Breaking down the White Sox farm system

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Breaking down the White Sox farm system

If a major league clubs farm system is any forecast of the future of a franchise, the Chicago White Sox should plan for a little bit of rain. Much like its crosstown rival, the Sox are in desperate need of a number of successful drafts to add depth to their now sparse lower level talent.In an attempt to beef up their minor league pitching this winter, the Sox elected to trade inconsistent closer Sergio Santos in return for right handed prospect Nestor Molina. Molina is an above average pitcher with a mid-range fastball complimented by a slider, a changeup, and a pretty active splitter. The only problem is some scouts do not think that Molina has a very high ceiling -- in other words, he is already peaking and shows little room for improvement. With some fine tuning, Molina could end up a back-of-the-rotation starter at best, but probably has a better chance of being a late-inning reliever.South Side farm system poster boy Addison Reed is one of the bright spots for a farm system lacking depth in the worst way. The large-framed Reed tops out in the 95 mph range, but his biting slider has catapulted him to the next level and his active arm and electric stuff will eventually land him in the closers role. The Sox are a team still searching for someone to call their everyday closer and while Chis Sale appears to be the next to get his shot in that role Reed will probably get his audition this summer.Another pitcher walking the line between starter and bullpen is former Padre Simon Castro. Castro was acquired in the Carlos Quentin trade and is the high-potential type player you love to have in your farm system. On the contrary, there are some question marks that come along with Castro. The 6-foot-5 righty has a mid-90s fastball and a changeup with good movement, both of which he has trouble locating. Castros command problems stem from a number of mechanical issues that have plagued him in the past, but the hope is that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can fix his flaws like he has done with so many others in the past.One of the White Sox top outfield prospects is Jared Mitchell. Mitchell, a two-sport standout at LSU, was the White Sox first-round selection in the 2009 draft. General manager Kenny Williams and the rest of the Sox organization had high hopes for the extremely athletic outfielder, and in 2009 Mitchell hit .327 with 25 extra base hits, 36 steals and showed great power to the opposite field. Mitchell was also named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. It seemed as if the sky was the limit for him until he ruptured his Achilles' tendon making a circus catch in a 2010 spring training game. The unfortunate incident surrounded Mitchell with a great deal of uncertainty because such a large part of his game relies on speed. At times his outstanding acceleration made up for his lack of experience and instinct in the field.Mitchell returned to the lineup and played a full 2011 schedule but he struggled significantly, hitting only.222 and fanning 183 times -- 38 percent of his trips to the plate. He has shown signs of improvement early this season with Double-A Birmingham and is currently hitting .341 with a .471 OBP in 24 appearances. Perhaps more importantly, he is showing significant speed which means he is close to 100 percent recovered from the Achilles' injury. That is giving Williams and Co. hope that he is not far from playing in the big leagues on an everyday basis.The White Sox system is not considered strong by most talent evaluators, but after changing scouting directors and putting a renewed emphasis on developing pitching the Sox are hopeful that brighter days are ahead for an organization that trying to retool from within. Right now the major league club is led by a solid core of veterans, but as they continue to age it will be imperative that the team's drafts start producing at a solid rate of return.Joe Musso contributed to this article.

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

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Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”