The center of the Chicago White Sox rebuild has been prospects acquired via trade.
Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning were all brought into the rebuild by way of trades.
However, the White Sox have quietly built a deep farm system largely in part due to their good drafting in recent years, especially last year.
The White Sox, who have the second-best farm system in the league according to MLB.com Pipeline, have built the backbone of their elite system through the draft.
Two of the White Sox top-ten prospects—Zack Collins (8) and Jake Burger (9) were first-round draft picks of the White Sox. A total of fifteen of the White Sox Top-30 prospects were drafted by the White Sox.
The most overlooked facet of the White Sox system, however, is their 2017 draft class. While seven of the fifteen former draft picks among the White Sox top prospects were drafted in 2017, an eye-popping number of picks have turned in big professional debuts.
Round One: Jake Burger
Jake Burger’s professional career has gotten off to a rough start. The eleventh-overall selection had a strong 2017 season, hitting .271 with four home runs in 47 games in Single-A.
However, Burger tore his achilles during a spring training game in early March, ending his season before it had even started. Just six weeks into his rehab, Burger reportedly re-tore his achilles, setting his rehab back another two months.
Burger is still young, just 22-years old. Next season will be big from a development and health standpoint, as Burger needs to prove that he can fight through adversity and still perform to the standards of a high draft pick.
Round Two: Gavin Sheets
Now, back to the successful picks. Second-rounder Gavin Sheets has spent all of 2018 with High-A Winston-Salem, hitting .296 with four home runs and 41 RBIs. Sheets was selected to the Carolina League All-Star Game, and has shown his ability to hit for average while being a run-producer.
A promotion to Double-A is likely in the future for Sheets, whose early returns are looking stellar for the South Siders.
Round Three: Luis Gonzalez
The third of three-consecutive high-average, low-strikeout White Sox draft picks, Luis Gonzalez, like Sheets, has done nothing but rake in his first full professional season. Gonzalez started the season in Single-A, hitting .300 with eight home runs in 55 games before earning a promotion to High-A, where he has hit .315 with just 19 strikeouts in 111 at-bats. In a crowded White Sox outfield, Gonzalez is looking like a diamond in the rough.
Round Four: Lincoln Henzman
The first pitcher selected by the White Sox, Lincoln Henzman, like Gonzalez, had a huge showing in Single-A before earning a promotion to Winston-Salem. In 19 games combined between the two levels, Henzman is 6-4 with a 2.83 ERA, walking just 12 in 82.2 innings. After pitching primarily out of the bullpen during his college days at Louisville, Henzman has been a big revelation in a starting role.
Round Five: Tyler Johnson
The first reliever who has stayed in the bullpen amongst the White Sox draftees, Tyler Johnson has put up the biggest numbers in 2018. In 28 appearances split between Single-A and High-A, Johnson is 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA, striking out a whopping 64 in just 39.1 innings.
Round Six: Kade McClure
Like Burger, Kade McClure’s season was cut short by injuries. However, McClure still pitched for a little over a month in Single-A, pitching to a stellar 3.02 ERA in eight starts. McClure struck out 42 batters in 41.2 innings before a knee injury cut his season short in the middle of May
Round Twelve: Justin Yurchak
Drafted in the 12th round out of Binghampton, Justin Yurchak burst onto the the scene in Short-Season A-Ball, hitting .345 in 60 games with eight home runs, landing on the White Sox Top-30 prospects list. Yurchak has taken a step back in 2018 in Single-A, but the early display of his hitting ability is a big win for the White Sox, especially in the late(r) rounds.
Round Seventeen: Blake Battenfield
Perhaps the biggest breakout pitcher in the White Sox draft class of ‘17, Oklahoma State’s Blake Battenfield had a lights-out first-half in Single-A, going 5-3 with a 2.00 ERA. Battenfield was named the White Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May after recording a 1.25 ERA in six starts.
Round Twenty Eight: Laz Rivera
We talked about Battenfield being the biggest breakout pitcher in the White Sox draft class. Laz Rivera is the biggest breakout hitter. Drafted in the 28th round out of Division-II powerhouse University of Tampa, Rivera hit .346 in 63 games in Single-A before earning a promotion to High-A, where he’s hitting at a .298 clip. Rivera, who never showed much power in college or in 2017, has hit a combined ten home runs on the year.