Chicago White Sox

Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list

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Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
12:12 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO As the coals in the hot stove are just beginning to get stoked up, its time to rank the current Chicago White Sox, in order of importance for 2011 and beyond. Its not intended to be a strict list of merely the best players, or best values, on the White Sox. Rather, it takes into account team depth, the free agent market, or answering the question of which player would hurt the most not being on the team?

This is meant as a precursor to longer, individual profiles that will appear on CSNChicago.com between now and the end of the year. Thus the list could take different shape over the coming weeks, due to current players being cut loose or new ones acquired.

The first part of this 30-player list tracks the least essential players on the White Sox, leading off with the only player in the bottom third actually deserving of increased playing time in 2011:

21. Ramon Castro, C

Playing in just 37 games in 2010, Castro posted the second-best value of his career, at 4.5 million. The White Sox will welcome back A.J. Pierzynski at the right number (read: a cut in salary) and will otherwise explore the free-agent market. But no matter who the new Chisox starter is, Castro should see his starts double; he certainly earned more playing time with his performance last season.
22. Tony Pena, RP
Pena is a favorite piata for White Sox critics, but his mop-up, emergency-starter role does little for stats and overall value. As it is, it was a bit of a miracle he squeezed a million in value from an up-and-down 2010. With few ready pitching options in the minors, Pena is almost certain to be offered arbitration and duplicate his 2010 role in 2011.
23. Freddy Garcia, SP

Where else can you place an otherwise useful starter who has no rotation slot remaining in Chicago? Garcia is almost certain to bolt elsewhere, as nearly every other major league team is aching for the fifth-starter innings Garcia can eat, while the rotation-rich Chisox can offer no guarantees.
24. Jared Mitchell, OF

Its a lot to call a player whos seen not a sniff of the majors the 24th-most important player on the roster, but after a terrible ankle injury that may end up costing Mitchell at least some of the breakout speed he showed at LSU, how Mitchell rebounds in the minors in 2011 is crucial to Chicagos outfield plans going forward. Expect Mitchell to be Juan Pierres shadow throughout spring training.

25. Omar Vizquel, IF

Yep, an infielder turning 44 early next season still qualifies as this important on the White Sox. Look no farther than the turnaround the team undertook once Vizquel subbed for an injured Teahen at third base, a turnaround that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (perhaps wildly) credits to Vizquel. However, it will be hard to again expect the offensive season Vizquel gave the Chisox in 2010, and if they need him to provide a similar boost in 2011, it spells big trouble.

26. Mark Teahen, OF-IF

Dis 2010s re-signing of Mark Kotsay all you like, but the blind extension of Teahen was Williams biggest mistake of the last offseason. Teahen is not among Chicagos top position players any longer, and barring a breakout performance at the plate next spring, Teahen is destined for a superutility (and salary albatross) role in 2011.

27. Tyler Flowers, C

That the White Sox would like nothing more than to pay Pierzynski and Castro around 5 million total to assume catching duties in 2011 says all it needs to about Flowers and his progress in the minors. In fact, the immediate pickup of Castros team option indicates that Flowers will be patrolling AAA yards until next September.
28. Brent Lillibridge, IF-OF

Lillibridge will fill the same superutility role that Teahen projects to in 2011, albeit at a drastically cheaper price. The truth is, both roster spots could be taken by up-and-coming minor leaguers. In fact, a healthy Teahen and re-signed Vizquel likely turns Lillibridge into a Charlotte Knight.

29. Gregory Infante, RP

With the bullpen perhaps losing Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Chris Sale in 2011, Infante looms more and more important. The right-hander wasnt bad in his first five major-league games last September, but would do better with extra seasoning at Charlotte. Barring a Sergio Santos-style breakout in Arizona, the role Infante is expected to fill in 2011 will go a long way toward estimating Chicagos overall prospects.
30. Eduardo Escobar, SS

One great AFL season does not make a prospect. But given that Escobar has lit up a fall season that earns more than its fair share of attention from major-league eyes, Escobar becomes an important trade chip this winter. Perhaps the inclusion of the shortstop in a Carlos Quentin-Colby Rasmus deal with St. Louis gets that trade done.

Honorable (?) Mentions:

Manny Ramirez, DH: Plenty of smiles, ever-lengthening dreads, but no pop or clutch at-bats left.
Scott Linebrink, RP: Just riding the storm out

Lucas Harrell, P: First startwin last summer may have been his peak.
Alejandro De Aza, OF: A better Dewayne Wise?
Mark Kotsay, 1B-OF: Once star-level WAR has dwindled to negatives in three of last four seasons.
Erick Threets, RP: Will miss 2011; would have been a major lefty contributor.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox Road Ahead: Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer set for first White Sox starts

White Sox Road Ahead: Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer set for first White Sox starts

On this week's Honda Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Honda dealers, Bill Melton and Chuck Garfien talk about the upcoming starts for young pitchers Carson Fulmer and Lucas Giolito.

With the White Sox rebuild sucking up all the attention from fans of the team this year, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have been names in any conversation about the future of the team.

Fulmer, the first-round pick of the White Sox in 2015, made his big league debut with the White Sox last year, but it was as a reliever. This time Fulmer will get the start in the second game of Monday's doubleheader against the Twins.

In eight relief appearances with the White Sox last season, he walked seven in 11 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and an 8.49 ERA. This season Fulmer has returned to starting with Triple-A Charlotte and has a 5.61 ERA with 95 strikeouts and 63 walks in 122 innings.

"I'd like to see Carson Fulmer throw more strikes," Melton said. "Maybe that's all I want to see because I remember when he was here last year he had a tough time coming out of the pen because he was a starter and he wasn't throwing a lot of strikes. So I think the key for me to watch him is, just forget about guys getting hits or hitting balls out of the park, I want to see if he's getting it over the plate, how many times he's ahead of the hitters."

Giolito will make his White Sox debut on Tuesday. Like Fulmer, the 23-year-old has some major league experience. Giolito pitched 21 1/3 innings in four starts and two relief appearances last year with the Nationals. He posted a 6.75 ERA with 11 strikeouts and 12 walks.

The White Sox acquired Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade in the offseason and he hasn't had the smoothest of seasons as a teammate of Fulmer's in Charlotte. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has a 4.48 ERA with 134 strikeouts and 59 walks in 128 2/3 innings for the Knights.

Those numbers aren't going to excite fans, but he has been pitching better lately. In his last five starts, Giolito has a 1.71 ERA (six earned runs in 31 2/3 innings) with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks.

"This is a tall guy, he's a velocity guy, he's a strikeout guy so I'm going to be watching that," Melton said. "And again, nerves. There's nothing wrong with that. First time in front of a Chicago fan base and stuff like that. But a guy that big, I'm more interested in seeing how his breaking ball is. If he starts bouncing it in the dirt, a little nervous. He's got such a good one. I want to see him get ahead of the hitters and see how he puts them away."

Watch the video above to see Garfien and Melton talk about the two White Sox pitching prospects.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Jeff Passan explains why White Sox have the best farm system in baseball

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Jeff Passan explains why White Sox have the best farm system in baseball

After speaking with 24 people in baseball (GMs, farm directors and scouts), Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports made a conclusion: the White Sox have the best farm system in baseball. On the podcast, Chuck Garfien speaks with Passan about his specific findings and how the next few years might play out for the franchise.

How many of the White Sox prospects have to be a success for the rebuild to work? Will Michael Kopech or Alec Hansen have the better major league career? Will the Cubs one day regret trading Eloy Jimenez? Will the White Sox be willing to spend big money to land a player like Manny Machado? Who will be the White Sox closer in 2019? Who might the White Sox draft in 2018?

The answers to these questions and many others on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: