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Mailbag: Futures trading in Chicago
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06/30/2004 11:00 AM ET
Mailbag: Futures trading in Chicago
Are the White Sox dealing too many prospects?
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For the second straight season, the White Sox dealt a Futures Game player before the game took place. This year, it was Jeremy Reed (No. 68). (John Miller/AP)
Mayo's Minors Mailbag is back with an epic installment, answering questions about draft, traded, lost and unheralded propsects.

Remember, Mayo's Minors Mailbag is now a multimedia feature!

That's right farm fans. Send your emails in and not only may I answer them here in this space, but the best questions will be answered on Around the Minors with Mayo on MLB.com Radio every Tuesday at noon ET. So keep those questions coming! Feel free to write about anything Minor on your mind. The questions posted here were all answered on Around the Minors on June 29.

How's the White Sox farm looking?

Dear Mailbag,
You mentioned that for the second straight year the White Sox have traded two of their Futures Game players before the game in consecutive years. Do you think this has negatively affected the White Sox farm system or does it solidify them as a franchise that is willing to go for it? Also, with the loss of Jeremy Reed, what do you think the state of the Sox farm system is?

Thanks,
Dave

Dave:
They have raided their farm system somewhat. They are a franchise that's willing to go for it. If you want to give Ken Williams credit, it's for saying they have a shot in a wide-open division, so let's take a chance. Looking at this trade in particular, giving up Jeremy Reed, Michael Morse and Miguel Olivo for a No. 3 starter who probably won't be around past the end of this year, that's a high price to pay for me.

The farm system is still pretty deep. They still have some pitching coming through, with guys coming back from injury like Kris Honel and Ryan Wing. I think they made the decision that they could trade a guy like Reed for a couple of reasons. 1) Joe Borchard actually is performing pretty well in Triple-A and there's now at least a glimmer of hope that he'll fulfill his raw potential and become a big league player. 2) The success they've had in drafting outfielders the last couple of years. Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney are already in high-A and these are guys who were just drafted last year. So they have some outfield depth.

The reasons you develop a strong system is to bring guys up to fill your own big league roster and to use guys to trade, when you feel you have a chance at winning, for Major Leaguers you already know about. A lot of general managers prefer Major League free agents because there's a big league track record. When you trade for prospects, you don't know exactly what you're going to get. You can do as much scouting and analysis as you want, but there are very few guarantees. They saw Freddy Garcia as a fairly known quality, so they said, 'We have depth, so lets go for it.'

In case people were wondering, the White Sox dealt Futures Gamer Royce Ring to the Mets in the Roberto Alomar deal before the break last year, much in the same way they traded Reed last week.

Whither Philip Hughes?

Dear Mailbag,
I am a baseball-a-holic! However, I am unable to find out if Philip Hughes, the No. 1 draft pick by the Yankees has finalized his contract. I saw that he signed on the Internet, however, I do not understand why it is taking so long for them to place him in Tampa. I saw Philip pitch at Foothills High in Southern California. I am wondering if his agent is "dickering" over the money with the Yankees or whatever. I do know that he was told that he would begin in Tampa. Do you have any insight?

Thanks,
Deb, Northern California

Deb:
I had the chance to talk to our Yankees reporter, Mark Feinsand. I knew that he had signed. He signed for $1.4 million at No. 23 overall. That's right around slot money. And he's already in Tampa. He's playing for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. He made his professional debut on Monday. He pitched two innings, gave up two hits and struck out three with no runs across the board and he didn't walk anybody. That's a nice debut. He's a guy who could move pretty quickly. I'd think this year, they'll be pretty cautious, but next year he'll give full-season ball a chance. Unless, of course, he gets lit up like a Christmas tree in the Gulf Coast League and I don't expect that to happen.

Who is this Jairo Garcia guy?

Dear Mailbag,
Is Jairo Garcia in Kane County for real or are his numbers inflated just because he is still in A-ball?

Thanks,
John

John:
I'd say a little bit of both. He's 21 years old -- he signed back in 2000 -- and he's just now getting out of A-ball. He just got promoted and I think that's going to be the real test.

The numbers that you're referring to in Kane County, the A's relief pitcher was 1-0 with a 0.30 ERA in 30 innings pitched. He gave up just 16 hits and six walks with 49 strikeouts to go along with 16 saves. They jumped him over the California League right up to Double-A Midland. In two games there, over 2.1 innings, he's given up a pair of runs. That's a 7.71 ERA, with two walks and five strikeouts. That's going to be a test for him. If he can start pitching in Midland like he did in Kane County, then I'll say this guy is for real.

His name was being mentioned as part of the package of prospects going to Kansas City in the Beltran deal. He wasn't included in the deal in the end. I don't believe his inclusion was ever close to being a breaking point in the deal. In talking to some people who knew Garcia, they weren't that gung ho on him. He's got a good fastball and a so-so slider, which may have improved this year (perhaps explaining his dominance in the Midwest League). But you need more than one and a half pitches to do well above A-ball, so we'll see how he does. He's still young enough at 21 and pitching in Double-A. We'll have to wait and see.

Where do Reds pitching prospects go?

Dear Mailbag,
I'm a Reds fan, we have drafted pitchers in the first round for years and never heard from them again. What has happened to Chris Gruler, Mark Schramek, Jeremy Sowers and Ty Howington?

Thanks,
Sam

Sam:
First off, Mark Schramek is a third baseman, but he was taken in the first round of the 2002 draft, No. 40 overall (out of Texas-San Antonio). He's playing for Potomac in the Carolina League. He's hitting .261 with eight homers and 31 RBIs. He didn't make his debut until last year, so this is just his second year. He's hitting with decent power, though he is already 24.

Jeremy Sowers' name might sound familiar to draft fans. He was taken in the first round by the Reds in 2001 and didn't sign. He was drafted No. 7 overall by the Indians out of Vanderbilt University. He hasn't signed yet, but there's every indication that he's going to.

He's the only guy who's been healthy out of those draft picks. Unfortunately, the Reds didn't sign him. Chris Gruler was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2002 draft. He had a sore shoulder in the instructional league that summer, so they shut him down. Rather than have surgery, they prescribed rest and workouts. He went to low-A Dayton in 2003. After three starts there, they shut him down and he had shoulder surgery. He's now just getting back. He's had two outings, on June 23 and 28. He threw five shutout innings on the 28th, albeit with the Gulf Coast League Reds. Just to see him on the mound, though, is encouraging.

Ty Howington has also had a large amount of health-related issues. The 1999 first-rounder (No. 14 overall) had elbow surgery in March 2001 to delay his season. He did eventually make it up to Double-A Chattanooga that year. The lefty began 2002 back in the Southern League, but missed a month and a half early with shoulder tendinitis. He came back in June, but was shut down for the year in early August. He came back and pitched well with Potomac in 2003, earning a promotion back up to Chattanooga. A minor foot problem allowed him to throw just 14.1 innings after the promotion. He wasn't protected on the 40-man roster (neither was fellow prospect Bobby Basham) this past winter, but nobody took a chance and selected him in the Rule 5 draft. Howington hasn't thrown a single pitch this year and had surgery to fix a torn labrum in late May to end his season. He, Basham (labrum) and Phil Dumatrait (Tommy John surgery) are all Reds pitching prospects who are gone for the year. Ricardo Aramboles missed all of last year because of a torn labrum and threw just 22 innings in 2002 due to elbow problems. At least he's been back on the mound all year this season, albeit to the tune of a 5.94 ERA with Potomac.

The Reds have had, I don't know if it's bad luck or bad development. Maybe they'll handle their pitchers a little differently in this new management. But they have a number of guys who have not been able to stay healthy.

Where's the love for the little guy?

Dear Mailbag,
Why do so many of the minor league organizations leave such natural talent unknown? Such as Pirates AA affiliate Altoona Curve second base Jeff Keppinger ... leading the league with a .406 average. It's as if they have to hype up all the big money guys. Why don't they give these young guys a shot. They are LOSING anyway! Thanks for your time.

Thanks,
Matt, Atlanta

Matt:
A Pirate fan from Atlanta? Keppinger is what people in baseball call a real "baseball player." That's almost the ultimate compliment. However, that means he doesn't have the most eye-popping tools. He's like a Mark Loretta-type player. He was drafted in 2001 out of the University of Georgia (the real reason you wanted to know about Keppinger, I bet). The guy hit .325 last year with no power and no speed. Now he's hitting .406 in Double-A. I'm not sure what you want from the Pirates here. Do you want them to jump Keppinger from Double-A right to the big leagues based on his .406 average? A .406 average is a .406 average, that's still outstanding. But he is 24 years old out of college and playing in Double-A.

To want him to jump up just isn't realistic. They've already got like 16 second basemen. You've got Bobby Hill. You've got Freddy Sanchez, who's now on a rehab assignment. You've got Jose Castillo. They shouldn't play these guys? You have to see what Hill can do because he was the return from the Aramis Ramirez trade with the Cubs last summer. If you don't have anything, then fine, that means Keppinger will get his chance eventually. Castillo is young. He made the leap from Double-A to the big leagues this year after one full season in Double-A. If Keppinger keeps hitting, he'll probably move up to Nashville next year, or maybe he'll get a chance to make the team depending on what the Pirates do. He just happens to play a position they have some depth in. But they move guys up there. Sean Burnett is in the rotation. They're giving younger guys the chance. Just because a guy is hitting in Double-A doesn't mean he's ready for the big leagues. Keppinger will get his chance. It does take these guys a little longer because they're not the "big money" guys, as you say, or the highly scouted guys.

Is he a high-Shealing player?

Dear Mailbag,
Do you know where Ryan Shealy is? I saw him playing with the Rockies' Pioneer League team and looked like a great plalyer about three years ago. I am surprised I haven't heard his name since then.

Thanks,
Creg

Creg:
I remember Shealy's name as well because last year he was highlighted in the Rockies' organizational preview. And he's still with the Rockies. He's playing for the Tulsa Drillers in the Double-A Texas League. The first baseman is hitting .308 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs, so he's still getting it done. He's had a very good June, hiting .318 with five homers and 14 RBIs. Unfortunately, he plays first base and the Rockies have that Helton guy kind of entrenched there. I don't know if Shealy will end up being traded or if he can play the outfield (he's only played first base). But you don't worry about that until he's ready for the big leagues.

He's 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, so this is a guy who should hit for power and he has throughout the minors. He's surprised some people as an 11th-round pick in 2002, starting with that season in the Pioneer League, when he hit .368 with 19 homers and 70 RBIs with Casper. He jumped all the way to high-A in 2003, where he hit .299 with 14 homers and 73 RBIs. He's a good on-base guy as well. He's following a good career path.

That's it for this installment of Mayo's Minors Mailbag. Be sure to get your questions in for the next installment soon.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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