The White Sox have named their 25-man roster for Opening Day and they've played their last game in Glendale. Our season preview series is also coming to a close. We finish by taking a look at the centerfielders of the minor league system. It's a deep group of talented athletes.
Best prospect: Jared Mitchell
2009 in review: Mitchell was drafted 23rd overall by the Sox in the 2009 draft after being named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. His LSU Tigers won the national title. Mitchell reported to Low-A Kannapolis after signing and hit .296/.417/.435.
What he needs to improve: Obviously the major storyline with Mitchell came this spring when he torn a tendon in his ankle. After surgery it is expected he will miss the entire season. So improvement for him will come with getting healthy and not worrying about baseball skills until then.
What to expect in 2010: As I said, mostly nothing. We'll try to keep you updated on how his recovery is going. Maybe if he gets healthy in time he will be sent to the Arizona Fall League, but it's too early to tell what the Sox do with Mitchell this year.
What makes a successful season: We find out that Mitchell's recovery is going well and he is back to full speed. Mitchell is one of the best talents in the system, but if he loses some of his speed because of this injury he will lose a bit of value.
A call away: Jordan Danks
2009 in review: John's younger brother had some good and some bad results in the middle of an injury riddled season. He started the year with a .322/.409/.525 line at High-A Winston-Salem. This earned him a promotion to AA Birmingham. In between two wrist injuries he finished with a disappointing .243/.337/.356 line. He started hot for the Barons, hitting .321 in May, but each month his numbers got worse and you could argue that was because of the injuries. Danks maintained a good walk rate, even when he was struggling, but the lack of performance was obviously troubling.
What he needs to improve: Assuming Jordan is healthy, his priority will be cutting down on his strikeouts. Considering the former Longhorn isn't a big power threat his K rate (23% in '09) is dreadful. He simply can't strikeout that much and succeed as a #2 type hitter in the Majors. You can't blame the strikeouts on the injuries either. His monthly splits were consistent before and after the injuries.
What to expect in 2010: Danks plays plus centerfield, has good speed and draws walks. That won't change. He'll almost certainly start in Birmingham and look to move up to Charlotte before the year is over. A healthy Danks should perform better than he did in the second half of last year.
What makes a successful season: The 23-year-old has to show he can hit for average in the high minors. If his wrist injuries were the reason for his struggles last year, he will have to prove that by raking in the Southern League. He got a lot of mostly unwarranted buzz this spring. He's not going to be on the White Sox in the early part of 2010. His target should be 2011. Danks needs to hit at least .290 and strikeout in closer to 20% of his plate appearances (probably cut them down more than that, but I'll take baby steps).
Speedster in need of a big year: Justin Greene
2009 in review: Greene had one of the strongest first halves in the system last year. Greene hit .303/.394/.444 in Kannapolis and earned a promotion to High-A Winston-Salem. He struggled there (.240/.332/.309), but put himself on the radar. Greene has great speed and good on-base skills, but little in the way of power.
What he needs to improve: For as fast as Greene is, he's not a big base stealing threat. Changing that should be a priority for the 20th round selection in the '08 draft. Also, Greene struck out in an abysmal 27.2% of his plate appearances for the Dash. It was a relatively small sample size (191 PA), but that number is far too high for a speedster with little power.
What to expect in 2010: The 24-year-old will almost certainly start in Winston-Salem this year. He will have a chance to prove his late season struggles were a fluke. He's going to have to because he's going to be old for the Carolina League.
What makes a successful season: Greene needs to cut down on the strikeouts, show improved baserunning instincts and hit well enough to earn a promotion to Birmingham sometime in 2010. Last year was his first full season in pro ball, so it's unfair to expect too much out of him but at 24 he needs to move through the system quickly.
Kyle Colligan was drafted in the 12th round in 2009 after four productive years at Texas A&M. He is a big, strong athlete with good power and patience. He hit .273/.387/.437 in Rookie Great Falls last year. He got just two plate appearances with the big league club in spring training, but one was a home run off Edgar Osuna of the Royals (who is 22 and has never pitched above AA if you were wondering). Alejandro De Aza was claimed off waivers from Florida and has seen some time in the Majors, but will start the year in Charlotte. De Aza has good speed and some talent, but seems like a 4th outfielder at best.
If you throw in Trayce Thompson and John Shelby as centerfielders, the White Sox have a really deep crop of centerfield prospects. There has been a notable shift towards drafting athletes in the organization and the talent level in the outfield is proof. Danks, Mitchell and Thompson all have good upside and are all great athletes. Outfield, and centerfield especially, is one of the strengths of the system.