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Rising and Falling: Birmingham Barons

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Here's a look at some Birmingham Barons that you should be looking at.

Rising

Jack Egbert
Anyone who knows me knew this was coming. A personal favorite of mine, and a recent interview subject at FutureSox, Egbert was a sleeper coming into this year. The thirteenth round pick in the 2004 draft certainly wasn't expected to be the ace of the Barons rotation, but he has done nothing but perform.

Egbert possesses a unique skillset that should make him a natural fit for US Cellular field. His skyhigh groundball rates and low home run totals are thanks to his two-seam fastball with heavy sink. His four-seamer can touch the lower 90s, and he also throws a curve and a change for strikes.

Egbert came into the season behind Gio Gonzalez and Adam Russell on the Birmingham depth chart, but he could suddenly be looking at a promotion to the bigs later this season if the organization believes in him. Either way, the Southern League leader in innings and WHIP (not to mention second in strikeouts) has earned a promotion to Charlotte.

Donny Lucy

Lucy has been trying to establish himself as the first Sox catching prospect in years. The Stanford grad was a second round pick, but has failed to live up to the hype of others taken at that level.

Lucy has some nice contact skills for a catcher, but his power potential is somewhat limited. Known as a good athlete, Lucy is above average behind the plate, with a more than adequate arm to go with.

Lucy will finish out the year in Birmingham, but barring a major collapse he could easily be in Charlotte in 2008. The Sox more than likely see (and hope) that he'll be an option once one of Hall or Pierzynski leave the organization.

Static

Gio Gonzalez

Gio is and has been one of the organization's top prospects since his selection in the amateur draft and his reacquisition from Philly. The Southern League leader in strikeouts has had a respectable showing in 2007 but he has been lacking some of the dynamite results that some expected from a guy repeating Double-A.

Gonzalez still projects into the White Sox rotation in 1-2 years, but I guess I expected more overwhelming results from him. He might just seem less impressive next to Egbert in that regard. On the plus side, Gio has reduced his walk rate from last year, and he has still earned a promotion to Charlotte.

Sox fans should expect Gio to hit the South Side either later this year or sometime next year.

Falling

Adam Russell

The hot pick for the fifth starter's spot in Spring Training has cooled off considerably since his demotion to minor league camp.

Adam still possesses nice heat, but his strikeout numbers and his overall performances have been more than underwhelming compared to what he did in Tucson. His walk numbers have been increasing this year and his ERA has been rising as well.

Russell still projects more as a possible bullpen candidate in Chicago, but Ozzie seemed to like what he saw out of Adam. Russell should spend all of 2007 in Birmingham and will likely be in Charlotte next year.

Wes Whisler

Whisler has done little to capitalize on his strong 2006 campaign in Winston-Salem. The former UCLA Bruin has given up a metric ton of hits (131) and has just generally not provided good results.

Whisler has never had good strikeout numbers since converting full time to pitching, and it's hard to believe he has the stuff to ever make it as a starter.

Wes will likely ride out the year in AA and most likely will be back in Birmingham in 2008. He may have a better shot at the majors as a reliever, as he has the magical gift of being able to throw a baseball with his left hand, but the big guy has failed to live up to the higher expectations he gave us after 2006