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Doug Laumann, who lasted three years as the White Sox' scouting director, may have hit a home run with Reed. Reed played mostly first base during his first two seasons at Long Beach State before moving to the outfield as a junior. Laumann and scouts Joe Butler and Matt Hattabaugh saw enough to project him as a big league center fielder. They may turn out to be exactly right. It required less faith to envision Reed producing with a wood bat. He used wood when he won the Alaska League MVP award in 2000, and again when he led Team USA in hitting with a .366 average in 2001. But even Chicago has been surprised at how quickly Reed has adapted to pro ball. After hitting .319 at low Class A Kannapolis in his pro debut, Reed led the minors with a .373 average and .453 on base percentage last year. He was at his best after a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, hitting .409-7-43 with 18 steals in 66 games. After the season, Reed started in the outfield for the Team USA squad that was upset by Mexico in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Reed can really hit. He not only has a simple stroke that allows him to make contact almost at will but he also has a terrific eye for the strike zone. He walked nearly twice as much as he struck out in 2003. Wally Backman, his manager at Birmingham last year, says Reed has such an advanced ability to anticipate pitches that he sometimes helps teammates prepare for at-bats. Like a young Rafael Palmeiro, Reed uses the whole park with his line-drive stroke and should develop more power in time, though he'll generate a lot more doubles than homers. He'll probably max out at 15-20 homers annually. He doesn't have any problems with lefthanders, hitting them at a .352 clip last year. Reed runs well and has a natural aggressiveness that allows him to stretch hits into an extra base. He has become an average center fielder and should get better with more experience there. His arm is average, and he could possibly play right field if he can't stick in center. Reed's aggressiveness occasionally turns into recklessness. He needs to pick his spots better as a basestealer after getting caught in 13 of 31 attempts in Double-A. If he proves unable to handle center field, he won't have the home run power typical of a corner outfielder. Nevertheless, he should provide enough offense to hold down a job in left or right. Reed sprained his right wrist while with the U.S. qualifying team, but he's expected to be fine by spring training. After finishing third behind Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Royals righthander Zack Greinke in BA's 2003 Minor League Player of the Year race, Reed is on the fast track to Chicago. He'll go to big league camp as a nonroster invitee, and the White Sox don't have a clear-cut center fielder. Several club officials would like to see Reed get a full season at Triple-A Charlotte, however, and he'll likely open the season playing alongside Joe Borchard there. With Magglio Ordonez one year away from free agency, it's conceivable both Reed and Borchard will be regulars in 2005.
A local product, Honel went 16th overall in the 2001 draft, making him the earliest Illinois prep pitcher picked since Bob Kipper was chosen eighth in 1982. Honel continues to justify his selection, earning all-star recognition in both of his full seasons. He helped Winston-Salem capture the high Class A Carolina League championship in 2003 with two wins in the playoffs, including the clincher. Since his mid-teens, Honel has thrown a knee-buckling knuckle-curve, and he'll use it in any count. His fastball climbed back to 91-93 mph last year after dipping a little in 2002. He has a lot of natural movement on his heater, with late break down and away from righthanders. He gets deception from a natural snap at the end of his delivery. He repeats his delivery well, giving him good command. Honel has enough fastball now, but his frame is so projectable that the White Sox continue to watch for him to develop more velocity. That's all he needs to have front-of-the-rotation stuff. The Sox rushed Jon Garland and Dan Wright to the majors but are more cautious these days. They want Honel to be ready when he gets there, with the second half of 2005 a reasonable goal. He'll pitch in Double-A this year.
Unsung when he was traded, Cotts has become the best part of the Billy Koch-Keith Foulke deal for the White Sox. He started the 2003 Futures Game at U.S. Cellular Field and would have won the Double-A Southern League ERA title had he not fallen 3 1/2 innings shy of qualifying. His first big league promotion lasted four starts, as he left a poor impression because of wildness. Cotts has averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors despite a fastball that tops out at 91 mph. His motion deceives hitters and makes his fastball look harder. His changeup is his best pitch, and his curveball improved last year. He does a good job changing speeds and using his secondary pitches to set up his fastball. He keeps the ball down in the strike zone and rarely gives up homers. Cotts will have to iimprove his control before he gets another shot with the White Sox. Big league hitters didn't chase his pitches out of the strike zone, and they didn't swing and miss too often when his stuff came over the plate. He doesn't have an obvious out pitch for the majors. A strong spring training could put Cotts into immediate consideration for a spot in the Chicago rotation. More likely, he'll go to Triple-A and be in line for a big league job in 2005.
Sweeney had a chance to become Iowa's first high school first-rounder, but a lackluster performance at a predraft showcase dropped him to the second round. Scouted as both a pitcher and hitter, he signed for $785,000. Because he had college basketball potential, the White Sox were able to spread his bonus over five years. Sweeney drew rave reviews in instructional league. He is a competitor in an ultra-athletic package. He's considered a pure hitter with gap power, in the mold of John Olerud. He has great plate coverage and surprisingly good plate discipline for such a raw talent. He has a plus arm, showing an 88-92 mph fastball and promising curveball last spring, and is suited for right field. Having put on 15 pounds of muscle, Sweeney looks like a power hitter but has yet to become one with a wood bat. He sometimes appears too pull-conscious. His fielding skills are raw. The consensus is that he has more offensive upside than 2003 first-rounder Brian Anderson. With his strong debut, Sweeney showed that he's ready for low Class A this year.
Borchard is under increasing pressure to justify the record $5.3 million bonus he was given to forsake a career as an NFL quarterback. He has gone backward the last two years, largely because he chases too many bad pitches. Somewhat limited by a broken foot in 2002, he had no excuses last season. Borchard's athleticism and leadership skills give him an edge over most ballplayers. He generates easy power and can hit monster home runs, especially from the left side. He has a strong arm, which he once showed by throwing five touchdown passes in a game against UCLA. Strikeouts are a concern, especially because his walk totals have diminished the last two years. Borchard's plate discipline has worsened even as the organization has emphasized its importance. He has become a particularly suspect hitter from the right side. He can play three outfield positions but is below-average in center, Chicago's original goal for him. After he played nonstop for 21⁄2 years, the White Sox gave Borchard the winter off. He used the time to get married. It's unlikely he'll hit his way to Chicago in spring training and is destined for a third season in Triple-A.
Selected one round after Kris Honel in the 2001 draft, Wing has been in lockstep with him ever since. He started and won the California- Carolina League all-star game last year and teamed with Honel to pitch Winston-Salem to a championship. Wing is a nightmare for lefthanders because of his arm angle and stuff. He has a low-90s fastball with hard, sinking action. He uses his sinker to set up an excellent slider. He doesn't hesitate to knock hitters off the plate. He's difficult to run on, leading Carolina League pitchers last year with 67 percent of basestealers getting caught against him. Wing sometimes struggles with his mechanics, which in turn leads to spotty control. That's the biggest difference between him and Honel. Wing should improve his command with more experience. Wing and Honel will team up again in Double-A this year. The White Sox have promoted plenty of pitchers from Birmingham to the majors, including Neil Cotts in 2003, and could get interested in Wing quickly if he has a good first half. More realistically, he needs another 300 minor league innings before getting the call.
After a Freshman All-America season in 2001, Anderson slumped mightily as a sophomore at Arizona. He reworked his swing and his approach last spring, and it paid off as he went 15th overall in the draft and signed for $1.6 million. He made the most of the chance to audition for the White Sox, who train in Tucson and sent 16 scouts and coaches to watch him. Anderson got off to a fast start at Rookie-level Great Falls before being sidelined by minor wrist surgery. Anderson has all five tools and is a slightly better athlete than Ryan Sweeney. He's a polished hitter who can work counts and wait for a pitch to drive. He runs well and is a plus defender in center field. He has an outstanding arm and was clocked up to 93 mph as a reliever in his first two years with the Wildcats. Health is an issue. Anderson battled knee and wrist injuries in 2002, and his wrist began bothering him after he turned pro. Doctors shaved down a bone that was causing him irritation, and he's expected to be ready to go in spring training. With Chris Young slated to play center field in low Class A, Anderson likely will go to high Class A for his first full pro season. His big league ETA is mid-2006.
Drawn to the city and the opportunity, Takatsu became the first Japanese veteran to sign with a Chicago team when he agreed to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1 million. He spent 13 years with the Yakult Swallows, surpassing Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2003 to take over Japan's all-time saves lead with 260. Takatsu was at his best in the Japan Series, going 2-0 with nine saves and a 0.00 ERA--this his nickname, "Mr. Zero"--helping the Swallows to four titles. Using a sidearm delivery, Takatsu is extremely deceptive and durable. He has plus command with three different pitches, changing speeds on his sinker, slider and changeup so well that he essentially has six different offerings. He can throw his changeup like a screwball and make his sinking fastball move toward either side of the plate. There's nothing overpowering about Takatsu. His fastball rarely climbs above 88 mph and often parks at 85-86. His control slipped a notch last year and he has averaged just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two seasons. For a sinkerball pitcher, he gives up a surprising number of homers.Takatsu will work either as a set-up man or closer for the White Sox, depending on the performance of Billy Koch. The Sox hold a $2.5 million option on his contract for 2005.
Young led Texas prepsters in steals in 2001 at perennial power Bellaire High, which went 34-2 and was ranked sixth nationally. He lasted 16 rounds in the draft, mostly because he was scrawny. He has filled out as a pro and made great strides in 2003, when he ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Speed remains Young's best tool. He has been clocked at 4.0 seconds to first base from the right side of the plate. He's always a threat to steal bases, including third. Young has learned to use the whole field while developing surprising power and improved strike-zone judgment. He's an above-average center fielder who played 50 consecutive errorless games last year. Young sometimes looks bad against breaking pitches. He needs to do a better job making contact to take full advantage of his speed. He has a below-average arm and didn't register an assist in 2003. The White Sox hope Young can continue to establish himself as he moves to low Class A. They have little need to rush him with Jeremy Reed, Joe Borchard and Brian Anderson ahead of him on the center-field depth chart.
Munoz was named pitcher of the year in the Dominican League after the 2002 season, and he paid for it. He barely had any time off before spring training and the workload showed. His snapdragon curveball didn't have its usual bite as he failed to impress in big league camp and started slowly in Triple-A. When it's on, Munoz' curveball is one of the best in the minors. He uses tremendous arm speed to get the same violent break as Barry Zito. Munoz' fastball can touch 90 mph. Those two pitches account for his ratio of 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro and make him a scourge on lefthanders, who hit just .128 against him last year. He's poised and controls the running game exceptionally well. Munoz continues working on his changeup and slider. He needs something more to get righties out after they torched him for a .339 average in 2003. The White Sox haven't given him a chance to start because he's a maximum-effort pitcher who wears down after one trip through the lineup. The Sox appear set with lefties Damaso Marte and Kelly Wunsch in their bullpen, but Munoz has intriguing talent. He figures to arrive in Chicago at some point in 2004 and has Eddie Guarado potential.
McCarthy has gone 25-8 over the last two seasons, including a 12-0 run at Lamar (Colo.) CC that drew the attention of Sox scouts Joe Butler and John Kazanas. He led national juco pitchers by averaging 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings in 2002, and he has topped the Rookie-level Arizona and Pioneer leagues in innings and whiffs in his two pro seasons. McCarthy is a blue-collar version of former White Sox star Jack McDowell. He stands tall, challenges hitters and wins games. He doesn't blow the ball past hitters, getting his fastball up to just 91 mph, but he has a hard curveball with diving action plus an improving changeup. The best thing he does is throw strikes. McCarthy doesn't get a lot of movement on his fastball and is relatively hittable. He needs to work on commanding the inner half of the plate because hitters sometimes get too comfortable against him. McCarthy should gain velocity as he continues to fill out his frame. He'll probably advance a step to low Class A but is polished enough to be considered for a jump to high Class A.
Miller had been rated as the top prep pitcher in Michigan in 2001, but most organizations believed it would be impossible to get him to break his commitment to Michigan State. The White Sox waited until the 20th round to select him, negotiated hard and got him signed. They have taken it slowly with him as he seeks consistency. He has the best arm among the system's righthanders, and when it's on he can be spectacular, as he was in a seven-inning no hitter last year. At times he fights his mechanics, which causes him to have nights where finding the strike zone is a major task. His fastball qualifies as easy heat, climbing into the mid-90s without any effort to his delivery. He has a classic pitcher's body and should only get stronger. He came into the organization with a good changeup and has improved it. His breaking ball is another matter. Some scouts say Miller's arm action isn't conducive to throwing a good breaker, and he has yet to prove them wrong. Miller is on target to advance to high Class A in 2004. He has a ceiling of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Competition will be nothing new for Valido. He had to beat out two other highly regarded prospects, Sean Rodriguez (Anaheim's third-round pick in 2003) and Guillermo Martinez (the White Sox' 17th-rounder, who opted to attend South Alabama) to win the shortstop's job at Coral Park High. The Miami school also produced shortstop Luis Montanez, the No. 3 overall pick in 2000 by the Cubs. Valido is a gifted fielder who has a strong arm, range and soft hands. Scouts and coaches gush about his instincts and his willingness to take coaching, with Jerry Hairston, his manager at Rookie-level Bristol, saying Valido will do anything it takes' to play in the big leagues. Valido lasted until the fourth round of the draft because teams were concerned about his hitting. But he went straight to the Appalachian League and held his own against older players, finishing ninth in the batting race and showing surprising power. He makes good contact but could draw a few more walks. Though his speed is only slightly above average, he was a force on the bases in his pro debut. Valido will compete against older shortstops in spring training to try to win a starting job in low Class A.
Yes, it has been three seasons since Rauch was BA's 2000 Minor League Player of the Year and a key part of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic starting rotation. But the tallest pitcher in major league history still remains on the radar screen despite seemingly going into the witness-protection program. He was a forgotten man after spring training last season. He went to camp as a favorite to pitch in the White Sox rotation but lost out to Esteban Loaiza and wasn't heard from again. Rauch turned in a solid Triple-A, recovering from a midseason sore shoulder--the same one he had operated on in 2001--to finish strong. He's not overpowering but gets seldom-seen arm angles from his height and has become a polished pitcher. His height causes his 91-92 fastball to appear harder than it is. He seems on top of hitters when he releases it. Rauch also has two above-average breaking balls and a decent changeup, but he must command of all his pitches to succeed. He's in the picture for a 2004 spot with the Sox, who praise his positive attitude. This will be a make-it-or-break-it year for Rauch, who's likely to be traded elsewhere if he doesn't secure a job in Chicago.
It's hard to understand why a general manager on a non-contender would give up a pitcher who throws 95 mph to give Sandy Alomar Jr. an extended tryout, but that's what Colorado's Dan O'Dowd did two years ago. The White Sox not only got a surprisingly good prospect in Pacheco, but also re-signed Alomar after he spent two months with the Rockies. Pacheco was considered a hard thrower without a clue during five seasons in the Colorado organization but showed enough last year in Double-A to be added to the 40-man roster. He barely earned his spot on the Birmingham roster out of spring training and opened the season as a long reliever, but he emerged as the top starter on a playoff team. Pacheco ended the season on a seven-game winning streak and then threw 13 shutout innings in the Southern League playoffs. The Barons went 20-4 in his regular-season starts, compared to 53-60 behind everyone else. The Sox are excited about the thunder in Pacheco's arm. In addition to his fastball, he also has a hard slider. He doesn't have much in the way of an offspeed, but got by with his power stuff and improved command as a starter. Chicago views him as a versatile pitcher who could either round out a starting rotation or serve as an Octavio Dotel-style set-up man. He would benefit from a full season at Triple-A but could push for a big league job with an impressive spring training.
If his talent came in a bigger package, Castro already would have become a highly touted prospect. Don't be surprised if he emerges as one in the next couple of years. All the undersized lefthander has done for the last two years is get outs, first in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and then as an 18-year-old in the Appalachian League, where he faced mostly hitters coming from college. Castro has very good command of an 89-91 mph fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup. His secondary pitches need more consistency, as is typical with young pitchers. He made two late-season starts in low Class A, impressing with his poise as much as his stuff. Should he catch a growth spurt, he could turn into a monster. He'll return to Kannapolis in 2004 and could get a full-time look as a starter.
Morse teamed with Ruddy Yan to give Carolina League champion Winston-Salem a dynamic double-play combination. Morse provided uncommon power for a middle infielder, while Yan led the league in steals. Morse has made a station-to-station climb through the system since being drafted in the third round in 2000. His pop is his strong suit, but he needs to make more contact and take more walks. At 6-foot-4, Morse is taller than most shortstops and there's some worry that he might outgrow the position. But he has a solid arm and still covers enough ground. He was steadier defensively last year after spending some time at third base in 2002. A return trip to high Class A might make some sense, giving Morse a chance to build on success.
Diaz once was one of the Giants' top pitching prospects, but they gave him up to rent Kenny Lofton for the stretch run in 2002. Now the White Sox have their own mixed feelings about Diaz. They've seen enough to put him on their 40-man roster but have yet to give him serious consideration for a big league role. He spent 2003 in Triple-A, where the good news was that he stayed healthy and set a career high for innings. The bad news was that he didn't distinguish himself. Diaz throws 92-94 mph but doesn't get a lot of movement on his fastball. His mid-80s slider and changeup are solid pitches. He throws strikes, too. Yet the total package is somehow less than the sum of its individual parts. Diaz will have to turn it on in Triple-A this year to have a chance at starting for the Sox. He's a wild card for an organization that no longer has many guys with plus arms knocking on the door.
Meaux was far less regarded than Felix Diaz when they arrived in the Kenny Lofton trade, but he appears a good bet to reach the majors as a situational lefthander or, possibly, a setup man. He's part of the same Lamar (Colo.) CC pipeline that produced Brandon McCarthy. Meaux doesn't have a plus pitch and has to be seen with the game on the line to be appreciated. His makeup is outstanding. He knows how to pitch and has developed tremendous command of all his pitches: a mid-80s fastball, a good curveball and a changeup he throws infrequently. He doesn't beat himself, permitting just four unintentional walks and two homers in 93 innings last year. He could earn a spot in Triple-A in spring training and be in Chicago before the year is over.
Lopez excelled in two years of Rookie ball but found the going rougher in low Class A last year. He continued to show outstanding bat control but didn't approach his previous .316 career average. Lopez doesn't have much power but has bought into playing the little game. He makes contact, sprays the ball around the entire field and bunts for base hits. He needs to draw more walks, though he hurts his own cause by putting the ball in play most of the time when he swings. He has plus speed but is just a moderate threat as a basestealer. He could develop into a classic No. 2 hitter. Lopez stands out more on defense. Signed as a shortstop, he mostly has played second base with Andy Gonzalez playing alongside him. He has range, soft hands and above-average instincts. He'll probably team with Gonzalez again in high Class A this year.
A surprise seventh-round pick in 2002, Schnurstein introduced himself by terrorizing pitchers in the Arizona League, where he set a record with 26 doubles in 50 games. He encountered much more adversity in his first full pro season. He hoped to begin the season in low Class A but was assigned to extended spring training. After reporting to Great Falls in June, he missed time with a wrist injury. He didn't look like the Schnurstein of 2002 at the plate, failing to drive the ball. The White Sox were impressed by how he took his lumps in stride and didn't get overly frustrated. Power should be his best tool. He's an aggressive hitter who doesn't walk much. Stockily built, he's a below-average runner. Schnurstein converted to third base midway through his high school senior season and has played well there. He has good reactions, soft hands and a solid arm. Schnurstein will go to low Class A this year and try to put 2003 behind him.
Two years after he ranked as the organization's top lefty prospect and one of the best in the entire game, Malone has slid back. He has spent back-to-back seasons mired in Double-A, plagued by wildness and elbow problems. He missed the final month of 2002 and two months in the middle of 2003. Recruited as a linebacker by Alabama-Birmingham, Malone can overpower hitters with his 92-93 mph as long as he gets his sharp-breaking curveball over the plate. That hasn't happened often enough in Double-A, where he has issued as many walks as strikeouts. There isn't much finesse to Malone, who needs a lot of improvement with his changeup and control. If that doesn't happen, he may face a future as a reliever. The White Sox were encouraged by Malone's showing in instructional league, but they can't be expected to keep him on the 40-man roster forever. He enters 2004 with his career at a crossroads.
Gray finished fourth in the NCAA Division I batting race with a .449 average in 2002, finishing behind future first-round picks Rickie Weeks and Khalil Greene, as well as Curtis Granderson, who has hit .304 since signing with the Tigers. One of six players drafted off Southern's 44-7 team last year, Gray hit .407-26-133 in 108 games in his two years in the same lineup as Weeks. Though he faced a huge jump in competition when he turned pro, there was a minimal learning curve for Gray. He continued to hit, finishing third in the Pioneer League in runs and doubles. He has promising power and a keen eye for walks, though he must improve his bunting and cut down on his strikeouts. Beyond his bat, Gray doesn't have a plus tool. He played third base at Southern while Weeks played second, the position Gray is better suited for. His arm fits better at second base, though he'll need a lot of work defensively, especially on the double-play pivot. If Gray can become adequate defensively, he could have a big league career as an offensive second baseman. Unless the White Sox decide to hold Pedro Lopez back, Gray will report to low Class A to start 2004.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Nanita came to the United States to combine baseball with college. He spent two years at Chipola (Fla.) JC before moving to Florida International for his junior season. He used wood bats during fall practice with the Panthers, and his experience showed as he put together a 30-game hitting streak in his pro debut. Nanita can do a lot of things at the plate, bunting for hits, shooting the ball through holes in the infield or driving it into the gaps. He doesn't project as a home run threat but will surprise pitchers who get careless. He has a good idea of the strike zone and runs well enough to steal 25- plus bases annually. Nanita has outstanding instincts on the bases and in center field. He has a plus arm but will be run on until he increases his accuracy. His outstanding debut may allow Nanita to skip a level and go to high Class A in 2004.
Just a year ago, the White Sox saw Gonzalez as their shortstop of the future. No longer. His 2003 season raised major questions about his approach as a hitter, and his problems at the plate seemed to carry over to the field. Outside of drawing walks, Gonzalez couldn't do anything against low Class A pitching. He didn't hit the ball with any authority and didn't deal with adversity well. Projections for his power aren't nearly as kind as they were before, and the Sox would like him to just focus on raising his average. He runs well but gets caught stealing more than he should. Gonzalez has the tools to be a good defensive shortstop, starting with a strong arm that had some clubs considering drafting him as a pitcher out of high school. His range is adequate but he must cut down on his errors. With the addition of Robert Valido and the emergence of Mike Morse, Gonzalez suddenly faces a lot of competition to see who becomes the organization's first homegrown regular at shortstop since Bucky Dent. He has a lot to prove in 2004, when he'll probably start in high Class A.
A 34th-round draft-and-follow from 2001, Tisch showed enough to merit being signed a year later but wasn't considered a top prospect. He was a tall, projectable lefty with a mid-80s fastball. Winless in his pro debut, he snuck onto the prospect radar last year, when he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in July. More important, he gained strength and improved his mechanics. That allowed him to boost his fastball into the low 90s and to throw strikes more easily. He comes straight over the top at hitters, and the ball seems to explode out of his hand. Tisch also has a decent slider and changeup. He doesn't miss a lot of bats, but hitters also don't get good swings against him. He figures to spend this year in the low Class A rotation.
Tremendous speed hasn't translated to a quick climb up the ladder for the slightly built Yan. He has run into a roadblock despite 164 stolen bases the last two years, tops in the minor leagues. He was a Carolina League all-star last year after posting league bests in runs, steals and hitting streak (26 games). But Yan didn't make the progress at the plate that the White Sox hoped for when they had him repeat high Class A. He's a blazer who forces the infield in and still gets hits on squibbers and choppers. But he hasn't developed the authority, especially from the left side, to drive the ball past infielders or over outfielders, who also play him shallow. Yan needs more strength and more discipline, as he doesn't reach base enough to inspire the belief he could bat leadoff at the upper levels. He did improve his defense significantly last season, covering lots of ground and making fewer mistakes. Chicago also discovered that Yan was a year older than originally believed, which didn't help his case. He'll have to hit better to survive Double-A in 2004.
Stewart probably doesn't know whether to laugh or cry when he thinks back to 2003. He followed up a breakout season in 2002 with a typically unflappable performance in his first big league spring training. He challenged hitters the same way he had in the Arizona Fall League and got results. In fact, he took advantage of an injury to Danny Wright to leave Tucson as the Chicago's fifth starter. He beat Cleveland to pick up his first major league win before taking a line drive from Jeff Conine in the chest in his next start. Stewart missed a turn and then got pounded by Seattle and was sent to Triple-A, where he bothered by a circulatory problem in his left hand and worked just 26 more innings. Stewart lost his grip on both the ball and his spot on the 40-man roster. When he's right, he throws in the high 80s and has a plus curveball. He changes speeds and locations to keep hitters off balance. If Stewart is healthy and can recapture his 2002 magic, he can pitch himself back into the Sox' good graces this year.
Lopez doesn't have stuff that leaves scouts drooling, but he knows how to pitch and make the most of an average arm. Though his fastball hangs out in the 87-89 mph range, he keeps hitters from sitting on it by mixing in a plus curveball and changeup. He throws hitters off balance by using a deceptive delivery and maintaining the same arm action with all his pitches. He also has good command and tremendous mound presence. Lopez had a 0.50 ERA in early August last year before tiring markedly down the stretch. The White Sox want him to gain some strength, figuring that will increase his stamina and perhaps his velocity as well. He faces a longer season in low Class A this year.
This is the year the White Sox hope to be rewarded for their patience with Stumm, who was compared to Roger Clemens when they made him a first-round pick in 1999. He had Tommy John surgery the next season, a shoulder operation in 2002 and has pitched just 206 innings in five pro seasons. Stumm has regained the mid-90s velocity on his fastball and Chicago believes he has a high upside, probably as a reliever. But the odds are against him reaching his ceiling unless he can stay healthy. His slider, changeup and command all need a lot of work. The Sox liked how he finished 2003 and expect him to come into spring training ready to compete. If he doesn't perform well in the Cactus League, he could lose his spot on the 40-man roster. He'll probably open the year in Double-A.
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