I asked this question to a few folks the other day and I didn’t get much of a response. So I’ll write my own thoughts instead. The question I have for the people who know more about minor league development and baseball in general is AAA the purgatory of baseball? The more I’ve thought of it I think that question would be better stated as is an extended stay in AAA the purgatory of baseball? Or is a long journey to AAA pretty much a death sentence? I’m especially curious for the simple reason that hopefully soon the White Sox will be wheeling and dealing, sending out players with value and getting prospects back in return. I will scream bloody murder if they make trades for more major leaguers. But that is a discussion for another post.
I get the idea of the tiered system in the minor leagues, actually wish that more sports would adopt it and do away with college sports altogether, yet another post. A guy is drafted, starts in rookie ball, and on up the line in hopefully rapid, but not too rapid fashion. So some time in AAA is to be expected. The jump from AA to the majors does seem to be a bit much. Also playing a year in AAA even two doesn’t seem out of the question. However if a guy gets to 25 or and up, it seems like the clock is ticking, if not sounding an alarm.
The Charlotte Knights, the AAA team, and its relationship with the White Sox has been to provide replacement players; need an extra outfielder, bring up Jordan Danks; need an infielder, bring up Tyler Greene. Seriously, most of the time a guy comes in from Charlotte he is a physical manifestation of the “R” in WAR. And even more damning of the White Sox, the Knights have a lot of guys on the wrong side of that 25 year old line I find to be a warning bell (19 out of 28.) They have 4 guys 30 or older and four more that will be turn 30 this year. I thought maybe this was just a Sox thing, but not quite. Comparing it to the Cardinals, historically one of the better run teams in baseball, (ranked #1 farm system according to SB Nation writer John Sickels) the numbers are similar. The Memphis Redbirds have 18 guys out of 30 at that 25 age line and three at 30 or older. The big difference I see is that the Redbirds have four spots taken by guys in their early twenties (born 1990 or later) whereas the Sox have one. I would guess that these numbers change fast, but a certain organizational philosophy seems to emerge. The idea being that the young guns develop fast through the minor league system and get to a point where a team can’t keep them off the major league roster. The White Sox almost seem to be keeping a stable of replacement players, literally.
The looming trade deadline got me thinking about what Rick Hahn and the White Sox will do. Since he took over, I’ve heard a lot about Hahn and his baseball ability and intelligence. Thus far, about a year or so into the job his great accomplishments have been raising the White Sox farm system from last to 28th in the league and signing Jeff Keppinger. As the trade rumor mill started this week, the only thing I’ve heard from the White Sox is that they are assessing the situation. I can only hope that the purge that I and many other fans are hoping for begins soon. I must admit I doubt the White Sox organization, which Rick Hahn has been a part of for twelve years, to judge talent. Looking at the last ten first round draft picks of the White Sox isn’t a very pretty picture, Chris Sale being the notable exception. Again, spare me the Gordon Beckham talk. A quick rundown of the recent picks looks like this: 2003 Brian Anderson, trying to come back as a pitcher; 2004 Josh Fields in minors with Philadelphia; 2005 Lance Broadway out of baseball; Kyle McCulloch, 2006, out of baseball; 2007 Aaron Poreda, part of Peavy trade, last seen released by Pirates in 2013; 2009 Jared Mitchell, still only 24, but hasn’t made much progress beyond double A; 2010 Sale; 2012 Courtney Hawkins 19 years old, currently in rookie ball. Looking over that roster of bad and considering how the high minors are treated by the White Sox, I’m worried about two things. First, I don’t see much reason to have faith that the White Sox are good judges of talent. Sale and Beckham in the last ten years doesn’t seem like a very good track record. I could be wrong, but it seems like first round picks should be a better bet of making it to the major league team. The second worry is that Hahn and company will make some trades, but basically pick up high minor leaguers, or worse marginal major leaguers, because that is all that is available, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, if only for a short time (see: Podsednik, Scott.)
The Sox, simply put stink. People saying such happy things as “can you believe they are only 10 games out for as bad as they have played?” My answer is yes, yes I can. They haven’t even played Detroit yet, so don’t be surprised if they double down by the end of the year and are twenty plus games out by season end. Also don’t take the fool’s gold that if they make a push in September to almost .500 as a sign that the team isn’t that bad. No, they are that bad. There hasn’t been a serious injury to anyone at this point all of the guys that were expected to be the starting lineup have been around, with the exception of Gordon Beckham. And unlike Hawk, who thinks that the return of Gordon is the spark plug for a return to glory, I suffer no such illusions. If Gordon Beckham is the savior, then the Sox are right where they should be. No, it is time for the White Sox to start dealing, and the sooner the better because I think what they have to offer, with a few exceptions, isn’t going to be bringing much back. The longer they wait, the worse those returns get, to the point where it isn’t even replenishing an already thin minor league team, but more of the same AAAA players that they already have.