Terry Doyle is living proof of the power of the Arizona Fall League.
We are well acquainted with the AFL's pull. Kenny Williams traded for Jeff Marquez and Tyler Flowers due in large part to what he saw in the desert. Jordan Danks revived his prospect stock with a nice showing, although he was upstaged by Brent Morel, who rolled off the couch as an emergency replacement and won the league's batting title in 2009. And it was only last season when the previously role-less Anthony Carter turned 10 outstanding innings into a 40-man roster spot.
Doyle took it one step further with a 1-2 punch of publicity. Not only did he put together a tremendous season of fall ball (4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.62 WHIP over 27 innings), but he also had a unique back story with his substitute teacher career that earned him multiple features. In the middle of the summer, he was a mostly anonymous 25-year-old in A-ball. By end of the AFL, Scott Merkin was taking questions from people who demanded to know why Doyle wasn't protected. Plus, that video up there!
Sure enough, the Minnesota Twins picked him in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. And as Larry noted, the Twins actually make their Rule 5 picks with the intent of using them. So after years of being slow-tracked by the White Sox for organizational purposes, Doyle is now in position to earn a 25-man roster spot. Bully for him, seriously.
"In the industry, he definitely made quite an impression in the Fall League. He threw well down there," said White Sox director of baseball operations Dan Fabian of Doyle. "Terry Doyle is a nice pitcher. It just was a decision made that, looking at our long term, we had players we felt that we needed to get on the 40-man before Terry Doyle."
The White Sox had room on the 40-man roster entering the winter meetings, and they didn't fill any of the open seats during the week. So there wasn't any real pressing need for the space -- they just weren't buying what Doyle was selling.
Then again, one player on the 40-man is living proof of how the AFL bubble can burst. In 2010, Anthony Carter used fall ball to slingshot from organizational filler status to a spot on the end of Baseball America's Top 10 White Sox Prospects list. Considering he didn't have a real second pitch and gave up a lot of flyballs, we were skeptical. Sure enough, Charlotte beat him down, and now he's in or near the front of the line should the Sox need to clear out more roster space.
This time, the Sox chose to stick to their instincts, and history says they aren't wrong in doing so. Still, it's fascinating to see what the Arizona Fall League can do for a guy...
...especially when there's little else to write about.
Yes, the slowest offseason since the World Series didn't get the expected boost from the winter meetings, as Kenny Williams left Dallas with only the Sergio Santos trade to show for it.
Williams is doing his best to talk a patient game:
"You know, if we have some guys have some bounce-back years and go back to their career norms, yeah," said Williams of his team's chances to contend with Detroit in the American League Central as presently constructed. "Mostly, if a number of things happen offensively, continued growth at third base and second, [Alejandro] De Aza continues to play the way he ended the year, and along with the obvious bigger names."
"It's still a work in progress, but I wouldn't anticipate anything major unless the opportunity presents itself to add impact, young 0-3 [year]-type players. But if that doesn't manifest itself, this just isn't the time to make wholesale changes."
"Continued growth" at second. Ha.
Anyway, Williams can keep talking this game and not look ridiculous. If the Sox made no further moves, their payroll would be $110 million before the remaining six-figure salaries. That's a decent cut from last year's $127 million payroll, and Carlos Quentin is the only noticeable roster imbalance -- and if Robin Ventura had free reign to bench Alex Rios, there would be room for Quentin, too.
Throw in five credible starters and a bullpen with power arms, and if you believe Rios and Dunn aren't really two of the worst players in baseball, there's a shred of hope to cling to.
That's what A.J. Pierzynski is doing, anyway.
For those who Pierzynski was Joe Cowley's mystery veteran who wanted no part of a rebuilding effort, he offered some sentiment to the contrary for Mark Gonzales:
"I want to be with the White Sox," said Pierzynski, who, with Paul Konerko, are the lone members of the 2005 World Series team still on the active roster.
"I want to win with the White Sox." [...]
"Sure, it's tough when your manager (Ozzie Guillen), Burls and Sergio leave," Pierzynski said in a telephone interview. "But there will be some young guys competing for jobs, and they can get better. And we can get some guys to bounce back and get back to their normal years."
Jake Peavy was my guess for the mystery veteran, and he's still in play.