10/13/2003 12:35 PM ET White Sox minor league recap By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Neal Cotts' Triple-A numbers were impressive, though he struggled with the big club. (Frank Franklin II/AP)
CHICAGO -- There was nothing minor about the trades made by Kenny Williams during the course of the 2003 season. The White Sox general manager added veteran infielder Roberto Alomar, outfielder Carl Everett, and relief pitchers Scott Schoeneweis and Scott Sullivan, all with the thought of pushing the team to an American League Central title and even further into the post-season. Williams' plan seemed to work for most of the season's second half, before five straight losses to Minnesota finished off the South Siders.
Williams' moves were made that much more impressive by that fact that the only Major League player given up was Gary Glover, a seldom-used right-handed reliever. Instead, it was three minor leaguers sent off to the New York Mets for Alomar and a couple of more for Everett.
Despite the loss of Royce Ring, the left-handed reliever who was the team's first-round selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, and other top prospects such as Anthony Webster and Joshua Rupe, the White Sox minor league system remains strong looking forward to 2004.
"It's very satisfying," said White Sox senior director of player personnel Duane Shaffer of the organization's depth. "We are now sitting in pretty good position at the Major League level and with the players coming up to the White Sox."
Single-A Winston-Salem captured the Carolina League title, and Double-A Birmingham fell one victory short of reaching the Southern League championship series, after winning the league title in 2002.
Triple-A Charlotte was eliminated from playoff contention on the second-to-last day of the International League season, despite winning more games than the division champion Durham Bulls. Great Falls also fell one game short of the playoffs in Pioneer League competition.
But the minor leagues are more about the development of the individual prospects than the success of the overall teams. The White Sox were lucky enough to produce at both levels.
"Overall, it went pretty well, considering we had our share of injuries in the system and lost some good kids to trade," said White Sox director of player development Bob Fontaine, who oversees the minor leagues. "All of our teams were very competitive.
"Our pitching is still very strong. But we made some strides offensively within the system."
Here is a look at a few of the team's well-known prospects and their chances for future advancement.
Joe Borchard: A first-round pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, the center fielder struggled when called up to the White Sox. Borchard hit .184 in 16 games, with 18 strikeouts in 49 at-bats.
Those offensive struggles continued at Charlotte, with Borchard having more strikeouts than hits at one point late in the season. But Borchard came on strong during the final month, finishing at .253 with 13 home runs, 20 doubles and 53 RBIs. If Everett is not brought back as a free agent, the 24-year-old Borchard would get a chance to replace him in the outfield.
"Borchard had an interesting year," Fontaine said. "He finished very, very strong and improved defensively.
"In terms of development, it was a good year for Borchard. He experienced a lot of things he will experience up here, and that should make him a better player."
Neal Cotts: The left-hander's numbers at Birmingham were astounding -- 133 strikeouts in 108 1/3 innings, and a 2.16 ERA that would have been tops in the Southern League with another 3 2/3 innings needed to qualify. But Cotts will have to rebound from a tough stint with the White Sox in which he finished 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA over four starts.
Cotts, 23, couldn't get out of the first inning during his final Major League appearance of 2003 at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 28. Despite a current rough start in the Arizona Fall League, with an 0-1 record and 6.35 ERA in two starts, Cotts' raw talent should leave him in good shape for the starting rotation by no later than 2005.
"I'm really pleased with how Neal came along," said Fontaine of Cotts, acquired from Oakland with Billy Koch. "Here's a kid in Single-A ball one year ago and (this season) had a few very good games in the Major Leagues. He showed he would be a big league pitcher."
Brian Anderson: The 2003 first-round draft pick from the University of Arizona went from the aluminum bats of college to the wood bats in the pros without a hint of slowing down. In 13 games with Great Falls, Anderson hit a robust .388, with two doubles, one triple, two home runs and 13 RBIs. He struck out 10 times in 49 at-bats and walked nine, while stealing three bases.
Surgery on his right wrist in late July ended Anderson's season prematurely. But his healing process is right on schedule and Anderson should be ready for Spring Training, with a certain movement to Single-A Kannapolis or even Winston-Salem.
"Before Brian got hurt, he was doing terrific," Fontaine said. "He was starting to learn about hitting the inside fastball and making adjustments. He has a chance to be a really good one."
Other 2003 draft picks who made strong showings were fourth-round pick Robert Valido, who hit .307 with 17 stolen bases at Bristol, Ryan Sweeney (second round) at Bristol and Great Falls, and Ricardo Nanita (14th round) at Great Falls. Nanita set a Pioneer League record with a 30-game hitting streak, and was sitting at .384 with five home runs and 39 RBIs before a broken wrist ended his season.
Kris Honel: The 2001 first-round draft pick posted his third straight impressive minor league season, finishing 9-7 with a 3.11 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 133 innings for Winston Salem. Honel also made a brief appearance with Birmingham, where the hard-throwing, right-handed product of Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, Ill., could find himself in 2004.
"He went into a tougher league and he had a few moments that were tough," said Fontaine of Honel's season at Winston-Salem. "For the most part, Kris made good strides."
Aaron Miles: At two months short of 27, the second baseman is a little old to be considered a 'prospect.' But for the second straight season, Miles put up big numbers at Charlotte, hitting .304 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs. Miles also hit the ball well in limited at-bats following a September callup, making him a candidate at second base if Alomar doesn't return.
"I'm a little biased, but I think it's a good group of kids and they showed it," said Fontaine of the White Sox farm system. "They allowed the big league club to do a lot of things, by trade or bringing people up."