In November, the White Sox would have ranked in everyone's top 10 farm systems. With the departure of some of their top talent in Chris Young, Daniel Haigwood, and Gio Gonzalez, however, they've been classified as having among the least talent at the top of their system in all of baseball. That's something I have to agree with. Aside from Anderson, who has flaws of his own, there's not much that compares with baseball's best prospects.
I bring this up because in the next 12 hours, Baseball America will debut their Top 10 White Sox prospects list. (And the link went live while I was putting this entry together.) A little birdie told me the list before it hit the website. I included the top 15 of the 30 that should appear in the 2006 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, along with our own community results, with everyone knocked down a notch because I declared Jenks ineligible.
Looking at my own list, I feel like I have to justify having Valido rated so highly. I was fine putting him at #4 behind Young and Gio, but having him at #2 just doesn't feel right. I'm going to leave him there, and I'll tell you why.
Let's compare him to #3 on the list, Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney is a 20 year old outfielder who hit well, though not for any power in AA. The scouts love his swing, and feel he'll develop power in the future. If he doesn't, however, his bat would be tough to carry in the outfield.
Valido is a 20 year who hit well early before fading late -- which appears to be something of a trend. Something to keep an eye on. -- He doesn't have much power, or walk all that much, like Sweeney, but what he brings to the table in other areas is what sets him apart. Valido has good speed that he uses as well as anyone in the minors, and the best infield defense of anyone in the Sox system. In short, he has abilities that this franchise values most. And since Valido and Sweeney play at opposite ends of the defensive spectrum, I rated Valido over Sweeney. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I thought I would take a look at some Sox farmhands who might have breakout seasons in '06. (after the jump)
Liotta & Broadway -- They're both rated fairly highly already, but, mark my words, one of these two will top the Sox BA list at this time next year.
Clayton Richard -- Ground ball inducing lefty, who will be in his first full season of pro ball. Richard's lefty stuff may trail only Tyler Lumsden, who is a breakout candidate in his own right. -- Look for "Lummy" to improve as the season goes on, as he is coming off a lost season due to injury. '07 should see Lumsden putting it all together.
Michah Schnurstein -- Inexplicably left off the top 30 list my birdie friend slipped me, I would rate Schnur somewhere in the Sox top 20 prospects. His glove needs some work, so that hurts his value, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him equal Josh Fields' '05 season at B'ham when he gets his chance there this year.
Ricardo Nanita -- It's hard to figure out what the Sox' view of Nanita is. He's a contact hitter, who gets on base at a good rate, but he's been slightly older than his league at each stop. He'll be 25 in '06, so his season at B'ham will be make-or-break for him. -- He may be a late bloomer who settles into a 4th outfielder role in the future.
Brandon Allen & Aaron Cunningham -- The White Sox two young power hitting outfielders. Both should start the year at Low-A Kannapolis. They have a combined 26 ABs above rookie ball, and strikeout in about 25% of their PAs, so they could flame out completely also.
I tossed out a bunch of guys names as breakout candidates, so I'll narrow it down to just a pitcher and hitter: Schnurstein and Richard. They are the official South Side Sox OMG-Where-did-that-guy-come-from? '06 candidates.