With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.
“El Caballo” Carlos Lee ran wild on the South Side beginning with his Major League debut on May 7, 1999.
He homered in his first Major League at-bat.
Originally signed by the White Sox in February 1994, Lee started out as a third baseman.
“[Ron] Schueler likens Lee to Los Angeles’ Bobby Bonilla. A notoriously poor defensive player who earns a spot in the lineup because of his stellar bat,” Teddy Greenstein wrote in the Chicago Tribune as Lee built his resume as a prospect.
Offense, however, was never a problem.
He broke through in 1997 at Winston-Salem by hitting .317/.357/.516 with 17 HR & 82 RBI in 139 Games. He made his way up the prospect charts, ranking No. 43 according to Baseball America entering 1998, then rising to No. 28 entering 1999 after hitting .302/.350/.485 with 21 HR and 106 RBI in 138 games at Birmingham.
After raking for 25 games at Charlotte in 1999, it was time to make the jump.
A month and a half into his Major League career, Lee received high praise, as Frank Thomas was quoted in the Chicago Tribune (6/23/1999) saying:
“I see a young me in Carlos Lee. The way he goes through pitches and how he hits the ball to right field. I watch him hit and think: those are the things I used to do [at that age]. I think he’s the second coming.”
Lee acquitted himself well at the Major League level in his rookie year, hitting .293/.312/.463 with 16 HR and 84 RBI in 127 games. He was a model of consistency, hitting 24, 24, 26, 31 and 31 home runs in his five full seasons with the White Sox. Perhaps his most impressive number was 28, which was his franchise record hitting streak (which still stands) in 2004.
After that 2004 season, he was sent to the Brewers in a deal which netted the Sox a top-of-the-order catalyst for the eventual 2005 World Series champions, Scott Podsednik.
After making his way through Milwaukee, Texas, Houston & Miami (reunited with his former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen), Lee hung it up following the 2012 season, with 358 career home runs (in the top 100 in MLB history) to go with 1,363 RBI.