Direct from Central casting?

OK, it’s not as clever as C-YA Friday. What can I say? Lisa’s a better marketer than I am. I just couldn’t come up with a better theme for Tuesday’s Around the Minors organization previews (to be heard on MLB Radio at 12-1 p.m. ET). We’ve got Cincinnati and Detroit and both are playing in Central Divisions, are they not? I guess I could’ve gone with some sort of CD reference. Oh well.

Before I get to our Five Faves for the show, I read something coming out of Chicago I had to discuss here. It seems that GM Kenny Williams threw Duane Shaffer, Senior Director of Player Personnel, under the bus during a town hall meeting on Saturday. Here’s an excerpt from Joe Cowley’s story in the Chicago Sun-Times:


During Saturday’s town hall-style meeting with fans, Williams was asked
about the Sox’ lack of developing in-house pitching talent. That was
made even more obvious this offseason when Williams had to trade Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy to replenish that department.

Shaffer, who was also criticized by manager Ozzie Guillen last season, is in charge of the draft, and now Williams wants that department to start producing.


”Because we’ve missed on our evaluations from our amateur scouting
department too often,” Williams responded to the fan’s question. ”The
scouting department has been put on notice. I expect more from them.”

He later tried to soften things by saying his message of not resting on the 2005 World Series title laurels was pointed at everyone, not just Shaffer and his staff. Now it’s true that some of the White Sox’ drafts over the past few years haven’t been tremendously productive. A lot of the pitching talent brought in has indeed flamed out or gotten hurt. But I think some things need to be pointed out in terms of why the White Sox, according to Williams, haven’t developed in-house pitching talent.

How far back is Williams going? McCarthy, used to "replenish the system" according to the story, was a 2002 draft pick. A 17th-rounder at that and he was ready to contribute big-time to the White Sox rotation. If you want to go back a little further, Mark Buehrle was a 1998 draftee who signed in 1999. Jon Garland wasn’t drafted by the White Sox, but they got him as a Minor Leaguer and developed him into a big part of the rotation. Sean Tracey  may have angered Ozzie Guillen, but still has a big league future. Lance Broadway, the 2005 first-round pick, will be at Triple-A, knocking on the door. Right behind him should be Kyle McCulloch, the 2006 first-rounder who should move quickly. Heath Phillips (2000) and Charlie Haeger (2001) are just about ready to contribute. There are a host of other arms in the system with promise, who could help out in the next few years if they are still with the White Sox.

And I guess that’s what bothered me the most about Williams’ comments. Sure, maybe the Sox don’t have the most talent-rich pitching corps in baseball, but doesn’t Williams bear some responsibility for that? He traded away Gio Gonzalez (2004 draftee) and Daniel Haigwood (2002) to Philadelphia for Jim Thome. Back in July of 2004, he traded Jon Rauch (granted, it took him a while to establish himself) to the Expos for Carl Everett. Last year, Tyler Lumsden was sent to Kansas City to bring in Mike MacDougal. It’s clear that Ken Williams sees the farm system as a place to find bargaining chips for trades. That’s fine, especially since it did lead to a World Series title, but then don’t go ripping the farm system for not providing more talent to the big leagues.

Besides, even if pitching isn’t a strength, there’s still some nice bats at the upper levels waiting to break in. Brian Anderson may have not done well in his big league debut, but the 2003 first-rounder still has time to prove himself. Josh Fields and Ryan Sweeney are ready for full-time roles now. Williams traded Chris Stewart, who at the very least could be an excellent backup catcher right now. But the trade that hurts the most is the one that sent Chris Young to Arizona. Imagining him in center field right now would make a lot of White Sox fans happy.

Wow, that was  a long tangent. Let’s get to the Five Faves for the Tigers and Reds:

REDS

Homer Bailey, RHP
Joey Votto, 1B
Jay Bruce, OF
(I don’t think any team has an easier three to pick from)
Johnny Cueto, RHP
Paul Janish, SS
(I’ll get into why I chose Janish on the show)

TIGERS

Cameron Maybin, OF
Andrew Miller, LHP
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Gorkys Hernandez, OF
Brent Clevlen, OF

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