The Birmingham Barons could be called the epicenter of the Chicago White Sox farm system.
The Double-A affiliate arguably has seven of the organization's top 10 prospects currently on its roster.
Curt Bloom, the team's play-by-play man for the last 18 years, shares his thoughts on the top prospects on the team, former Barons who have since moved onto the major leagues, and a few opposing players who have stood out.
Project Prospect: Dayan Viciedo, the big import from Cuba, has struggled for most of the season. What have been his biggest problems and why shouldn't fans panic over his slow start?
Curt Bloom: Viciedo, who had a four-hit game over the weekend, is adjusting to a new culture, a new language, new weather, and most importantly, a new routine. He has never had to be so accountable or be in a situation where everything he does is spelled out ahead of time. For instance, the pre-game routine, weight lifting, post-game work, and extra batting practice.
PP: What have you seen in 2008 first rounder Gordon Beckham that should make White Sox fans excited? How has his glove looked at short?
CB: Beckham has athletic skills that can’t be taught. He has made plays at shortstop based on his instincts that other infielders would have to think about first. Offensively, Beckham has great balance, great hands and loads of confidence at the plate. He was leading the Southern League in doubles before his injury (he missed about 10 days with a strained abdominal muscle earlier this month). Beckham’s errors are mostly on grounders. These errors will be easy plays once he has more professional experience.
PP: What have been your early impressions of the recently-promoted Jordan Danks?
CB: Danks stepped into a good lineup and made it even better. He has good plate coverage (he's 6'4”) and he also is very athletic. He has a very good game plan at the plate and does not over swing. He takes the pitch the opposite way and pulls the inside fastball. Danks covers a lot of ground in the outfield and seems to be very mature considering he has played about 50 professional games.
PP: Do you think Aaron Poreda has the arsenal to become a major league starter? What stands out about him?
CB: Poreda has a big time fastball and a nasty slider. A slightly shorter version of the Big Unit (Randy Johnson). Poreda needs to be more consistent throwing strikes and has to throw his change a little more as well. He can dominate a game like very few can when he throws the first pitch strike.
PP: How has Tyler Flowers looked behind the plate?
CB: Flowers has been fine behind home plate. Remember, with knee problems in the past, he hasn’t been a full time catcher for a long time yet. I have talked with him frequently about one of the most overlooked aspects of his game – his game calling behind home plate. Flowers deserves credit for our 26-9 record and a staff that is second in the league in earned run average.
PP: Who have been a few of the most impressive opposing players you've seen this year?
CB: Outfielders Andrew Lambo (Chattanooga) and Ezequiel Carrera (West Tennessee) have been impressive. The best might have been Bryan Augenstein, a righthander with Mobile and outfielder Gerardo Parra, also of Mobile.
Editors note: Augenstein and Parra were recently promoted to the major leagues.
PP: Between Flowers, Beckham, Danks, Viciedo, Poreda, and Brandon Allen, there's a lot of well-known prospects on the club. But is there an under-the-radar player or two on the roster that fans should track throughout the season?
CB: C.J Retherford has been a huge part of the lineup. He has been the most consistent and the team’s best player in the clutch. Robbie Hudson, a utility guy, was outstanding replacing Beckham at short [while Beckham was on the disabled list]. Righthander Fernando Hernandez is 8-for-8 in saves with a great curveball. Brian Omogrosso is now the best righty in the league with Augenstein promoted to Arizona.
PP: Throughout your years broadcasting the team, has there been anyone that you thought would have gone on to do big things in the majors but instead fizzled out?
CB: As a broadcaster, we all think we know everything. I have had 100,000 “I told you so’s” and about 100,000 “man, I thought he would be great.”
PP: Clayton Richard has since graduated to the major leagues. What did you see in him when he was with Birmingham last year?
CB: Richard is the hardest working guy I have seen in years. He is a work out machine. He is very professional and mature. He is focused and he is not afraid to get a groundball as opposed to getting a strikeout.
PP: Chris Getz, Chicago's opening day second baseman this year, is another former Baron now in the majors. What kind of player was he during his time with the team?
CB: Getz is one of the most cerebral players I have been around. He has a great baseball IQ. Getz can run, hit and run, bunt, hit for average and plays a very solid second base. Every scout I talked to always knew he would play in the big leagues. He has a calmness about him that helps on the field as well.
Contact Ryan Fay.