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There's no doubt that Ryan Sweeney loves baseball. That's the only way you can grow up in Iowa and get this far, this fast as a baseball prospect. High school baseball isn't even played during the school year, making it tough for players to get scouted. But Sweeney starred on the showcase circuit, and the only thing teams wondered about was whether he was a better prospect as a lefthanded pitcher or as an outfielder. He had a chance to become the first Iowa high schooler ever drafted in the first round, but just missed. The White Sox selected him in the second round in 2003, signing him for $785,000. Chicago needed an extra outfielder in big league camp the following spring, and when he hit .367 he jumped on the fast track. He began his first full season at high Class A Winston-Salem as a 19-year-old. He consistently has been one of the youngest players in his leagues and made his major league debut in September, just three years removed from high school. Sweeney has an advanced approach at the plate for his age. He has a technically sound swing that has evoked comparisons to that of Harold Baines. He's willing to go with a pitch, giving him the ability to spray doubles from gap to gap. Getting pushed through the minors forced Sweeney to learn to make adjustments against pitchers with much more experience than he had. He totaled just eight homers in his first two full pro seasons--including just one longball in Double-A in 2005, when he played through a wrist injury--but his power started to blossom in 2006. An excellent athlete, Sweeney is a good baserunner but may not steal more than 5-10 bases a season. A right fielder for most of his career, he got a shot to play center in 2006. Sweeney quickly showed he has the instincts and ability to play anywhere in the outfield, and he covers ground well for a big man. The arm strength that once made him a coveted pitching prospect translates into a plus in the outfield. Sweeney still needs to develop his power if he's to hit 20-plus homers on an annual basis in the majors; 10 of his career-high 13 homers came at Triple-A Charlotte's cozy Knights Stadium. He didn't manage a single extra-base hit in 35 at-bats with the White Sox. He's still learning to pull the ball with loft on a consistent basis. Once he learns to stay back better on pitches, he should drive more balls because he won't be out on his front foot. While Sweeney makes good contact, he could stand to work more counts. Brian Anderson batted just .225 with eight homers as a rookie, and manager Ozzie Guillen said Chicago's center-field job will be open to competition in spring training. Sweeney went one round later than Anderson in the 2003 draft but has more potential at the plate. He's the White Sox' No. 3 hitter of the future. Sweeney fits better defensively on a corner, and he could wind up playing there for the Sox this year if Scott Podsednik is moved. He'll only be 22, so it won't be a disappointment if Sweeney returns for a second season at Charlotte.
For some organizations, a bust the magnitude of Joe Borchard would have scared them away from two-sport players. But the White Sox went the quarterback/slugger route again four years later by taking Fields 18th overall and signing him for $1.55 million. Fields had a big year in 2006, making his big league debut. He has made great strides since concentrating on baseball. He generates impressive bat speed from a solid righthanded stroke, and he easily set career highs in average and homers in 2006. He's a plus baserunner with the speed to steal some bases, and he also has an aboveaverage arm. He was raw defensively when he entered pro ball but has improved his footwork and throwing accuracy to become a sound third baseman. When Fields gets overaggressive, his swing gets long and he's prone to strikeouts. He could need time to adjust to big league breaking pitches. He might not hit for a high average, though if he hits 25-30 homers a year that will be fine with the White Sox. Joe Crede doesn't become a free agent for two more years, so Fields has no clear path to a regular job. They hoped he'd become a left-field candidate by playing there in Venezuelan winter ball, but he came home early. There's nothing left for Fields to prove in Triple-A, so a trade may be in order for him or Crede.
The White Sox signed Gonzalez for $850,000 as the 38th overall pick in the 2004 draft, then packaged him with Aaron Rowand and minor league lefty Daniel Haigwood in the Jim Thome trade following the 2005 season. They brought him back from the Phillies 13 months later, along with Gavin Floyd, for Freddy Garcia. Gonzalez spent 2006 in Double-A as a 20-year-old, holding his own despite erratic command at times. He has a fundamentally sound delivery that he repeats well, creating effortless 92-95 mph velocity with his fastball. His low-80s hammer curveball always has been his goto pitch, and he'll use it in any count. He located his changeup better in 2006, and it shows flashes of being a third plus pitch. Though there were questions about his durability, he pitched a career-high 155 innings and added 16 more in the Arizona Fall League. Gonzalez will need better command with his fastball and more consistency with his changeup to succeed at higher levels. He fell behind in the count early and often in Double-A, leading to too many homers and walks. Gonzales has all the makings of a legitimate No. 2 starter, but they have no reason to rush him. He'll likely return to Double-A.
Undrafted out of high school in Texas, Broadway started his college career at Dallas Baptist before transferring to Texas Christian and becoming an All-American in 2005. He spent his first full pro season at Double- A Birmingham before moving up for the International League playoffs. Broadway knows how to pitch. He pounds the strike zone with a collection of pitches, the best of which is a spike curveball that some scouts rate as a plus-plus offering. He sets up his curve with an 89-92 mph fastball. He has made progress with the arm speed on his changeup, making it more effective. He's a physical specimen who had no trouble adjusting to a pro workload. Because he has just an average fastball, Broadway has less margin for error. His mechanics got out of sync in midseason, and he got hit hard when he left heaters up in the strike zone. He'll need a more consistent changeup to get big league lefthanders out. Given their veteran rotation, Chicago has no need to rush Broadway. He'll almost certainly start 2007 in Triple-A and profiles as an innings-eating starter. General manager Kenny Williams isn't afraid to deal prospects, and the White Sox' pitching depth makes Broadway one of their best trade chips.
Known more as a shortstop in high school, McCulloch became a fulltime pitcher at Texas. He went 27-11 in three years with the Longhorns and won the clinching game of the 2005 College World Series. The 29th overall pick last June, he signed for $1.05 million. McCulloch's plus changeup rates as the system's best. He gets good natural movement on his 88-92 mph fastball, and his curveball is consistently effective. He has tremendous poise and challenges hitters even on days when he lacks his best stuff. He's polished, athletic and durable. McCulloch's velocity stayed in the upper 80s last year more than it had in the past, perhaps because he didn't work off his fastball enough. He won't overpower advanced hitters, and he'll have to walk a fine line while setting them up for his changeup. There's little difference between McCulloch and Lance Broadway. Broadway opened his first full season in Double-A and McCulloch likely will do the same. They could team up as mid-rotation starters for the White Sox by mid-2008.
Haeger spent two years in Rookie ball with a fringe-average fastball before leaving the White Sox in 2003. He reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, then blitzed through the minors to Chicago in 2006. On the way, he led the International League in wins. Charlie Hough says Haeger has the best knuckleball he's seen since Tim Wakefield arrived in the big leagues. It dances like a good knuckler should and Haeger has learned to trust it in any situation. He has a mid-80s fastball and a decent curve, but he'll throw his knuckler 70-80 percent of the time when it's on. He's an excellent pupil who has developed a rapport with Hough and Wakefield. The knuckler can give catchers fits, and A.J. Pierzynski committed three passed balls in Haeger's big league debut. It's a fickle pitch that sometimes moves so much he can't throw it for strikes. Chicago doesn't have a rotation opening for Haeger, which could leave him in a bind. Though he was effective out of the bullpen in September, it's hard for a contender to trust a knuckleballer in critical relief situations. He may make the White Sox in 2007 but probably will be kept on a short leash.
Undrafted out of high school and unknown when he arrived at Everett (Wash.) Community College, Cunningham tore the cover off the ball as scouts flocked to see his teammates, pitchers Zach Simons and J.T. Zink. He has batted .301 since signing as a sixth-rounder. A muscular, compact athlete, Cunningham produces above-average bat speed and drives the ball to all fields. He stepped up his power production in 2006, and the White Sox believe there's more to come. He crowds the plate and handles the bat well. He has above-average speed and arm strength. Cunningham is a born hitter but still a bit green in other facets of his game. He must work better counts and curb his aggressiveness at the plate. He doesn't get good jumps and probably won't be a basestealer at higher levels. He's going to be a left fielder because his jumps, throwing mechanics and accuracy all need work. Easily Chicago's best position prospect in the lower minors, Cunningham is at least a couple of seasons away from being ready for the majors. He should start 2007 in high Class A and could hit his way to Double-A with a strong spring and fast start.
Russell had little success at Ohio, going 6-11, 6.28 in three seasons, but made a late push and became a sixth-round pick. He has fared much better in pro ball since finding a reliable breaking ball, and he spent the second half of 2006 in Double-A. Russell's size presents an intimidating presence on the mound, and he has learned to use it to his advantage. He throws on a downhill plane from a high slot, and he reaches the mid-90s with his lively fastball on his best days. He'll alter his arm slot and drop down to give batters a different look with his fastball and slider. He has gained confidence in throwing four-seam fastballs at the top of the strike zone after establishing his heater in the lower half. Russell's changeup and curveball are still works in progress, and he doesn't dominate hitters because they don't have to respect his offspeed stuff. He tends to overthrow when things aren't going well. Entering 2006, the White Sox were excited about Russell's potential as a reliever, but now they believe he can be a starter. He still needs to flesh out his repertoire, and he probably will head back to Double-A to start 2007.
Harrell was part of a banner crop of Missouri high school talent in 2004, and he led Ozark High to the state title. Considered a bit of a project as a fourth-rounder, Harrell nevertheless reached Double-A last year. Harrell goes after hitters with a low-90s fastball. He has sacrificed some velocity for command and life, and he induces a lot of groundballs with the sinking action on his two-seamer. His changeup is much improved and might be his best pitch. He's a good athlete who also played basketball in high school. His 2006 season ended early because he strained a trapezius muscle, but it's not expected to hamper his development. Harrell continues to work on developing an effective slider, and his control is still far from polished. Harrell will open 2007 in Double- A. He's on schedule to be ready for the big leagues in 2009, when the veteran White Sox rotation finally may have openings.
Healthy once again after having Tommy John surgery in 2004, Long made the right move when he turned down the Dodgers as a 35th-rounder out of high school and the Giants as a 34th-rounder in 2005. The White Sox made him a second-round pick last June and signed him for $330,000. Long has a great build and has added strength in recent years. His fastball is his primary weapon, and it sat at 92-94 mph and peaked at 96 last spring. He usually pitched at 91 mph after signing, but Chicago expects more velocity when he's fresh in 2007. He has a tight curveball that became more consistent after the Sox worked to tighten his delivery in instructional league. He is a hard worker who put in the time to come back from surgery. Long lacks command with his curveball and his changeup. Chicago wants him to focus on his changeup and may use him as a starter in his first full pro season. He's raw for his age because he didn't get many innings against high-level competition in college. But he could move quickly, especially if he stays in a bullpen role. How well he masters his offspeed stuff will determine his longterm role.
Carter's bat has launched him from 15th-round high school draftee to prospect in less than two years. The White Sox hoped he could spend 2006 at low Class A Kannapolis, but he returned to extended spring training after a bumpy start. He led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in homers, extra-base hits (37) and total bases (143). While the rest of his game is pedestrian, Carter's power is impossible to overlook. He swings hard and can drive good fastballs and hanging curveballs. He's a pull hitter but has the strength to hit the ball out to the opposite field as well. He has a decent eye at the plate and is willing to take a walk when pitchers start nibbling, as they often do against him. Carter's power comes with a tradeoff-- lots of strikeouts. His bat will have to carry him because he's a below-average runner, defender and thrower. Drafted as a third baseman, he moved to first base full-time in 2006. He's prone to errors because he lacks soft hands, and he'll need a lot more work fielding grounders and taking throws. Carter will return to Kannapolis, and he's probably three to five years away from Chicago.
Phillips has been White Sox property since 2000, and they still don't know what they have in him. That's because the presence of five veteran starters plus Brandon McCarthy left no reason for Chicago to give him a big league audition in 2006, when he was the International League's pitcher of the year and beat both Canada and the Dominican Republic for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He has earned 46 victories in the minors but gets overlooked because of underwhelming stuff. Some in the organization connsider him Mark Buehrle Lite, as he offers a similar collection of pitches but not quite as much velocity. Phillips relies on location and changing speeds. His closest thing to an out pitch is his changeup, though hitters can look for it because they know he can't blow them away with heat. He hits his spots with an 86-88 mph fastball and also has a cutter and a serviceable curveball. Like a young Buehrle, he works fast and takes advantage of baserunners who stray too far from first. Phillips led all IL pitchers with 16 basestealers caught on his watch, and the Sox credited him with a total of 20 pickoffs. He gets in trouble when he tries to muscle up with his fastball, causing it to straighten out. Phillips has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, but the White Sox don't have much of an opportunity for him either.
Owens appeared to take a major step forward as a hitter in 2005, winning the Southern League batting title and hitting .356 in Venezuelan winter ball. But general manager Ken Williams was upset when Owens returned early from Venezuela, and the negative tone carried over to 2006. Owens was disappointing in big league game and never got going in Triple-A. He earned a September callup, though only because he's the White Sox' lone true stolen-base threat in the upper minors. A former wide receiver at UCLA who was acquired from the Nationals in a February 2005 trade for Alex Escobar, Owens is a tremendous athlete, but he's going to have to kick his bat back into gear. He's a contact hitter who controls the strike zone, and he knows his role is to get on base so he can use his blazing speed. He struggles to drive the ball, however, and while he has flashes of power, Triple-A pitchers overpowered him too much. He covers plenty of ground in center field, though his arm is below average. Owens faces a critical season of development in Triple-A this year. If he can't make adjustments at the plate, he won't be more than an extra outfielder in the majors.
A New Orleans native, Liotta had won consecutive ERA titles in his first two seasons as a pro. But he wasn't the same in 2006, which the White Sox attribute to his conditioning and preparation understandably suffering as he focused on helping his family get back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina. A nonroster invitee, Liotta wasn't sharp when he reported to big league camp and made no impact. He opened the year in Double-A but ended it back in high Class A, where he regressed after dominating there the season before. Liotta's trademark pitch has been a 12-to-6 curveball with tight downward action, but it wasn't as effective in 2006. Neither was his fastball, down to 86-88 mph from it's usual 89-92. His changeup always has been his third pitch and still needs more work. When Liotta tried to overthrow last year, his problems only increased. The White Sox want him to tighten his delivery but mostly hope his life will be less chaotic, allowing him to regain the focus he had in his first two seasons. Assuming all goes well this spring, he could open 2007 in Double-A.
The White Sox have produced few players from Latin America in recent years, with Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez their last real success stories. Perez is the type of find who could get their Latin operations moving in the right direction. Originally signed by the Padres in 2001, he was released three years later and picked up by Chicago at the recommendation of Denny Gonzalez. Perez has developed nicely after joining the Sox and put himself on the map with a huge 2006, posting a combined 0.81 ERA at three levels and finishing strong in Double-A. Perez' formula is simple. He attacks the strike zone with a low-90s fastball from a low three-quarters angle. He works ahead in the count, challenging hitters. His secondary pitches are works in progress, but his fastball/slider combination could be enough for a big league career. If he doesn't tire from his winter workload, he could earn a late-season look in Chicago this season and push for a permanent spot in 2008.
A plus changeup, the willingness to challenge hitters inside and durability have allowed Egbert to climb the ladder after signing as a 13th-round pick. He reached Double-A in his second full pro season, allowing just two earned runs in four starts. Egbert gets a lot of movement on his 88-92 mph fastball and has improved his curveball. Not only has his curve gotten better, but he also trusts it enough to throw it in any count. He throws strikes, works fast and gets a lot of groundballs when he's in a groove. He gave up just two homers in 162 innings last year. There are games where his fastball sits at just 87-88 mph, but Egbert has shown the ability to compete without his best stuff. The White Sox had concerns about his commitment early in his pro career, but he has erased those. Though he doesn't have the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation guy, Egbert will get big league consideration in the near future if he stays on course.
Edwards is a product of one of the nation's top youth programs, Chet Lemon's Juice, which the former big league all-star runs out of Sanford, Fla. Though he was drafted out of high school, he fits the White Sox' preference for polished pitchers over raw, high-ceiling gambles. Edwards turned down a scholarship from Georgia to sign for $310,000 after Chicago took him in the third round last June. While he displays an advanced feel for pitching, Edwards sometimes took his lumps while facing older hitters in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He kept his poise throughout, prompting compliments about his maturity and approach. Edwards' fastball touched the low-90s during the summer showcase tour in 2005, but he settled in at 86-89 mph last year. It's still an effective pitch without plus velocity because it has nice life. His changeup and curveball have a chance to develop into plus pitches, and his smooth, repeatable delivery gives him good control. He's not big, so he's not very projectable and will have to work to keep the ball down in the zone. Edwards will spend his first full season in low Class A.
Logan spent almost all of his first three pro seasons floundering at Rookie-level Great Falls before last year. Great Falls pitching coach Curt Hasler suggested he drop down to a lowthree- quarters arm slot in 2005, a move that worked wonders. Logan got a chance to pitch in an intrasquad game last spring, making an impression on manager Ozzie Guillen when he struck out Jim Thome and Rob Mackowiak. Guillen put Logan into the wide-open competition to fill the lefty vacancy left by Damaso Marte in the bullpen, and he seized the moment and opened the season with the defending World Series champs. Logan's 2006 was really a tale of two seasons, as he looked tentative and not as sharp in the majors but dominated in Triple-A. His fastball sat mostly in the high 80s and he had trouble throwing his slider for strikes with Chicago, but he pitched in the 90s, topped out at 94 and had a devastating breaking ball at Charlotte. He gets deception and surprising command from his low arm slot. He's still very raw and can be exploited by teams that bunt and steal bases. Logan needs a lot of work to stay on top of his game, one reason he wasn't as effective in the majors. He returned home early from Venezuela winter ball after experiencing shoulder stiffness, but should be 100 percent for spring training. After trading Neal Cotts to the Cubs, the White Sox will give Logan the chance to win a full-time job as a lefty reliever.
Valido headed into 2006 with everything going for him. He ranked No. 7 on this list after hitting .288 with 52 steals in high Class A and turning in a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. He remained on track to become the White Sox' first homegrown regular at shortstop since Bucky Dent and saw regular time in big league camp last spring as an understudy to Juan Uribe. But once the regular season started, Valido couldn't solve Double- A pitching and missed most of the last three months with hand and wrist injuries. He was a fourth-round pick out of high school, primarily because of his defensive prowess. He has plus range to both sides, hands and arm strength, and some scouts project him as a future Gold Glover. Valido had exceeded offensive expectations before 2006, but Southern League pitchers took advantage of his lack of patience. He makes consistent contact but he has to do a much better job of getting on base so he can use his above-average speed. He lacks power and must focus on working counts, drawing walks and hitting the ball on the ground. Valido drew a 15-game suspension in May 2005 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, which he blamed on an over-the-counter supplement. He should be healthy in 2007, but he'll still have to prove he can hit advanced pitching.
Lopez played so well in big league camp in 2005 that it proved to be his undoing. The White Sox jumped him to Triple-A to open that season and to Chicago in May. In over his head, he had his worst year at the plate and didn't improve much after a demotion to Double-A. Lopez got back on track in 2006, hitting .300 with 10 homers--just one less than his total in five previous pro seasons. He seems to be getting stronger and has stopped chasing as many pitches. He'll never draw a lot of walks because he's still aggressive and makes contact easily, but it one again looks like he can hit for average with decent power. He's just an average runner, so he won't be a basestealer. Defensively, Lopez has the range to get to balls at shortstop but lacks the arm to make plays in the hole. He has soft hands and may fit better at second base. His long-term role is probably as a utilityman, and he'll probably start his third straight season in Triple-A.
The son of the former major league outfielder and current Pirates first-base coach of the same name, Shelby has made major strides after going undrafted out of high school. He emerged as a sophomore at Kentucky, hitting .344 with 10 home runs, and helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever Southeastern Conference regular-season title in 2006 by batting .291 with 18 homers and 12 steals. Shelby continued to show slightly above-average power and speed in his pro debut. He has very good bat speed but suspect plate discipline. He was overanxious at times in Rookie ball, chasing curveballs out of the strike zone, and also has a little bit of an uppercut in his swing. Given his background, it's no surprise he has excellent instincts. A versatile athlete, Shelby saw time at second base and shortstop in pro ball and also played some outfield in college. Second base is his best fit, and his hands and body control improved there during 2006. He has an average arm. With a strong spring, Shelby could advance to high Class A for his first full pro season.
A two-way player in college at Jackson State and Southern, Day pitched sparingly in 2002 because of tightness and a pinched nerve in his arm. The Blue Jays took him in the 26th round anyway and signed him the following spring as a fifth-year senior draft-and-follow. He never got past low Class A in three years in the Toronto system, in part because of Tommy John surgery in 2004. The White Sox grabbed him with the last pick in the Double- A phase of the Rule 5 draft at the 2005 Winter Meetings, on the recommendation of scout Jaymie Bane--who had signed him for the Jays. Day opened a lot of the eyes in 2006, both during the regular season and in the Arizona Fall League. He has two above-average pitches, a 90-96 mph fastball and an 85-88 mph slider with impressive tilt and depth. He's a very disciplined athlete and meshed well with Winston-Salem pitching coach J.R. Perdew, who helped him improve his mechanics. Day still can be wild at times but he's tough to hit when he's on. Though he's old for a prospect at 26, his arm could warrant a look in Chicago before 2007 is over. Double-A will be the next step for now.
Perseverance has been the key for Stewart, who developed quietly since signing as a 12thround pick in 2001. He's the best defensive catcher in the system, and the White Sox credit his role in the development for pitchers as varied as fireballer Bobby Jenks and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. He enhances average arm strength with a quick release and accuracy, allowing him to led the Southern League in catching basestealers (52 percent) in 2005 and rank second in the International League (49 percent) last year. He's solid in all phases of catching and pitchers enjoy working to him. Stewart's bat is question mark and probably will limit him to a backup role. He hit a career-high 11 homers in 2005 but has totaled eight longballs in his other four pro seasons. The gains he made at the plate in Double-A didn't extend to Triple-A. He makes contact but his lack of bat speed forces him to be a guess hitter. He doesn't hit for average, draw walks or offer more than marginal power. He's also a below-average runner though not as much of a baseclogger as most catchers. Stewart's defense could make him a valuable reserve, but the signing of free agent Toby Hall hurts his chances of opening the season in Chicago.
Gomes oozes tools. He signed with Japan's Fukuoka Daiei Hawks as a 16-year-old righthander with a live arm. He spent three years in Fukuoka's minor league system until he blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. After he was released he returned to Brazil and became an outfielder. Like countryman Paulo Orlando, Gomes was a star sprinter in Brazil, but it was his bat potential that sold White Sox international scout Ray Poitevint, who signed him for the equivalent of third-round money. Chicago farm director Dave Wilder compares Gomes to Alfonso Soriano when the Yankees signed Soriano out of the Japanese minor leagues. Though Gomes made the Futures Game in his U.S. debut, it was mostly a disappointment. He wasn't able to handle high Class A and didn't improve much after a demotion. Though the ball jumps off Gomes' bat, he had difficulty making consistent contact. He has plus speed but lacks baserunning and basestealing instincts. He did look good defensively, with enough range for center field and enough arm for right. The White Sox will be patient with Gomes, who will get another shot at the Carolina League in 2007. Chicago has few players with higher ceilings or longer odds of reaching them.
Hernandez has mastered Rookie ball, hitting .323 over three seasons, but has struggled with the jump to full-season ball, hitting .241 in two stints in low Class A. He's a contact hitter with gap power who has been overmatched at times against quality breaking pitches. Despite his bat control, he needs to be more selective. His value as a switch-hitter is muted by his ongoing struggles from the right side of the plate, where he hit .196 with one extrabase hit in 97 at-bats last year, and he may become a full-time lefty swinger in the future. Hernandez hasn't gain upper-body strength as quickly as the White Sox would have liked. Like most catchers, he's a below-average runner. On defense, his calling card is a plus arm and a quick release. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in 2006. His receiving isn't as advanced as his throwing. He sometimes takes his troubles at the plate with him onto the field, impacting his ability to work with pitchers. Patience will be required with his development, and he faces a critical season to show he can hit more advanced pitching.
Tracey unwittingly was thrust into the national spotlight in June, shortly after his first big league callup. After A.J. Pierzynski was hit by two pitches in a game against the Rangers, manager Ozzie Guillen ordered Tracey to drill Hank Blalock. When Tracey missed Blalock with two inside pitches before inducing a groundout, Guillen pulled him from the game and berated him in front of teammates and television cameras. Tracey was demoted afterward, though he showed impressive resolve by pitching his way back to Chicago in September. The irony is that Tracey never has been adverse to throwing inside, as he has hit 80 batters in four full seasons in the minors. The question with Tracey isn't his toughness but his stuff. He threw in the mid-90s in 2004 but has dropped into the low 90s the last two years. He never has fully developed his secondary pitches, shown consistent control or command, or learned to change speeds effectively. It's hard to succeed with one reliable pitch that's less than overpowering. Groomed as a starter for most of his career, Tracey more fits the profile of a reliever. He'll get a look in spring training but still has several refinements to make.
Omogrosso intrigued scouts by throwing 92-95 mph with a plus slider as an Indiana State sophomore in 2004, but his draft hopes were quashed by Tommy John surgery in 2005. He bounced back last year to touch 96 mph early in the spring and pitch at 92-93. He also dropped his arm slot from low three-quarters to sidearm, improving the sink on his fastball. The White Sox took him in the sixth round in June and signed him for $105,000. As is typical of pitchers coming back from elbow reconstruction, his secondary pitches and control have lagged behind his velocity. His slider has been inconsistent, and his new arm angle makes it tougher to stay on top of the pitch. Omogrosso was able to go straight to low Class A, reinforcing the White Sox' belief that he can move quickly one he's healthy. He figures begin his first full pro season in high Class A, possibly as a closer.
Signed out of a tryout camp in Brazil two years ago, Orlando was challenged with a full season assignment last year. He showed remarkable maturity to weather ups and downs as a leadoff hitter and center fielder in low Class A. Orlando's quickness was the first thing that caught scouts' eyes--no surprise, considering he was a sprinter on the Brazilian national team. He's an electric runner but is still learning how to read pitchers and get good jumps. To make the most of his speed, Orlando is going to need a lot more polish at the plate. He struck out nearly eight times for every walk he drew in 2006. He chased low breaking balls and high fastballs, and he seems to get anxious with runners in scoring position. He batted .306 in April, but low Class A pitchers realized they didn't have to throw him strikes, and he hit just .254 afterward. Orlando has a lean body but drives the ball well enough and has enough speed to take the occasional extra base.He's a graceful center fielder with a decent arm. Because he has so much to learn, Orlando almost certainly will return to Kannapolis in 2007.
Drafted in the 41st round by the Cubs out of high school, Whisler opted instead for UCLA. He led the Pacific-10 Conference with 18 homers as a freshman and ranked as the top prospect in the Cape Cod League in 2002. But he changed his swing and approach and regressed at the plate. He emerged a better prospect as a pitcher, though he never dominated on the mound. The White Sox still gambled on his 6-foot-5 strong athletic frame in the second round of the 2004 draft, and they even let him DH some in his pro debut. Whisler has spent most of his three pro seasons in high Class A, and he finally took a step forward last year after working with Winston-Salem pitching coach J. R. Perdew to close his delivery. Whisler remains a work in progress, but his refined mechanics helped both his command in the strike zone as well as his deception. His best pitch is his sinker that clocks in the low-90s, often forcing hitters to pound the ball on the ground. He allowed just five homers in 163 innings last year. He still needs to improve his secondary pitches, the best of which is his slider, and learn to do a better job of changing speeds. Whisler doesn't miss many bats and doesn't have a quality breaking ball for left-on-left matchups, so his ceiling and future role will be limited if he can't develop a deeper repertoire. Because the White Sox have a logjam of starters in the majors and in Triple-A, he could begin 2007 back in Double-A.
Nanita came out hitting as a pro, batting .384 and setting a since-broken Pioneer League record with a 30-game hitting streak in his 2003 debut. Since then, only injuries have stopped him. A broken hamate bone at the end of that season hampered his swing for much of 2004, and he missed most of the final month last year with a sprained ankle. Nanita has advanced to Double-A while continuing to show the ability to get on base. He's a very disciplined hitter with a professional approach. He has a knack for fighting off tough pitches to extend an at-bat. He's tough to strike out and bunts well. His lack of power makes it difficult to project him as a regular. He runs well but isn't a basestealing threat. An adequate defender with an average arm, he played all three outfield positions in 2006 and fits best in left field. Nanita is ready for Triple-A but could return to Double-A if Ryan Sweeney and Jerry Owens fail to win big league jobs.
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