White Sox have struggled to contend over the past four seasons. What are the struggles for this team linked to? How can this franchise restore its glory days?
Many have talked about the struggles the White Sox have endured over the last several seasons. There is one reason for it, and one only: their minor league system. Here are the issues and myths about the Sox system:
For years, the Sox had a horrific minor league system. Just a few years ago, Carlos Sanchez was considered among the top five prospects in their entire system. That is a huge indictment of the Sox system for one reason, as Sanchez will never be more than an average MLB player.
Could it be one reason only? No, I doubt it. Even though many will talk about Jerry Reinsdorf not wanting to spend money on that area, it is only part of the problem. They were still able to produce pitchers such as Daniel Hudson and Addison Reed, who have had solid MLB seasons.
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The Sox, when developing hitters have struggled. Pitching has always been a specialty of theirs, as many hyped young position players such as Gordon Beckham and Joe Borchard never reached their potential. The South Siders are among the best in the game at developing pitchers, which explains the Hudson and Reed development who were not big money signings.
Another factor that rarely gets discussed is the lack of good players drafted in the later rounds in many years. The point of this might be a bit different than you think, and that is their drafting and developing issue is bigger than a lack of money spent. Why can’t they find some hidden gems late in the draft with great scouting and development? That is the question, even though drafting isn’t an exact science.
My point to all of this is very simple, the Sox struggle to scout and develop under the radar bats. Money is a big part of it, but so is the organizations ability to develop less than elite players. Notice that they like the “toolsy” athlete? There is a reason for that, it is because they feel there is more for them to work with. Having tools mean one thing: they look good in a workout. Past that, it doesn’t mean anything.
The drafts have improved greatly over the last few years, with Rick Hahn as GM plus Reinsdorf isn’t against the current draft economic system. But, even though they were willing to spend the money in 2012 on H.S. OF Courtney Hawkins (Ken Williams was still the GM at that point) he was very raw. He also had great tools, but might not become the greatest baseball player. To prove the point, 2013 first round selection Tim Anderson is at the MLB level while Hawkins is not.
Understanding baseball players don’t have to be “x big” or “y fast” is crucial when scouting amateur talent. Sure, if a player has overwhelming talent an organization should draft him. However, minor league baseball has a graveyard of gifted athletes who never made it to the show. So if the Sox want to improve their farm they should draft baseball players, not raw but gifted athletes.
This whole article is not to destroy the Sox amateur scouting. As a matter of fact, it has improved greatly over the past few years. They are spending the money, and on top of that are filling the system with some decent position player prospects (Zack Collins is the key one to watch) A big issue was talent evaluation in the past when it came to their lack of quality young bats coming up through the system.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Chris Sale, whom they drafted in 2010. Three things: First he is pitcher, and the Sox can develop young arms. Second, he was the 13th overall pick in the draft. Third, he slipped due to potential injury concerns (delivery). So, he is likely the most talented player the Sox have drafted in a while.
To wrap things up, the Sox system still needs work. Anderson is a huge start, but Sox fans need to wait until 2017 when the league adjusts to him. They have a long way to go, but they need to improve one area: scouting. Until they produce better prospects from down in the draft (I know this is hard), this is the key area to look at. But, the future is much brighter for the Sox system than it was a few years back.