It’s been a long time since the White Sox had a single position player prospect worth getting as excited about as Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, or Luis Robert. Having a troika of players who should at worst be competent major leaguers is a delightful change and a reminder that things weren’t always so bleak. During the late 80s and throughout the 90s, the White Sox were more or less a factory at cranking out position players of all types or snagging other teams prospects just on the verge of breaking out: otherworldly hitters (Frank Thomas), all around good players (Robin Ventura, Ray Durham, Magglio Ordonez), plug and play hitters (Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko), and stalwart defenders (Ron Karkovice, Ozzie Guillen, Lance Johnson).
But then the 2000s hit and somehow the developmental switch flipped. The Sox seemingly overnight turned into truffle pigs for pitchers and forgot how to develop position players. Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede were fine enough, but when they’re the best examples of post-Y2K homegrown hitters you know things had soured. But what makes that decade of fallow fielding futures so interesting to me isn’t any of the players that stayed within the organization and failed, it’s one particular shining star who flamed out hard but wound up netting the White Sox a decade of strong pitching. I’m talking about Jeremy Reed.
Reed was the center fielder of the future. He played for the USA Summer National team in 2001 and 2002. He won Minor League Player of the Year for the White Sox in 2003 after hitting .373/.453/.537 while stealing 45 bases and playing flawless defense. He looked like a bonafide Dude and was ranked the 25th best prospect in baseball heading into the 2004 season. And then the Sox traded him.
With Rowand now firmly entrenched in center and neither his nor Reed’s bat really profiling as strong enough for a corner spot, Reed was packaged with Miguel Olivo and somehow still a shortstop at the time Mike Morse for Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis. Olivo had the worst season of his career for the Mariners before Seattle flipped him to San Diego for absolutely nothing. Between injuries and PED suspensions, Morse showed flashes of potential but didn’t break out until being traded to Washington for Ryan Langerhans. Reed was the prize peach of the trade, until he rapidly wasn’t.
His .675 OPS as a 24 year old in spacious Safeco Field was underwhelming but somewhat acceptable when combined with his defense. But two injuries to his right hand in 2006 cost him his starting job and his hitting never recovered. Reed bounced around a few more organizations but never played another full season in the majors before retiring after an 0-for-7 stretch with the Brewers in 2011.
Garcia, meanwhile, pitched 2.5 workmanlike seasons behind Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras, giving the Sox much needed consistency and 9.1 bWAR over 547.1 innings. He wasn’t the ace he was in his youth in Seattle, but he was still pretty good and helped bring home the franchise’s first World Series championship in over 80 years. He then became part of one of Kenny Williams’ most criminally underrated trades.
I’m honestly still confused as to how Williams was able to turn one season of 30 year old Freddy Garcia into Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, but he did it. The shine had completely worn off former top prospect Floyd by this point, but he was still only 24 years old. Garcia made 11 starts before hurting his shoulder and leaving the Phillies. Floyd became a strong backend starter for the next five seasons before getting hurt and jumping to the National League. Gonzalez was sent to Oakland in the good half of the Nick Swisher trade and has been carving hitters up when not struggling with his command for the Nationals ever since.
For one ultimately fungible outfield prospect, the Sox locked down the next decade of their mid-to-back rotation in what is one of the more enjoyable trade trees to climb in recent White Sox history. Hopefully the current hitting prospects can add value in a more traditional way.
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