All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
Chicago White Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2011
1) Chris Sale, LHP, Grade A: I don't see how I can give him anything but a Grade A considering how his debut went. Starter or closer, either way he looks great to me.
2) Brent Morel, 3B, Grade B: Should be a solid regular, very good glove, bat will be enough, Joe Randa comps are common and accurate, in my view.
3) Dayan Viciedo, 1B, Grade B-: I respect the fact that he can hit decently with plate discipline this bad, but I expect that he will be streaky.
4) Addison Reed, RHP, Grade B-: I seem to like him more than other people do, but what's not to like? Good stuff, knows how to pitch, main question is long-term role.
5) Jared Mitchell, OF, Grade C+: This assumes he returns to full health. He didn't look right in the Arizona Fall League. If his speed (and confidence in his legs) don't fully return, it would be a great shame.
6) Jacob Pericka, RHP, Grade C+: Very live arm from 2010 draft, but rather raw, future role undefined.
7) Eduardo Escobar, SS, Grade C+: Great glove, but will he hit enough for it to be relevant?
8) Gregory Infante, RHP, Grade C+: Another hard-thrower who could fit nicely into bullpen.
9) Andre Rienzo, RHP, Grade C+: This guy is a huge sleeper. You won't see him on many other lists, but he has good stuff and good numbers. From Brazil.
10) Thomas Royse, RHP, Grade C+: Inning-eating ground ball specialist, possible number four starter eventually.
11) Tyler Saladino, SS, Grade C+: Infielder out of Oral Roberts in the 2010 draft, good bat, glove can possibly stick at shortstop.
12) Mike Blanke, C, Grade C+: Hit well in the Pioneer League with decent defense, like Saladino a sleeper from this year's draft to watch.
13) Santos Rodriguez, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline C, Power lefty arm is rare, needs to cut walks.
14) Brandon Short, OF, Grade C: Interesting bat, but strike zone judgment was weak in the Carolina League and Double-A transition could be difficult.
15) Trayce Thompson, OF, Grade C: Would rank higher on tools alone, but is approach needs a lot of work.
16) Anthony Carter, RHP, Grade C: Another potentially good relief arm.
17) Jordan Danks, OF, Grade C: Good glove, but hope for his bat is fading.
18) Tyler Flowers, C, Grade C: Stock has dropped massively, but this may be a "buy low" case where he ends up midway between '09 and '10 eventually.
19) Charles Leesman, LHP, Grade C: Erratic lefty has a good fastball and slider combo, but all over the map last year in performance.
20) Josh Phegley, C, Grade C: Weird medical condition, strike zone issues, and shaky defense have kept him from living up to college production.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Spencer Arroyo, LHP; Kyle Bellamy, RHP; Ryan Buch, RHP; Justin Collop, RHP; Terry Doyle, RHP; Miguel Gonzalez, C; Nevin Griffith, RHP; Deunte Heath, RHP, Matt Heidenreich, RHP; Kevin Moran, RHP; Rangel Ravelo, RHP; Dan Remenowsky, RHP; Charlie Shirek, RHP; Andy Wilkins, 1B.
This system is not in good condition.
Chris Sale is excellent and Brent Morel is solid and I like Addison Reed, but after that you have nothing but questions. Can Viciedo develop even adequate plate discipline? Where does he fit on the roster? You have the makings of a nice relief corps but you need some starting pitchers, too. There are some intriguing tools guys but most of them have flawed approaches. No one seems to know if Mitchell will ever be the same after his ankle injury.
Three sleepers that I like a lot are Rienzo, Saladino, and Blanke, but we need more data about all of them.