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White Sox system teeming with talented arms

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CLEVELAND -- Any discussion of White Sox pitching prospects tends to focus on Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease and Alec Hansen.

That heightened attention makes sense with this quartet potentially contributing in a significant way by the time this team is ready to contend. But Kirk Champion, the White Sox director of Minor League pitching instruction, knows there are many more talented arms in the system beyond these front-line hurlers.

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CLEVELAND -- Any discussion of White Sox pitching prospects tends to focus on Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease and Alec Hansen.

That heightened attention makes sense with this quartet potentially contributing in a significant way by the time this team is ready to contend. But Kirk Champion, the White Sox director of Minor League pitching instruction, knows there are many more talented arms in the system beyond these front-line hurlers.

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"There are guys at every level you can project will pitch in the big leagues, and that isn't always the case," Champion told MLB.com during a recent phone interview. "Sometimes because of the types of Drafts or injuries or things like that, there's probably a hole at a certain level.

"You can go find some names on every roster that you can dream a little bit and see where they could be big league options. The more of those guys you have, the more options you have for trade or for depth."

Champion began to list some of those pitchers, such as Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, Zach Thompson and Matt Foster at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Class A Kannapolis' Lincoln Henzman, Blake Battenfield, Tyler Johnson and John Parke, as well as the bullpen arm for Double-A Birmingham, all of whom have Major League stuff -- including Ian Hamilton and Ryan Burr. But Champion stopped from going deeper for fear of excluding one of those deserving prospects.

"It's not like it's [Triple-A] Charlotte-heavy or Birmingham-heavy or anything like that. There are guys spread out throughout the system," Champion said. "We've been able to move our pitching coaches around and keep the line moving with the development process.

"Look at really the placement of guys, where you put them and what they are working on and being patient. Being patient is keeping guys at the levels they should be at. Right now, with the depth of names and types of guys, there are options for that."

Kopech, the No. 2 prospect in the White Sox system per MLB Pipeline, struck out seven over six solid innings against Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. Cease, the No. 5 prospect, struck out nine against two walks over 7 1/3 innings in his last start. He did so while throwing 20 percent changeups -- which he hasn't always done in the past -- while still sitting at 96-97 mph with his fastball.

Pitchers such as these two possess special tools on the mound. But it's just as much about the tier slightly below them when thinking of the White Sox future.

"Those guys are on track. They are doing what they need to do to get to where we want them to be in the big leagues," Champion said. "But there also has to be another half-dozen or more names to help us. It's nice to have a quiet guy who sneaks up there and he helps also.

"We don't get too down when they struggle and we don't get too all wrapped up with one good outing. You start putting two or three in a row together and you start to find what you are at. That's kind of our goal -- to get them to have multiple good outings in a row. They have mastered the level or they've done well at the level they are at to where you have to consider pushing them."

White Sox have special Draft reps

A.J. Pierzynski and Aaron Rowand will serve as the White Sox Draft representatives, two of the 21 former Major League All-Stars that will represent the 30 clubs at the 2018 Draft on Monday. Pierzynski, currently a White Sox community-relations representative, and Rowand, the White Sox Minor League outfield/baserunning coordinator, played integral roles in the team's 2005 World Series title.

Third to first

• Catcher Kevan Smith was activated from Charlotte, but the White Sox won't make a change with current catcher Alfredo Gonzalez during this Cleveland series.

"We just got Gonzo, so we'll have him here for the next few days and continue to move with him," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "We know Kevan has been here and done a nice job for us. We're leaving tomorrow afternoon, and I'm sure we'll have conversations."

The White Sox also have John Orton, the Minor League catching coordinator, with the big league team to help Gonzalez and Omar Narvaez in Welington Castillo's absence.

• Renteria indicated the White Sox would stay in rotation this weekend against the Brewers. But no starters will be announced until Wednesday.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox