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Building a Champion: Juan Uribe

Part of a Series

As I continue this series in chronological order, by date each player joined the organization, even I was surprised by how recently most of these players have been acquired. I've followed each player closely, but time seems to have stretched, for me at least. I guess a World Series title makes them all true White Sox.

Juan Uribe was acquired in a trade with Colorado for Aaron Miles. Uribe had reputation for being a dynamic defensive player who had occasional lapses in the field and, more importantly, prolonged lapses at the plate. Miles was a decent player, but projected as not much more than a utility infielder at the major league level.

Uribe was signed by the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic in 1997. He was rushed to the majors because of his glove. He spent just 4 years in the minors, never reaching above A-ball. He never hit for an average above .277, never displayed good plate discipline outside the Dominican Summer League, and never slugged above .410. In short, Uribe was never ready to face major league pitching. Colorado promoted him anyway, and thought he was their shortstop of the future when he hit .300 in limited time at age 21 in 2001.

It should have come as a surprise to no one when Uribe hit just .240/.286/.341 in his first full-time action at the big leagues. Pitchers discovered he would swing at practically anything, and Uribe became on of the weakest hitters in baseball when you consider the park he played half of his games in.

2003 was more of the same for Uribe. He struggled with his plate discipline, and was percieved as beeing resistant to change by those in Colorado. -- More likely it was their own fault for rushing a player to the major leagues, never putting in the development time against competition he was more likely to succeed against. -- Uribe played only part of the season as the Rockies full-time shortstop, getting sent down to A and AA to send him a message. It was a message that he didn't recieve well.

Upon his trade to the White Sox, I declared Juan Uribe the White Sox super-utility player. I figured he would back-up/platoon with both Jose Valentin and Willie Harris. His explosive bat and sound glove soon made him an everyday player on the Sox. -- He still lacked plate discipline, but he had one of the best arms in the game, and played Gold Glove caliber defense. -- Following the season, the Sox signed Uribe to a 3-year deal, with an option for a 4th.

In 2005, Uribe proved that he was indeed a gold glover, although he did not recieve the award. At the plate he once again struggled with his plate dicipline, but he was far better than he had been in the past. In August he changed his batting stance and became one of the most patient and productive players on the team.

If Uribe can continue his progress at the plate, and I believe he can, look for him to have another breakout in 2006. He showed the world what he was capable of in the World Series. He's only 25, and should be able to improve for the next few years.