Pretty Good Prospects -- They all have their flaws, but these are high draft picks that have succeeded at AA and above.
Ryan Sweeney -- 21 | OF | AAA
.296/.350/.452 13HR, 73K, 35BB in 449 ABs
Sweeney might not have the prettiest numbers on this list, but he's got the prettiest swing. The swing, and his relatively young age -- Lastings Milledge and Delmon Young were the other 21 year old (or younger) outfielders in the International League -- make him an easy choice for the top spot. Showing the ability to play a league average defensive center field helps a lot too.
Sweeney's OPS improved in every month at Charlotte, and was over .900 following the AAA All-Star break. His biggest weakness isn't his lack of power -- that will come eventually -- it's his ability to hit LHP. And that's only going to come with more experience.
Josh Fields -- 23 | 3B/OF | AAA
.305/.379/.515 19HR, 55XBH, 54BB, 136K in 462ABs
I'm pretty sure that Fields will sit atop most outlet's Sox prospects lists, but I have a hard time putting him there. With the exception of 2 months of his professional career, we've never seen anything spectacular from Fields. He's a slugger with a long swing and weak defense at third. I have trouble believing that he'll have an easy transition to the majors based on what I've seen from him so far. The best course of action is to send him back to Charlotte and hope he can make more consistent contact.
Lance Broadway -- 23 | RHP | AA-AAA
2.75 ERA, 165H, 10 HR, 41BB, 117K in 160.1IP
Broadway isn't considered an elite pitching prospect by most Sox fans. They're probably right, but he remains a very good one. Digging through his game log earlier this year, I discovered that, with the exception of 5 consecutive starts where he had trouble with his control, he posted some very encouraging numbers; K:BB ratio of over 4:1. I suspect there was something mechanically wrong during that stretch that resulted in him allowing almost half of his walks in under a sixth of his innings pitched. His stats only show one AAA start, but he really started 3, including a rainout and a playoff game. He struck out over a batter per inning in those three games and had an ERA of about 3.
Good Prospects -- Not as proven, or not as much upside as prospects higher on the list.
Aaron Cunningham -- 20 | LF | Low-A
.305/.386/.496 11HR 40XBH 34BB 72K in 341 ABs
Cunningham can hit (period) He entered the Sox organization with a reputation for surprising power for a guy his size -- He's listed at 5-11 -- and the reports appear to be true. He's never going to be a 40 HR guy, but he'll hit for a decent average with a good eye and above average power. His at bats were limited by an injury (hamstring, I believe), otherwise I'm sure the Sox would have moved him up to Winston-Salem. I imagine that with a good showing in spring he'll start next season in Birmingham. Defensively, I hear that he's nothing special. He'll probably be limited to left field at the bigs.
Not enough data for good comps.
Charlie Haeger -- 22 | RHP | AAA
3.44ERA 143H 9HR 78BB 130K in 170IP
Haeger's most impressive skill is his ability to keep the ball in the park. In 390 innings above rookie ball, he's allowed just 13 home runs. That includes almost 20 innings with the White Sox last year. If he can refine the control on his knuckler a bit, he'll become a very valuable pitcher to the Sox. Or at the very least, an attractive trade target for teams seeking cheap league-average pitching.
It's hard to project a 22 year old knuckleballer at AAA simply because there aren't any similar players with which to compare. Haeger's incomparable!
Kyle McCulloch -- 21 | RHP | Rk-A+
3.15ERA 56H 5HR 24BB 48K in 57.1IP
McCulloch went to the same high school as former Sox prospect, Chris Young. (That has to count for something, right?) McCulloch gets ranked here because of his draft status, plus his repertoire and first professional season are very similar to that of Lance Broadway, who I ranked #7 last season.
McCulloch's best comp might be Broadway, but it's too soon to tell.
Jack Egbert -- 23 | RHP | A-AA
2.67ERA 148H 2HR 54BB 144K in 161.2IP
I nearly left Egbert off the list completely. I usually take a look at the minor league box scores nearly every day, but I didn't pay Egbert much attention this year. He wasn't on my radar thanks to a poor first professional season and average peripherals in his second. He still doesn't have great peripherals, but he does two things exceptionally well; keep the ball on the ground, and keep the ball in the park. He allowed only 2 HRs last season in over 160 innings pitched.
Here is a list of the players in the AL who featured a higher GB% than Egbert: Wang, King Felix, Halladay, and Westbrook. If he can carry his GB/FB ratio with him to the majors -- it was exactly the same between '05 and '06 -- he'll find himself right at home in the Sox rotation.
Before I included him on the list, I had to find successful major league pitchers with similar track records and repertoires. Good news, I found two very quickly; Clay Hensley and Aaron Cook. They may not be the sexiest comps, but they're effective major league pitchers, both of whom were a little older than most top prospects and feature very good GB/FB ratios, though neither feature Egbert's ridiculous HR/9 rate.
Lucas Harrell -- 21 | RHP | A+
2.45ERA 58H 3HR 44BB 70K in 90.1IP
Harrel would rank higher on this list if not for two things. 1) He struggled mightily upon his promotion to AA. 2) That struggle may have been because of an injury which held him out of the last 5 or 6 weeks of the season. (elbow? I never got good info on that)
Like Egbert, Harrell is a master of the groundball. If you take out his 3 starts at Birmingham (which I did in the stats listed above), he has increased his strikeout rate at each level while simultaneously lowering his walk rate and ERA. If healthy, Harrell could fly up this list next season.
Chris "Vernon" Carter -- 19 | 1B/DH | Rk
.299/.398/.570 15HR 37XBH 34BB 70K in 251ABs
Carter started the season at Kanny, where he got just 46 ABs before they sent him back to the instructional leagues. When he got back into "real" games in the Pioneer League, he dominated. He needs to make more contact, but that's not unusual for young sluggers. His prospect status is hurt by the fact that he's a butcher in the field. He might be able to stick at 1B with some work, but he's more likely on the permanent DH track.
Oneli Perez -- 23 | RHP | A-AA
0.82ERA 46H 3HR 19BB 91K in 76.2IP
I don't think much of relief prospects, especially 23 year old relief prospects repeating A-ball. These are some pretty amazing numbers though. It all started in the Dominican Leagues last winter where Perez emerged as one of Licey's closers. He posted a 1.02ERA in 35.1 innings with a 40:7 K/BB ratio allowing just 21 hits. I don't know what caused the change, but since he left Kannapolis last September, he's been tranformed into an elite minor league reliever. Here is his combined pitching line since then (including his 7.2IP w/ Licey this year):
IP H HR BB K ERA 119.2 69 3* 29 137 0.98I would not be the least bit surprised to see him make the major league club out of spring training. The Sox need to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, otherwise I'm sure he'll be picked up. I'll be pissed if we lose him and guys like Paulino Reynoso and Eduardo Sierra stay on the 40-man.
2006: 1 -- McCulloch
2005: 3 -- Broadway, Cunningham, Carter
2004: 3 -- Fields, Harrell, Egbert (Gio, Lumsden)
2003: 1 -- Sweeney (Anderson)
2002: 0 -- (Logan, McCarthy, Reed, Haigwood)
2001: 1 -- Haeger (Young)
1st: 3 -- Broadway, Fields, McCulloch
2nd: 1 -- Sweeney
4th: 1 -- Harrell
6th: 1 -- Cunningham
13th: 1 -- Egbert
15th: 1 -- Carter
25th: 1 -- Haeger