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posted: 9/6/2012 8:44 PM

White Sox' future has some bright lights

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  • White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, here at right talkin with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, likes a lot of what he some of his minor-leaguers have been doing recently.

      White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, here at right talkin with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, likes a lot of what he some of his minor-leaguers have been doing recently.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

When asked earlier this week if he was enjoying the White Sox' playoff chase, general manager Kenny Williams responded with his own question.

"Are you serious?"

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Remember, this is the same person who celebrated the 2005 World Series championship for about a day before beginning preparations for 2006.

Among other things, Williams is worried about the stamina of the starting rotation, next week's four-game rematch with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and the second-place Tigers and a spate of rookies on the expanded roster.

"Agonizing is what it is," Williams said. "Every day is agonizing."

Williams always keeps one eye on the future, and that is where the GM actually is finding some comfort.

Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis, Gavin Floyd, Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers all are in their final contract years and -- sorry Sox fans -- disappointing attendance at the Cell this season is likely to force Williams to go younger and cheaper in 2013.

According to Williams, that's not such a bad thing.

The White Sox' farm system was rated baseball's worst at the start of the season, but 10 rookies were on the 25-man roster in early July and even more youngsters have made their way to the South Side the past two months.

Williams said there is even more talent to tap.

"There are actually some very encouraging performances by a lot of guys, including the newly drafted guys," Williams said. "Unfortunately, I couldn't get down to see them as much as I wanted to because it seemed like every time I'd plan a trip, we'd bring up another guy from the minor leagues, and it's important to see them play at this level more than anything.

"Across the board we've had some good performances from guys that stepped up to another level, and I'm proud of them."

Let's use Thursday's break in the schedule to take a closer look at some of the players positioned to make a future impact with the Sox.

Charlie Leesman:

Williams said there still are some players at Class AAA Charlotte who can help the White Sox this season. The GM declined to mention any names, but Leesman, a left-handed starting pitcher, undoubtedly tops the list.

Before allowing 1 run over 8 innings in Wednesday's Game 1 playoff win over Indianapolis, Leesman ranked second in the International League with a 2.47 ERA and fourth with 12 wins.

With Jose Quintana struggling and Floyd's return from a second bout with elbow discomfort uncertain, the 25-year-old Leesman could be summoned by the Sox for a spot start in the heat of the playoff race.

Leesman also could be used as a long reliever, considering Philip Humber has allowed 13 runs in 13 innings in the role.

Carlos Sanchez:

Signed as a free agent out of Venezuela on May 6, 2009, Sanchez has blossomed into the White Sox' top prospect this season.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder can play shortstop, second base and third base. Sanchez opened the season at Class A Winston-Salem where he batted .315 in 92 games.

Promoted to AA Birmingham, he batted .370 in 30 games and was bumped up to AAA Charlotte in August.

"The Sanchez kid that has gone from A ball up to Triple-A, and nobody's bothered to tell him that it's a little harder each level you go up," Williams said.

"He just kind of has ignored that and played unbelievably at short and at second and has just hit everywhere where he's gone and has a great feel for the game."

If the White Sox can't afford to bring Youkilis back, Sanchez could be the starting third baseman next season, even though he lacks power.

"It's not necessarily your profile of a guy," Williams said. "But then you look at a team like the Angels that have competed and won because the rest of their team looked better and he (third baseman Alberto Callaspo) fit that position and they had enough power in other places to make up for that and they needed a guy at the top of the order. (Sanchez) could be that kind of guy, sure."

Courtney Hawkins/ Keon Barnum:

The Sox' top two draft picks this season already have been big hits.

Hawkins batted .272 with 3 home runs and 16 RBI in 38 games with Advanced Rookie Bristol before being promoted to Class A Winston-Salem in late August.

The 18-year-old Hawkins homered for the Dash in Wednesday's playoff opener.

A shoulder injury limited Barnum to 13 games with Bristol, where he batted .279 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI.

"(Hawkins) has proven to be more polished at an accelerated rate than I thought," Williams said. "Barnum it's too bad Barnum hurt himself and his shoulder because I don't know that we've had anybody that opened up their professional career hitting 3 home runs in three games. That was encouraging."

Young guns:

Williams raved about two young starters drafted in 2011: right-hander Erik Johnson (second round) and left-hander Scott Snodgrass (fifth round).

"Tremendous growth," Williams said.

Johnson was 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 9 starts at A Kannapolis and 4-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 8 starts at Winston-Salem.

Snodgrass was 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 19 starts at Kannapolis and 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 9 starts at Winston-Salem.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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