Every team has players that are up and coming or on the club's last straw. With spring training coming to a close and the rosters spots all filled out, it is time to take a look at the future. The White Sox have talent at every level of the game. These are the top six players to keep an eye on in the Sox system in 2011.
Jordan Danks was drafted to be a future lead off hitter. He was a solid athlete with great potential on the base paths. Unfortunately, Danks has not lived up to this potential in the Sox farm system. He has not been able to get on base consistently throughout the levels of the minors. He has a tremendously high strike out to walk ratio.
This is a make it or break it year for Danks. He needs to start to prove that his talent can come together in some facet. He needs to begin to cut down his BB:K ratio and show a higher OBP in Charlotte this year. His future value is by being a leadoff hitter, and if he cannot get on base, he loses all value.
Pierre did a good job in the leadoff role for the South Siders last season. He produced a WAR of 2.2. His UZR was at a solid 13.4. He managed to steal 68 bases and score just shy of 100 runs. He is entering into his contract year, and he is in his mid 30's. With Jordan Danks, the Sox will be in the market for a solid lead off hitter; this is what makes Pierre a player to watch this year. If he does his job, stays healthy and produces for the Sox on a consistent basis, look for him to be offered a new contract for one or two years by the White Sox.
Tyler Flowers came to the White Sox as part of the Javier Vazquez deal with the Atlanta Braves. He has been tabbed as the future backstop for the White Sox since being acquired two years ago. His first year in the Sox system proved to be what Kenny Williams had hoped for.
After last year, many questions have been raised about Flowers' consistency. He took a giant step backwards in Charlotte last year, posting his worst average in the minors to date. With A.J. Pierzynski beginning to show his age with the bat last year, time is running out for Flowers to show he is definitely the solution for the Sox in the future. The White Sox are going to want to have their future catcher in the majors transitioning with Pierzynski in order to learn the idiosyncracies of the pitching staff.
Drafted in 2009 from LSU, Jared Mitchell was applauded by Kenny Williams as a stud, five-tool outfielder. His road to the majors took a halting stop when he got hurt fielding a ball during the 2009 season. This season, Mitchell needs to prove that he can overcome the injury and get back on track for the Sox. In order to stay in the top prospects for the White Sox and to figure into the future, he needs to show the same ability he did before the injury.
Although he is by no means in a make it or break it scenario, mentally, it can be frustrating and intimidating coming back from an injury. He needs to prove he is back this season. Keep an eye on his games in the minors this season. He will probably start at a low level this season and slowly work his way up. He will probably finish in AA ball this season.
Jeffery Marquez came over in the Nick Swisher deal. He was a top pitching prospect for the New York Yankees at the time of his departure. His time spent with the White Sox has been inconsistent and delayed due to injury.
This year during spring training, he established his name in the mind of all White Sox fans. He pitched tremendously well in Arizona this year and almost broke camp with the Major League ball club. If any pitching injuries occur this season, look for Marquez to be on the first flight from Charlotte to Chicago. He was auditioning for the long reliever role this spring, but I'm sure as soon as he makes it to minor league camp he will be stretched out as a starter. Keep an eye on his games in Charlotte to see how he performs this year and hope for improvements.
Almost every Sox fan knows now of the spring training production of this scrappy outfielder. He has made heads turn during every game he has been in. It is to little surprise that he will be breaking camp with the White Sox this year as the fourth outfielder. Keep an eye not necessarily on him, but the other outfielders. There is not much Milledge can do to earn any extra playing time. Quentin, Pierre and Rios are solidly entrenched in the outfield. If any injuries occur (knock on wood), watch as Milledge steps into the role. If this occurs, this can be a definite audition for Milledge to earn a roster spot on the team next year as a starting outfielder.