost exclusively as a starter with the White Sox. They initially placed him in that role to get him more work but have become intrigued by his potential as an innings-eating, end-of-the-rotation starter. He has had three solid seasons as a pro, going 26-18, 3.06 overall and leading the Southern League with 192 innings in 2000. Fogg has outstanding command, averaging just 2.5 walks per nine innings in the minors. He has an outstanding slider and a decent changeup, and he isn't afraid to throw his offspeed pitches when behind in the count. He's an intelligent pitcher who works to hitters' weaknesses. In a system loaded with hard throwers, Fogg has finesse stuff. His fastball touches the low 90s but often is in the high 80s. He doesn't operate with much margin for error. After spending a season and a half at pitcher-friendly Birmingham, Fogg may face a tough adjustment at Charlotte, which plays in a bandbox. His chances to advance are more difficult in this system than they would be in others.
Adversity arrived early for the former all-everything from the state of Washington. Stumm, a league MVP as a quarterback and small forward at Centralia (Wash.) High, set a since-broken club record when he received a $1.75 million bonus in 1999. He made only 25 pro starts before tearing an elbow ligament and needing Tommy John surgery last year. Stumm was throwing 96-97 mph consistently before the 1999 draft. He was able to maintain that velocity late into games. Scouts and coaches rave about his character. He's a leader and a competitor. Stumm was able to get by with his fastball in high school but needs a lot of work on his slider and changeup. The injury will cost him time toward making those improvements. The White Sox aren't too worried about Stumm. He's still very young and they've had plenty of Tommy John survivors in their organization, including Lorenzo Barcelo and Rocky Biddle. Because Stumm didn't have surgery until late in the 2000 season, he'll miss most of 2001. The Sox hope he can be back in time for instructional league.
This private-school kid from Houston has a real mean streak. He pitches inside with a fearlessness not often seen in young pitchers, making hitters think twice before crowding the plate. How else do you explain a 29-5 hit batter-wild pitch ratio during his first two pro seasons? The White Sox started Majewski slowly after taking him in the second round of the 1998 draft. It took two months to get him signed, then he spent the first half of 1999 in extended spring before debuting in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He has a low-90s fastball with natural sinking action, and he complements it with an above-average slider and changeup. He's considered an outstanding competitor, which he proved by leading his high school team to a private-school title in Texas. Majewski would be a Top 10 prospect in many systems but figures to be advanced slowly because of the pitching depth in the White Sox system. He's unlikely to reach Comiskey Park before 2003.
It's getting to the point where it may be now or never for Liefer, who has spent most of the last four seasons at Triple-A or Double-A without establishing himself as a big league player. Liefer long has been the best lefthanded hitter in a system heavy on righthanders, but he hasn't used that to his advantage. He has impressive potential as a power hitter, which he showed with 32 homers last year at Charlotte, but has failed to homer in 124 at-bats with the White Sox. He never has received regular playing time, however, getting most of his at-bats when he was wasting the first half of the 1999 season on the Sox bench. Liefer was drafted as a third baseman but since elbow surgery has been limited to first base and occasional starts in the outfield. Liefer's run-production stats argue for him to finally get a look as at least a platoon player for the Sox, but that won't happen unless something happens to Paul Konerko or Frank Thomas.
There was no way to foresee how quickly Biddle would move after returning from Tommy John surgery. He went all the way from the low minors to Comiskey Park in one year, proving that persistence pays off. Biddle, who never had pitched above Class A, won a job on the Double-A staff in spring training and wound up getting an audition in the Sox starting rotation. Former GM Ron Schueler fell in love with Biddle's work ethic in 1999, which he spent rehabbing his elbow at the Sox complex in Arizona. Biddle not only regained his low-90s velocity after the surgery but showed an unusually hard curveball. His fastball has natural movement on it when it's thrown down. He credited the time spent "shadow-boxing'' for improving his mechanics. Biddle doesn't have as high a ceiling as other pitchers in the Sox system, but he does have a competitive spirit that won't be denied. He could wind up as a reliever.
Malone was among the 14 pitchers the White Sox took with their first 15 picks in the 1999 draft. He had a standout career as a high school pitcher in Alabama, throwing one no-hitter and four one-hitters as a senior. He gained the club's attention by holding opponents to a .180 average in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 1999 and followed that up by gaining experience in the Midwest League last season. He's 6-foot-3 and can intimidate lefthanders. He has tremendous tools, including a fastball in the 92-93 range, but is very raw. Malone struggles to throw strikes, especially with breaking pitches. He has averaged almost a walk per inning in his career, frequently winging the ball to the screen. If Malone ever can master the strike zone, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. The White Sox can move slowly with him because he's so young. He'll spend at least one more year in Class A before being considered for bigger challenges.
How do the White Sox keep finding guys like Bajenaru? They took a flier on the right fielder/reliever with a 36th-round pick in the 1999 draft but couldn't sign him. Because he was a fifth-year senior at Oklahoma, a rarely used rule allowed the Sox to hold onto his rights until the 2000 draft. They signed him just before the 2000 draft after he hit .342 with 11 homers and saved 20 games to earn third-team All-America honors. Bajenaru had smooth sailing as a pro, using his 93-95 mph fastball to overpower hitters. The Sox believe they'll really have something after he finds a breaking ball he can consistently throw for strikes. Because he'll be 23 before the 2001 season starts, he'll probably be pushed to Double-A at some point during the year, possibly at the start.
A move to the bullpen has allowed Guerrier to climb quickly in the pitching-deep White Sox system. The righthander has 38 saves and a 1.76 ERA in one-and-a-half years as a pro, including a strong showing down the stretch in Double-A last year. He's a sinker-slider pitcher who keeps the ball down, allowing only one homer in 58 innings in 2000. He has averaged more than a strikeout an inning as a pro but will see that ratio drop as he faces better competition. Guerrier has developed a closer's mindset but the real test comes when he starts getting hit, which could happen once he reaches Charlotte, which has short fences. If any winning team will trust a young closer, it's the Sox. If Guerrier continues to progress, they might consider granting Keith Foulke's wish to move into the starting rotation.
Like a jet trying to land at Chicago O'Hare, Purvis is stacked up somewhere behind a ton of outstanding pitching prospects in the White Sox system. He might not stand out like a Concorde, but his stuff is a long way from making him look like a prop plane. Taken with a 1999 supplemental first-round pick the Sox received after Robin Ventura's departure, Purvis has a fastball that can reach 94 mph on his best days and complements it with a hard curveball. The Sox have done extensive work with his mechanics and allowed him to spend all of last season in the Carolina League, where he held hitters to a .222 batting average. He's prone to bouts of wildness but should get more consistent as he settles into his improved delivery. Purvis will open 2001 in Double-A.
Olivo's calling card is an arm that may rank with Pudge Rodriguez' as the strongest among the game's catchers, but the Athletics soured on him after a disappointing 2000 season. They traded him to the White Sox in December for righthanded reliever Chad Bradford. Olivo is a solid receiver who moves well behind the plate, but his arm strength caused him enormous problems last season because he threw wildly. His offensive game showed little development last year when he split time between high Class A and Double-A. He didn't show the ability to make adjustments at the plate, a skill that's so important for a big league hitter. He also battled minor injuries much of the season, which retarded his progress. Olivo has had trouble working with pitchers partly because of his difficulty in learning the English language. He bolsters the catching depth in a system that was lacking in that area. If all goes according to plan, Olivo will be ready for Chicago when Sandy Alomar Jr.'s two-year contract expires after the 2002 season.
The Padres knew what they were doing when they drafted Hummel in the fifth round in 1997, but they couldn't get him signed. He went to Old Dominion instead, where he was the 2000 Colonial Athletic Association player of the year. The White Sox took him in the second round of the draft last year and quickly got a look at him at his two possible positions, at shortstop in the Midwest League and then third base in the Carolina League. Hummel is a solid fundamental player who never wastes a step on the field. He's smooth at shortstop but has problems getting to some grounders. His arm is considered average for the position. Hummel had a six-hit game with Winston-Salem and hit .326 in his first pro season. He has good bat speed and knowledge of the strike zone, which resulted in more walks than strikeouts last year. It will be a bonus if he develops into a double-digit homer hitter, and at worst he should drive the ball to the gaps. His speed is average. The Sox will give him a chance to win their Double-A shortstop job in 2001 and could move him fast if he remains a .300 hitter.
With both Brook Fordyce and Charles Johnson gone, the White Sox are looking to Paul to share catching duties with Sandy Alomar Jr. in 2001. They thought highly enough of him to place him on their 2000 playoff roster over Mark Johnson, who had been active all season, but the reality is that Paul is an unknown commodity. An outfielder and third baseman at Vanderbilt, Paul is unquestionably a terrific athlete and has worked hard to become a good receiver. He threw out 42 percent of basestealers in his 34 games behind the plate with the Sox last year. Paul hasn't hit with authority since breaking the hamate bone in his right wrist in 1997. While he hit for a decent average last year, he could be in trouble when teams compile a scouting report on him. The Sox value his leadership skills and versatility. He runs well enough to serve as a pinch-runner. But it will be his bat that determines if he can stick around, and he hasn't shown much improvement in recent years.
Once considered the Marlins' top position-player prospect, Ramirez' career arc has slowed dramatically the past two years. As a result, Florida traded him to Chicago for big league outfielder Jeff Abbott in December. Though blessed with five-tool talent, Ramirez has struggled to master the game's subtleties. His command of the strike zone remains spotty at best, and a nagging quadriceps injury slowed him considerably on the basepaths last season. A sore shoulder also plagued him early in 2000, and he missed close to two months overall in his first exposure to Triple-A. His frustration at the plate carried over to his defense, where cracks began to show for the first time. His effort sometimes lagged on balls he used to run down with ease in center field. He still projects as a No. 3 hitter with speed and power to all fields, but at 23 the clock is starting to tick louder for him. He dropped as low as seventh in the order as he tried to work himself out of a season-long funk. One positive out of his difficult season at Calgary was an increased willingness to take instruction. Headstrong at times, Ramirez finally realized his free-swinging ways leave him open to lengthy slumps. He began to shorten his stroke somewhat late in the year. The White Sox have been trying to upgrade in center field, though Ramirez almost certainly will begin 2001 in Triple-A.
Glover ranked as the Blue Jays' No. 6 prospect a year ago, and would have remained that organization's top prospect among starting pitchers--had he remained in the organization. Instead, he came to the White Sox in exchange for marginal lefthander Scott Eyre. Glover now finds himself among Chicago's crowd of righthander starters. His fastball ranks near the top of any organization when he has good mechanics and good command. Blue Jays officials said he was getting slow with his front side and inconsistent with the placement of his lead leg, which slowed his arm and dropped his velocity from 92-95 mph down to 85-88 in the first part of last season. When he got straightened out, he went 8-4, 3.21 with a 71-19 strikeout-walk ratio over 90 innings in the final two months. Glover throws a true slider, which some organizations call a cut fastball because of its good velocity (85-88 mph) and late movement. He also has little trouble mixing in a solid 70-72 mph curve. If he keeps his mechanics together, he still projects as a No. 3 starter in a big league rotation.
The third starter on the 1996 Clemson staff that featured Kris Benson and Billy Koch, Vining's development has been slowed by injury. He came to the White Sox from San Francisco in the 1997 White Flag trade and established himself in Double-A in 1998. He made only three starts in 1999 before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, then joined fellow Tommy John survivor Rocky Biddle at Birmingham last season. Vining started slowly but emerged as a reliable reliever on a team good enough to go to the Southern League championship series. Vining's best pitch is a big-breaking curveball, and he has a 90-mph fastball. He also uses a changeup effectively to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He locates his pitches well and does a good job keeping the ball down. Vining went to the Arizona Fall League as the Sox evaluated whether to give him a spot on the 40-man roster, which they did. Given the way teams covet lefties, there was no hiding Vining in the minors. He'll get a chance in the majors before long.
Stop us if you've heard this before. Christensen is an excellent defensive center fielder and has the speed to be an outstanding leadoff man, but he must improve as a hitter. For years that has been the book on the former blue-chip tailback, and it remains true. Christensen, who lost two critical developmental years while on a Morman mission, teases the White Sox with his potential but never has mounted a strong campaign for playing time in the big leagues. This could be the year he does, though last season's .325 on-base percentage in Triple-A suggests there's still much work to be done at the plate. Power pitchers can knock the bat out of Christensen's hand. All pitchers go right at him, making it tough to work walks. He's a skilled bunter but loses lots of hits because outfielders can play shallow on him. Christensen has tremendous range in center but only an average arm. He has learned to use his speed well on the bases, but has had too much trouble getting on in the first place.
For years, Mendoza was lost in the shadow of fellow Dominican Juan Figueroa. But after his best friend was traded to Baltimore in the Charles Johnson deal, Mendoza bloomed as a major talent worthy of a reputation of his own. He has gotten stronger in his six years in the White Sox system, and it showed last year. Mendoza had a breakthrough season in the Carolina League, showing improved velocity and a newfound ability to battle hitters. He led the league with four complete games and three shutouts while finishing ninth in ERA. That performance is especially impressive considering he opened the year in the bullpen, becoming a regular starter only after Figueroa and Jon Rauch were moved to Double-A. Mendoza had been an afterthought in the pitching-rich system, but now he has earned a longer look. He should be in Birmingham's rotation this season.
Drafted in the eighth round of the 2000 draft as a 17-year-old, the Puerto Rican shortstop made a smooth transition to second base. Amador has excellent range and good hands for a second baseman. He immediately took to the pivot from the other side of the bag, doing a nice job turning double plays. He has the potential to develop into an outstanding leadoff or No. 2 hitter and is an outstanding baserunner, tying an Arizona League record with 40 stolen bases last year. He works pitchers deep into the count and bunts well. His power potential is limited, but that's the only real drawback to his game.
Ivy can flat-out fly. Chris Amador and Ivy ranked 1-2 in the Arizona League in stolen bases, with Ivy stealing 34 bases in just 36 games. He was caught stealing11 times, which included more than his share of pickoffs. His instincts can only improve. Baseball wasn't his game as a kid in rural Mississippi, so his skills are extremely raw. The White Sox were thrilled by his approach at the plate. He had 10 more walks than strikeouts in his pro debut and used his speed to get lots of infield hits. He hit .341 despite playing most of the year with jammed wrists. He should get stronger and develop some power as he matures, but for now he's a dangerous leadoff man. He's solid in center field but needs to work on his throwing.
Ken Williams made a bunch of minor deals in his first few months as Chicago's general manager, including acquiring Garcia from the Marlins in exchange for righthander Mark Roberts. Garcia's ceiling isn't terribly high, but he could be a useful utilityman this year if Tony Graffanino fades. Garcia doesn't draw enough walks to bat at the top of the order, but he does hit for average with some gap power. He also runs well enough to be a stolen-base threat. Garcia has played second base and the outfield in the minors. He's adequate at best at second, where he's stiff and has shown little range and concentration. He hasn't worked hard at becoming a quality outfielder either. His performance tailed off when he was asked to repeat Triple-A in 2000, and Florida was more than happy to get rid of him.
The White Sox aren't sure what they have on their hands in Sandoval, but they're getting intrigued. He hit his way from Class A Burlington all the way to a Triple-A cameo last year. He finished with a .296 batting average and 48 stolen bases, then continued his rise with a strong winter at Zulia in the Venezuelan League. While Sandoval is a promising contact hitter, he has little power and there's no sign that the Sox are looking on him as a long-term option anywhere. He was an all-star shortstop in the Midwest League, but is error-prone and lacks both range and arm strength. He played second and third base at Winston-Salem, but was back as a full-time shortstop in winter ball. His future is probably as a utilityman, but he needs another season like his last one to get the White Sox' full attention.
Look out below. The former first-round choice received the first seven-figure signing bonus in the organization's history and was rated among the organization's top 15 prospects in each of the last three years. But the one-time switch hitter with power has totally lost it at the plate. He abandoned switch-hitting altogether last season, hoping he would get on base more often if he hit exclusively from the right side. But Dellaero was totally overmatched in his second year of Double-A. He had major problems making contact with his overly long swing and continued to be nearly impossible to walk. But the success of Birmingham, which went to the Southern League championship series with him in the lineup, enforces Dellaero's value. He's considered a first-rate fielder. He has worked to improve his defensive skills and his arm is arguably the best among minor league infielders. There's speculation that he soon may be tried as a pitcher, but that's only a rumor for now. Dellaero still could get to the big leagues as a shortstop, but only if he figures out how to crawl above the Mendoza line.