The future success of every Major League team lies
largely with its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering the 2011 season being eligible.
If ever there should be a poster boy for signing quickly
after being drafted, Chris Sale is it.
Had the lefty out of Florida Gulf Coast University not
signed on June 22 after the White Sox made him the No. 13
overall pick in 2010, he would not have made his professional debut
in the Carolina League by July 2. Without that debut, he
would not have been promoted two levels to Triple-A after
four outings with Winston-Salem, thus ruling out a July 16
debut at the Minors' highest level.
If none of that occurred, there's no way the White Sox
would've summoned him to the big leagues to make his Major
League debut on August 6, just two months after he was drafted.
"During the season, I was always going, going, going, so I
never really got to sit down and really think about what was
going on," Sale said. "I was always going to the next place
or playing. Now, [I can say] 'Wow, what a ride.' It was fun.
This is what I wanted to do my whole entire life, so I
finally got the opportunity to do it. I wouldn't trade it
for the world."
Sale's hope was to make a fairly
quick path up to Chicago, but the big southpaw certainly
couldn't have dreamt it would happen that fast. The idea of
pitching in the big leagues last summer did enter his mind
for the first time when he got the call to go from
Winston-Salem to Charlotte, though he tried not to focus on
it too much.
"When I was in Winston-Salem, I was there for two weeks -- I
think it was 11 days -- and I got called up to Triple-A," Sale
recalled. "I was like, 'Man, that was pretty quick.' I
didn't really know what was going on, so I just went with
"I was the new guy three different times [last] year. I was
just trying to get a feel for everyone -- what they did, how
they were, communicating with different people."
It obviously went well. Sale was closing games for the White
Sox in the heat of a pennant race, and the 21-year-old didn't
even flinch, recording four saves and a 1.93 ERA over 21
games. Sale hadn't relieved since his freshman year in
college, but he's got a pretty simple philosophy when it
comes to the change in roles.
"Pitching is pitching," Sale said. "This is what I say when
people ask me if I would rather be a starter or a reliever.
You still have to go out there and throw strikes and get
outs. It was an adjustment, it was physically and mentally
different. But I had a lot of fun with it."
That's a good thing, because the White Sox plan to keep him
in that role for 2011. When last season was over, Chicago sent Sale home to get ready to start this year, and
that's what he did in terms of his conditioning and throwing
programs. But the current needs of the big league team come
first, so Sale's return to a rotation is on hold -- at least
"Whatever they want to do with me is going to be fine," Sale
said. "I just want to pitch."
White Sox's Top 10 Prospects
1. Sale, LHP: Sale came in at No. 25 on
MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list and was ranked as the No. 6
left-handed pitching prospect in the game. The last two American League
Rookies of the Year have been closers. Could Sale end up making it three in a row?
2. Brent Morel, 3B: More of a right-handed Wade Boggs
type than a power hitter at the hot corner, Morel is ready
to take over at third for the White Sox. He'll hit for
average, as his .305 career mark shows, and he's an
outstanding defender, one who could even play shortstop if
3. Dayan Viciedo, 3B/OF: Nicknamed "The Tank" by
Ozzie Guillen, Viciedo hit a 25 combined homers in 2010, and
the White Sox would love to find a place to put his bat in
their lineup. With Morel at third and first base/DH filled by
veterans, he's giving the outfield a try and looked good
early on. He's not terribly selective at the plate, but his
ability to be a run-producing power threat is legit.
4. Eduardo Escobar, SS: He became more than just a
good defensive shortstop prospect with a bit of a breakout
in 2010, then kept it going with a very strong Arizona Fall
League campaign. He can flat-out play shortstop with good
range, hands and an excellent arm. So, if he can continue to
show anything with the bat, he could turn into a very good
all-around shortstop as he inches closer to Chicago.
5. Jared Mitchell, OF: The 2010 season was a lost one
for the LSU product, with an ankle injury suffered last
spring costing him the entire season. A two-sport star,
Mitchell is a bit raw, but has some baseball acumen. Now
it's just a question of him making up for lost time and
being completely healthy, where his plus speed will come
into play. It could take a little longer than initially
hoped -- he might start in the Carolina League this year --
but Mitchell still has a high ceiling.
6. Greg Infante, RHP: The move to the bullpen has
been a good one for this young Venezuelan, as it allowed him
to go from the Carolina League up to the big leagues over
the course of the 2010 season. He adds velocity to his plus
fastball in shorter stints and has a power curve to go with
it. He's got closer-type stuff, especially if he can harness
his command a bit and should help out the big league bullpen
7. Brandon Short, OF: A Carolina League All-Star in
2010, Short set career highs in just about every offensive
category. He finished second in the organization in average and
fifth in RBIs. He's not a selective hitter, but he's driving
the ball more. The move to Double-A should be a good
challenge for him.
8. Trayce Thompson, OF: He's the son of former NBA
player Mychal Thompson and has the athletic ability to prove
it. He suffered through a rough first season, complete with
struggles and injury. He has a way to go as a hitter, but
he also has got raw power and some speed. He could end up as a
toolsy right fielder, even if he has to repeat at Class A
Kannapolis to start 2011.
9. Tyler Flowers, C: Just about everything went wrong
for Flowers in 2010, putting his ascension as the White
Sox's starting backstop on hold. He's made some adjustments
to his swing to help turn things around. With the return of
A.J. Pierzynski to the big league club, he'll go back to Triple-A Charlotte and
prove he's ready to take over when needed.
10. Josh Phegley, C: There are those who see Phegley
as having moved past Flowers, but he's yet to play more than
52 games in a season and it's not clear if he can handle the
defensive rigors. He does have some offensive upside, and a
full season should help him figure some things out.
Under the Radar
Charles Leesman, LHP: The Xavier product was an
11th-round Draft pick in 2008 and, after having a solid first
full season in the South Atlantic League, he scuffled up a
level last year. But after posting a 5.10 ERA in 17 starts for
Winston-Salem, he responded when he moved up to Double-A,
going 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. He didn't throw well
in the AFL, but it was his first time relieving and after
throwing 148 1/3 innings. His '11 season could go a long
way in determining what kind of prospect he truly is.
Addison Reed, RHP: Known as the guy who "replaced"
Stephen Strasburg in the San Diego State rotation last
spring, Reed is building a name for himself. The third-round
pick was very effective in relief for Great Falls last
summer and he closed for SDSU before stepping into the
rotation. The White Sox will let him start for now, but he
could get to Chicago very quickly if they decide to shorten
Hitter of the Year -- Mitchell, OF
He shook off some of the rust in the AFL last fall. Now
he'll show why he was a first-round pick in 2009. Mitchell
will top the system in steals, hit for a decent average and
even show some surprising power in his first full season.
Pitcher of the Year -- Reed
For the time being, Reed will show he should stay in a
rotation, spending time at two levels while leading the
organization in ERA and strikeouts.
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.