Chicago White Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Yoan Moncada, 2B-3B, Grade A: Age 21, signed by Red Sox out of Cuba in 2015; traded to White Sox in Chris Sale deal; hit .294/.407/.511 with 15 homers, 45 steals, 72 walks, 124 strikeouts in 405 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, then went 4-for-19 with 12 strikeouts in MLB trial; Number Two prospect in all of baseball, just behind Andrew Benintendi; switch-hitter with power, speed, good eye for the strike zone; could be 20+ homers, 20+ steals, 80 walks producer and that could be an underestimate; had issues with contact during MLB trial but shouldn’t be a long-term factor; defense needs more polish and time in Triple-A will be useful but should be a lineup mainstay soon. ETA 2017.
2) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, first round pick by the Nationals in 2012, traded to White Sox in Adam Eaton deal; posted 2.97 ERA in 115 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 116/44 K/BB and 104 hits; posted 6.75 ERA in 21 MLB innings with 11/12 K/BB; continued to dominate minors but struggled in majors, with disturbingly low strikeout rate; velocity was lower than expected at 92-95 instead of 93-98 and fastball can be straight; still shows excellent curveball and solid-average changeup; even with the loss of fastball velocity he still projects as an above-average to excellent starter if his command gets more consistent. Expect ups-and-downs but overall remains one of the top prospects in the game. ETA 2017.
3) Michael Kopech, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2014 by the Red Sox, came over in Sale trade; posted 2.25 ERA in 52 innings in Low-A with 82/29 K/BB, a mere 25 hits and .147 average-against; notable non-game issues include PED suspension in ’15 and a broken hand suffered in a fight with a teammate in ’16; also notable for 95-100 MPH fastball with readings reported as high as 105 at times; mixes blazing heat with hard slider and viable change-up; ridiculous K/IP and H/IP ratios aren’t lying about his stuff; issues now are proving command and maturity; ace potential is obvious. ETA late 2018.
4) Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, signed by Nationals out of Dominican Republic in 2012, another component of Eaton trade; posted 3.21 ERA in 109 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 126/35 K/BB, 90 hits; posted 4.91 ERA in 44 MLB innings with 42/22 K/BB; fastball up there at 93-98 and has been known to hit 100; also has above-average breaking ball; change-up and command remain erratic; many observers project him in bullpen due to the inconsistent off-speed stuff and concerns about mechanics/durability; personally I’d use him as a starter as I think there’s enough potential with his change-up but we’ll see if the White Sox agree. ETA 2017.
5) Carson Fulmer, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt; posted 4.63 ERA in 103 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 104/56 K/BB, 96 hits; pitched 11.2 MLB innings with 8.49 ERA, 10/7 K/BB; at his best, shows 93-97 MPH, plus curveball, cutter, and solid-average change-up; was not always at his best in ’16, with a velocity reduction on the heat and regression with secondary pitches; opinion remains split on if he starts or relieves; as with Lopez, I think I would keep him as a starter for now but opening the year in Triple-A. ETA 2017.
6) Zack Collins, C, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Miami Hurricanes; hit .258/.418/.467 with six homers, 33 walks, 39 strikeouts in 120 at-bats in High-A; 55/60 grade power from the left side along with a mature and selective hitting approach; main questions revolve around glove; will never be excellent defensively with average arm and mobility but he’s made enough progress that sticking at catcher is possible; in a way, he is sort of a catching version of Fulmer: a player with obviously impressive talents but with questions about how he is best deployed. Bat will be ready by 2018, but not sure about glove.
7) Zack Burdi, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick from University of Louisville; posted 3.32 ERA in 38 innings at four levels, finishing summer in Triple-A; 80-grade fastball at 96-100 MPH with movement; also has plus slider; also has a decent change-up; concerns about command and durability make him a good fit in bullpen with MLB closer potential; that could happen very soon if command holds up. ETA late 2017.
8) Dane Dunning, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Florida by the Nationals, another segment of the Eaton deal; posted 2.02 ERA with 32/7 K/BB in 36 innings between GCL and NY-P; primarily a reliever in college but has arsenal to start including 90-95 sinker, plus slider, and a change-up with average potential; throws strikes; path forward will depend on how quickly the change-up develops but could be a fine workhorse. ETA 2019.
9) Alec Hansen, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 from University of Oklahoma; was in the mix for number one-overall but fell to second round due to difficult spring season; much better in pro ball with 1.32 ERA, 81/20 K/BB in 55 innings between rookie ball and Low-A; fastball up to 98; slider varies between below-average and clear plus depending on when you see him; curveball and change-up also come and go but both look solid when he’s on; if he throws strikes and develops the off-speed pitches he can be a number two starter but those remains significant ifs until we get a bit more evidence. ETA 2019.
10) Spencer Adams, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, second round pick in 2014, posted 3.98 ERA with 100/31 K/BB in 163 innings between High-A and Double-A with 179 hits; fastball around 90 but locates it well, mixes in slider and change-up; quality of secondaries varies from start to start, reflected in his weakish strikeout rate, but general pitching instincts, competiveness, and athleticism are all well-regarded. Fourth starter projection. ETA late 2018.
11) Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, signed by Red Sox from Venezuela in 2012; part of the Sale trade; hit .264/.328/.452 between Low-A and High-A with 12 homers, 25 steals, 41 walks, 119 strikeouts in 425 at-bats; 60 raw power, 60 speed, 60 arm, but tools tend to play down due to lack of polish and game feel; some experts regard him as a huge sleeper and future regular, but other respected observers expect his bat will top out in Triple-A; given his age, patience is advised; the tools are here but it is too soon to know about the skills. ETA 2020.
12) Jameson Fisher, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2013 from Southeastern Louisiana; hit .342/.436/.487 with 27 walks, 43 strikeouts in 187 at-bats in Pioneer League; has always been a very successful hitter with a good eye and plenty of bat speed from the left side, but history of serious shoulder injury and resulting defensive problems hamper his stock; was old for the Pioneer but most regard the bat as legit; questions about position and home run power at the highest levels need to be resolved. ETA 2019.
13) Michael Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25; long-term prospect originally in Oakland system lost years to injuries but finally got to majors in ’16; posted 3.00 ERA in 30 innings with 30/17 K/BB; over rookie limit on service time, under limit on innings so I’ll include him; hot fastball at 93-96; mixes in erratic slider; overpowering at his best but command remains inconsistent; he made enough progress for optimism about his ability to be a long-term pen presence. ETA 2017.
14) Dylan Covey, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25; fourth round pick in 2013 by Athletics; posted 1.84 ERA in 29 Double-A innings with 26/17 K/BB until going down with strained oblique; selected in December 2016 Rule 5 draft and must stick on roster; fastball 88-95 with good action low in zone; plus change-up along with fair curve and slider; could be nice grounder-generating long reliever who can start if needed. ETA 2017.
15) Charlie Tilson, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, drafted by Cardinals in second round in 2011 from high school in Illinois; traded to White Sox for Zach Duke; promoted to majors after trade and tore hamstring in MLB debut; hit .282/.345/.47 with 33 walks, 51 strikeouts, 15 steals in 351 at-bats in Triple-A; lacks power and arm strength but very fast, 70-speed and outfield range though we’ll have to see if hamstring inhibits that; fourth outfielder ready if healthy. ETA 2017.
16) Jake Peter, INF-OF, Grade C+: Age 23, seventh round pick in 2014 from Creighton University; hit .283/.350/.376 between Double-A and Triple-A; lefty line drive hitter with doubles power; tools average in all respects; controls strike zone well, versatile glove can fit at almost any position due to his instincts and work ethic; grows on you the more you see him play; should be valuable bench asset. ETA 2017.
17) Jordan Stephens, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, fifth round pick in 2015 out of Rice University; 3.45 ERA in 141 innings in High-A with 155/48 K/BB, 129 hits; fastball can hit 96 but is more commonly in 89-94 range; 60-grade curve is out-pitch, also mixes in fair cutter and change-up; history of injury including Tommy John surgery and scary precedent of Rice pitchers in pro ball must be considered; potential number three/four starter if off-speed stuff rounds out and if he proves durable, but could move rapidly if switched to pen. ETA 2018.
18) Alex Call, OF, Grade C+: Age 22: third round pick in 2016 out of Ball State University; hit .308/.394/.445 with 20 doubles, six homers, 34 walks, 58 strikeouts, 14 steals in 292 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A; loud numbers in debut; speed and especially throwing arm parse out as above-average; power is below average but bat is otherwise polished; tools fit best in right field but may not have classic home run power for the position. ETA late 2019.
19) Matt Cooper, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, 16th round pick in 2014 from University of Hawaii; posted 3.26 ERA in 119 innings between High-A and Double-A with 142/33 K/BB and just 90 hits; fastball generally 88-91 but some reports have him as high as 93; mixes in slider, curve, change-up; excellent pitching instincts; has the ratios of a power pitcher despite what the radar says; good sleeper prospect. ETA late 2017.
20) Jacob May, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, third round pick in 2013; hit .266/.309/.352 with 19 doubles, one homer, 15 walks, 72 strikeouts, 19 steals in 301 at-bats in Triple-A; very athletic with 70-grade speed and good defensive ability; lack of power and arm strength keep him from profiling as a regular; between May and Charlie Tilson the Sox have two good candidates for bench outfield roles in 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+: Victor Diaz, RHP; Adam Engel, OF; Bernardo Flores, LHP; Luis Martinez, RHP; Jordan Guerrero, LHP; Amado Nunez, SS
GRADE C: Micker Adolfo, OF; Nick Basto, OF; Chris Beck, RHP; Joel Booker, OF; Brian Clark, LHP; Luis Curbelo, INF; Tyler Danish, RHP; Matt Davidson, 3B; Nicky Delmonico, 1B; Brad Goldberg, RHP; Ian Hamilton, RHP; Courtney Hawkins, OF; Danny Hayes, 1B; Rymer Liriano, OF; Trey Michalczewski, 3B; Juan Minaya, RHP; Omar Narvaez, C; Aaron Schnurbusch, OF; Yosmer Solorzano, RHP; Giovanni Soto, LHP; Zach Thompson, RHP
The big trades gave this system a huge boost. I’ll be around to answer questions in the comments thread.