When Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams announced the marketing plan for the 2011 season would be "All In" for the South-siders, people questioned whether he meant that the team was going to spend all possible resources to maximize the veterans on the ball club for a one-year run at a World Series, or if he was simply beginning the process of putting "all" of his top prospects "in" to start the rebuilding effort.
As if he were in an actual poker game, Williams must decide whether he should have a mid-season fire sale of veterans with value to stock his fairly-depleted farm system, or if he should move the few valuable prospects he has for another starting pitcher and some relief out of the bullpen.
Whatever direction Williams and the ChiSox choose to navigate, they will be doing so with a farm system that most experts agree is in the bottom half of the league.
Part of that ranking is due to the fact that Chicago has brought up three top prospects to the big club this year: second baseman Gordon Beckham, third baseman Brent Morel, and Chris Sale, the team's top pick in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Sale reached the majors just two months after his selection has remained with the team since.
Who is left in the minors for Kenny Williams to consider? Let's take a look at the top 10 minor-league prospects for the Chicago White Sox.
Danks, 24, remains possibly the top defensive outfielder in the organization. But the left-handed hitter's offense slipped a little bit with Triple-A Charlotte last season, as the younger brother of starting pitcher John Danks fell to a .245 average with 151 strikeouts.
The White Sox have shown tremendous patience with Danks, but the hope that his bat will ever come around is wearing thin.
Strikeouts remain the top concern with Danks. He has shown flashes of consistency and power in 2011 with Charlotte and that power will have to remain in order to offset the poor contact rate.
Danks possesses above average speed, but likely won't be a major stolen base threat.
The White Sox are very limited in terms of middle infield prospects, but Saladino has the potential to be a gen for the club in a few seasons.
Saladino has been a bit of a late starter, going undrafted in 2007. However, his defense and hitting have improved tremendously, and the White Sox are hoping that his bat and potential for stolen bases with continue to rise.
He's slightly undersized at 6'0" 185 lbs, but he is considered a very good defensive shortstop, with plus range, good hands and an above average arm.
One of Kenny Williams better moves was to trade Javier Vazquez to the Atlanta Braves in late 2008. One of the pieces that came back to the White Sox was LHP Santos Rodriguez.
If Rodriguez can improve his control (7.14 BB/9) he will be in serious contention for a starting position in a few years. He boasts a mid-90 MPH fastball, and is developing an effective slider and changeup.
He hasn't allowed a home run in three seasons. Expect Rodriguez to be in the center of any trade talks prior to the trade deadline.
A.J. Pierzynski isn't going to be able to play forever, and the White Sox are going to need some youth at catcher, either through development or trade. One option Williams is hoping for is Mike Blanke.
Blanke was drafted in the 14th round of last year's draft, but quickly caught everyone's attention with a strong season for Great Falls both offensively and defensively.
The Canadian born catcher hit .329/.400/.508 with the Voyagers, displaying good power and contact abilities.
However, as much as Balnke is credited for having a strong arm and accurate release, his hitting will need to improve if his is ever to become a full-time player. Probably two years away.
Gregory Infante made a name for himself in 2008 when rumors of a plus-100 MPH fastball were being floated around. Those rumors later translated into the mid 90s.
Infante, 23, signed from Venezuela in 2006 and broke into the professional ranks primarily as a starter. He spent 2007 in Bristol and after struggling with Kannapolis to start 2008, was sent back to the BriSox in 2008. Last year he had a solid campaign with Kannapolis (3.26 ERA, 75 K, 37 BB in 88.1 IP), but struggled with his control after being promoted to Winston-Salem (23 BB in 20.2 IP).
Kenny Williams has been focusing on finding a quality reliever in the system, and Infante has been mentioned more than once. He was moved out of the starting rotation in the spring, into the bullpen. Infante handled the transition well, striking out 34, walking 12 and posting a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 IP.
One of the toughest kids in the minors for the White Sox, Jared Mitchell, the team's top pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is trying to regain his speed and lateral movement. On March 16, 2010 Mitchell underwent surgery to repair a tear of the tendon in his left ankle; he missed the entire season. He currently plays in advance class A for the team WInston Salem Dash in NC.
If Mitchell can regain the complete strength of his legs, he can still hit and play the field at a high level. He is probably 2-3 years away, however.
Escobar is one of the top fielding shortstops in the minor leagues. He has amazing range and a quick release with good speed. However, his bat may keep him from joining the White Sox in the near future.
2010 was the first season in which Escobar was able to keep his OPS above .700 for a full season, and even though he has excellent speed, it hasn't translated into stolen bases.
With the lack of depth in the White Sox system, he is easily the best middle infield prospect that Chicago is grooming and will be patient with his development.
Petricka was actually a draft product of the White Sox from all the way back in 2006 when they selected him in the 38th round out of high school. His role is still fairly undefined, so look for him to join the club next year as a middle relief type of pitcher, with the potential to become a starter.
His area of greatest weakness is anything off speed. Most hitters can pick-up on his curveball and changeup, which get him into trouble.
Petricka is 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA over eight starts for Winston-Salem, fanning 48 over 41 2/3 innings.
Right-handed pitcher Addison Reed should contribute to the White Sox in the near future, possibly aiding the troubled relief staff.
Reed has 46 strikeouts over 34 1/3 innings during 2011 stops at Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, with just five walks. He is adjusting to the starting role, throwing his fastball in the 89-92 mph range. When he closed, he was up as high as 96 mph. He's still aggressive but has learned to pace himself as a starter.
The 22-year-old Viciedo struggled early in the system due to his lack of range at third base. His bat has never been an issue with Viciedo hitting .313 with 10 homers and an .877 OPS in 61 games at Triple-A, but the club has searched for a new position for him defensively. He has finally settled in as a respectable right fielder, and is hoping to have another shot to join the White Sox.
And general manager Ken Williams apparently agrees, telling Merkin that “it would be awfully interesting to have him in this lineup” and “he’s obviously got some things he still needs to work on, but I would have no qualms about bringing him here.”
Expect Viciedo to see some action in the second half and to garner plenty of interest from other teams at the trading deadline. As veteran Paul Konerko will be winding down his career over the next few years, Chicago is also looking to Viciedo as a possible replacement at first base.