Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
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.