Chicago White Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2016
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Carson Fulmer, RHP, Grade B+/A-: Age 22, first round pick out of Vanderbilt, 1.96 ERA with 26/9 K/BB in 23 innings in pro debut on a short leash, all but one inning in High-A. The report on Fulmer is well-known: electric stuff and a great track record, but does he start or relieve? My view is that he can start. The only thing holding back from an A- is remnant concern about his command but ultimately he may get to A- depending on final list.
2) Tim Anderson, SS, Grade B+: Age 22, hit .312/.350/.429 with 21 doubles, 12 triples, five homers, 49 steals, 24 walks, 114 strikeouts in 513 at-bats in Double-A. Exciting combination of sped/athleticism with occasional power sparks, still erratic with the glove but has all the tools, main worry remains issues with strike zone judgment. Some observers don’t think it is a big deal, others do. You have to like his projection and ceiling but risk premium remains substantial. Certainly worth a fantasy investment given the upside but just keep the issues in mind.
3) Spencer Adams, RHP, Grade B: Age 19, went 12-5, 2.99 with 96/18 K/BB in 129 innings between Low-A and High-A, 142 hits. Exciting strike-thrower with polished approach but didn’t throw as hard in pro ball as he did in high school. Easy delivery, slider, curve, change all solid, good makeup, looks like number four starter at present but if velocity gets back into the 93-95 range he could be a three or even a two.
4) Adam Engel, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, older prospect, hit .251/.335/.369 in High-A with 62 walks, 132 strikeouts, 65 steals in 529 at-bats. Made swing adjustments late and followed up with .403/.536/.642 line in the Arizona Fall League. Has always had the tools and Arizona observers gushed about how his adjustments enabled those tools to blossom. We need to see if he can sustain it for more than three weeks but speed/power/defense combo could be special.
5) Jordan Guerrero, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 21, posted 3.08 ERA with 148/31 K/BB in 149 innings in Low-A and High-A, 124 hits, strike-thrower overcame past arm troubles with strong season, fastball up to 92 plays up due to movement and contrast with superior change-up, breaking ball has improved, number four command-oriented starter projection but some chance to exceed that.
6) Tyler Danish, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, posted 4.50 ERA with 90/60 K/BB in 142 innings in Double-A, 175 hits, disappointing after much better ’14 season. Still has power sinker and strong change-up but slider went backwards and lost a bit of velocity on his hard sinker, giving skeptics some ammo to work with. Doubters may ultimately be correct that he fits best in bullpen.
7) Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, hit .259/.335/.395 with 35 doubles, seven homers, 50 walks, 114 strikeouts in 474 at-bats in High-A, young switch hitter with substantial raw power he has yet to fully tap, projects better than he plays at present but has been very young for his leagues. Has made progress with the glove, enough to give hope he can stay there though error rate remains high.
8) Courtney Hawkins, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, hit .243/.300/.410 with nine homers, 20 walks, 100 strikeouts in 300 at-bats in Double-A while bothered by finger and foot injuries. 60-grade raw power is still here but offense still held down by contact/pitch recognition/plate discipline issues. Remains to be seen if he ever fully taps it, but he’s still young. Perhaps the type of guy who everyone gives up on when he’s 24 but who then surges into a few good years at 27-29.
9) Corey Zangari, 1B, Grade C+: Age 18, sixth round pick in 2015 from high school in Oklahoma, hit .316/.358/.481 with 14 walks, 52 strikeouts in 212 at-bats in rookie ball. Converted catcher now a first baseman, another 60-grade power bat with some contact concerns though not as severe as Hawkins’. Defense limited, may be a born DH.
10) Jacob May, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .275/.329/.334 with 37 steals, 29 walks, 73 strikeouts in 389 at-bats in Double-A, 70-grade speed, good glove in center, has more power than his SLG indicates though sometimes that works against him if he becomes too conscious of it, needs better plate discipline, fourth outfielder projection.
11) Eddy Alvarez, SS, Grade C+: Age 26, older prospect still in A-ball, hit .296/.409/.424 with 88 walks, 85 strikeouts, 53 steals in 450 at-bats. Unusual to see him ranked this high due to his age but there are extenuating circumstances: he was an Olympic speed skater signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He’s been excellent ever since, showing speed and athleticism and unusually good strike one judgment. Rather error-prone but has tools for shortstop. Risk putting him this high but my guess is that he adapts and becomes a fine role player.
12) Jordan Stephens, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, fifth round pick out of Rice University, posted 0.51 ERA with 21/3 K/BB in 18 innings in rookie ball, showing excellent control of 90-95 MPH fastball and plus curve, decent slider, command obviously strong in pro ball. Like many Rice pitchers he has an injury history and questions about his durability but he knows how to pitch and could move rapidly as either a starter or reliever.
13) Brian Clark, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, ninth round pick in 2014 out of Kent State, 2.33 ERA with 85/38 K/BB in 89 innings in High-A, 78 hits, extreme ground ball pitcher has given up three homers in the four seasons between NCAA and pros, low-90s sinker, hard slider, could start if change-up comes around or be an nasty LOOGY with his current arsenal.
14) Andre Wheeler, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.86 ERA with 61/28 K/BB in 63 innings in High-A, another bullpen potential with fastball up to 94-95 and a nice breaking ball, like Clark he will need a better change-up if they use him as a starter but could provide rapid pen boost.
15) Micker Adolfo, OF, Grade C: Age 19, signed for $1,600,000 in 2013, mega-toolsy especially with power and throwing arm, hit just .253/.323/.313 in 83 at-bats in rookie ball due to broken ankle, high ceiling prototype right fielder if he can lock down strike zone and tap his power. Would rank higher on pure tools.
16) Chris Beck, RHP, Grade C: Age 25, posted 3.15 ERA with 40/14 K/BB in 54 innings in Triple-A, on verge of full major league trial when he went down with elbow injury, low-to-mid-90s at his best with change-up, slider, inning-eater type in terms of stuff, might play up if used in bullpen.
17) Jason Coats, OF, Grade C: Age 26, older prospect with power, hit .270/.313/.438 with 17 homers, 29 walks, 93 strikeouts, 11 steals in 489 at-bats in Triple-A. Role player but could be useful, Jerry Sands-type, or Scott Van Slyke, or Khris Davis if he really maxes out his power talents.
18) Jake Peter, INF, Grade C: Age 22, hit .260/.330/.348 with 23 steals, 53 walks, 89 strikeouts in 497 at-bats in High-A, line drive hitter with some speed and st4eady defense, perfect utility player type.
19) Peter Tago, RHP, Grade C: Age 23, former hot prospect in Rockies system selected in minor league portion of 2014 Rule 5 draft, forgotten guy due to horrible command problems but he started throwing strikes in new system, posted 2.71 ERA with 73/29 K/BB in 66 innings, just 49 hits, saved 15 games, ending year strongly in Double-A. Total turn around. He throws hard and has lots of stuff, case of where a change of scenery actually worked.
20) Michael Ynoa, RHP, Grade C: Age 24, like Tago an apparently successful reclamation project, posted 2.61 ERA with 40/16 K/BB in 38 innings in High-A, still throws hard, can he stay healthy for more than three months? If so, could be nice reliever.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Jhoandro Alfaro, C; Brandon Brennan, RHP; Chris Comito, RHP; Johan Cruz, INF; Matt Davidson, 3B; Danny Dipoco, RHP; Jace Fry, LHP; Onelki Garcia, LHP; Blake Hickman, RHP; Robinson Leyer, RHP; Thad Lowry, RHP; Luis Martinez, RHP; Franklin Reyes, OF
A thin system but not without some players (pitchers especially) of intrigue. I will post some of the more interesting Grade C guys in the comments section.