Minors system continues to fuel Sox
Prospects allow team flexibility to acquire veteran talent
CHICAGO -- As the White Sox Minor League director, Buddy Bell understands how part of his job responsibility is to get talented players within the system ready to contribute at the Major League level.
Bell also understands from his many years as a big league manager how often that preparedness ultimately benefits another team more than the original parent squad. This statement seems to consistently play out under the reign of White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who has sent out six young pitchers since July 31 in order to acquire Jake Peavy and Juan Pierre.
"We want all these kids to play in Chicago, and that's not going to happen," Bell said. "Some aren't talented enough or some aren't lucky enough.
"Our job is to get these kids big league ready, regardless of what team it is for, from a fundamental standpoint. When we are interested in a Major League player, we know we have players or other prospects like the ones we might have to give up so we can make those moves. It's something we understand."
In the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal that brought Peavy from San Diego, the White Sox gave up Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda among a group of four hurlers. Richard already had contributed with the White Sox as part of the starting rotation and out of the bullpen, while Poreda, the team's top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, appeared to have a future as part of the starting rotation.
John Ely, a young pitcher not known for his pure stuff but having established himself as a consistent, hard-working Minor League winner with 14 victories for 92-win Double-A Birmingham in 2009, was moved to the Dodgers in the December deal for Pierre. During these uncertain economic times where young arms are so coveted, the primary way to pry loose established veterans of this magnitude is to part with a slice of the future.
"We lost a Double-A 14-game winner, a great competitor and hard worker, a Chicago kid," said White Sox Minor League pitching coordinator Kirk Champion, speaking specifically of Ely's departure. "But that's why someone else wants him.
"That's what happens. We lost six pitchers to get Peavy and get Pierre. You wish those six guys were with us, but someone will get those innings, and it probably will be someone we won't talk about until May because those six guys aren't in our system."
Champion and Bell will join pitching coach Don Cooper, bullpen coach Juan Nieves and another highly respected White Sox Minor League pitching coach in Curt Hasler during this weekend's voluntary White Sox pitching minicamp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Young pitchers such as Daniel Hudson and Lucas Harrell will be joined by infielder-turned-reliever Sergio Santos, among others, along with appearances by Peavy, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz in this optional skull session.
Getting to know some of these individuals better, even if the physical part involves nothing more than playing catch, will give Cooper a better idea as to some of the further options the White Sox have within the organization. It will then be up to the likes of Bell and Champion to develop these young men, knowing full well they could be developing them for other teams.
"Basically, it's about what helps us win in the big leagues," Champion said. "We are creating a pool of players who, if they can't help [us] in the big leagues, we can use for other options."
"Any time Kenny or any general manager makes a deal, you hope to do it without putting prospects in the deal," Bell said. "That just doesn't happen if you want to get anyone in return. It's a player who helps you in Chicago or a player who gets someone to help in Chicago. We all understand that, and you really just move on to what you have."
Here's a quick look at Bell's take on three notable position players to watch within the system:.
Juan Silverio, INF: According to Bell, there was a bit of a discrepancy in Silverio's papers over his age, so he ended up spending last year with the White Sox Dominican team. But Silverio was back for a great instructional league showing this past fall and might have physically outgrown the shortstop position.
"I'm not sure if he fits at shortstop or third base, but he has great hands and is a strong kid," said Bell of Silverio, who will start 2010 with Class A Kannapolis. "We are happy to have him back. He has to be considered one of our higher-prospect kids."
Silverio hit .321 with the Rookie Dominican Summer League team, including eight home runs, 11 doubles, 10 triples and 56 RBIs.
Jared Mitchell, OF: The potential leadoff man of the future, the 2009 first-round Draft pick has earned Bell's endorsement as a potential top of the order standout.
"He's freaky fast, strong and very athletic," Bell said. "He's a very intelligent kid. Very coachable."
Don't look for Mitchell to contribute at the big league level this year. Due to Mitchell's reduced baseball experience as a two-sport athlete at LSU, Bell said the White Sox "will be slower with him then we would be with most No. 1 picks."
Dayan Viciedo, 3B/1B: Look for Viciedo to play both third base and first base this season, probably starting the year for Triple-A Charlotte. Bell said the present reports out of Miami from bench coach Joey Cora and Minor League pitching coach Jose Bautista have been solid concerning Viciedo's ongoing conditioning work and that Viciedo could contribute offensively at the big league level in 2010.
"Hopefully they won't need him, but I think he surely can contribute if needed," Bell said. "His feet need work defensively, and I don't know if his footwork will ever be good enough at third. But the kid has great hands, and Dayan adjusts on the fly as well as any kid in the organization."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.