Chicago White Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2018
This list was updated March 12, 2018
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) Eloy Jimenez, OF, Grade A-/A: Age 21, signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Chicago Cubs in 2013, traded to White Sox last summer in Jose Quintana deal; hit .312/.379/.598 total on the season, 19 homers, 35 walks, 72 strikeouts in 333 at-bats, including .353/.397/.559 run in 68 Double-A at-bats; continues to bolster baseball skills to match impressive physical tools, classic right field profile with average running speed but plus power; sources give mixed opinions on his arm, with grades anywhere from 40 to 60 depending on who seems him and when; that’s a minor issue, though, the important point is that he is steadily improving feel for hitting and has clearly emerged as one of the top outfield prospects in baseball; ETA late 2018 (UPDATE 3/12/18: slight bump in grade from A- to A-/A to reflect projected placement on Top 175 list)
2) Michael Kopech, RHP, Grade A-: Age 21, first round pick by Boston Red Sox in 2013, traded to White Sox in Chris Sale deal; excellent season with 2.88 ERA, 172/65 K/BB in 134 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, just 92 hits allowed; blazing stuff with 95-100 MPH fastball, matched with plus slider and a solid change-up that continues to improve; command will still wobble on occasion but overall is quite good for a young power arm; has all the physical attributes of a top-of-the-rotation arm and the intangibles are moving in his favor; ETA 2018.
3) Luis Robert, OF, Grade B+: Age 20, Cuban signed last summer for $26,000,000 last May; hit .310/.491/.536 in Dominican Summer League with three homers, 12 steals, 22 walks, 23 strikeouts in 84 at-bats; superlative scouting reports with above-average to excellent tools in all categories; outstanding bat speed should lead to plus power, maybe more, and he’s a steal threat too; controlled strike zone well in the DSL though we need to see if that holds at higher levels; very high ceiling and so far it all looks good; ETA 2020.
4) Dylan Cease, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2014 by Chicago Cubs, sent to White Sox in Quintana deal; posted 3.28 ERA with 126/44 K/BB in 93 innings in Low-A; Tommy John survivor has his stuff back with mid-90s fastball (some reports say he touches 100) along with a wicked curveball; still working on straight change-up and general command, plus we need to see how he handles a larger workload; number two starter potential. ETA 2020.
5) Alec Hansen, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, second round pick in 2016 from University of Oklahoma; posted 2.80 ERA in 141 innings between Low-A, High-A, Double-A with 191/51 K/BB, just 114 hits; huge 6-7 right-hander more successful in pro ball than he was in college on strength of 93-98 MPH fastball, plus slider, and an improving change-up; command was troublesome in the past but improved in ’17 with results that can’t be ignored; could be a number two starter if progress continues; ETA late 2019.
6) Dane Dunning, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2016 by the Washington Nationals from University of Florida, traded to Sox in Adam Eaton deal; posted 2.94 ERA with 168/38 K/BB in 144 innings between Low-A and High-A, 127 hits; pure stuff doesn’t quite match Cease or Hansen but Dunning is further ahead with his command and has no shortage of physical ability, with 90-95 MPH fastball and solid-average slider and change-up; heavy ground ball profile, could be number three starter; ETA late 2019.
7) Zack Collins, C, Grade B: Age 23, first round pick in 2016 from University of Miami Hurricanes; hit .224/.370/.445 with 19 homers, 87 walks, 129 strikeouts in 375 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; power/patience hitter with real thump, though batting average has been lower than anticipated so far along with some concern about swing mechanics; threw out 39% of runners, very respectable, but needs to lower passed ball and error rates; he has some things to work on but overall he still project as a regular; ETA 2019.
8) Carson Fulmer, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, first round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt; 5.79 ERA in 126 Triple-A innings, 132 hits; posted 3.86 ERA in 23 major league innings, 16 hits; stuff has declined a bit since college but fastball and curve are still above-average on the right day, command and control also seem to come and go; given the competition in the system I think he will end up in the bullpen long-term; ETA 2018.
9) Blake Rutherford, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick by the New York Yankees in 2016, traded to White Sox in Todd Frazier deal; hit .260/.326/.348 in the Low-A South Atlantic League with 25 doubles, two homers, 10 steals, 38 walks, 76 strikeouts in 396 at-bats; hasn’t lived up to high school press clippings yet, lack of power being the main problem despite positive reports on his bat speed and swing mechanics; certainly young enough to improve but he won’t advance as quickly as anticipated on draft day; ETA 2021.
10) Jake Burger, 3B, Grade B-: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from Missouri State University; hit .263/.336/.412 with five homers, 14 walks, 30 strikeouts in 194 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A; pretty good defender at third base, makes the most of non-spectacular physical tools, arm and hands work well there; 60-grade raw power though his swing doesn’t fully translate it into production just yet, though he held his own in Low-A right out of college; projects as a solid regular bat; ETA late 2020.
11) Zack Burdi, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Louisville, 4.05 ERA with 51/17 K/BB in 33 innings in Triple-A, 30 hits; season ended early with Tommy John surgery, unfortunate as he wasn’t far away from the majors; 95-100 MPH fastball, also has good change-up and slider plus aggressive mentality; main problem of course is waiting to see how he recovers from surgery; ETA late 2019.
12) Micker Adolfo, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013, hit .264/.331/.453 with 16 homer, 31 walks, 149 strikeouts in 424 at-bats in Low-A; would rank higher on pure tools alone, notably 60-grade raw power and a 65 or 70 throwing arm; made progress getting his swing in gear in ’17 and boosted his SLG by 100 points but still has some issues with strikeouts/pitch recognition; high-ceiling power bat but still unclear if he will handle advanced pitching; ETA 2021.
ANALYST NOTE: Slots 13 through 21 plus the “other Grade C+” guys are more or less interchangeable.
13) Gavin Sheets, 1B, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2017 from Wake Forest, hit .279/.365/.397 in 204 at-bats between brief rookie ball appearance and Low-A, 23 walks, 34 strikeouts; excellent strike zone judgment, showed good power on college but not yet in pro ball; son of former major leaguer Larry Sheets; Gavin’s dad was a career .266/.321/.437 hitter, OPS+109; ETA 2020.
14) Spencer Adams, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Georgia; 4.42 ERA with 113/40 K/BB in 153 innings in Double-A, 171 hits; durable and throws strikes with fastball anywhere between 90 and 95 and a good slider, decent change-up; usually not overpowering but always around the strike zone and has been young for his levels; young enough to sharpen command and location from decent to excellent, which would boost his stock; ETA 2019.
15) Ryan Cordell, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, traded from Milwaukee Brewers to White Sox in late July, shortly after he went on the disabled list in Triple-A with a back injury and didn’t play after the trade; was hitting .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, nine steals, 25 walks, 65 strikeouts in 261 at-bats; multi-tooled athlete with power and speed, also a strong throwing arm; has done a good job refining his swing mechanics after some problems early in his career; originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 11th round in 2013 from Liberty University; ETA 2018.
16) Jordan Stephens, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, fifth round pick in 2015 out of Rice University; history of injuries and didn’t get on the mound in ’17 until June but performed well, 3.14 ERA with 83/35 K/BB in 92 innings in Double-A; low-90s fastball and an excellent curve, also has an average cutter and change-up, given durability issues as well as competition in this system, he might look better in bullpen. ETA late 2018.
17) Jordan Guerrero, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, 15th round pick in 2012 from high school in California; , 4.18 ERA with 136/43 K/BB in 146 innings in Double-A, 150 hits; stereotypical finesse lefty with fastball a tick over 90, mixed in with a very good change-up and an adequate curveball, throws strikes, not overpowering but he could sneak up on us as a four/five starter.
18) Bernardo Flores, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, seventh round pick in 2016 from Southern Cal, posted 3.42 ERA with 103/32 K/BB in 118 innings in Low-A and High-A, 116 hits; fastball velocity erratic, anywhere between 88 and 95 MPH depending on when you see him, but even a lower velocities it plays up due to plus change-up and average breaking ball along with sharp command, typical fourth starter profile; ETA 2020.
19) Ian Clarkin, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick by the Yankees in 2013, traded to White Sox in Todd Frazier deal; posted 2.60 ERA in 87 innings between the two organizations in High-A, 63/33 K/BB; once a top prospect but stock has dropped due to durability, has never topped 98 innings, although he’s usually been effective in those innings, low-90s fastball, both curveball and change-up flash plus but he needs to sharpen up his command; ground ball pitcher; my guess is he winds up in bullpen but is successful in that role; ETA 2019.
20) Seby Zavala, C, Grade C+: Age 24, 12th round pick in 2015 from San Diego State University; hit .282/.353/.499 with 21 homers, 37 walks, 104 strikeouts in 387 at-bats in Low-A and High-A, threw out 25% of runners; consensus seems to be that power bat is real and worthy of notice as he moves up but he’s still working on receiving and throwing; Double-A transition will be illuminating given that he’s a bit on the old side; ETA late 2019.
21) Yermin Mercedes, C, Grade C+: Age 24, originally signed by Baltimore Orioles out of Dominican Republic in 2010, acquired by White Sox in minor league portion of 2017 Rule 5 draft, meaning they can keep him and don’t have to send him back; seems like a great value pick to me, hit .276/.340/.455 with 16 homers, 35 walks, 67 strikeouts in 380 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, good combination of power and contact; threw out 34% of runners but was often used as a DH due to receiving issues; still, there’s power in the bat and if he’s even marginally passable as a catcher he’ll find a spot somewhere. ETA 2018.
I wanted to point out Mercedes specifically as an offensive sleeper. The Other C+ guys are worthy of notice as well and I will say something about them in the comments section as well as answering your questions.
OTHER GRADE C+ Luis Alexander Basabe, OF; Ryan Burr, RHP; Casey Gillaspie, 1B; Luis Gonzalez, OF; Lincoln Henzman, RHP; Kade McClure, RHP; A.J. Puckett RHP; Jose Rondon, INF; Tito Polo, OF; Evan Skoug, C; Thyago Vieria, RHP
OTHERS OF NOTE: Joel Booker, OF; Aaron Bummer, LHP; Alex Call OF; Brian Clark, LHP; Luis Curbelo, INF; Tyler Danish, RHP; Craig Dedelow, OF; Jameson Fisher, OF; Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B; Jace Fry, LHP; Willy Garcia, OF; Ian Hamilton, RHP; Tyler Johnson, RHP; Kyle Kubat, LHP; Louie Lechich, LHP; Patrick Leonard, 3B-OF; Luis Martinez, RHP; Danny Mendick, SS; Amado Nunez, 3B; Daniel Palka, OF; John Parke, LHP; Matt Rose, 1B-3B; Jose Ruiz, RHP; Yosmer Solorzano, RHP; Lenyn Sosa, SS; Logan Taylor, OF; Charlie Tilson, OF; Connor Walsh, RHP; Yeyson Yrizarri, INF; Justin Yurchak, 1B-DH
Obviously a very deep system with power arms and bats. I will be around in the comments section to answer queries.