Chicago White Sox Midseason Top 10 Prospects
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The White Sox saw the writing on the wall in 2016 and, in one spectacular weekend at the Winter Meetings, began to tear down their team and start from scratch. Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were shipped to Boston and Washington, respectively, and the movement only continued from there.
The next summer saw the team ship out third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (Yankees), lefthander Jose Quintana (Cubs), outfielder Melky Cabrera (Royals), relievers Dan Jennings (Rays) and Anthony Swarzak (Brewers) in an effort to completely overhaul their farm system.
Entering the season, five of the club’s Top 10 prospects had entered the system via trade. A year and a half later, the youth movement is in full swing. Two of the pieces acquired in the Eaton deal—righthanders Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez—are in the big league rotation, with mixed results
The big prize from the Sale deal, second baseman Yoan Moncada, is playing every day and showing flashes of the ability that once ranked as the best prospect in the game. There’s another wave of talent knocking on the door as well.
There are still a few moves the White Sox could make to buttress their system, but the team has clearly emerged from the other side of the tunnel and can see the foundation of its future brightening before its eyes.
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF
Acquired from the Cubs last summer as the centerpiece of the deal that sent lefthander Jose Quintana from the South Side to the North Side, Jimenez has done little to dampen his reputation as one of the game’s very best prospects. He’s as pure a hitter as they come, with a smooth righthanded stroke capable of producing both average and huge power, with the potential to hit 40 home runs or more in a season. His below-average arm relegates him to left field, but his bat is enough to make him a star regardless of position.
2. Michael Kopech, RHP
Kopech spent the first part of the summer racking up the most strikeouts in the International League. He still sports a 95-100 mph fasbtall and a dynamic slider but has also added a low-80s curveball to his mix as well. He’s working to refine all of his offspeed offerings, especially his well below-average changeup, but the most important thing is finding control of his offspeed pitches in order to lower his 5.5 BB/9 rate.
3. Nick Madrigal, 2B
Rookie-level AZL White Sox
The 5-foot-7 Madrigal was arguably the best pure hitter in the draft class and answered enough questions about his size for the White Sox to make him the fourth pick in the 2018 Draft. He signed for just over $6.4 million after helping Oregon State to the College World Series title, Madrigal lacks power, but he has all the other tools to be a standout. He projects as an athletic second baseman with a polished bat who could move quickly through the system.
4. Luis Robert, OF
high Class A Winston-Salem
Robert, the White Sox’s $26 million international signee last year, is abounding with tools but can’t stay on the field. He’s played just 21 games this season because of a pair of injuries to his left thumb and hit .293/.372/.373 in limited action. Robert still earns plus grades for his arm and power, and his speed is double-plus, but he hasn’t had a chance to really show them off.
5. Dylan Cease, RHP
Cease always had tantalizing raw ingredients. Now, in his first full season with the White Sox, he’s starting to put everything together and show monster potential. He’s held his upper-90s fastball velocity deep into his starts and continues to get swings and misses with his big curveball. He’s working on refining his slider and changeup, which hold the key to his future in a starting rotation.
6. Dane Dunning, RHP
The White Sox briefly returned Dunning to high Class A Winston-Salem to begin the year. Part of that decision involved a numbers game at Double-A, but another was to have him continue to work with pitching coach Matt Zaleski before Dunning moved up. He added a curveball this year and, like last year, was continuing to work on staying on top of his sinker in order to gain its maximum effect before a strained right elbow at midseason put him out of action for what the team believes will be between 4-8 weeks.
7. Zack Collins, C
Collins continues to be one of the most divisive prospects in the system. His boosters see a potential average catcher with big power and one of the best batting eyes in the games. His detractors agree on the offense, but see a player who needs to seriously refine his defense—his receiving in particular—to stick behind the plate. He’s still produced big power this year—a .192 ISO, to be precise—but has struck out at a career-worst rate of 29 percent.
8. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
One of four players the White Sox pried from Boston in exchange for Chris Sale in 2016, Basabe has looked rejuvenated after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He shows above-average defense with a strong arm in center field as well as sneaky power at the plate. The White Sox have worked with Basabe to make his bat path more efficient to better unlock his offensive potential.
9. Blake Rutherford, OF
high Class A Winston-Salem
The questions with Rutherford have long revolved around his ability to add muscle and power as he’s gotten older. He equaled his career total with six homers in the first half with high Class A Winston-Salem, but five of those longballs have come at his cozy home park. Scouts point to his ability to make consistent hard contact as a reason to believe he’ll eventually develop enough power to profile in a corner outfield spot, likely left field due to a below-average arm.
10. Alec Hansen, RHP
The opening to Hansen’s season was delayed by a right forearm strain, and he didn’t pitch in a game outside of the team’s spring training complex until June 16. Command has long been an issue for Hansen, and the team has continued to work with him to stay in rhythm and over the rubber as long as possible to allow his arsenal of above-average or better pitches to work to their potential. It hasn’t been good so far, with Hansen 0-4, 6.23 with nearly as many walks (26) as strikeouts (27) in seven starts.
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• OF Joel Booker altered his swing in the offseason and the results came quickly and loudly in a return to high Class A Winston-Salem. He also got off to a quick start at Double-A Birmingham.
• RHP Ian Hamilton has shown an upper-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider out of the bullpen and earned a midseason promotion to Triple-A Charlotte.
• C Seby Zavala had been handcuffed with fellow backstop Zack Collins until recently, when Zavala was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte. Zavala is a better defender and also shows power at a premium position.
• RHP Connor Walsh was hit hard in Double-A Birmingham and was subsequently demoted to high Class A Winston-Salem.
• 1B Gavin Sheets was working through mechanical changes in his swing that the White Sox hoped would help the first baseman better lift the ball and tap into his raw power more often than he’d shown in the early going.
• RHP Zack Burdi is nearing the end of his recovery from Tommy John surgery but is unlikely to see any game action outside of the White Sox’s complex in Glendale, Ariz.
• After rupturing his left Achilles tendon this offseason, 3B Jake Burger re-ruptured the same tendon during rehab. His timetable for return is unknown.
• Top prospect Eloy Jimenez landed on the disabled list with a strained left adductor muscle and is expected to miss two weeks or so before returning.
• Injuries opened a spot for OF Daniel Palka, who has a provided a bit of power over extended playing time in Chicago.
• LHP Jace Fry has been a revelation out of the bullpen, striking out more than 11 hitters per nine innings while allowing just 12 hits in 24.2 frames.
• RHP Carson Fulmer, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, hasn’t been able to find his footing the major leagues but has accumulated enough time to graduate from prospect status.