Evaluating the White Sox youth movement

Evaluating the White Sox youth movement
"You could redeem us all, Jose" // Brad Penner, US Presswire photo

The White Sox roster is about 1/3 rookies, and they're in 1st place.  Ergo, such a infusion of youth (or just inexperience) is a good idea, and the White Sox farm system is redeemed, right?

Well, not nickel-and-diming themselves to death with veterans certainly made a lot of sense going into the season.  Even the worst farm systems have bullpen arms and people capable of playing a defensive position.  But now that the truckload of things that needed to go right for the Sox (Peavy staying alive, Rios & Dunn hitting, Tigers meandering, etc.) have, belly-aching about optimizing roster spots, and grabbing spare wins where available can begin.

Not to mention, assessing where the development of each player is.

Jose Quintana, SP

Good for the team?: It's probably not the best for the Sox that he's the de-facto No. 3 starter, but any discussion of upgrading the rotation starts somewhere else than on the spot occupied by the efficient Quintana, and doesn't get started so long as Danks is still slated to return.

Good for Quintana*?: His breaking pitches are far from fully realized, and while he's pretty rigid in his approach (in, in, in), there's no reason to suspect he can't develop his game in this situation.

Dylan Axelrod, SP

Good for the team?: It's not that Dylan Axelrod is bad, or has been hurting the team.  But he's better off providing depth as a spot starter, if for no other reason than Axelrod being in the rotation raises the question of who is possibly ready behind him.

Good for Axelrod?: Counting Dylan out has backfired before, but he turns 27 at the end of the month and has clearly conquered AAA.  Unless he find another 4 mph on his fastball somewhere, he is who he is and should be used wherever he's needed.

Jordan Danks, OF

Good for the team?: We've seen more gaffes than greatness so far, but he serves the needs of a fourth outfielder by running fast and being a defensive replacement.  His unsustainable, luck-fueled success at the plate is more than any other reserve Sox outfielder has managed.

Good for Danks?: Having Jordan up with the big club is all but throwing in the towel on building him as a hitter.  But it's not a good offensive team that tries to see if the breakout year of an outfielder turning 26 in August and playing his third season in AAA is for real.

Eduardo Escobar, IF

Good for the team?: Escobar is capable of filling in almost anywhere--he played left field one game!--and to great effect.  He helped make Brent Lillibridge expendable, and despite being pretty blatantly overmatched at the plate, he has been worlds better than Hudson, Lillibridge or Fukudome.  He has a walk-off hit to his name, isn't a bad pinch-running selection, and if Hudson is any indication, is about as good as what could have been had from an costly veteran utility man.

Good for Escobar?: Eduardo's bat wasn't ready for AAA last season, and doesn't have much of a chance in the majors.  He's still just 23, and if the Sox had any notion that he could improve enough to ever start--for any team--this year hasn't helped.  If no one thought he had a chance of being more than a utility guy, then it's no matter.  The standard of offense for Escobar's glove would have been pretty low, though.

Addison Reed, RP

Good for the team?: He would have earned a spot even in a veteran-stacked pen.  Because of his rise last year before the run on youth and actual elite prospect status, Reed seems oddly removed from this entire discussion.

Good for Reed?: The major league level is the only place he's ever seemed challenged

Nate Jones, RP

Good for the team?: Control problems were supposed to limit Jones to being the last guy out of the pen.  Instead he's suppressed those nicely, and become the unlikely relief workhorse.  He's struggled of recent, though, and an argument for more pen help might start with "Nate Jones leads all relievers in innings..."

Good for Jones?: A 26 year-old relief prospect that's been in the organization since 2007 is a real case of 'use or lose it'.  The Sox had already bailed on him as a starter after 2010, it was time to see if his stuff could overpower major league hitters or think about cutting ties.

Hector Santiago, RP

Good for the team?: Santiago washed out of the closer role because of too many homers, and now is removed of anything resembling a high-leverage situation because of too many homers.  He blows away enough hitters to eat up innings when a run or two can be spared, but is the worst contributor in the pen now that Stewart and Ohman are gone.

Good for Santiago?: Hector blatantly lacks confidence in anything besides his fastball, which is doubly counterproductive.  He cannot survive with his current approach, and he is neglecting the screwball that made him an interesting player in the Spring.  It's a pretty untenable situation for him.

Leyson Septimo, RP

Good for the team?: Septimo has looked good, and was eviscerating lefties like no other in AAA.  He becomes more interesting and useful if Santiago goes down, and a lot more interesting if he is used very aggressively as the top lefty specialist.  Otherwise he seems to just be an upgrade on the role Will Ohman was playing; LOOGY who is not actually trusted.

Good for Septimo?: He didn't start pitching full-time as a professional until he was 22, and it's hard to say he's done working on control, but he's made worlds of progress and is ready to get major league lefties out.

Brian Omogrosso, RP

Good for the team?: Who knows yet?

Good for Omogrosso?: Might as well take a shot.  He's 28.

 

While the youth movement is on the margins, and thus isn't a stinging rebuke of everyone who said the White Sox lacked impact prospects, that also makes it rather harmless.  The Sox have taken their ample opportunity to throw live arms against the wall, and now can move forward with what's stuck.  Another reliever--and a healthy Jesse Crain--would probably be warranted, but it's held up better than expected.

And if Jose Quintana could actually be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter, everything about this process of giving a major league crack to borderline non-prospects looks more measured and worthwhile.

 

*Obvious conceit: the answer to whether it's good for the player is always "yes" because they're pulling in a major league salary.

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  • The rap on the Sox farm system wasn't that they couldn't generate pitchers; they seemed to have a surplus of them.

    What might be the indictment is that there is only one utility infielder and one utility outfielder in this list. Tank and DeAza were called up last year. However, while Jordan Danks and Escobar seem necessary to fill in for moving Lillibridge and Fukadome, the lack of a third baseman sure says something.

  • In reply to jack:

    I should have added after "third baseman" "in the system to call up."

  • In reply to jack:

    I've never doubted their ability to develop pitchers, I just didn't think they had any. It's funny that they have a 3rd base vacuum seeing as it was their most stocked position two years ago, with two future starters rarin' to go, but that's how prospects work out sometimes.

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