When Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams needs some talent, he’s proved that he’d rather harvest players from other clubs than go the home grown route.

Williams’ strategy over the years has been to use Chicago’s farm system to pick up more experienced commodities.

Look at how the current roster is constructed.  Mark Buehrle is the only starting pitcher that came through the White Sox system.  Of the everyday starters last season, just Gordon Beckham was drafted by the team and was developed in the minors.

Excluding Alexei Ramirez, who was signed as a free agent from Cuba, the Sox have depended on trades to fill out the lineup card.

Williams may very well be planning on dealing for some of Chicago’s needs (first and third base, catcher, bullpen) at the winter meetings.  However, big deals in the last two seasons have left the farm system a bit thin.  Williams has dealt most of his stronger pitching prospects to try and stay competitive in the now.

There is some talent, but do these prospects factor into the White Sox roster or as tender for a player outside the organization?

Here are my thoughts on some of the more prominent South Side prospects and how they may fit into the major league mix in 2001.

Chris Sale, Pitcher

2010’s first round pick was up with the club in August and made 21 appearances out of the bullpen.  The tall southpaw was used in relief and performed well in that capacity, but in the long term, Sale has more value as a starter and should be allowed to develop in that role.

Jake Peavy’s availability on Opening Day is in doubt.  It’s possible that Sale starts the season in the rotation and moves into the bullpen or to Charlotte when Peavy returns.  I’d like to see him as a starter, and I think the White Sox feel the same way.  However, if he can help them in the bullpen this season, he may stay up with the club throughout the season.  Remember, Buehrle spent time in the pen and found his spot as a starter.

2011 Projection: Sale should be around in some role for a majority of the season, though he may spend time in Charlotte if the White Sox want him to throw starter’s innings all year.

Brent Morel, Third Base

Morel came up and impressed White Sox management with his glove last September.  His .231 batting average left a lot to be desired, but he hit over .320 at Birmingham and Charlotte last season.

Given some time to find his offensive game at the big-league level, Morel should bring stability, if not a ton of power, to the hot corner for Chicago.

I think that the Sox have figured out that Mark Teahen is not an every day player at third.  The White Sox should show the patience they did with Joe Crede, who eventually found some pop in his bat.

2011 Projection: If the White Sox re-sign Paul Konerko or another big name bat to patrol first base, expect Morel to head into spring training as the starter at third. 

Dayan Viciedo, First Base

If Viciedo has a spot in the White Sox roster, it probably won’t be at third.

The Sox had hoped the Cuban free-agent signing of 2008 could fill that role, but his glove is a big question mark.  Morel’s arrival in Charlotte moved Viciedo to first base.  Any talk of him helping out the White Sox in 2011 starts there.

Viciedo has a heavy bat.  He had 20 dingers in 86 games with Charlotte last year before being called up this summer, but he swings at a lot of poor pitches. 

The amount of time Viciedo spends with Chicago will depend on Konerko’s possible return and what Williams finds available at first base.  I could see some at bats for him at the DH spot, but it’s likely Williams will want more game-tested production out of those positions than possibly trotting out the next Joe Borchard or Josh Fields.

2011 Projection: Viciedo starts the season at AAA trying to develop some plate discipline, then may be up mid-season or in 2012.

Tyler Flowers, Catcher

Traded along with Brent Lillibridge and two minor-leaguers for Boone Logan and Javier Vasquez before the 2009 season,  Flowers was looked at as the future behind the plate for the White Sox.

It doesn’t appear that he’s quite ready to assume that position just yet.

Flowers hit just .220 in Charlotte this season, despite 16 home runs.  His two short looks in Chicago the last two years didn’t get anyone excited. 

At 24, Flowers is probably going to be a below-average defensive backstop at best.  Until he proves he can be a .280, 20 homer type of guy, I don’t see the White Sox turning over the everyday catcher’s spot to him.  He may be that type of guy in two years, but he’s not that guy right now.

The fact that the White Sox bid in the Victor Martinez sweepstakes tells me the club feels the same way.

2011 Projection: Flowers plays everyday, in Charlotte.  He gets a call up in September, but I think the Sox either re-sign A.J. Pierzynski or bring in another veteran (Miguel Olivo, perhaps) to bridge the gap to the Flowers era. 

Gregory Infante, Pitcher

Infante wasn’t with the club long in 2010, but did not allow an earned run in his five September appearances.

He’s the prototypical Kenny Williams reliever.  He’s got a live arm, big fastball, impressive curve ball when it’s going well, may be a little spotty with control.

The bullpen is a major priority for improvement.  If the memory of the Scott Linebrink signing is still fresh in his mind, Williams trades for that arm or fills the need through the farm system.

2011 Projection:  Infante gets a long look in the spring.  Depending on what the White Sox are able to add in the arms department, he could find himself in a seventh inning set up role.  However, I don’t think the team is going to sit still in addressing the bullpen for long this winter.

Trade Bait?

The White Sox have showed over the years that they aren’t afraid of dealing a hot prospect to make the club better.  Any of the above guys could be sent packing if Williams gets the right offer.  He likes making deals, and I think overall his success rate gives him the benefit of the doubt when we hear of a trade on the South Side.

I think Sale and Morel are safe bets to be on Chicago’s 40-man roster come spring, and I don’t think the organization is ready to give up on Flowers.  But there are many highly touted players who found their way onto other rosters, and the wheeling and dealing of the Hot Stove League has just begun.




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