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Sox continue to get quick dividends

Sox continue to get quick dividends

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If the Chicago White Sox current Minor League depth balance seems a little skewed toward the offensive side, it shouldn't be that surprising.

The club needed to package four of its most promising young arms into a deal that netted the White Sox ace Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres in July, including 2007 first-round southpaw Aaron Poreda, who had been MLB.com's preseason pick for White Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

The Sox also lost one of their most exciting young power threats in first baseman Brandon Allen, MLB.com's preseason pick for Minor League Hitter of the Year, whom they dealt to Arizona to for reliever Tony Pena.

In other words, when the team's new "10 Players to Watch" list comes out after the first of the year, don't be surprised to see a lot of new names.

Some were lost to trades. Some will no longer qualify for the list because they've made their full-time graduation to the big leagues. That includes players such as 2008 first-rounder Gordon Beckham, who hit .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games with the White Sox to get some votes in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Beckham, who was drafted at shortstop and spent his '09 rookie campaign at third base, will be moving to second in '10.

But the Sox have managed to accumulate enough depth in their system, especially when it comes to athletic young outfielders, that it won't be too hard to fill those spots with worthy successors.

"I think, compared to where we were when I first got here a little over two years ago, we're more athletic," said Buddy Bell, the team's director of player development. "We have a good group of younger outfielders that aren't necessarily going to be in the big leagues in the next year or so."

In our preseason look at the system, we told readers to keep an eye on Double-A Birmingham, which was coming into the season locked and loaded with many of those hitters. With an Opening Day roster that included names of prospects such as Beckham, catcher Tyler Flowers, third baseman Dayan Viciedo and outfielders John Shelby III and Stefan Gartrell (who would earn our co-Hitter of the Year Award for 2009), and later received such promoted prospects as outfielder Jordan Danks, it was no big surprise when the Barons became one of just three teams in the Minors to reach the elusive 90-win plateau, going 92-47 with production from all of the players listed above.

The White Sox have never been afraid to put their players on the fast track and let them move as quickly as their bats or arms dictate, and this year was no exception.

Certainly the best example of that was right-hander Dan Hudson, who in his first full season after being drafted out of Old Dominion, pitched so well at each of the four full-season teams that he finished the summer in Chicago. He combined to go 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA in the Minors, and then posted a 3.38 ERA in six big league games.

The only thing missing from keeping Hudson's 2009 summer perfect for him may have been the departure of his longtime college and Minor League roommate, right-hander Dexter Carter, who was one of the quartet dealt to San Diego for Peavy (along with Poreda and Carter, the Sox also gave up big league rookie starter/reliever Clayton Richard and Triple-A reliever Adam Russell).

The 2009 big league arrivals of 2008 Draft picks Beckham and Hudson (fifth round) was certainly satisfying for Bell and company.

"If we can get one or two guys to the big leagues every year, you have to feel pretty good about the Draft," Bell said. The club added to its depth in the Draft, taking a trio of talented position players with its first three picks, including two more athletic outfielders in top pick Jared Mitchell (a two-sport star at Louisiana State) and second-round pick Trayce Thompson, the son of former NBA star Mychal Thompson, third out of high school in California. In between, they signed Indiana catcher Josh Phegley, who has good offensive upside at a premium position.

After that, though, they took a string of eight pitchers in a row, including two high school arms in Florida left-hander David Holmberg and California right-hander Matt Heidenreich.

"That's something we hadn't done much of in the past," Bell noted. "Before I got here, most of the players we took were more from the college level. But by design, we wanted to get higher-ceiling guys out of high school who we could project."

The system's overall 425-346 record, helped by Birmingham's dominance and winning seasons from Class A Kannapolis (82-57), Class A advanced Winston-Salem (73-65) and short-season Great Falls (42-34), saw the club finish third overall among the 30 organizations.

The Sox had four teams make it to postseason, tying them for the most of any system, with Birmingham, Winston-Salem, Kannapolis and Great Falls all making it to postseason.

ORGANIZATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Brandon Allen, 1B: We gave the nod to young slugger Allen, who combined to hit .298 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs in 115 Minor League games but didn't qualify for our postseason honors because by then he'd been dealt to Arizona for reliever Tony Pena. He finished the season in the big leagues, hitting .202 in 32 games, and is the heir apparent at first base for the D-backs.

Aaron Poreda, LHP: He was chosen with the preseason honor with the caveat he actually would stick around in the Minors long enough to qualify, which, we said, was debatable. He did indeed make it to the bigs but he, like Allen, was also dealt away, in this case to San Diego in the Jake Peavy trade, finishing with a 3.70 ERA in 14 games in relief in the Majors between the two squads.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Postseason selections: Try as we could, the great minds at MLB.com could not choose between two deserving candidates and so awarded "co-hitter" honors:

Stefan Gartrell, OF: Gartrell, who was just added to the White Sox' 40-man roster , combined to hit .281 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, with 31 doubles and a .513 slugging percentage. These stats were especially heartening for the Sox since he was coming off a serious shoulder separation suffered last fall in the Arizona Fall League. The 31st-round pick in 2006 was a University of San Francisco teammate of Poreda.

Christian Marrero, 1B/OF: The older brother of Nationals prospect Chris Marrero signed as a 2005 22nd-round draft-and-follow in '06, the same year as his first-rounder brother, but Christian has kept pace with his sibling in the stats department. The left-handed hitter batted .308 with eight homers and 74 RBIs between Winston-Salem and Birmingham this season, seeing time at first base and both left and right field, while posting a .501 slugging percentage and collecting 30 doubles. He hit .323 in August.

Dan Hudson, RHP: There was no debate on this pick. In just his first full season, Hudson had arguably the best season of any starting pitcher in the Minors, rising from Class A Kannapolis all the way to Chicago with nary a bump in the road. He went 14-5, and his 2.32 ERA at four Minor League levels ranked ninth among all full-season starters, while his 166 strikeouts and 10.14 strikeouts per nine innings were among the leaders as well. Additionally, his .200 average against was second among all full-season starters. In six big league games, including a pair of starts, he posted a 3.38 ERA and limited hitters to a .225 average in 18 2/3 innings. With a fastball in the low 90s, a changeup with late sink and a solid slider, the Old Dominion product may be in the Majors for good.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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