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 avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."