Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Sale not only became the first player from the 2010 draft to reach the big leagues, he also finished the season closing games for a contender. His quick rise couldn't have been forseen when he came out of Lakeland (Fla.) High. The Rockies selected him in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, but he failed to attract interest from Florida's college powers and wound up at Florida Gulf Coast, which started its program in 2003. He got off to a rough start, with an awful fall ball season where his only usable pitch was his changeup. He worked out of the bullpen as a freshman, then lowered his arm slot that summer and improved the velocity and life on his pitches. He exploded by ranking as the top talent in the summer Cape Cod League after his sophomore season, then went 11-0, 2.01 with 146 strikeouts in 103 innings last spring. Some clubs rated him as the best college pitching prospect in the 2010 draft, but teams also worried about his asking price, making him available to Chicago with the No. 13 overall pick. The White Sox signed Sale for the slot recommendation of $1.656 million--along with the promise that he'd get every opportunity to race through the minors. He made his big league debut on Aug. 6, faster than any draftee since the Reds' Ryan Wagner in 2003. Sale has the stuff and lanky build to be a facsimile of future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, throwing three plus pitches from a low three-quarters delivery. His fastball ranged from 90-95 mph with outstanding late life when he worked as a starter in college, and he averaged 96 mph out of the bullpen in the majors. He hit 100 mph three times in a game against the Royals. Chicago considered his changeup his best pitch when it drafted him--GM Ken Williams compares it to Mark Buehrle's--but he didn't use it much out of the bullpen. Sale used his slider more as a reliever, and it also played up, sitting in the high 80s and topping out at 90. That was important as his slider was questioned coming into the draft. His command is solid, though his arm angle leads to times when he doesn't stay on top of his pitches and leaves them up in the zone. Sale is unusually poised, capable of making adjustments and pitching out of trouble. Some scouts wonder how durable Sale will be because of his skinny frame, arm action and low slot. He has no history of arm problems, however. Despite his immediate bullpen impact, the White Sox plan to develop Sale as a starter. He'll get the chance to make their rotation out of spring training, though it's more realistic to expect him to open the season at Triple-A Charlotte. If he stays healthy, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter or a closer.
A mature player who has handled every test in three pro seasons, Morel spent September as Chicago's third baseman. He hit .435 to win the Arizona Fall League batting title in 2009, then .322 last season. Morel has a compact, line-drive swing and does an excellent job recognizing pitches and adjusting to how pitchers are working against him. He covers the plate well and doesn't get overly anxious with two strikes, though he sometimes expands the strike zone, which limits his walk totals. He has shown more doubles than home run power, and some scouts question how much pop he'll have in the big leagues unless he adds more loft to his swing. Morel is an intelligent fielder with first-step quickness and a solid arm. He had strictly been a third baseman until moving to shortstop when Dayan Viciedo returned to Charlotte in August, and played errorless defense in 17 games there. He's a below-average runner. Morel has a shot at winning the White Sox's third-base job in 2011. Other options include Mark Teahen, Viciedo and Omar Vizquel, but Morel has more all-around upside than any of them.
An organizational favorite who has never let a $10 million big league contract affect his work ethic and interaction with teammates, Viciedo shook off a lackluster 2009 pro debut to hit 25 homers last season. That included five longballs in the majors during a midseason trial while Mark Teahen was on the disabled list. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen nicknamed him "The Tank." Viciedo's strength, bat speed and hand-eye coordination give him game-changing power. But he rarely sees a pitch he doesn't like--he didn't draw a big league walk until his 83rd plate appearance--and pitchers can exploit his lack of patience. He has a strong arm and has worked hard on his defense at third base, but he's a well below-average athlete and runner who lacks quickness. He's not nearly as good a defender as Brent Morel and projects more as a first baseman or DH. He has done a good job with his conditioning since arriving overweight when he signed, but he could balloon if he loses focus. Given Viciedo's production as a rookie, not to mention Chicago's financial commitment, he could get a chance to earn a regular spot in the big league lineup in 2011, either at DH or on an infield corner. His lack of plate discipline could hold him back, however, and he could use some Triple-A time to work more on his defense.
Mitchell won national championships in football and baseball at Louisiana State, winning MVP honors at the College World Series shortly before signing for $1.2 million as the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was the most electric player in the White Sox' big league camp early last spring, but tore a tendon in his left ankle after colliding with the outfield wall in a game against the Angels. The injury cost him the entire 2010 season. Mitchell is a tremendous athlete with good baseball aptitude despite his two-sport background, but he also has more learning to do. He's a promising hitter with an idea of the strike zone. He has some unnecessary movement in his approach, which Chicago has worked to smooth out. Before he got hurt, Mitchell showed the plus-plus speed to steal bases and cover the gaps in center field, though he's still honing his instincts in both areas. He doesn't have a lot of power, and it's possible that his below-average arm could relegate him to left field. The White Sox considered sending Mitchell to Double-A before he got hurt, and now they'll move him less aggressively. He returned to action in the Arizona Fall League but his speed hadn't fully returned, which is crucial to his game. Chicago believes he'll be back to 100 percent by spring training and ready to open 2011 at high Class A Winston-Salem.
Escobar is a highly skilled fielder who could be the next in the long line of White Sox shortstops from Venezuela (Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Guillen, Omar Vizquel). He enjoyed his best season at the plate in 2010, driving the ball better than in the past and totaling 43 extra-base hits, one shy of his total in four previous pro seasons. He stung the ball in the Arizona Fall League, batting .300 with 13 extra-base hits in 28 games, and earned a spot on the 40-man roster. Escobar is a technically solid shortstop with plus range and a quick release that helps him get outs with an average arm. He sometimes tries to force plays, though he made just 25 errors in 136 games last season, a respectable amount for a 21-year-old shortstop. His bat remains a question mark, especially from the left side of the plate. He does have some strength that he has started to tap into, but power won't be a big part of his game and he needs to focus on doing a better job of controlling the strike zone. He has good speed but hasn't developed into a basestealing threat. The White Sox are pleased with Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, but Escobar could provide an alternative if he continues to make strides at the plate. He'll likely begin 2011 back at Double-A Birmingham but could earn big league consideration during the season.
Nearly 19 when he signed in 2006, Infante was old for a Latin American prospect entering pro ball. In his first four pro seasons, primarily as a starter, Infante lacked consistency and developed blisters late in games. The White Sox decided to try him as a full-time reliever in 2010, and he shot from high Class A to the the big leagues. He didn't allow a run in five September appearances for Chicago. Infante can light up a radar gun as much as anyone in the system, working at 94-98 mph and capable of breaking triple digits, though he doesn't always know where his fastball is going. His secondary pitches need work, but he does have a power curveball that can buckle knees when it's on. He also has a mid-80s changeup, though he doesn't need it much in relief. He gets a lot of groundballs and didn't allow a home run in 2010. Infante could push to make the White Sox with a strong spring training. He has pitched just 31 innings above Class A and none in Triple-A, so he might be better off with some time in Charlotte. His raw power stuff gives him a ceiling as a closer, though his ultimate role will depend on how much command he develops.
The White Sox drafted Petricka in the 38th round out of a Minnesota high school in 2006, but had to wait four years to sign him. He had Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Iowa Western CC, and his velocity began to rise when he was a redshirt sophomore at Indiana State in 2009, when the Yankees drafted him in the 34th round. Petricka returned to the Sycamores, continued to add velocity and signed for $540,000 as a second-round pick in June. Petricka has a powerful, relatively low-mileage arm. He usually pitches at 92-96 mph with his fastball, and Chicago clocked him at 100 during his first pro summer. He holds his velocity deep into games. He has developed a solid breaking ball as his No. 2 pitch and he flashes a serviceable changeup. To keep his innings down, he moved to the bullpen after a promotion to low Class A Kannapolis. Relief may be his best role, because he has just one plus pitch and sometimes has difficulty repeating his delivery, which costs him command. The White Sox lack starting-pitching depth, so Petricka will remain in the rotation for now. He's still learning how to use his stuff and shouldn't be expected to move as quickly as recent Chicago draft picks Daniel Hudson and Chris Sale. Petricka should open 2011 in high Class A.
"Irrepressible" might be the word that best fits Short, who signed for $20,000 as a 28th-round pick in 2008. He made a positive impression on White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen when brought over to big league camp during spring training, then hit .352 in the first two months of the 2010 season before cooling off, a strong enough start to help him win the Carolina League batting title. He missed the final two weeks of the season with a strained oblique. Short has shown steady development as a hitter in each of his three pro seasons. His edge comes from unusually quick hands that allow him to let pitches get in deeper on him before he commits. He's able to fight off good pitches and punish hangers. He's learning to drive the ball more consistently. He likes to hack and seldom works walks. Short has average speed and a below-average arm and split time between right and center field in 2010. His baserunning instincts are a liability, and he hasn't learned to read pitchers. Short is on the same career path that John Shelby III was on a couple of years ago, and 2011 will show if he can avoid stalling in Double-A like Shelby did. He may be a tweener, lacking the range to be a regular center fielder and the true power to be an everyday player on an outfield corner in the big leagues.
The son of former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Mychal Thompson, Trayce is one of just three players to receive an over-slot bonus from the White Sox in the last five drafts, joining Gordon Beckham and outfield prospect Jordan Danks. Signed for $625,000 as a second-round pick in 2009, Thompson got off to a slow start in his first full pro season before a pitch shattered his right thumb in late May, sidelining him for nearly three months. As an athletic slugger from Southern California's high school ranks, Thompson drew some comparisons to Mike Stanton as an amateur. He's definitely a high-ceiling player with enormous power potential, but filling Stanton's spikes will be tough. He has hit just .218 as a pro, in large part because he chases breaking pitches out of the strike zone. He has a long swing that leads to high strikeout totals. He's young, however, and has shown an ability to make adjustments. He has solid range and speed to go with average arm strength, but needs to be more aggressive in the field and on the bases. Thompson will return to low Class A in 2011. He'll need time to develop, but few White Sox prospects can match his potential. He wants to stay in center field but seems destined for a corner spot.
Like Gregori Infante, Carter took off in 2010 after moving to the bullpen in his fifth pro season. He had instant success, tying for the Double-A Southern League lead with 22 saves. He followed that with a successful stint with Team USA in the fall, making four scoreless appearances and earning a save against highly-regarded Cuba in the Pan Am qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, then was added to the White Sox's 40-man roster. Carter can get outs in the late innings with his fastball, which sits at 93-94 mph and spikes as high as 97, though he gets into trouble when he leaves it up in the strike zone. He complements his heater with an 80-84 mph slider that grades as a plus pitch at times. He also can fool hitters with a changeup on occasion. His high three-quarters delivery provides some natural deception. In order to succeed at higher levels, he'll need to be more consistent with his control and command. He handled lefthanders easily in 2010 (.154/.245/.264) but surprisingly struggled against righties (.282/.338/.479). Carter figures to open 2011 as Charlotte's closer, but the White Sox are revamping their bullpen and will give him a long look in spring training. He could make his big league debut later in the year. His realistic ceiling is as a set-up man.
There's nothing flashy about Leesman, but he has advanced quickly by never backing down from a challenge. An unsigned 40th-round pick of the Twins out of high school, he won just six games in three years at Xavier and posted a 5.32 ERA as a junior. Drafted on the basis of his arm strength, he has found more success as a pro. He received a nonroster invitation to big league camp in 2010 before splitting the season between high Class A and Double-A--doing his best pitching after his promotion. Leesman has a good mix of pitches but pitches behind in the count too much. His bread and butter is an 88-92 mph fastball that has some natural sink. He has improved his slider and his changeup and has learned to mix in a few cutters. The slider has late bite and could develop into his out pitch. He also throws a curveball that has loose rotation. Leesman is equally effective against lefthanders and righthanders, and the White Sox will keep developing him as a starter. His makeup is an asset but he'll have to improve his command to carve out a major league role. He got knocked around in the Arizona Fall League, compiling an 11.81 ERA in 11 relief innings, but still stands out as one of the few legitimate pitching prospects in the upper levels of the system.
Rodriguez profiles as a classic late bloomer--assuming he can develop the durability that has failed him thus far. Acquired along with Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers and third-base prospect Jon Gilmore from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade after the 2008 season, Rodriguez has one of the best arms in the system but never has pitched more than 40 innings in a season. He didn't pitch after July 22 last year, as the White Sox cautiously shut him down with nagging arm problems that weren't major and didn't require surgery. Rodriguez had his usual impact when he pitched out of the Winston-Salem bullpen, striking out 13.2 batters per nine innings and completing his third straight season without allowing a home run. His fastball has tremendous velocity, running from 93-98 mph, but he gets it from a max-effort delivery that leaves him with little command. He struggles with the consistency of his secondary pitches, though he has made strides with his changeup and throws it with good arm speed. His slurvy breaking ball is a potential average pitch. If he can tone down his wild arm action and improve his command, Rodriguez could pitch in the back of a major league bullpen primarily on his fastball alone. Chicago expects him at full strength in spring training and may send him to Double-A this year.
Did a little bit of Stephen Strasburg rub off on Reed? The White Sox sure hope so. Reed, whose younger brother Austin signed with the Cubs as a 12th-round pick last summer, closed out games for Strasburg at San Diego State in 2009, compiling 20 saves and a 0.65 ERA. After Strasburg went No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft, Reed moved into his spot as the Aztecs' Friday-night starter in 2010. He went 8-2, 2.50 in 79 innings to push himself into the third round of the 2010 draft and earn a $358,200 bonus. He looked polished in his pro debut, using his fastball/slider combination to dominate Rookie-level Pioneer League hitters. Reed pairs a 91-95 mph fastball with a slider that some scouts grade as a plus-plus pitch. Righthanders have trouble against him because his fastball runs in on them and his slider has late bite. He commands both of those pitches, pounding the strike zone when he's on. His changeup is a below-average offering, and his ability to improve it will determine whether his future is in the rotation or the bullpen. Reed has excellent makeup and a confident presence on the mound. He could move quickly as a reliever, but Chicago plans on keeping him as a starter for the time being. He could skip a level and open 2011 in high Class A.
Blanke traveled a crooked path to the 2010 draft, going from Seton Hall in 2008 to St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC in 2009 and NCAA Division II Tampa last year before landing with the White Sox as a 14th-round selection. He was born in Canada but raised in Florida, and his father, who played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, taught him to play baseball with an aggressive hockey mentality. He grew from about 5-foot-9 as a high school junior to his present 6-foot-4 frame and is still filling out. Signed for $65,000, he looks like a steal. Blanke had a reputation as a bat-first catcher coming out of the draft, but he opened eyes with both his power and his catching skills after signing, making the Pioneer League all-star team. His plus arm was considered his best tool coming out of college, and he threw out a league-best 35 percent of basestealers and both runners who attempted to steal against him in the PL playoffs. He moves well behind the plate, and in the words of Great Falls manager Chris Cron, Blanke "folds up real nice'' for his size. He was also one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, showing a good approach and an ability to use the whole field. He shows above-average power potential, even to the opposite field. He has played first and third base in the past, but there's no reason he can't stay behind the plate. He'll open his first full pro season in low Class A.
In his seventh year as a pro, Harrell finally reached the major leagues in 2010. Winning his big league debut was a huge accomplishment after a shoulder injury forced him to spend more time off the field than on it from 2006-08, including missing all of 2007 following capsule surgery. He now has put together back-to-back healthy seasons, making 29 starts between the big leagues and Triple-A last year while also showing the ability to pitch out of the bullpen. Harrell's best pitch is a two-seam fastball he throws at 88-92 mph. Its sink and tail makes it an above-average pitch. His four-seamer peaks at 93 mph, though he seemed reluctant to throw it in the big leagues. Harrell uses good fastball command to set up a slurvy slider and a changeup with good sink. He mixes his pitches well and has nice feel for pitching. He has a ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter and also could find his niche as a middle reliever. The White Sox are coping with rotation uncertainty and rebuilding their bullpen, so they'll give Harrell a long look in spring training.
Selected with the compensation pick the White Sox received after failing to sign Tennessee lefthander Bryan Morgado as a third-round choice in 2009, Royse looks like a potential steal after signing for $263,500. One Pioneer League coach who saw him wondered how Royse lasted 114 picks in the draft. Teams shied away from him because he doesn't have front-of-the-rotation velocity and has had health issues, including a compression fracture in his lower back that cut short his sophomore college season. He pitched 104 innings as Louisville's ace in 2010, going 9-1, 2.85 with 99 strikeouts, but encountered mild elbow problems after getting off to a fast start for Great Falls. Royse's fastball, which sits at 88-90 mph and peaks at 93 is effective because of its downward angle and natural sink. His slider is a plus pitch at times, eliciting swings and misses at its best, and Chicago was encouraged by the early improvements he made with his changeup. He repeats his delivery well and pounds the strike zone. With a healthy 2011 season, Royse could vault his way up the organization's pitching depth chart. He'll likely begin the season in low Class A.
When the White Sox got Flowers from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade before the 2009 season, his bat seemed to be a given. The question was whether he could handle a pitching staff well enough to become a full-time regular behind the plate. His power was his calling card and made him one of the organization's top prospects--until he floundered in Triple-A last year. Flowers looked lost at the plate early in the season and never really recovered. He still has size, strength and raw power but didn't take advantage of hitter-friendly Knights Stadium in Charlotte, slugging a career-low .434. His plate discipline and pitch recognition regressed, especially when he got breaking balls in fastball counts, and Triple-A pitchers exploited the holes in his max-effort swing. While Flowers has improved his receiving skills, his stiff body and limited athleticism still raise concerns. He has an average arm and threw out 26 percent of basestealers last season. He's a well below-average runner who's a liability on the bases. Flowers hasn't earned the confidence of manager Ozzie Guillen, who rarely played him during a September callup, even after Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention. The White Sox had hoped Flowers would be ready when A.J. Pierzynski's contract expired after the 2010 season, but they re-signed Pierzynski and plan to use Ramon Castro as his backup. Flowers' power is still intriguing, so he'll return to Triple-A and try to erase memories of 2010.
A rare over-slot signing for Chicago at $525,000 for a seventh-rounder, Danks moved quickly through the minors and briefly received consideration to make the 2010 big league club before the White Sox traded for Juan Pierre. Danks' younger brother John led Chicago with 15 wins last season, but Jordan won't join him at U.S. Cellular Field until he learns how to solve more advanced pitching. He has batted just .244/.322/.366 since getting promoted to Double-A in May 2009. Advancing him to Triple-A in 2010 looks like a dubious decision in retrospect. He struggled against breaking pitches throughout the year, making it hard to believe he had once been projected as a leadoff candidate. His used to spray the ball all over the field with occasional flashes of gap power, but now he mostly makes weak contact to the opposite field. He was projected as a big-time power hitter when he came out of high school but never has come close to delivering that kind of pop. Though he struggled at the plate, Danks continued to provide quality defense in center field and earned respect playing through a variety of minor injuries. He has plus speed and an average arm, allowing him to play all three outfield spots, though his quickness hasn't translated into big stolen-base numbers. Pierre is expected to return for one more year as the Sox' left fielder, leaving Danks to return to Charlotte.
A middle-of-the-lineup bat for the Arkansas team that also featured 2010 draft picks Zack Cox (first round, Cardinals) and Brett Eibner (second round, Royals), Wilkins was overshadowed at times in college but hit 42 home runs in three seasons. After the White Sox drafted him in the fifth round and signed him for $195,000, he immediately became one of the best power prospects in the White Sox system. He hit so well at Great Falls that one scout compared his arrival to that of Giants first-base prospect Brandon Belt, who has performed much better as a pro than he did in college at Texas. Wilkins shows the ability to hit the ball to all fields and handle lefthanded pitching, with an advanced approach that produced more walks than strikeouts in his pro debut. His six homers allayed worries that his power wouldn't play with wood bats, which arose after he hit just two homers in the summer of 2009 with Team USA. The deep load in his swing does raise concerns about his ability to handle quality pitching, however. After playing mostly first base at Arkansas in deference to Cox, Wilkins moved to the hot corner in pro ball. He's a below-average runner--though he isn't afraid to steal a base--and will have to work to become an average defender. His makeup and work ethic remind some club officials of Jim Thome. The White Sox believe Wilkins could be a special hitter, and his advanced bat might allow him to skip to high Class A to open his first full season.
All Saladino does is hit. He was a conference player of the year in consecutive seasons, first when he batted .453 for Palomar (Calif.) JC in 2009, and again when he hit .381 with 17 home runs at Oral Roberts last spring. Undrafted out of high school, he turned down the Astros as a 36th-round pick in 2009 before signing for $115,000 as a seventh-rounder last June. Saladino's swing can get long, leading to strikeouts, but he has a quick bat that gives him surprising gap power for his build. He has plus speed and could fit as a No. 2 hitter if he makes more consistent contact. Saladino's first-step quickness allows him to get to a lot of balls at shortstop, and he has the plus arm get outs on tough chances deep in the hole. Some scouts believe his defense will allow him to climb the ladder even if he slows down as a hitter. He profiles as a big league middle infielder if he continues to hit, or a productive utility player if his bat doesn't quite measure up. He could start his first full pro season in high Class A after batting .309 at Kannapolis in his pro debut.
Long one of the organization's most intriguing prospects, Jones is growing into more than just a guy with a big arm and little idea how to use it. He has made major strides the last two seasons, becoming a full-time starter and earning a spot on the 40-man roster in 2010. He posted a 3.05 ERA in his final 10 starts, the best stretch ever for a guy who previously had earned comparisons to Bobby Jenks with his high-90s fastball and hammer curveball. Jones' heater sat at 91-95 mph after he moved to the rotation, and he did a much better job adding and subtracting velocity from it last year. His curveball also added depth, yet some scouts think his changeup might be the better secondary pitch, giving him a good weapon against lefthanders. Jones has shortened his delivery and does a better job of repeating it, and he seemed more willing to pitch to contact last season. He still has stiff arm action and throws across his body, though, costing him consistency and command. He gets hit harder than someone with his stuff should, primarily because he works up in the strike zone too often. Ticketed for Double-A to open 2011, he could reach Chicago quickly if he can improve the location of his pitches.
After reaching the big leagues in 2009, Nunez took a step backward last season. The White Sox got him in the deal that sent Nick Swisher to the Yankees after the 2008 season, and he previously had been traded by the Dodgers (for Marlon Anderson) and Nationals (for Alberto Gonzalez). Nunez worked mostly as a starter earlier in his career, but Chicago made him a full-time reliever in 2009. Last year, the White Sox sent him down to Double-A to work as a starter, and he bombed when promoted him to their Triple-A bullpen. Nunez works off a 90-94 mph fastball that touches 97, locating it to both sides of the plate. He failed to command his slider in Triple-A, getting hit hard when he left it up in the zone, but it gives him a second plus pitch when it's on. He showed an average changeup as a starter but didn't use it much as a reliever. Scouts were impressed with his ability to dial his stuff up and down and pitch to contact as a starter, feeling that he took charge of the game in that role. Nunez's most likely route to Chicago is working out of the bullpen, however, and his struggles in Triple-A were perplexing. After pitched well in relief in the Dominican Winter League, he could claim a big league role in spring training.
There are a lot of things to like about Cofield, yet he wasn't able to consistently harness his stuff in six years in the Braves system. The White Sox will try to help him get over the hump after acquiring him for Scott Linebrink in December. Cofield made strides in 2008 and 2009 before missing two months last years with an elbow injury. He has an ideal pitcher's frame, and when he's dialed in he has two potential plus pitches: a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 with good movement, and a sharp curveball that buckles the knees of righthanders on occasion. Cofield struggles with his control, because he lacks feel for his pitches and nibbles too much. He needs to command his fastball and breaking ball better in the strike zone, and to add more depth and fade to his changeup. After spending the past two seasons in Double-A, Cofield should make the jump to Triple-A with his new organization. He projects as a reliever in the long run.
Gonzalez fulfilled expectations shutting down the running game in 2010, but he often looked lost as a hitter during his first full-season assignment. He combines a strong arm with a quick release, reminiscent of Ivan Rodriguez, and he ranked second in the low Class A South Atlantic League by erasing 50 percent of basestealers last year. The only knock on his throwing is that he had a head snap in his mechanics that can affect his accuracy. Gonzalez's heavy body works against him behind the plate, and his footwork needs improvement. He remains a work in progress as a blocker and game-caller. His bat remains his biggest question. After hitting .302 and showing power in his 2009 U.S. debut, he had to rally to get above the Mendoza Line and generated little power last year. He chases a lot of pitchers and tries to pull everything, and he particularly struggles against offspeed pitches. He's a major project for the organization's hitting coaches. He's a below-average runner, no surprise for a stocky catcher. The White Sox praise his mental toughness and hope his .270 August will be a springboard to a better 2011, but scouts outside the organization see him as a max-effort player with little projection. He'll move up to high Class A and try to get his bat going.
An organization lacking pitching depth found a young arm to fall in love with when Rienzo used his raw stuff to dominate low Class A hitters in the second half of 2010. He was especially locked in late in the season, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his last 10 starts, including a 10-strikeout, no-walk game against Asheville. Rienzo throws his 88-92 mph fastball with good angle, and his curveball has sharp downward break when it's on. His changeup needs work but could become an average pitch. He's athletic but has a long arm action and rushes his delivery, which hurts his command and consistency. He does show a knack for throwing strikes. Because he started the 2010 season conditioned to be a reliever, the White Sox held down his innings. They hope to get him to about 150 innings in 2011, when he'll pitch in high Class A.
The White Sox didn't see much production from Phegley in 2010, but that was the least of their concerns. He played in just 48 games because of a rare condition (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) in which his blood doesn't clot properly because of a low number of platelets. It can be a chronic condition, though it's not usually considered life-threatening. He held his own late in the season in Double-A, but wasn't able to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League because he wasn't medically cleared to play. He had his spleen removed in November after doctors determined his spleen may have been destroying platelets. An offensive-minded catcher, Phegley went 38th overall in the 2009 draft and signed for $858,600. He has the potential to hit for both average and power but needs to improve his pitch recognition to cut down on his strikeouts. He shows raw power to all fields, though he can get pull-conscious and some scouts question his bat speed. Phegley is rough behind the plate, with a thick body and below-average receiving skills. He does have an above-average arm and has thrown out 53 percent of pro basestealers, though his lack of athleticism slows his release at times. He's a below-average runner. Barring further setbacks, Phegley will return to Birmingham this year.
Heidenreich was in over his head when he entered pro ball as a fourth-round pick out of high school in 2009, but he was much better when he returned to Rookie-level Bristol last summer. He laid the groundwork for a strong season with his work in extended spring training, proving to be a quick learner with both his mechanics and approach. Heidenreich features a low-90s sinker with late movement, and his projectable 6-foot-5 frame suggests he may eventually complement it with a four-seamer in the mid-90s. He has improved his changeup, which should develop into an average pitch. His slider lags behind his other pitches, but he throws it for strikes. He fills the strike zone with all of his offerings, pitching to contact and getting groundouts. He'll spend 2011 in low Class A, and the White Sox hope he can continue to progress at the same rate he did last year.
The Braves generally have a knack for trading away prospects who don't blossom elsewhere. While Gilmore still has a ways to go before becoming known as one who got away, he made a major move forward in 2010. One of four players the White Sox got in the Javier Vazquez trade after the 2008 season, he flashed a dangerous bat in high Class A Carolina League, finishing second to teammate Brandon Short in the league batting race (.312) and fourth in RBIs (80). His numbers were inflated by Winston-Salem's new BB&T Ballpark, where he hit .350/.386/.449. Interestingly, Chicago offered him to the Dodgers when acquired for Manny Ramirez in August, but Los Angeles preferred to let Ramirez go on a straight waiver claim rather than take Gilmore in exchange for picking up part of Ramirez' contract in a trade. The brother-in-law of Ben Zobrist, Gilmore made a big leap last year by destroying lefthanders (.396/.435/.490) and taking pitches from righthanders to the opposite field. He should be an above-average hitter but doesn't generate the power his 6-foot-3 frame suggests he should, in part because of his line-drive, gap-oriented approach. He makes consistent contact, though he doesn't walk much. Gilmore's bat will have to carry him because he's a substandard third baseman. He has hard hands, limited range and a below-average arm with a funky throwing motion. He has committed 78 errors over the last two seasons, and his below-average speed makes first base and DH his only other options. Gilmore has great makeup, and his bat gives him a chance to find a major league role. He'll likely get one more year at third base, this time in Double-A.
Bayne is one of the best athletes in the system. He earned all-state honors in baseball, basketball and football at his Hawaii high school, and he was a two-way player in college at South Mountain (Ariz.) CC and Concordia (Calif.). He reminds some club officials of John Ely, whom the White Sox sent to the Dodgers in a trade for Juan Pierre after the 2009 season, though he doesn't have a pitch to match Ely's changeup. Bayne did little during his 2009 pro debut to get noticed, but he refined his delivery in instructional league. He threw so well in minor league camp that he landed a surprise spot in the Kannapolis rotation and held onto it all season. Bayne's four-seam fastball can reach the mid-90s, and he gets good sink on an 89-91 mph two-seamer. His velocity varies from game to game, in part because his feel for the two pitches fluctuates as well, and he's still learning how to use his fastball. Both of Bayne's secondary pitches need plenty of work. He flashes an average changeup but often slows his arm speed when he throws it. He hangs his curveball too often. Bayne goes after hitters with all three pitches and tries to work the bottom of the strike zone. His arm slot varies from high three-quarters to low three-quarters, and he still needs consistency with his mechanics and command. He's get another full season of starts in high Class A this year to address those concerns.
Arroyo got a $70,000 bonus from the Phillies as a 31st-round pick in 2008, but they released him at the end of spring training last year. The White Sox held him in extended spring training after signing him a few weeks later, then sent him to the Appalachian League. He was old for Rookie ball at 21, but he led the league in strikeouts (75) and ranked third in ERA (2.49). Arroyo's fastball sits in the high 80s, but he can throw it for strikes to both sides of the plate. He complements it with a plus changeup and a breaking ball that has gotten tighter since he has cleaned up his mechanics. He has a good understanding of pitching, challenging hitters, working quickly and holding runners on base. Arroyo will finally reach full-season ball in his fourth year as a pro. He could jump up to high Class A so Chicago can see if his fringy stuff will play against more advanced hitters.