GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The players White Sox general manager Rick Hahn watched during Monday afternoon's instructional league contest playing against a team from the Korea Baseball Organization won't help the big league squad for at least another two to three years.
Many of those 45-or-so Minor Leaguers suiting up in Arizona since mid-September and playing on a back field at Camelback Ranch won't even make it to the Majors.
Yet, these handful or two of future standouts sit at the core of Hahn's rebuilding or reshaping process coming off of a dreadful 99-loss campaign in 2013.
"This is going to be the key to our long-term success," Hahn told MLB.com, sitting in a golf cart and studying the action. "Obviously given our nature and the market we play in, when the opportunity to win is there, we are going to very likely be augmenting through free agency.
"Long-term success is based on your ability to draft and develop premium talent, which is what we are doing here," Hahn said.
Hahn declined to talk about offseason plans, including potential free-agent targets, and also avoided providing any sort of update on filling the hitting-coach opening produced by Jeff Manto's dismissal. In dissecting even this one aforementioned comment from the White Sox general manager, though, a basic idea can be formed as to the team's immediate outlook.
If a free agent or two are pursued, it would have to be a player who does more than simply help the White Sox become a contender for the short term. He needs to augment the core that Hahn hopes will help the White Sox fight for a World Series title year in and year out.
Sparking fan interest for 2014 by purchasing pieces to jump from 63 wins to 85 wins, as an example, does not become as important as keeping that interest steady through a consistent run of success.
While the White Sox have too much pitching and too much pride to simply pass over the upcoming '14 season and call it a pure rebuild, they could dial it back a bit as these younger players continue to develop or until they see what happens in-season. That core will be assisted by potentially $15 million to spend between the First-Year Player Draft bonus pool and international spending- -- one of the few positive spinoffs coming from this forgettable past season.
"Trust me, I'd much prefer to be at a [White Sox] playoff game right now," Hahn said. "But one of the nice things about coming down here for instructional league and the Arizona Fall League is to get a little glimpse of the future.
"It helps you turn the page a little bit on what has happened and it's hard not to watch this group and feel a level of optimism about where we are going. At the same time, there's a lot of meetings and plannings going on.
"We have a hitting-coach search going on as well," Hahn said. "So, daily business doesn't fall behind. But this does give you an opportunity to see a glimpse of the future."
Near the top of this instructional league mix sits outfielder Micker Adolfo Zapata, who made his professional debut after turning 17 on Sept. 11. The White Sox were high enough on MLB.com's No. 2 ranked International Prospect to sign him for $1.6 million, which represents a franchise record for an international signee.
Their enthusiasm for Zapata has only grown since he started working out with Bristol of the Appalachian League this past summer. He's still learning and falls a ways away from the Majors.
Developing that base with Zapata, shortstop Tim Anderson (ranked No. 3 in Chicago's system by MLB.com) and outfielder Courtney Hawkins (No. 1), to name a few from the instructional league, as well as players such as Micah Johnson (No. 15) and Marcus Semien (No. 8) in the AFL, is worth the wait. Having them all together for this month-long time frame gives the White Sox a chance to stress the little things for players so important to the big picture.
"Each guy has a specific thing to work on," White Sox Minor League field coordinator Kirk Champion said. "It's just to add four more weeks to their season to work on some specific things with some guys and for some guys just to continue to have a chance for another month of baseball."
"Probably the most important element is for the guys who are recently drafted or signed internationally to all be in one place and be with our rovers and our coaches to hear precisely how we want certain things done," Hahn said. "Reiterate what they heard out at their affiliates, but at that time, they are mixed in with more veteran players. Here's a chance for them to focus on fundamentals and drills and playing the game the way we want it played."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.