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Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Sox's system is loaded at second base

By Doug Padilla

Say what you want about the level of talent in the Chicago White Sox's farm system -- and many baseball analysts have taken their shots -- but second base is where the organization has no shortage of rising young players.

Guys like Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia all are considered viable options at second base for the future.

And with the oblique injury to Gordon Beckham, that will sideline the second baseman for a week and possibly more, there will be plenty of at-bats in upcoming Cactus League games for the next generation of middle infielders.

Johnson and Garcia add blazing speed to their overall package, Semien adds more of a power element along with the versatility to play shortstop and third base, while Sanchez was having arguably the best big league camp of anybody while batting .538 (7-for-13) before he was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

Stockpiling middle infield talent continues to be one of the bigger challenges for organizations. While shortstop talent is most desired, a lack of second-base talent can send teams scrambling for options.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have recently signed Cuban middle infielders. In October, the Dodgers added Alex Guerrero on a four-year, $28 million contract, while earlier this month the Cardinals added Aledmys Diaz on a four-year deal for around $8 million.

"It's tough to find middle infielders in the draft," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "There are only a couple every year that are true middle infielders, and you're not always going to have the chance to draft them. For us having the opportunity to sign a middle infielder (in Guerrero) with his age and his experience at the international level we thought it was worth it."

The Dodgers went as far as to double up on Cuban middle infielders, also signing shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena to a five-year deal.

The White Sox have Garcia and Semien who can play shortstop, but neither is considered to be the defensive equivalent of Alexei Ramirez. The White Sox did draft junior college shortstop Tim Anderson in the first round last year.

While Anderson remains plenty of years away, a new second baseman could be in place as soon as next season. Beckham will make $4.175 million this season and could be in the $6 million range next year, which is his last of arbitration eligibility. Beckham reaches free agency in 2016.

It isn't impossible that Beckham could be traded this season to a team in need of second base help, especially if the White Sox have come to the conclusion that will be headed in a new direction anyway next year.

If the White Sox have shown anything this past offseason it is that they aren't afraid to make trades from an area of strength. With four left-handers in the rotation, they moved one early this winter for an upgrade in center field and in the leadoff spot when lefty Hector Santiago was part of the deal that brought back Adam Eaton.

And with Nate Jones emerging as a closer for the future, the White Sox went ahead and traded closer Addison Reed for third baseman Matt Davidson.

Johnson, Semien, Sanchez and Garcia all are coming, with one of them likely to take over at second soon, and maybe one or more used in trade packages to land talent in other areas.