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White Sox Mon Mar 26 2012
Every year, Baseball America ranks the 30 major-league franchises on how much overall talent they have in their farm systems. In the 2012 rankings released last week, the White Sox were 30th.
Buddy Bell, the team's vice president of player development and special assignments, could not care less about that ranking.
"I'm not really sure about what the rankings are or what they do," Bell said Friday on a conference call with Sox bloggers. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it."
Bell told us he would put the Sox's record "for candidates for our major league club" up against just about any other team and that "we all feel good about where we're at in terms of development and things like that."
The revamped and retooled Royals are not a cause for concern either with Bell. Though Kansas City was ranked second in Baseball America's organizational talent rankings, and several young players are projected to start and produce this year in the bigs, Bell believes the White Sox can't really take anything away from that.
"They were drafting first for a long time," Bell said with a chuckle. "Their approach is a lot different than ours." Bell was the manager with KC from 2005 to 2007, getting top choices each year and selecting studs like Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.
The Royals get top talent through the draft, but "they do the same things in their minor league system as we do over here, in terms of teaching and things that we do development-wise," Bell said. "The fundamentals are pretty much done the same way."
Bell took questions about not just player development rankings and the Royals, but also the organization's young players and about newcomers to the Sox roster.
That includes new manager, Robin Ventura. Bell had a huge say in hiring the former Sox third baseman back in October, and he had nothing but kind words for Ventura. Bell said that Ventura is very intelligent, and very respectful to the people in the game. He's an easy guy to get along with, and he'll be a leader that the players will want to play for.
Bell sized up some of the Sox most well-known prospects. Simon Castro, a 23-year-old pitcher acquired from San Diego in the Carlos Quentin trade, was attractive to the Sox because of his arm strength and make-up, Bell said. He felt the Sox could tinker with some of his mechanical issues that plagued his 2011 campaign (10.17 ERA in only 25 innings pitched).
Trayce Thompson, an outfield prospect, invoked memories of Jermaine Dye in Bell, saying that both have the same body type and swing. Bell said that he wanted to see outfielder Jared Mitchell more aggressive in the count, noted that he saw pitcher Hector Santiago's velocity jump up a couple notches over the last season, and acknowledged that probable starting right fielder Dayan Viciedo may be uncomfortable defensively to start the season.
Viciedo has switched positions a few times, playing third base and the outfield. "I think at some point he's going to get comfortable," Bell said. "The fact of the matter is you're going to have to find a position for a guy like this, and sometimes you have to go through some growing pains." Bell said that Viciedo is mentally tough, and he'll figure the position out.
Bell certainly subscribes to the old-school way of thinking baseball. While he pays attention to the numbers, he doesn't use them as an end-all to evaluate a player, and while prospects' big league numbers are typically projected while they're still in the minors, Bell made a point that "you don't know what you have in a player until he gets to the big leagues."
Bell and the White Sox will see what they have this season and next, when some of their best prospects make their debuts.