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With the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 draft, the White Sox picked in the top 10 for the first time since they landed Alex Fernandez with the fourth choice in 1990. Last year, the choice came at a time when Chicago had few impact position players in its system, and taking Beckham filled two needs--a-power bat and a middle infielder. Signed for $2.6 million two days before the Aug. 15 deadline, he was the top college shortstop and one of the most polished players in the draft. The son of a former South Carolina quarterback, Beckham starred in both football and baseball at the Westminster School in Atlanta but went undrafted as a senior. He turned down a chance to play quarterback at the Air Force Academy in favor of focusing on baseball at Georgia. He led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish at the 2008 College World Series, hitting .474 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 14 NCAA tournament games. His 28 homers set a school record and tied for the Division I lead, while his .411 average was Georgia's best since 1982. His 53 career homers established another Bulldogs mark. Beckham hit the ground running as a pro, playing well in 14 games at low Class A Kannapolis before an impressive tour of duty in the Arizona Fall League. Hitting will be Beckham's ticket to the big leagues. He doesn't have a classic stroke but has strong forearms and quick wrists, generating impressive bat speed. Though he isn't built like a power hitter, he centers the ball well and the ball jumps off his bat. He led the Cape Cod League with nine homers in 2007, suggesting that his power comes from more than a metal bat. He's willing to use the entire field and was well coached at Georgia, developing a strong knowledge of the strike zone and a willingness to walk. He has unusual pitch recognition for a young hitter. A good athlete, Beckham has average speed and the arm and instincts to stick at shortstop. His game has drawn comparisons to Michael Young's. He also has strong makeup and says his goal is "to lead the White Sox one day the way Derek Jeter leads the Yankees." The biggest question with Beckham is whether he'll remain at shortstop. Before the draft, scouts were split on his defensive ability, but the White Sox believe he can stay there. His hands aren't the softest, and he'll have to work to get smoother at fielding grounders. Though he moves well, he doesn't project as much of a basestealer. Beckham's chance to become Chicago's first homegrown shortstop since Bucky Dent hinges on how well Alexei Ramirez takes to a planned move from second base to short in 2009. If Ramirez establishes himself at shortstop, Beckham likely will move to second or third base in the near future. He has enough bat to carry him at either position. Beckham probably will open the season at high Class A Winston-Salem and finish it at Double-A Birmingham. He could be in Chicago by 2010.
After the success of Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox in November gave Viciedo a four-year major league contract with a $4 million bonus and a $10 million total guarantee. He was the top player on Cuba's junior national team in 2005 and 2006. He played three seasons for Villa Clara in Cuba's Serie Nacional, hitting .337 with 14 homers as a rookie in 2005-06, and nearly made the inaugural World Baseball Classic that spring--at age 16. He defected by taking a boat to Mexico in May 2008, and he established residency in the Dominican Republic so he could become a free agent. Viciedo has the power to hit 40-plus homers in a season, thanks to a quick swing that's triggered by strong wrists. He has power to all fields and hits moonshots to left field when pitchers make mistakes inside. He also pitched for Cuba's junior national team and has enough arm to play anywhere on the field. His soft hands are an asset at third base. Conditioning and motivation were major question marks for Viciedo in recent years, however. He reportedly weighed more than 260 pounds when teams first scouted him in the Dominican but was working to get in shape. The White Sox asked him to drop at least 10 pounds before spring training. His size limits his mobility, which could be a problem at third base or in the outfield. He doesn't run well. He's an aggressive hitter who will chase bad pitches. Viciedo will compete against Josh Fields for Chicago's third-base job in spring training, but that's not his only possible route to the majors. He also has been told to get in shape to possibly play the outfield. He would benefit from time in the minors, but the White Sox will want him to be around fellow Cubans Ramirez and Jose Contreras, easing his transition. Viciedo has a high ceiling but brings a bigger risk than the more experienced and athletic Ramirez.
The 25th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Poreda caught Ozzie Guillen's eye in spring training, when the Chicago manager called him "a real No. 1 guy." Poreda finished his first full season in Double-A and then displayed one of the most impressive arms in the Arizona Fall League. General manager Kenny Williams refused to give him up when the Rockies wanted him in a proposed Brian Fuentes trade--a high compliment given Williams' willingness to deal prospects. Poreda's calling card is his fastball, which generally parks in the mid-90s and has touched 100 mph. White Sox coaches have helped him develop a power slider, and while it isn't a plus pitch, it does keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. He throws strikes easily and is built for durability. Poreda still is refining his slider, and he doesn't have a lot of trust in his rudimentary changeup. His fastball straightens out at times, making him hittable. To succeed against big leaguers, he'll have to learn how to change speeds and possibly develop a cut fastball, a weapon favored by White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. Poreda's AFL performance was so good that he forced himself into consideration for Chicago's 2009 staff. He'll probably open the season at Triple-A Charlotte. Some scouts see Poreda as a dominating reliever, but he will remain a starter for the time being.
Flowers signed with the Braves as a draft-and-follow out of Chipola (Fla.) JC, where he played with rising prospects such as Brewers third baseman Mat Gamel and Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after turning pro, drawing a 50-game suspension. He spent most of his first full pro season in 2007 at first base while recovering from knee surgery that March, but he moved back behind the plate in 2008. He started terrorizing pitchers with his prodigious power in big league camp and continued all the way through the Arizona Fall League, which he led with 12 homers and a .973 slugging percentage. White Sox GM Kenny Williams saw him play several times in the AFL and made him the centerpiece of the deal that sent Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to Atlanta in December. Flowers has a potent bat with plus power that continues to improve. He excels at working deep counts--he led the high Class A Carolina League with 98 walks--and forcing pitchers to throw him pitches he can mash to all fields. Some scouts wonder if Flowers is more of a mistake hitter than a true power threat, but the big question is whether he can stay behind the plate. There are mixed reports on his arm, receiving skills and footwork, though his backers believe he just needs more experience. He threw out only 28 percent of basestealers in 2008, giving up 112 steals and committing 11 passed balls in 86 games. He's still learning to call a game and master many of the mechanics of catching, such as making accurate throws and blocking balls. Williams says he's confident Flowers will develop into an all-star catcher. He runs well for his size but is still a below-average runner. Flowers was blocked by Brian McCann with the Braves, but Chicago expects him to be able to take over when A.J. Pierzynski's contract expires after the 2010 season, if not before. Flowers likely will start 2009 in Double-A.
A backup quarterback at Michigan, Richard rarely was considered more than a fringe prospect before 2008. He went from not earning an invitation to big league camp to pitching quality innings in the Division Series, with plenty of highlights along the way. He started in the Futures Game, was offered a spot on the U.S. Olympic team before Chicago called him up and took a shutout into the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium in a September start. At 6-foot-5, Richard is a taller version of Mark Buehrle. He works quickly and throws strikes with three pitches, including an 88-92 mph fastball with natural sink that induces lots of groundballs. He has exceptional command and mound presence. Richard lacks a put-away pitch and had trouble missing bats for much of his big league stint. His changeup is average at best and his slurvy breaking ball lacks consistency. He may be better off working as a reliever who can focus on his sinker. Richard could be consistent enough to have a long career as a starter, if not quite the second coming of Buehrle. The trade of Javier Vazquez gives Richard a clear path to make the White Sox's 2009 rotation, and he also has shown the ability to bounce back quickly out of the bullpen if he's needed there.
Allen had a difficult transition to pro ball, batting .248 with 379 strikeouts in 362 games over his first four seasons. A commitment to nutrition and conditioning turned him into a physical specimen and made all the difference in 2008. He led the Carolina League in slugging (.527) and homered twice off David Price in his first Double-A game. Power had been Allen's only real strong suit, but he also showed the ability to hit for average in 2008. A former football prospect as a linebacker, he improved his speed as well and nearly matched his previous career total with 17 steals. He also showed much better agility at first base. Allen no longer looks like a DH but must continue to work on his fielding. His hands are suspect and he's not comfortable making quick throws. He swings and misses a lot, especially against lefthanders, and might whiff 150 times a year in the big leagues. With Jim Thome in the final year of his contract and Paul Konerko signed only through 2010, Allen is emerging at an opportune pace. The last hitter to show this much power at Birmingham was Chris Young, who hit 32 homers for the Diamondbacks two years later. Allen could return to Double-A to start 2009 but should finish in Triple-A.
The younger brother of White Sox lefty John, Danks was the first member of his family on the club's radar. Chicago drafted Jordan out of high school in 2005, 22 months before trading for John. Jordan's stock slid somewhat when he didn't show much power during his college career, but the White Sox had to give him an above-slot $525,000 bonus to sign him as a seventh-rounder. Danks is an excellent athlete with a big frame and keen instincts. He has good bat speed and gap power, and he should hit for average and have an on-base percentage worthy of the top of the order. He's a plus runner, which helps him on the bases and in center field, where he has the skills to develop into a Gold Glove fielder. He has excellent range and a plus arm. His work ethic is strong. Danks hit just 13 homers in three years at Texas. Some scouts believe his power will come once he adds strength to his lanky frame, while others think his swing mechanics and timing are lacking. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and cut down his swing when he's behind in the count. It's easy to see Danks as a big league center fielder even if he doesn't hit for power. It's his goal to play behind his older brother, and that could happen as early as the end of 2010. He'll open his first full pro season in high Class A.
Lillibridge has been traded twice in the last three offseasons. Though he quickly established himself as one of the few position prospects in the Pirates system, Pittsburgh dealt him to the Braves in a deal for Adam LaRoche after the 2006 season. He spent two years as Atlanta property, making his major league debut last April, before coming to the White Sox in December in a four-player package for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Lillibridge is coming off easily his worst year as a pro, as he didn't get his average above the Mendoza Line for good until mid-June. One of the major knocks against him is his inability to handle failure, a problem that reared its head again when he let his offensive woes carry over to his defense. Despite last season's difficulties, Lillibridge has good hands at the plate with above-average pop for his size and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He also has plus speed and the instincts to read pitchers well, making him a solid stolen-base threat. He needs to become a better bunter and play more of a small-ball game while continuing to reduce his strikeouts. Defensively, his range and arm strength both rate above average, and he has the overall skill set to play shortstop in the big leagues. The White Sox plan on moving Alexei Ramirez to shortstop in 2009, so Lillibridge will compete with Chris Getz and Jayson Nix for the second-base job. Chicago GM Kenny Williams said he envisions Lillibridge eventually filling the super-utility role that Pablo Ozuna held for much of the last four seasons.
The most advanced hitter in the system, Getz recovered from a 2007 stress fracture in his left leg to add to his resume. He hit .302 and continued to control the strike zone while showing newfound power. He played in the Futures Game and might have made Chicago's postseason roster if a pitch hadn't broken his left wrist in late August. Getz gets on base by working counts and making consistent line-drive contact to all fields. He uses his first-step quickness to get more than his share of infield hits and to steal a few bases. A versatile defender, he saw time at second base, shortstop, third base and left field in 2008. He's not flashy anywhere but makes the routine play. Getz never had hit more than three homers in a season before getting 11 in 2008, when he was based in a hitter's park. While he occasionally pitched in relief at Michigan, some scouts question his arm, which limits him on the left side of the infield and on the double-play pivot. With Alexei Ramirez moving to shortstop, Getz was the White Sox's best in-house option for second base until they signed free agent Jayson Nix and traded for Brent Lillibridge. Getz will need a fully healthy wrist to win the job in spring training. Long term, he projects as more of a utilityman than a regular.
The son of former big leaguer John "T-Bone" Shelby, "Treybone" is one of the best athletes in the system. A second baseman in college, he moved to the outfield in mid-2007. A Carolina League all-star in 2008, he led White Sox farmhands with 33 steals while playing through hamstring problems. He went on to finish with 80 RBIs, owned a league-best .515 slugging percentage and was second in the circuit with 37 doubles. Shelby has the best combination of power and speed in the system. Though he's only 5-foot-10, he's strong for his size. He adds to his plus speed with good baserunning instincts and could develop into an even bigger stolen-base threat. He's improving in center field and has an average arm. Shelby's strike-zone judgment is lacking. He often gets himself out swinging at bad pitches early in the count and rarely walks. He'll have to improve his on-base percentage if he's going to use his speed at the top of the order. He has the tools for center field but still needs better jumps and routes. Shelby will be tested in 2009 at Birmingham, a notoriously tough park for hitters with a lot of ground to cover in center. He and Jordan Danks will battle to be the long-term center fielder for a team that has tried 11 different players there since trading Aaron Rowand following the 2005 season.
In his first full season as a pro, Ely skipped low Class A and struggled initially, going 3-11, 5.51 through mid-July. But he rallied to go 7-1, 2.86 in his last eight starts, helping Winston-Salem reach the playoffs. He has a history of winning, going 69-25 dating to his days as a star at Homewood-Flossmoor High in the Chicago suburbs. Ely's best pitch is a plus-plus changeup, and he does a nice job of setting it up with an 88-94 mph fastball with good movement. His 12-to-6 curveball can be an out pitch at times, too. Ely works fast, throws strikes and has never missed a start. He's a fierce competitor and fields his position well. Ely's curveball remains inconsistent and gets hit a long way when he hangs it. He sometimes seems reluctant to work inside, minimizing his advantage against righthanders. He lacks a big frame and a traditional delivery, and there's a lot of effort in his delivery. With a solid rotation and prospects such as Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard ahead of him, there's no reason to rush Ely. He'll move to Double-A Birmingham and could figure in midseason trade speculation, especially if the pitchers ahead of him continue to progress.
Armstrong was coming off a .228 season in low Class A when the White Sox plucked him from the Braves system in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 draft. He made big strides as a hitter in 2007, earning a spot on the 40-man roster, and has continued that development. In the Arizona Fall League, he emerged as a middle-ofthe- order bat for the hitter-heavy Peoria Saguaros. Armstrong has solid power and has worked hard to improve his ability to hit for average, use all fields and work counts. Managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the Double-A Southern League. He has an average arm and threw out 36 percent of basestealers in 2008, and he's a good receiver who works well with pitchers. Armstrong is prone to extended slumps at the plate. He overthinks at times and falls into funks. He's not patient, looking to put the ball in play early in the count and drawing few walks. He runs like a catcher. His value is enhanced by being a lefthanded-hitting catcher, but the White Sox already have one in A.J. Pierzynski, so Armstrong may spend much of 2009 in Triple-A. He looked like Chicago's catcher of the future until the trade for Tyler Flowers, but he might fit well as Flowers' backup, providing quality defense and a lefty bat.
The diminutive Escobar didn't arrive until April but still made the most of his first season with a U.S. visa. He opened eyes in extended spring training and did so well in his first week at Rookie-level Great Falls that he was promoted to low Class A. He slid over to second base when first-round pick Gordon Beckham arrived at Kannapolis in August. Escobar is a fluid fielder in the mold of Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel, with good range, excellent hands and a solid arm. A switch-hitter, he has some pop when he centers the ball. He's an adept bunter who's comfortable with a small-ball approach. His plus speed allows him to get infield hits. Escobar often seems defensive at the plate, slapping the ball around. He has limited power and rarely drives the ball into the gaps. He also lacks basestealing instincts, so his offensive value might be limited to his batting average. With college shortstops like Beckham, Sergio Miranda and Tyler Kuhn also in the lower levels, the White Sox face a challenge developing Escobar, who's behind those three as a hitter. He'll likely stay in low Class A and possibly force a position change for Kuhn. Escobar is a better defender, and he'll advance as quickly as his bat allows.
Santeliz has gone 7-22, 5.28 in three years in the United States, yet the White Sox didn't have to think long about whether he was worth protecting on their 40-man roster this offseason. Some club officials believe he has the strongest arm in the system. Outside of a disastrous stint at Great Falls in 2006, Santeliz had been a reliever throughout his pro career. But after Buddy Bell replaced Alan Regier as farm director, he moved Santeliz from the bullpen in Double-A to the rotation in high Class A. Santeliz's fastball has gained velocity as his body has matured the last two years, and he now works from 90-96 mph. He also shows the makings of a plus slider, though the pitch needs much more consistency. There are mixed reports on his changeup, though Chicago thinks it can become an effective pitch for him. While Santeliz has a live arm, he throws with effort, doesn't repeat his delivery well and has erratic control and command. He can get too emotional at times. Shoulder soreness knocked him out for all of May, but he had no further issues after reporting to Winston-Salem. Santeliz still has a way to go with his development, but when he's on, he flashes front-of-the-rotation stuff. He'll return to Double-A in 2009, this time as a starter.
A classic toolsy prospect with a high ceiling, Martinez has spent about half his short pro career in extended spring training and in the training room, playing only 104 games in his first two full years as a pro. He had found his stride in low Class A, raising his average from .180 to .306 over the course of a month, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Surgery ended his season but he's expected to be ready for the start of the 2009 season. Martinez's body hasn't matured yet, but he looks like a Juan Gonzalez starter kit. He can put on a show in batting practice with power to all fields, and his quick bat also should give him the ability to hit for some average. He's a free swinger and will have to show more discipline as he moves up the ladder, however. Martinez is raw in other phases of the game as well. While he has plus speed, he's still refining his basestealing ability. He has the range for center field but has spent most of his career in right field, and he has the arm for that position. Martinez has impressed the White Sox with his makeup and work ethic, which should help him in his recovery. He's the son of former Sox infielder Carlos Martinez, and the brother of outfielder Teodoro Martinez, who signed with the Rangers in August.
Nunez has the best arm and upside of the three pitching prospects in the trade that sent Nick Swisher to the Yankees in November. The White Sox also acquired Wilson Betemit and swapped one righty prospect (Kanekoa Texeira) for another (Jeff Marquez) in the deal. New York had picked up Nunez just four months earlier, getting him from the Nationals for Alberto Gonzalez. Double-A Eastern League managers were stunned that Washington gave up such a live arm for a middling middle infielder. Nunez originally signed with the Dodgers and went to the Nationals in a 2006 trade for Marlon Anderson. They worked Nunez as a starter in high Class A during the first half of 2008, but he featured sharper stuff after a promotion and a move to the bullpen. Nunez shows two plus pitches at times: a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and touches 95, and a slider with some power and inconsistent tilt. He throws from a low arm slot and was outstanding after the Yankees helped him achieve better balance in his delivery. He dominated in the EL playoffs and pitched well in instructional league. Nunez doesn't have a feel for an offspeed pitch and struggles against lefthanders when he doesn't command his fastball. The White Sox have yet to determine Nunez's role for 2009, but he has a good chance to open the season in Triple-A.
Having lost their second-round pick as compensation for signing free agent Scott Linebrink, the White Sox had to sit out 77 picks after taking Gordon Beckham with the eighth overall choice last June. They rated Morel as a solid second-round talent and were delighted to get him in the third round, where they signed him for $440,000. He signed quickly enough to play 60 games, including 45 in low Class A, and to establish himself as one of the better hitters in the system. Morel has a solid approach at the plate, looks to jump on fastballs and drives the ball from gap to gap. Chicago thinks he'll develop at least average power. He has good pitch recognition, which should help him against advanced pitching. Morel is athletic and runs better than most third basemen. He has good range and a plus arm at the hot corner. The White Sox won't be afraid to push Morel, who should open his first full pro season in high Class A.
The most anonymous of the four prospects the White Sox acquired when they shipped Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the Braves in December, Rodriguez shouldn't stay that way for long. He's an ultra-projectable lefthander who already tops out at 97 mph with his fastball, and he led Rookie-level Gulf Coast League relievers in opponent batting average (.155) and strikeouts per nine innings (14.0) last season. The ball appears to jump out of his hand, producing a fastball that sits at 91-93 mph with above-average sinking action. He also has the makings of a plus pitch with a flat slider that has some late bite. His changeup has a ways to go and will be a point of emphasis when Chicago makes him a starter in 2009. Though not overly athletic, Rodriguez is capable of putting his delivery together and is hard to hit when everything falls into place. He does struggle on occasion to repeat his delivery and to throw strikes, which isn't uncommon for a pitcher who's so tall and so young. After spending the last two years in the GCL, he should be ready for a jump to low Class A.
The White Sox thought Omogrosso might be on the verge of breaking out in 2008, but he instead spent three stints on the disabled list with blister problems and worked only 39 innings. A similar scenario played out three years earlier, when Omogrosso was on course to be a top pick in the 2005 draft, only to have Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he's a power pitcher whose low three-quarters delivery makes him tough on righthanders. Omogrosso can ride his 91-93 mph two-seam fastball in on the hands of righties or blow them away with a four-seamer that touches 96. He flashed a plus slider before his elbow required reconstruction, but it hasn't had the same tilt since. He lost valuable development time last year, as he needs innings to refine his slider and his control. He does a good job of keeping the ball down but sometimes struggles to find the strike zone. Some club officials believe Omogrosso would have earned a big league promotion in 2008 if not for his blister problems and expect him to get to Chicago in 2009.
The White Sox have made a habit of turning premium draft picks who have stalled with other teams into effective big league starters--see John Danks and Gavin Floyd--and will try to do the same with Marquez. He came to Chicago in the Nick Swisher trade, and the Yankees sold low. The 2004 supplemental firstrounder had his best year in 2007, improving his curveball and changeup and garnering Ramiro Mendoza comparisons for his sinker. Last season, he missed two months with a tired arm and didn't trust his secondary pitches. Marquez still has a hard sinker, though he hit 94 mph less frequently in 2008 and more often sat at 88-90 mph. He was too predictable because hitters knew to look for his fastball when he needed a strike. His curveball and changeup regressed but were still average pitches. The Yankees had him incorporate his slider more frequently after he was demoted to Double-A, and his velocity also improved. He finished strong in the Eastern League playoffs and earned a trip to the Arizona Fall League. Marquez competes well and can get a ground ball when he needs it. He might fit better in middle relief, but if he throws four pitches for strikes, he still should fit at the back of a rotation. When the White Sox traded Javier Vazquez in December, they created an opening in their rotation and will let Marquez compete for the chance to fill it during spring training.
The White Sox significantly upgraded their third-base depth in 2008 by signing Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, drafting Brent Morel and trading for Gilmore. Part of the Javier Vazquez deal with the Braves, Gilmore signed for $900,000 as a supplemental first-round pick in 2007. He went 33rd overall, the highest an Iowa high school player ever has gone in the draft. The brother-in-law of Ben Zobrist, Gilmore produced mixed results in his first full pro season. An opening assignment to low Class A proved to be too much for him, though he recovered nicely in the Appalachian League. Gilmore has an unorthodox approach at the plate but generates good power to all fields. He's raw but in the early stages of developing into a professional hitter. When he has his confidence, he swings the bat with authority and makes solid contact. He'll need to improve his patience at the plate and his ability to handle breaking balls. Gilmore moves well for a big man and drew some interest from college football programs as a quarterback. He made progress defensively in 2008, displaying improved footwork at third base. He has a strong arm, but he needs to shorten his arm action to throw the ball quicker and straighter. He remains somewhat stiff in his actions at the hot corner, though he has good hands and above-average reactions. Gilmore will give low Class A another try in 2009.
Credit Joe Butler for doing a thorough job scouting the high Class A California League. It was Butler's recommendation that prompted GM Kenny Williams to ask for Link when the Padres approached the White Sox about Rob Mackowiak at the trade deadline in 2007. In his first full season in the Chicago system, Link led the minor leagues with 35 saves and earned himself a spot on Chicago's 40-man roster. Unlike most relievers, he can attack hitters with three pitches. His hard slider is his strikeout pitch, but he also has a low-90s fastball with sink and movement and an effective changeup. Link's lone negative in 2008 was that he had more trouble finding the strike zone than he had in the past. If he can control his pitches better, he'll be ready for the majors. Link has excellent mound presence and is a student of the game. He wore out pitching coach J.R. Perdew's ear at Birmingham, often sitting next to him in the dugout for the first seven innings, always talking baseball. Because he has three pitches, some believe Link could make an easy transition into the starting rotation. But he enjoys closing, which suits his personality, and will remain in that role this year in Triple-A.
After playing with Justin Upton at Greenbrier Christian Academy in Chesapeake, Va., Carter was a 12thround pick of the Rangers out of high school in 2005. He opted to go the college route but then got somewhat lost. He posted an 8.76 ERA and walked nearly a batter per inning in 2008, but the White Sox saw enough potential to draft him it the 13th round. Now he looks like a $32,500 bargain after he led the Pioneer League with a 2.23 ERA and combined with former Old Dominion teammate Dan Hudson to pitch Great Falls to the league title. Carter posted eye-popping numbers in the hitter-friendly circuit, thanks to two plus pitches: a lively 92-93 mph fastball that peaks at 96, and a swing-and-miss curveball. Both his breaking ball and his control were much more consistent than they were in college, the result of working with White Sox coaches to refine his delivery. Carter got on a straighter line to the plate and developed a more consistent landing point. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches but has some potential. He's athletic and his big frame allows him to work on a good downward plane. Carter must show he can repeat his success in a full-season league but projects as a possible middle-of-the-rotation starter or more. He could reach high Class A in 2009 if he continues to thrive.
Hudson didn't slump as badly as Dexter Carter did in 2008 at Old Dominion, but he did have the worst season of his three-year career with the Monarchs and dropped to the fifth round of the draft. Reunited with Carter in Great Falls after signing for $180,000, he led the Pioneer League with 90 strikeouts in 70 innings and fanned 12 over six innings in the championship-clinching playoff victory. Working from a three-quarters arm slot, Hudson throws an 88-92 mph fastball that explodes at the plate, riding in on righthanders and tailing away from lefthanders. He has an average slider and gets strikeouts by throwing it down in the zone. He's gaining confidence in his changeup. Hudson should be durable, as he has a strong frame and keeps his pitch counts down by throwing strikes and getting groundouts. If he performs well in spring training, he could skip a level and start 2009 in high Class A.
Torres had a circuitous college career, playing at four schools--Allan Hancock (Calif.) JC, Grossmont (Calif.) JC, San Jose State and Kansas State--in four years. Torres wasn't drafted until after his senior season with the Wildcats, and even then he went in the 15th round. He had the best season of his five-year pro career in 2008, matching his previous total with nine wins, which led the Southern League at the time of his promotion to Triple-A. Torres has a strong, durable arm that has proved resilient as he has shuttled between starting and relieving. He has a low-90s fastball that can hit 94 at times to go with a plus cutter. He does a good job of pitching down in the strike zone. Torres' biggest need is to improve his feel for his changeup, which he needs to help him against lefthanders after they torched him in the Arizona Fall League. He projects as a workhorse reliever in the majors and his first opportunity with Chicago could come in 2009.
A Rockies' supplemental first-round pick in 2001, Nix becomes a project for White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker after Chicago signed him as a minor league free agent in October. Nix has long shown Gold Glove skills --Carney Lansford once called him the best defensive second baseman he ever has seen--but his bat stalled once he got to Double-A in 2004. He did have the best offensive season of his career in 2008--but that came in his third year in Triple-A and after he botched a chance to seize Colorado's second-base job by hitting .111 in the majors in April. The brother of outfielder Laynce Nix, Jayson tries too hard at times, grinding the bat handle rather than relaxing and trusting the talent that made him the 44th player drafted in 2001. He has shown power in the minors and with Team USA, both at the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics, but sometimes gets too homer-happy and he showed little punch in his big league stint. He has good speed and instincts on the basepaths and in the field. He also has sure hands and a stronger arm than most second basemen. Nix will compete with Chris Getz and Brent Lillibridge for the White Sox' second-base job in spring training. It might be his last chance to show he can play on an everyday basis in the majors.
There's nothing subtle about Russell, a big man who challenges hitters with a fastball that parks in the low 90s and occasionally reaches 95. He was used exclusively as a reliever for the first time in 2008 and made a smooth transition, spending almost as much time in the big league bullpen as in Triple-A. If hitters try to sit on Russell's fastball, he can gets outs with a curveball that rates as a plus pitch at times. He varies his arm slot, sometimes dropping down to a low three-quarters angle, and has a high-maintenance delivery that easily gets out of whack. As a result, he has inconsistent control and command. He also seemed a little reluctant to challenge hitters on the inner half once he got to Chicago, though that's not uncommon for a pitcher getting his first taste of the major leagues. He never has been able to develop much of a changeup, though it's less important now that he's coming out of the bullpen. The White Sox have several veteran righthanders in their bullpen, so Russell will need a strong spring training in order to break camp with the club.
Seeing apparently isn't believing when it comes to the White Sox and Broadway. He has made two big league starts and beat the Royals in both of them, allowing two runs in 111⁄3 innings. Chicago paid him $1.57 million as the 15th overall pick in the 2005 draft--taking him ahead of such players as Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza--but seems more likely to use Broadway as trade bait than to give him a chance at making the big league rotation. Broadway hasn't pitched nearly as well as a Triple-A starter (19-16, 4.55) or big league reliever (6.92 ERA in 13 innings), and he regressed after a fast start at Charlotte last year. He's a conditioning freak with a good feel for pitching, if not overwhelming stuff. He has to locate his fastball because it arrives at 88-91 mph, and he sometimes overthrows and loses his command. His curveball and changeup are his best pitches, and he also mixes in a cutter/slider. He doesn't appear to be in Chicago's 2009 plans, which means he'll spend a third season in Triple-A unless he gets traded.
Retherford was draft-eligible for five straight years from 2003-07, but he never drew a nibble out of high school or at South Mountain (Ariz.) CC or Arizona State. He already has exceeded expectations since signing as a nondrafted free agent. He led the Pioneer League with 30 doubles and 47 extra-base hits in his 2007 pro debut, then followed up by skipping a level and earning Carolina League all-star honors. He also led both of his minor league clubs in homers. Retherford has a good approach at the plate, plus the ability to make consistent contact and drive the ball to all fields. He has fringe-average speed but good baserunning instincts. His arm is his best defensive tool, and he has worked hard to soften his hands at third base. Still, he's not a standout defender at the hot corner. He played several positions and even pitched at Arizona State, and his best path to the big leagues may be as an offensive-minded utilityman. Retherford should continue to hit for average with at least gap power in Double-A this season.
Infante didn't sign out of Venezuela until he was 18 years old, and his career moved slowly until he started putting things together when he repeated the Rookie-level Appalachian League last season. He had control problems at every stop, including an assignment to low Class A at the start of 2008, but he suddenly started throwing strikes when he returned to Bristol in the summer. Infante's biggest problem was overthrowing, something he doesn't need to do. His arm strength and clean delivery allow him to range from 89-95 with his fastball, and he usually sits at 91-93. He maintains his velocity deep into starts. His 74-79 mph downer curveball is a solid second offering but he has yet to show much mastery of his changeup. Now Infante must build on his breakthough when he gets a second chance at Kannapolis in 2009. He could be a No. 3 starter if he maximizes his potential, though he's a long way off.