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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox Minors: By the Numbers

This is the time of year when we have no Sox baseball to watch on TV or at the park and the transactions frenzy following the winter meetings has cooled down.  Without a lot going on I think it's a good time to take a look at the Sox minor league system.  A lot of the big names from the last couple years have either moved on to the Sox like Mark Buehrle, been traded like Aaron Myette or both like Kip Wells.  Here's a rundown of the most important names in the Sox system right now.

 As most of you know, the current consensus number one prospect in the Sox system is outfielder Joe Borchard.  Borchard's offensive upside is in the Jim Thome neighborhood although he doesn't work the count as well as Thome just yet.  Hopefully he can make some strides with his plate discipline.  Defensively Borchard, a former Stanford starting quarterback, has a cannon for an arm.  The Sox aren't sure if his longterm position will be center or right, hopefully he can stay in center and be one hell of an asset.  Borchard's 2001 minor league numbers translate to an 841 major league OPS so he may be playing for the Sox sooner than you think.  I expect him to start the season with AAA Charlotte and be on the south side by the All Star break unless GM Kenny Williams is reluctant to make him a rookie starter on a contending team. 

After Borchard the Sox don't have another prospect that projects as well.  Righty starting pitcher Jon Rauch, last year's Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year is coming off shoulder surgery which cost him nearly all of the 2000 season.  The most recent reports had him behind schedule in rehab and therefore unlikely to contend for a job in major league spring training.  There's nothing not to like about Rauch assuming he's healthy.  Scouts say Rauch is a polished pitcher who throws in the low 90s while maintaining his velocity deep into ballgames.  I think he'll be a strong major league number two. 

Rauch is being threatened on the organizational depth chart by the up and coming southpaw Corwin Malone. Malone also throws in the low 90s and is developing a strong curve and changeup to round out his arsenal.  He dominated at three levels last year eventually reaching AA and going into the Southern League playoffs as Birmingham's number one starter.  There has been some talk of Malone breaking camp with the Sox but he's only logged 19.3 AA innings in his minor league career.  He definitely needs some more minor league seasoning before he reaches the majors.  Look for Malone to start competing for a major league job in late 2002, probably starting out in the bullpen.

The other big name so to speak in the Sox minor league system is third baseman Joe Crede.  This is a guy the Sox have really screwed around with by letting him spend time sitting on a major league bench to give Royce Clayton some late season PT.  He had a slightly dissapointing season last year for AAA Charlotte hitting .276/.349/.464, mediocre numbers for one of the International League's best hitters parks.  He should be a solid major league third baseman with a few All Star seasons but I think that might make him a dissapointment in some eyes due to the great hype behind him.  He's already the organization's best defensive third baseman. 

One name that's floating around a lot is Edwin Almonte, closer for the AA Birmingham Barons last year.  He racked up a ton of saves with a great looking ERA to make him a prospect in some minds but I think his 2001 season was a mirage.  Scouts aren't big on him because he lacks great stuff or command.  The White Sox seem to think more of reliever Kyle Kane since Kane got an invite to the prestigious Arizona Fall League and Almonte did not.  Despite his 2000 season, Almonte isn't showing up on prospect lists, he didn't make the Sox top 10 according to Top Prospect Alert and didn't even garner a mention in John Benson's 2002-2003 Future Stars book.  Look for Almonte to fall back to Earth in 2002, Kane might surface as a solid major league setup man as AFL coaches had wonderful things to say about hm. 

A couple sleepers in the Sox system right now are second baseman Tim Hummel and shorstop Guillermo Reyes.  Hummel was a double A All Star last year after moving to second from shortstop where he played in college for Old Dominion.  Hummel is a line drive hitter with good knowledge of the strike zone.  He's the first real candidate the Sox have to push Ray Durham to another team or position.  He'll probably see a year of triple A before getting a shot as a major league regular.  I have a good feeling about Hummel, I think he's going to be a very good ballplayer.  Reyes was one of the youngest regulars in the low-A South Atlantic League last year.  He is an above average runner with good defensive skills.  At the plate he generates next to no power at 5'9" 160 lbs. but makes good contact.  He struggled with overaggressiveness in the Sally League last year but showed potential with his plate discipline in 2000.   

Overall I'd say the Sox system is weaker at the top than it has been the last few years because the top prospects have migrated on to the majors.  At the same time there seems to be a lot more depth especially in the area of positioned players and lefthanded pitchers.  In 1999 the Sox prospects were Joe Crede and a bunch of righties that threw in the mid nineties.  Right now the Sox have a lot of mid range prospects and if you look deeper a potential new wave of Kip Wells/Jon Garland types in the low minors in Kris Honel, Rylan Reed and Jason Stumm.  All three are hard throwers out of high school and it will be a good two or three years before we know if they are real prospects.  On the positioned players front I'd like to see some more guys with skills like Tim Hummel.  Many of the Sox positioned player prospect are tools players, like Julio Ramirez, that impress scouts with raw power and 40 times while not having a clue about what it meants to play baseball. 

Editor's Note:  Andrew Ritchie is known by WSI's message board crowd  as Kermit thee Frog and writes about the White Sox based on statistical analysis.  Andrew like statistics because it helps cut through the bias when talking baseball.  Andrew pledges to be as objective as possible, but hey--nobody is perfect! 


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