The White Sox did a pretty good job this year in terms of graduating homegrown talent to the big league level. Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz and Clayton Richard all played important roles. Per usual, the system also permitted Kenny Williams to acquire major league talent, as Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter, RIchard, and Brandon Allen were traded away. Any system would be hurt by the "loss" of those six players; however, for a White Sox system that was only beginning to strengthen itself, both in terms of quality and depth, this has put the White Sox back in the position of having one of the worst farms in baseball. While the top five will probably be essentially a consensus amongst listmakers, after that, the depth drops off precipitously. It was a real struggle to complete the list. You could include any of about fifteen players in the next five and make a solid argument for all of them. The upper levels are full of fringe types and the lower levels, while having some interesting players, isn't all that inspiring to me at this point.
It is good for the club that they have a pretty well set starting five for next season because, outside of Daniel Hudson, there is an alarming lack of starting pitching prospects. Like every organization, there are a number of arms that could be relievers, some, like Jhonny Nunez, ready for opening day in 2010. Where the White Sox have improved is position player talent up the middle. Tyler Flowers looks like a legit catcher to me. And Jordan Danks and Jared Mitchell both look like they'll be able to handle centerfield defensively.
List after the jump.
1. Daniel Hudson: 2009 MiLB line: 147.1IP, 105 H, 34 BB, 166 K at Kannapolis, Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte. MLB: 18.2 IP, 16 H, 9 BB, 14 K. The Cheat covered him extensively here so I won't give yet another explication of his repertoire here. Suffice to say, his rise through the system last season was meteoric and well-deserved. Like any young pitcher, he still has things to work on but the talent is there. His ceiling is probably a #2 starter, depending upon how his offerings, particularly his slider, develop. I love the movement he generates on his pitches. ETA: Early 2010. The White Sox may want to play the service time game and start him in Charlotte. Barring injury or trade, there isn't a spot in the starting rotation for him. He could be a valuable arm out of the bullpen right away.
2. Tyler Flowers: 2009 MiLB line: .297/.423/.516 at Birmingham and Charlotte. Going into the season, his major question mark was whether he would stick at catcher, both because of his (in)abilities and injury history. He answered that question affirmatively by vastly improving his defense and staying healthy. And, oh yeah, he continued to hit the ball very well. While his strikeout rate is high (30%), he draws plenty of walks and hits for power. Don't expect his batting average to remain high, though, particularly since his BABIP was inflated. His ceiling is probably an average defensive catcher with an above average bat; in other words, a very valuable commodity. ETA: Mid-2010. With the White Sox continuing to implement their new policy of pushing players more quickly through the minors, he may be starting next season on the South Side. Though I think it would be a mistake to limit his repetitions at catcher by having him fill-in for A.J. Pierzynski once a week, it wouldn't surprise me if he found himself doing that along with playing some first and DH. On the other hand, Ozzie took a shot at Flowers' inability to "play small ball" and high K rate so shielding Flowers from such insanity for as long as possible would be prudent.
3. Jordan Danks: 2009 MiLB line: .266/.359/.405 at Winston-Salem and Birmingham. It was a tale of two halves for the left-handed hitting Danks. He tore up the Carolina League before a promotion to Birmingham where he continued to hit very well. Then he was sidelined by a wrist injury, followed by a finger injury and saw his offensive numbers diminish significantly. The question remains which is the true Danks. Was the slugging he initially showed a fluke or did injuries simply impede the awakening of his long projected power? The answer to that will dictate his future because, without some pop, that 26% K rate looks a whole lot scarier. ETA: 2011. Talked up as a possible September call-up in the summer, the poor second half took the sheen off his rapidly rising star. A return to Birmingham for a couple months and then a promotion to Charlotte should be his path next year, though he might receive the aggressive treatment and start in AAA.
4. Jared Mitchell: 2009 MiLB line: .296/.417/.435 at Kannapolis. His performance was exactly as expected: lots of walks, lots of strikeouts and lots of defense. Quite toolsy but also quite raw, it will be very interesting to watch his development over the coming seasons. Guys like Mitchell tend to either succeed spectacularly or fail spectacularly. The ceiling of a plus defensive CF with good power, plus contact and plus on base skills is certainly tantalizing. ETA: 2012. Will probably start at Winston-Salem and then move to Birmingham when Danks is promoted.
5. Dayan Viciedo: 2009 MiLB line: .280/.317/.391at Birmingham. I can sugarcoat ii as much as I like but there's no denying that Viciedo was not very good this year. Yes, at 20 he was young for the league. And, yes, he was acclimating to a new culture. But, no, his beisbol wasn't very good. First, his defense is terrible at third so he's going to need to find a new position. Second, while scouts will still tell you that he has quick hands and power potential, his pitch recognition is poor. Finally, questions about his fitness still linger. All that said, he gets a mulligan from me for last season, particularly since he showed some signs of life in the second half. But he's going to need to show improvement soon - starting in the Arizona Fall League next week - in order to justify his price tag. ETA: 2011. Back to Birmingham and then on to Charlotte.
6. Brent Morel: 2009 MiLB line: .281/.335/.453 at Winston-Salem. I'm a big fan of Morel. He doesn't strike out a lot, he's got gap power, his defense is fantastic, he's got good speed (25 for 34 in SBs) and his makeup is excellent. If you can get past the fact that his bat will be less than average for third base, you can see the makings of an average to solid player. The Joe Randa comparison still rings true to me. ETA: 2011. Will start in Birmingham and may spend the whole season there.
7. C.J. Retherford: 2009 MiLB line: .297/.340/.473 at Birmingham. The guy just puts up numbers. He was a doubles machine this year, racking up 46 in 128 games. There's nothing overwhelming in his tool box but average or so at a lot of things can get you to the majors and that appears to be the case with Retherford. Most scouts don't think he'll be more than a utility player - he played mostly 2B this year but has experience at multiple positions - but I could see him slotting in as a somewhat below average starter with the right team. ETA: Late 2010. Will start in Charlotte and could find himself as the first infield call-up when Chris Getz inevitably injures himself.
8. David Holmberg: 2009 MiLB line: 40 IP, 40 H, 18 BB, 37 K for Bristol. He's got good velocity for a lefty, hitting the low 90s, and a plus curve. He's a scouts' favorite with a clean delivery and makeup to boot. Development of a changeup is essential. Fresh out of high school, he's a long way away but his potential makes him an interesting prospect. ETA: 2013. Extended spring training and then a return to Rookie ball before moving up to Kannapolis.
9. Christian Marrero: 2009 MiLB line: .308/.348/.501 at Winston-Salem and Birmingham. The 23 year old lefty had a a very good season offensively and deservedly has begun to receive some attention as a prospect. He's got some issues to overcome, however, starting with his defense. He's essentially split time between RF and 1B in his career but, despite a plus arm, he probably isn't good enough to stick in the outfield. That means his bat is going to need to be good enough to merit consideration at 1B. The decline in walks from 11% at Kannapolis last year to about 6% this year suggests he may not quite have the bat. ETA: 2011. A return to Birmingham for a couple months and then a promotion to Charlotte.
10. Clevelan Santeliz: 2009 MiLB line: 56.1 IP, 43 H, 35 BB, 52 K at Birmingham. Santeliz improved his control markedly as the season wore on. In the first half, he walked 27 in 35 innings. In the second half, just 8 in 21.1. If that improvement is real, the 23 year old righty could find himself and his mid-90s fastball and plus slider in the bullpen role sooner rather than later. ETA: Mid-2010. Will be in Charlotte and probably will be the first choice for a reliever call-up.