Now that the minor league season is winding down and the window to sign amateur draft picks has closed, I thought it would be a good time to analyze the White Sox minor league system.
Several players that would have been on this list are no longer in the Sox minor league system. Gordon Beckham earned his way to the big leagues and Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter, and Brandon Allen were traded.
Despite those subtractions, the Sox still have a number of intriguing young prospects, including a few that could contribute at the major league level in the near future.
The Sox finally seem to be over the often spotty drafting from the David Wilder regime and have added some significant prospects over the last few drafts.
I'm leaning a bit more toward tools than production with this list, though the upper portion has a little bit of both.
Players that also received consideration - INF Brent Morel, P Brian Omogrosso, P Carlos Torres, OF John Shelby III, INF C.J. Retherford, and P Steven Upchurch.
10) Charlie Shirek, P Birmingham
This spot was very tough for me because a lot of the remaining options are a little old for their level and/or aren't getting the desired results. I'm also a bit torn on Shirek, but I think he has to be on the list somewhere.
On the one hand, he's been pretty productive in his professional career, consistently posting an ERA in the mid-threes with very good control. He uses a low-90s sinker to generate a lot of ground balls and keep the ball in the park.
However, his low strikeout rate is a concern. He struck out about six batters per nine innings in A-Ball, but that number fell to just under three in Birmingham this year.
He's likely going to have to miss more bats at the upper levels to be considered a legitimate prospect. Developing his secondary pitches would help a lot as they are generally considered mediocre.
He also turns 24 in October, so he will need to convince the Sox that he is a legitimate option in the majors fairly soon if he is ever going to get a shot in the majors.
9) Stephen Sauer, P Kannapolis
I might have rated Sauer a little higher if he were younger. He just turned 23 and is still in low-A Kannapolis.
However, he is a talented arm that has been productive this season. He has posted a 3.27 ERA this year with great command and a solid ground ball rate. He also still strikes out eight batters per nine innings, which gives him a slight edge over Shirek in my book.
Like Shirek, he uses a low-90s sinker as his bread and butter. He also throws a curveball and slider and can throw strikes with any of them.
He needs a big year where he soars through multiple levels next year, but it's possible if he keeps producing.
8) Josh Phegley, C Kannapolis
I'm obviously leaning more towards tools that production at the bottom portion of this list. Though he's only hitting .214 at the moment, he also already has seven homers in 34 games.
There are significant doubts that he will pan out. A lot of scouts aren't sure he will hit well enough at the major league level. This is made worse by the fact that they also aren't sure that he'll be any more than an average defensive catcher.
However, he put up some great numbers in college, and if he can hit to his potential while sticking behind the plate, he's a major asset.
7) Charlie Leesman, P Kannapolis
There are other pitchers in the system that are a bit more advanced, but Leesman appears to have more upside than those players.
He's putting up good but not great numbers at Kannapolis. He has a solid 2.97 ERA and doesn't allow many homers, but his walk rate is far too high and he's only averaging 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year.
From what I've read, his fastball is usually between 88 and 91 mph with a "slurve" type curveball and a decent changeup. He's not overpowering, but as he adds polish he could be an asset down the road.
6) Trayce Thompson, OF Bristol
Thompson is another player with more potential than production thus far. He was the Sox's second-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft out of Santa Margarita high school.
Thompson is what scouts like to call "projectable." He's a tall, lanky outfielder with solid athleticism. He's a work in progress, but he has the potential to be a five-tool player down the road.
He may need to cut down the length of his swing in the future, as he strikes out at a pretty high rate.
5) Jordan Danks, OF Birmingham
If I had written this article a few months ago, Danks probably would have been higher. He was having a great season before it was derailed by a wrist injury.
While he came back to play after his initial time off, his batting average plummeted and was recently put back on the DL. Jordan hit only .193 after his return from the disabled list.
When he was healthy, he was easily the third best prospect on this list and a candidate to be even higher. He had been hitting comfortably over .300 most of the year and was patient enough to keep his on base percentage at or above .400 before the injury. He also has good speed that makes him a factor on the base paths and on the field.
However, he does have some drawbacks.
His power is inconsistent at best, so he's not a good candidate to hit in the middle of the order. He also strikes out at a disturbingly high rate. While it hasn't affected him too much thus far, it could be an issue down the road as he faces tougher pitchers.
There are also the obvious concerns about the lingering wrist issue now. He clearly wasn't the same player when he returned from the disabled list. It seems likely that they will shut him down for the rest of the season and hopefully he will return at full strength next season.
4) Dayan Viciedo, 3B Birmingham
He hasn't had the most impressive season on paper, but Dayan definitely has talent and is definitely in the organization's plans for the future.
The 20-year-old Cuban import has held his own in AA despite the fact that he is extremely young for the level. He's hitting .277 with 10 homers and 64 RBI on the season.
The biggest thing that Viciedo needs is more experience. He's extremely raw and hasn't quite figured out how to take advantage of his elite power and solid contact skills yet.
He's a free swinger at the plate that needs to be more patient and pick his pitches. Even though he'll never be one of the more patient guys in the league, a little more plate discipline will give him more opportunities to drive the ball and take advantage of his power to all fields.
There's also some question as to whether or not he'll stick at third base. Though he's gotten better as the year has passed, he's still not exactly a Gold Glove candidate.
3) Jared Mitchell, OF Kannapolis
I'm rating him higher than most people probably will because of his raw talent. He's still at least a few years away from the majors, but probably has the highest potential of any player in the system.
In his 26 games since signing with the Sox, he's hitting .287 with a .415 on base percentage. He has yet to hit a home run and is 4-for-7 in stolen bases.
The Sox 2009 first-round pick has all of the tools to be an elite major league player.
He is an excellent athlete with great speed and good raw power. When he makes contact, the ball is generally hit pretty well. He also has shown good patience at the plate, in fact some would argue a little too much patience.
The big question with Jared as he advances will be his contact rate. He strikes out around once per game and has a decent but not great batting average. He doesn't necessarily have to hit .300 to make an impact, but he has to make enough contact to start capitalizing on his power and keep his on base percentage respectable.
2) Tyler Flowers, C Charlotte
Tyler was the centerpiece of the Javier Vazquez trade and has done nothing to disappoint Sox fans since joining the organization.
He has hit .300 with 14 homers, 50 RBI and a .427 on base percentage in 98 games, mostly in AA Birmingham.
Flowers has always hit well, the question has been whether or not he could handle being a long-term catcher. Thus far he has handled the job reasonably well and the Sox aren't planning on moving him in the near future.
He has a chance to make the 2010 roster, though it remains to be seen how much the presence of A.J. Pierzynski affects their plans.
1) Dan Hudson, RHP Charlotte
This selection was really a no-brainer. After his selection in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Hudson has had a phenomenal 2009 season. He started the year in low-A Kannapolis and worked his way to the doorstep of the majors in a very short period of time.
Over four different levels, Hudson has posted a 13-5 record with a 2.28 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 134 1/3 innings.
By most reports he doesn't have elite stuff, but he obviously gets more than enough swings and misses. His fastball normally sits in the low-90s with good movement and he also features a changeup and slider. His command has been his biggest asset this season, he doesn't allow very many walks and does a very good job keeping the ball from going over the fence.
There's a decent chance that he will make his major league debut for the White Sox in the near future.
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