The club has not been afraid to fast-track its college-level Draft picks. This year was no exception, with No. 1 pick outfielder Jared Mitchell from LSU going straight to full-season Class A Kannapolis to make his pro debut.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury suffered during Spring Training is expected to sideline Mitchell for the entire season, keeping him from joining several of the club's 2008 picks, including first-rounder Gordon Beckham and fifth-rounder Daniel Hudson, who were in the big leagues a year after being drafted.
Carlos Torres, RHP
Though he didn't crack the top 10, he could still make the big leagues out of Spring Training as a late-inning reliever who could fill in as a starter when needed. MLB.com's Triple-A Starting Pitcher of the Year went 10-4 with a 2.39 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte last summer, limiting hitters to a .200 average, and he made his big league debut over the summer. The 27-year-old out of Kansas State is a hard worker who coaches love, and his versatility is definitely a plus.
Daniel Hudson, RHP
MLB.com's Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year went from 2008 draftee to one of the success stories of the season in one year, pitching at all four full-season levels in the Minors and combining to go 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings, before making his big league debut where he had a 3.38 ERA in six games, two starts. He could make the Sox as a starter, sixth man/swing man or head back to the Minors to pitch every fifth day, but his big league future seems assured in the near future either way.
Tyler Flowers, C
The Sox knew he could hit when they acquired him from Atlanta in a trade for pitcher Javier Vasquez, but this past year Flowers also showed that he could catch. Doubts about his defense were largely erased thanks to his tireless work ethic, and he was voted the best defensive catcher in the Southern League. He finished the year in the big leagues after hitting .297 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 108 Minor League games between Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte, and he is the heir apparent behind the plate in Chicago.
Under the Radar
Stefan Gartrell, OF
The co-winner of MLB.com's Player of the Year for the White Sox, Gartrell came back from a severe shoulder separation suffered in the 2008 Arizona Fall League to lead the Southern League with a .521 slugging percentage while hitting .281 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs between Birmingham and Charlotte. The 31st-round pick in 2006 out of San Francisco also added 31 doubles.
C.J. Retherford, IF
The Southern League All-Star is a versatile utilityman whose 46 doubles tied for the Minor League lead in 2009. Primarily a second baseman, he is seeing time all over the diamond to add to his value. He hit .297 with 142 hits for Birmingham and is known for his work ethic, as well.
Sergio Santos, RHP
A first-round pick by Arizona in 2002 as a strong-armed, power-hitting shortstop, Santos spent seven years in the Minors with three organizations without getting a callup before joining the White Sox, who converted him to a hard-throwing reliever. Though he is still learning to pitch, his fastball has touched 99 mph and sits around 95, so his reinvention as a closer looks to be his ticket to the Majors. He's just 25, hardly over the hill.
John Shelby III, OF
Though he dropped off the team's Top 10 to Watch list, continue to keep an eye on the club's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, as he looks to come back from a subpar '09 showing. After hitting .295 with 15 homers, 80 RBIs and a system-best 33 steals at Class A Winston-Salem, his average dipped to .243 in his Double-A debut at Birmingham. But the hard worker with power, speed and big league bloodlines will try to turn it back around in a likely return to the Barons' lineup.
OF Jared Mitchell (1) was taken out of LSU with the 23rd overall pick and sent right to Kannapolis, where the 20-year-old left-handed hitter batted .296 with 10 RBIs and 12 doubles in 34 games. He has plus speed, but his ETA has been pushed back about a year after suffering a tendon tear on the inside of his left ankle March 12. ... C Josh Phegley (1S) is more of an offensive catcher, but the Indiana University product calls a good game and is working hard on refining the other aspects of his work behind the plate. A power hitter who blasted 32 homers in his last two years for the Hoosiers, he batted .224 with nine homers, 33 RBIs and a .408 slugging percentage in 52 games in his debut at Kannapolis. ... OF Trayce Thompson (2) is the son of former NBA star Mychael, and though he hit just .198 without a homer in his pro debut between short-season Great Falls and short-season Bristol, his offensive upside is high as a true center fielder with instincts, speed and a good arm. ... LHP David Holmberg (2) is a high school star out of Florida who has four solid pitches, with a fastball that touches 90 mph, a 12-6 curve, a changeup and a slider. He also has a good feel for the mound. ... RHP Matt Heidenreich (4) posted a 4.50 ERA in 16 games in relief at Bristol, striking out 12 and walking 12 in 22 innings. ... RHP Kyle Bellamy (5) out of Miami is a fast-track prospect who combined for a 1.23 ERA in 20 games in relief between Bristol and Kannapolis, walking just two while striking out 32 in 22 innings. He limited hitters to a .169 average and then moved on to the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 1.59 ERA in five games. ... RHP Justin Collop (6) out of Toledo had a 2.72 ERA in 15 games for Great Falls, striking out 33 in 39 2/3 innings and limiting Pioneer League hitters to a .257 average. ... RHP Ryan Buch (8) out of Monmouth had the best fastball in the Draft class, one that touched the high 90s, as well as a curveball with plus potential. In 16 games in relief, he had a 3.38 ERA and limited hitters to a .183 average at Great Falls. ... The Sox saw great debuts from another pair of Indiana collegiate stars in Indiana State outfielders Nick Ciolli (10) and Brady Shoemaker (19). Ciolli hit .317 at Great Falls and stole 22 bases. Shoemaker was an Appalachian League All-Star at Bristol, hitting .351 with 21 doubles and a .426 on-base average as well as a .585 slugging percentage.
Hitter of the Year -- Brent Morel, 3B
With Mitchell, the early contender for this pick, sadly now out of the picture for the next few months, keep an eye on the 2009 Carolina League All-Star who opened a lot of eyes in '09 when he hit .281 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs in his first full season. A third-round pick out of Cal Poly in '08, he has all the old-time baseball hustle and instincts you love to see, and he is a smart player who knows the game. He adds a line-drive swing with gap power.
Pitcher of the Year -- David Holmberg, LHP
In an organization looking for the next big thing among its Minor League starting pitchers, the 6-foot-4 220-pound left-hander already has four pitchers he can throw for strikes and will not be rushed as he works through the Minors. He has a good feel for pitching and will likely start the year in the Kannapolis rotation. He also has a good feel for his secondary repertoire and a good makeup. With the two best upper-level candidates for this honor, Hudson and Torres, both likely to see significant time in the big leagues, we're casting out lot with Holmberg for this pick.