White Sox defend poor prospects rankings

White Sox defend poor prospects rankings

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing at his Camelback Ranch locker, Trayce Thompson began to list off White Sox teammates who make up what's commonly rated as the worst Minor League system in all of Major League Baseball.

Thompson, a rising prospect about to turn 21 on Thursday, didn't seem to agree with the experts.

"I don't really pay attention to all that stuff. I guess a lot of media guys do, but I don't think about that whatsoever," the young outfielder said. "We have a lot of young guys in the big leagues, too, Gordo [Gordon Beckham] and Brent Morel. Addison [Reed] could be one of the best closers in the game this year.

"Jared [Mitchell] is one of the most explosive players in the Minor Leagues, I think. Brandon Short, even though he got hurt, he's a great player and can do everything. Jordan Danks is one of the best defensive outfielders in the Minor Leagues. Tyler Saladino is solid, too. We have good catchers with Josh Phegley and Michael Blanke. We have plenty of talent. I would take our guys over anyone else."

That statement won't exactly get a lot of support from those who expertly study baseball's farm systems.

In the latest organizational review coming from Baseball Prospectus, the White Sox were placed 30th out of a possible 30. And the comment from Kevin Goldstein to go with the placement -- "It really is that bad."

Remember, these lists are the result of thorough research from the respective authority. Jonathan Mayo, who put together MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, on which Reed was the White Sox lone representative at No. 99, polled some 20 scouts, scouting directors and executives to arrive at the final rankings.

Of the main four sources who put out these rankings, meaning Mayo, Baseball America, Goldstein and ESPN's Keith Law, Reed was the only one to make any of the lists. Baseball America had him the highest at No. 66.

"Is it an exact science? No, of course not," wrote Mayo via email. "But it's a pretty good cross-section of what the industry thinks who the top prospects are."

Ask the White Sox about their lack of prospects, and they immediately point to starting pitcher Chris Sale (13th pick overall, 2010 First-Year Player Draft), second baseman Beckham (eighth pick overall, 2008 First-Year Player Draft), potential closer Reed (third round, 2010 First-Year Player Draft) and third baseman Morel (third round, 2008 First-Year Player Draft) as Major League contributors on this year's team. They also will talk about Chris Young and Daniel Hudson in Arizona and Gio Gonzalez in Washington, who started their development with the White Sox.

Of course, players no longer with the team won't count as credit. But general manager Ken Williams' philosophy always has been to get Minor League talent to help the team or use it as trade pieces to bring in veteran assistance.

Both Williams and director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann, who has handled the last four White Sox Drafts, also point to the addition of Cuban prospects such as Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo as increases to their young base.

"However we've got them, whether it be from the Cuban League or through trade or Draft, I've got a lot of confidence in our scouting department and the decisions that we make," Williams said. "Can we do better? Yeah, we aspire to and talk about it all the time.

"We would like to bring in more impact type players. All and all, we've been able to put in one or two young players every year. And that's not too bad."

With the addition of Marco Paddy as special assistant to Williams, focusing on international operations, the White Sox intend to be active in signing players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, where they haven't really been previously. They already added 17-year-old Luis Martinez from Venezuela, who Laumann believes will be "a real quality young right-handed pitcher," and have extensively scouted talent for the beginning of the July 2 signing period for 16-year-old foreign players where all teams have $2.9 million to spend.

Clearly, no team will come out and say, "Yes, our system needs major work," but Laumann admitted that the White Sox are weak up the middle, could get a little more catching depth and always need more pitching.

He also takes umbrage at criticism lobbed at a system he does not believe is nearly as bad as projected.

"It's only natural. We have pride. We feel like we do a good job," Laumann said. "It's hard not to take it personally, and sometimes I think rather than people being open-minded to looking at the total picture, they want to go ahead and try to look at a certain small faction of what's going on. That's a little bit unfair.

"This is my 30th year and I've done this a long time. It's always going to be something that's important to me and something that weighs on me, but at the same time, I feel bad for our guys and our staff because I know that they work their tails off and with what we have been able to do, I think we've got some guys on the fringe of being there.

"There's no question it's subjective, but we like to think we have done a great job getting guys and promoting them to the big leagues," Laumann said. "And sometimes that is held against us vs. something that's viewed as a positive."

Remember, these projections, while well-researched, are not always perfect predictors of stardom. In 2001, as an example, the White Sox had five players in Baseball America's Top 100: Jon Rauch at four, Joe Borchard at 23, Joe Crede at 36, Matt Ginter at 44 and Dan Wright at 61.

Only Crede made a significant long-term contribution to the White Sox.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.