12/04/09 5:43 PM EST
No shortage of Sox impact candidates
Youngsters have served as fill-ins as well as trade bait
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
For example, Aaron Poreda, arguably one of the franchise's top pitchers in the system in 2009, was one of the four young arms moved to San Diego as part of the Jake Peavy deal. Clayton Richard, who had surpassed the prospect level and had begun to establish himself as a viable Major League pitcher, also was sent to San Diego in the deal.
Then, there was Brandon Allen, a fast-rising designated hitter/first-base prospect who was used by general manager Ken Williams in a trade to pry loose reliever Tony Pena from Arizona. Pena conveniently takes over the late-inning relief role vacated by free agent Octavio Dotel's departure.
Chris Getz and Josh Fields were traded to Kansas City during this current offseason, allowing the White Sox to acquire Mark Teahen and insert the left-handed hitter as their starting third baseman. Of course, Chicago had derived in-house benefits from its fast-rising prospects.
Gordon Beckham was selected by his peers as the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner in two separate votes, and the team's top pick in the '08 First-Year Player Draft will move from third to second base in '10. Daniel Hudson made his way through pretty much the entirety of Chicago's Minor League pipeline, stopping at Class A Kannapolis, Class A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in '09 alone, before putting himself in play for a White Sox starting spot or relief role with a strong final month in the big leagues.
Williams still won't shy away from moving top raw talent in order to bring back an impact veteran. With the support of two strong Draft classes, though, Williams also has infused some of this young talent on to the roster without having to completely rebuild. In presently open spots such as leadoff hitter or a couple bullpen vacancies, the White Sox have insulated themselves with capable players even without any forthcoming trades or free-agent additions.
"It is tough to do, but it was necessary," said Williams of the youth infusion employed over the past two years in particular. "You do what is necessary, what you think is right. We have to do so with a mind-set of still trying to win, because that is our standard."
Here is a look at five players who have a legitimate chance to impact the club in 2010, in no particular order.
Dayan Viciedo, 3B: The 20-year-old signed out of Cuba to a four-year, $10 million deal prior to the 2009 season has been left at third base because Minor League Director Buddy Bell has been supportive of Viciedo's improvement at the position. Viciedo's size and skill-set could ultimately move him to first base.
"Do I think ultimately he might go to the other side of the field because of the athleticism we want out there and the way we are shaped? Yeah, it's a possibility," said Williams of the 5-foot-11, 240-pound Viciedo. "But it's too soon, because you never know when your next deal or opportunity may come.
"You leave them at their main position first, because you don't want to stunt their growth at that position. After that, you can go over to first base pretty easily."
Viciedo hit .280 with 12 home runs and 78 RBIs for Birmingham in 2009 and could even figure into the White Sox '10 plans at designated hitter.
"He's very much in the plans. How can he not be?" Williams said. "The kid is going to light up the scoreboard when he gets here. He worked his tail off, which I'm very proud of. He's going to force his way here.
"Where that shakes out, we will figure it out at the time. I like it when guys force their ways here."
Daniel Hudson, RHP: The return of Freddy Garcia leaves the starting rotation as solid from top to bottom as any of the AL's front five. Hudson's presence gives the White Sox that often-needed quality sixth starter who can step in due to injury or ineffectiveness. But according to Minor League pitching coordinator Kirk Champion, Hudson also could work in a relief role. It's an on-the-job-training approach employed by the White Sox with Mark Buehrle in 2000, among others.
"When a guy comes through the system like that, you never see them in relief because they are getting their innings, learning how to pitch," said Champion of Hudson, who tied John Ely at an organization-best 14 wins in 2009. "I've never seen [Hudson's] side days have issues, which tells me he's fairly resilientt. He's not a guy who has a tough time outing to outing or in between.
"That learning curve speeds up, but he showed at each level he can pick it up, so there's nothing to make you think he couldn't do that out of the bullpen. He's already got the cobwebs off by being a big leaguer."
Williams has talked about the White Sox being limited, money-wise, during this Hot Stove period. A plus-arm such as Hudson could become attractive to another team in a potential deal.
Jordan Danks, OF: On the heels of a .343 average posted during the Arizona Fall League, the younger brother of White Sox starting pitcher John Danks has put himself in play for the team's final outfield slot.
"There's no question Jordan Danks is making it interesting and giving reason to pause if we go out and are aggressive with a veteran type guy or not," Williams said.
Danks has hit leadoff both collegiately at Texas and in the Minors, but the White Sox might be a bit leery of using the 23-year-old, not a true contact hitter, in such a role. Some in the organization felt Danks was defensively ready to play the outfield in '09, and the lanky left-handed hitter has experience in any of the three outfield slots. He also gained a valuable offensive boost from his AFL success.
"To hit this kind of pitching, it's the kind of stuff I'll be seeing when I do make it to the big leagues," Danks said.
Tyler Flowers, C: The catcher of the future has been described by the White Sox in a somewhat opposite manner from Danks. Flowers' bat is Major League-ready, but he's still developing behind the plate. The White Sox have to decide whether they want Flowers to learn playing sporadically behind A.J. Pierzynski, while getting some at-bats at designated hitter, or catch every day at the Minor League level.
"Whatever we start with in April, it won't be what the team looks like come July and August," Williams said. "We are very impressed with how [Flowers] came in and not just how he played, but how he prepared himself."
Jared Mitchell, OF: Hitting .296 over a mere 34 games played for Kannapolis in 2009, the left-handed-hitting outfielder proved as to how his Major League time could come as soon as '11. The 21-year-old top White Sox pick in the '09 First-Year Player Draft will start '10 for Birmingham, but his progress could impact how the south Siders view the addition of a leadoff man in the open market. They might only need a one-year stopgap.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.