Top Ten Prospects: Chicago White Sox
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Phil Rogers
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
Some years the White Sox are sellers, and some years they are buyers. The latter was the case in 2003. Having added one 20-game winner in Bartolo Colon and discovered another in Esteban Loiaza, general manager Ken Williams figured he had a team with staying power. So he made a flurry of trades that cost Chicago six of its top 30 prospects entering the season.
Lefty Royce Ring and righty Edwin Almonte were part of the payment to get Roberto Alomar from the Mets. Outfielder Anthony Webster and righties Josh Rupe and Franklin Francisco pried Carl Everett from the Rangers. Second baseman Tim Hummel brought Scott Sullivan from the Reds. Williams also sent two lesser minor league pitchers to the Angels for Scott Schoeneweis.
The moves helped the White Sox recover from a 45-49 first half and take a two-game lead in the American League Central on Sept. 9. But Chicago lost the last five games of its season series with Minnesota and ultimately finished four games behind the Twins.
The White Sox were left with nothing to show for thinning out their prospect depth. Add in the stunted development of outfielder Joe Borchard, lefty Corwin Malone and righty Jon Rauch—all considered among the game’s top young talents at one point—and the departure of 1999 first-round pick Brian West to play football at Louisiana State, and it was a negative year for Chicago’s system.
There were some bright spots. Miguel Olivo jumped from Double-A to the majors, establishing himself as the regular catcher despite hitting just .237. Outfielder Jeremy Reed and lefty Neal Cotts also emerged as likely contributors in the not-too-distant future. Reed won the minor league batting title at .373, while Cotts salvaged something from the Keith Foulke-Billy Koch deal with the Athletics.
While the system saw upheaval, so too did the front office. Scouting director Doug Laumann was demoted to special-assignment scout in July. In three years on the job, Laumann drafted the system’s top two prospects in Reed and righty Kris Honel. He had a strong draft in 2003, which included outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Brian Anderson, plus shortstop Robert Valido.
Farm director Bob Fontaine Jr. was interested in replacing Laumann, returning to the scouting director’s role after previously serving in that capacity for the Angels. That didn’t happen, so Fontaine became scouting director for the Mariners.
Duane Shaffer, Sox senior director of player personnel, reassumed scouting director duties after holding that post from 1991-2000. His draft picks include Mark Buehrle, a 38th-rounder in 1998, and Borchard. The new farm director is Dave Wilder, who held that job for the Cubs before becoming an assistant GM with them and the Brewers.
Shaffer and Wilder have their work cut out for them. The White Sox aren’t bereft of minor league talent, but they’re weaker than they have been in years. They can begin restocking with the 2004 draft, as they own six picks in the first two rounds after losing Colon and Tom Gordon to free agency.
Top Prospect: Jeremy Reed, of
Age: 22 Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Bats: L Throws: L
Background: Doug Laumann, who lasted three years as the White Sox’ scouting director, may have hit a home run with Reed. Reed played mostly first base during his first two seasons at Long Beach State before moving to the outfield as a junior. Laumann and scouts Joe Butler and Matt Hattabaugh saw enough to project him as a big league center fielder. It required less faith to envision Reed producing with a wood bat. He used wood when he won the Alaska League MVP award in 2000, and again when he led Team USA in hitting with a .366 average in 2001. But even Chicago has been surprised at how quickly Reed has adapted to pro ball. After hitting .319 at low Class A Kannapolis in his pro debut, Reed led the minors with a .373 average and .453 on-base percentage last year. He was at his best after a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, hitting .409-7-43 with 18 steals. After the season, Reed started in the outfield for the Team USA squad that was upset by Mexico in the Olympic qualifying tourament.
Strengths: Reed can really hit. He not only has a simple stroke that allows him to make contact almost at will but he also has a terrific eye for the strike zone. He walked nearly twice as much as he struck out in 2003. Wally Backman, his manager at Birmingham, says Reed has such an advanced ability to anticipate pitches that he sometimes helps teammates prepare for at-bats. Like a young Rafael Palmeiro, Reed uses the whole park with his line-drive stroke and should develop more power in time, though he’ll generate a lot more doubles than homers. He’ll probably max out at 15-20 homers annually. Reed runs well and has a natural aggressiveness that allows him to stretch hits into an extra base. He has become an average center fielder and should get better with more experience there. His arm is average, and he could possibly play right field if he can’t stick in center.
Weaknesses: Reed’s aggressiveness occasionally turns into recklessness. He needs to pick his spots better as a basestealer after getting caught in 13 of 31 attempts in Double-A. If he proves unable to handle center field, he won’t have the home run power typical of a corner outfielder. Reed sprained his right wrist while with the U.S. qualifying team, but he’s expected to be fine by spring training.
The Future: Reed is on the fast track to Chicago. He’ll go to big league camp as a nonroster invitee, and the White Sox don’t have a clear-cut center fielder. Several club officials would like to see Reed get a full season at Triple-A Charlotte, however, and he’ll likely open the season playing alongside Joe Borchard there. With Magglio Ordonez one year away from free agency, it’s conceivable both Reed and Borchard will be regulars in 2005.