Its no secret that the Chicago White Sox farm system is stacked with future (potential) stars. Premier prospects such as Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and others are pretty much household names to White Sox fans.
Ranked as the second-best farm system in Major League Baseball behind the San Diego Padres by MLB.Com, the White Sox farm system is also among the deepest in baseball. With seven top-100 prospects, many of the White Sox mid-tier prospects would be ranked around the top of most teams farm systems.
However while the White Sox top-tier prospects are about as good as it gets, there are high-level producers that have slipped under the radar despite putting up impressive numbers. This depth was put on display over the past few weeks, when a total of eighteen White Sox prospects from Class-A to Double-A were named all stars in their respective leagues.
Of those eighteen, nine are not ranked in the White Sox Top-30 prospects list by MLB.Com. That made it nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one sleeper prospect per level, but struggling to decide between three or four great options is a much better problem than struggling to find a single deserving candidate.
In order to qualify as a ‘sleeper prospect’, there is one qualification: The player cannot currently be ranked among the White Sox Top-30 prospects.
After a dominant start to the 2018 season, the Intimidators are excited to announce that seven players and manager Justin Jirschele have been named to the 2018 South Atlantic League All-Star Game!— Kannapolis Intimidators (@Intimidators) June 5, 2018
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Sleeper Prospect: Blake Battenfield
This one was easily the hardest to decide on. The Single-A Kannapolis Intimidators sit at 39-23 on the season, and recently had a league-leading seven players, as well as manager Justin Jirschele selected to the All-Star game.
Of the seven All-Stars, just two (Luis Gonzalez and Tyler Johnson) are ranked among the White Sox Top-30 prospects. That left me with five options.
I decided on Blake Battenfield. The White Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for the month of May, Battenfield is 5-2 with a 1.58 ERA in twelve starts for the Intimidators in 2018.
Selected in the 17th round by the White Sox out of Oklahoma State in last years draft, Battenfield didn't make a single start for the Rookie ball Great Falls Voyagers after being drafted last season.
Battenfield made the move to the rotation for Kannapolis and has thrived ever since, striking out 66 batters in 62.2 innings while walking just 14. Battenfield’s WHIP sits at an impressive 0.89, making him a viable candidate to soar through the White Sox minor league affiliates in the next year.
Battenfield is showing no signs of decline, as opponents are hitting just .187 against him on the year. Allowing just eleven runs in 62.2 innings is almost unheard-of, and ultimately that’s what makes Blake Battenfield the White Sox sleeper prospect for Single-A.
Like Battenfield, Rivera is a serious candidate to move up multiple levels by the end of the season. At the age of 23, Laz Rivera is hitting a whopping .345 in 58 games at shortstop for the Intimidators this season. Rivera’s plate discipline is a major concern however, as the 2017 28th-round pick has struck out 45 times to just five walks in 223 at-bats.
The third of three White Sox 2017 draft picks on this list, Tate Blackman has had an equally impressive breakout season for Kannapolis. The 13th-round pick is currently hitting at a .313 clip with nine home runs and 38 RBIs. However both Blackman and Rivera’s lack of plate discipline are glaring concerns, as Blackman has struck out 68 times in 211 at-bats.
Congrats to Luis Basabe, @joelbooker28, @DylanCease, @flo_rider95 and @MattFoster_14, all whom will be representing the Dash in the 2018 @carolina_league All-Star Game in Zebulon!— Winston-Salem Dash (@WSDashBaseball) June 11, 2018
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Sleeper Prospect: Joel Booker
While the Dash don't quite match the Intimidators in terms of All-Stars, the Winston-Salem Dash have been equally successful in the first half of the season, standing at 39-27 and winning six-consecutive games as of Thursday.
A major part of the Dashes success has been in part due to the versatility of Joel Booker. Selected in the 24th round of the 2016 draft, the former Iowa Hawkeyes left fielder has done it all for the Dash so far in 2018.
Booker is hitting at .291 with five home runs, 20 RBIs, 38 runs scored, and has an on-base percentage of .383.
Another major part of Booker’s game is his speed, as his 14 stolen bases, including the one above to win a game back in April, lead the Dash.
Booker has always been able to hit, as the speedy outfield holds a career .288 batting average throughout several levels in three seasons in the White Sox farm system. Booker is due for a promotion to Double-A in the coming weeks, and a good showing there should put him in serious contention to start 2019 in Triple-A, as at the age of 24, Booker’s age is not of concern in terms of readiness.
It was a really tough call between Booker and Bernardo Flores. Drafted in the seventh round out of USC in the 2016 draft, the lefty possesses a 2.55 ERA in twelve starts for the Dash this season. Flores has struck out just 58 batters in 77.2 innings but has walked just 17. The only real cause of concern for Flores is the fact that opponents are hitting .253 against him, which glares the serious lack of an “out” pitch for Flores.
Perhaps the best candidate to be the earliest to make the jump to the big leagues, former Alabama pitcher Matt Foster has put together a spectacular minor league career in his two-and-a-half professional seasons. The reliever has a combined 1.39 ERA across his time with the White Sox, and shockingly enough, his 2.33 ERA on the season is his career-worst by almost half a run. At the age of 23, Foster’s consistency should foster him an opportunity to pitch in the majors sooner rather than later, especially given his track record of consistency.
Sleeper Prospect: Danny Mendick
The Birmingham Barons made this one a bit easier for me, as five of their six All-Stars are Top-30 prospects. The only one that isn't is 24 year-old shortstop Danny Mendick, who was named an All-Star despite an up-and-down season.
Mendick is hitting .245 in 61 games for the Barons in 2018, but his power stroke is his calling card, as Mendick has eight home runs and eleven doubles so far this season.
Selected out of UMass-Lowell in the 22nd round of the 2015 draft, Mendick holds a career batting average of .254 in his three-and-a-half professional seasons in the White Sox organization. Mendick’s total of 25 home runs and 64 doubles make him a big breakout candidate, as Mendick is on pace to shatter his previous career highs in home runs (ten) and doubles (23).
Mendick’s consistency at the plate will need to improve before he’s considered as a call-up candidate, but his pop and potential make him the White Sox Double-A sleeper prospect.
The fourth player acquired in last season‘s Jose Quintana deal, Bryant Flete has had a nice season at second base for the Barons. The 25 year-old Venezuelan is hitting .269 in 36 games for the Barons, driving in 16 runs while scoring 14. Flete lacks any sort of power at the plate however, with just one home run on the season and a career-high of just seven.
Acquired from the Yankees in last summers trade that sent Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to the Bronx, Tito Polo is easily the fastest player in the White Sox farm system. Polo has swiped a farm system-leading 15 bags in 2018, and has stolen 179 bases throughout his seven year minor league career. Polo is hitting just .245, so his hitting will have to improve, especially with the White Sox crowded coup of outfield prospects.
MATT SKOLE SENT THIS BALL TO THE MOON!— Sox On 35th (@SoxOn35th) May 28, 2018
Sleeper Prospect: Matt Skole
The only player on this entire list to have played a game at the major league level in 2018, Matt Skole made his presence known with a home run in his second career at-bat for the White Sox on Memorial Day.
A former top prospect with the Washington Nationals, the 28 year-old is hitting just .244 for the Charlotte Knights in 49 games this season. Skole went 3-11 in four games for the White Sox last month, leaving him as a likely call-up candidate once trades begin to happen in the coming months.
Skole has a career 108 home runs in seven minor league seasons, so the power is certainly there. But 56 strikeouts in 176 at-bats on the season isn't pretty, and as the White Sox begin to turn towards high-average prospects, Skole will have to pick it up at the plate if he wants any chance to stick around on the South Side.
The nephew of former White Sox outfielder Carlos May, Jacob May struggled mightily in his brief stint at the major league level with the White Sox last season, notching just two hits in 36 at-bats in April. May is hitting .251 on the season, but was recently named International League Batter of the week last week. Given the lack of outfield depth for the White Sox, May should get an opportunity to prove his worth come September.
After spending just five games in Double-A to start 2018, Mason Robbins was promoted to Triple-A, where he’s hit .284 in 29 games in left field for the Knights. Robbins has little pop in his bat, as the 25 year-old has hit just three home runs on the season. Like May, Robbins could get an opportunity at the major leagues once the 40-man rosters expand on September 1st.