With the 2018 Minor League Baseball season coming to a close its time to take a look at which prospects took the biggest jump in 2018, as well as who took the biggest step back.
In this new series, I’ll be taking a look at six players per system—three of whom rose the most in 2018, while the other three fell the most in 2018.
Next up are the Chicago White Sox.
The second piece (amazingly) of last summers Jose Quintana trade, Dylan Cease put together a truly incredible season in his first campaign in the White Sox system.
In 23 starts between High-A and Double-A, Cease pitched to a 12-2 record with a 2.40 ERA. In a career-high 124 innings, Cease struck out a system-leading 160, while walking 50. Opposing batters hit just .189 against Cease, who boasted a stellar 1.06 WHIP.
With Michael Kopech out for all of next season after Tommy Joh Surgery, Cease becomes the top pitching prospect in the White Sox system for 2019. Cease showed little difficulty in Double-A, so a starting assignment to Triple-A is likely.
Although Cease is just 22, he could be the next big White Sox pitching prospect to debut on the South Side. If he can somehow repeat this season, it won't be long before he’s pitching in Chicago.
Like Cease, Dunning started the season in High-A before finishing in Double-A. While his season was cut short about midway due to an elbow injury, the 23-year old still managed to put up big numbers in 2018.
In 15 starts, Dunning went 6-3 with a 2.71 ERA. In 86.1 innings, Dunning struck out 100 while walking 26. Dunning allowed just 77 hits, while opponents hit .235 against him.
Dunning, assuming he’s at 100% health, will almost certainly debut next season. Known as one of the most advanced pitchers in the entire White Sox system, Dunning has all the signs pointing towards a relatively quick time in Triple-A.
Another successful White Sox trade acquisition, Dane Dunning has all the tools to pitch in the majors for a long, long time.
One of the hidden gems in the White Sox system, Tyler Johnson was easily the best minor league relief pitcher for the White Sox.
In 41 appearances between Single-A and High-A, the 2017 draftee pitched to a stellar 1.40 ERA, going 9-0 in the process. In 58 innings, Johnson struck out 89 batters, while walking 16 and notching 14 saves.
Opponents struggled to do anything against Johnson, as reflected through his opponents average (.172), WHIP (0.86), and home runs allowed (2).
The hard-throwing 23-year old righty showed absolutely no signs of trouble in his first full season. It’ll be interesting to see if the White Sox decide to progress him aggressively, as a major league debut in 2019 isn't totally out of the picture, especially after his 2018 season.
What happened to Alec Hansen in 2018? The 2017 minor league strikeout leader struggled mightily in 2018, whether it be on the mound, or with his health, as Hansen missed the first two months of the season with right elbow soreness.
In 14 starts between Double-A and High-A, Hansen went 0-5 with a 6.31 ERA. His control was nonexistent, as in 51.1 innings, Hansen walking 59, while striking out 55.
His “stuff” is still there. His hard fastball and curveball combo can get him strikeouts at a high rate, but his location is the only problem. If you can't throw strikes, you can't pitch in the major leagues. Period.
Hopefully 2018 is just a fluke for Hansen. 2019 is a clean slate, but Hansen needs to regain his 2017 form in order to stay afloat in a competitive system.
Jake Burger’s season ended before it even started. The 2017 11th-overall pick ruptured his right achilles in just his second Spring Training game, shelving him for the year in March.
Even when it seemed that things couldn't get any worse, Burger re-reptured the same achilles just two months later, restarting his rehab to square one. Burger’s stock isn't really in question, as he hasn't shown any struggles on the field, but his lack of playing at all in 2018 is a major issue.
Jake Burger will need to reset in 2019. Going through the same process twice has got to be impossible for young players, but as a former first-rounder, the White Sox still have big plans for Burger.
Maybe his standing isn't really in question, but the main concern comes from the repeated injury, compounded with a completely lost season developmentally.
The White Sox tenth-ranked prospect heading into 2018, Carson Fulmer won the final spot in the White Sox rotation.
Everything went down from there for the former first-round pick, as in nine games (eight starts), Fulmer went 2-4 with an 8.07 ERA. Even more startling was the control issues, as in 32.1 innings, Fulmer walked 24 batters, while serving up eight long balls.
The White Sox converted Fulmer to a reliever midway through the season following a demotion to Triple-A in May, however Fulmer didn't show enough progress to earn a call-up once the rosters expanded.
Like the previous two, Fulmer simply needs to reset for 2019. Mechanical issues are concerning, but they're fixable, and as long as Fulmer can fix them, he still possesses the “stuff’ to succeed at a high level.