Grouping White Sox prospects for 2018: The top five, and one more

Grouping White Sox prospects for 2018: The top five, and one more

It’s Prospect Week at Sox Machine.

If you didn’t know that, neither did I. But it seems apropos, what with Monday’s podcast covering ranking season and a couple of farm-related Patreon requests sitting in the queue.

I haven’t had to think much about ranking prospects over the last seven years because I could leave that to Larry, who had individually forged viewpoints on the farm system and the notable players therein.

Without the concern of coming up with an authentic order of my own, I tend to look at the minor leagues like the Eliminator in “American Gladiators.” Or a version of “American Ninja Warrior” that more people finish. Or “MXC” with a little less innuendo. Or “Slippery Stairs” without so much collateral damage.

In any of these events, you’re watching some guys climb obstacles with ease while other guys crash spectacularly, with degrees of success in between.

Thus, when looking at the farm system, I tend to filter it by which ones are on the healthiest trajectories toward completing that climb, after which I compartmentalize them based on their specific brand of struggle that lies ahead.

If you want to deduce rankings from this, the first five names feel like a real Top Five. The rest is subject to interpretation.

FULL SPEED AHEAD

Players who only have to prove their games hold up against higher levels

Eloy Jimenez: There are some things he can’t do. He’s not going to steal bases. He won’t cover center field, and there appears to be some disagreement over his arm strength being good enough for right. That puts him a notch below up-the-middle players like Ronald Acuna, Fernando Tatis Jr. and others on the prospect charts.

On the other hand, what he does, he does very well. There seem to be no questions about his bat. He hit .312/.379/.568 over 89 games, spread out among two Carolina League teams and 18 games at Birmingham. He makes plenty of contact relative to his age and power (20 percent strikeout rate), and his walk rate is on the way up, too.

He says the Sox should win multiple World Series, so he’s speaking as though he’ll be the fixture of the White Sox’ lineup for years to come. He makes a starting assignment in Birmingham seem conservative. It makes sense, though. Beyond the standard service-time concerns, he only has 18 games and some winter league experience above A-ball. He theoretically could use reps against high-minors pitching to better understand how he reacts to different approaches. If it looks like a natural (or The Natural), I look forward to watching Rick Hahn try to reason his way around it.

Michael Kopech: Approaching the All-Star break, it looked like a new innings threshold would be Kopech’s crowning achievement for 2017. He lost sharpness by the time he surpassed his previous career-high workload in late June, but if he weathered them to pitch 100+ sporadically dominant innings in Birmingham in 2017, it’d still be definable progress toward a call-up by the first few months of 2019.

Instead, he came back from the break rejuvenated, posting a 0.66 ERA over six starts, with 54 strikeouts to just seven walks over 41 innings. He ended up crashing the party in Charlotte during the second half of August, wrapping up his season by throwing three successful five-inning outings with the Knights.

Rick Hahn has tasked Kopech with throwing his changeup confidently at Charlotte, which could cost him in the results department depending on how aggressively he uses it. The fastball and slider are enough to do some damage in the big leagues now, at least accounting for inconsistency from a guy who doesn’t turn 22 until April.

Alec Hansen: The talent that gave him top-10 pick potential before a disastrous junior year at Oklahoma has resurfaced with the Sox. He led all of the minors with strikeouts, racking up 191 to just 51 walks over 141⅓ innings.

Some of that was stat padding, as the White Sox let him finish out the first half of the minor-league season in Kannapolis. Yet he was no less effective at Winston-Salem, and he even came out firing in two starts at Birmingham to end the year … at least until the sixth inning. He hit a wall both times, which might be a byproduct of throwing an impressive 141 innings in his first pro season. That said, he geared his offseason work toward not wearing down as he approaches quality start territory.

He’s closer to 6’9″ than his listed height of 6’7″, so he can get a lot of mileage out of his mid-t0-high-90s fastball, which pairs nicely with a power curveball. Like fellow towering righty Lucas Giolito, he’s got a changeup and slider that could also get to average.

The third pitch is one item on his 2018 list. He’ll also have the third-time-through thing to work on, and given his size, there’s concern that his mechanics can unravel, but it didn’t really happen at any point over the 2018 season. Unlike others further down the line here, notable hindrances or fatal flaws are only speculative.

MYSTERY MEN

¯_(ツ)_/¯

Luis Robert: If he’s capable of doing everything Rick Renteria said he did in the Dominican, then he’s probably a better prospect than Jimenez. As it stands, all the prospect lists are hedging their bets by placing Robert in the 40-50 range, waiting to see how those standout tools hold up against stateside pitching, stateside weather, stateside schedules and just about everything else American.

TRENDING UP

The players who cleared their biggest hurdle of 2017, with obstacles remaining

Dane Dunning: Considering he spent most of his Florida career pitching out of the Gators’ bullpen, it’d be hard to top what he did pitching every fifth day for the White Sox in his first full pro season. He struck out 168 batters over 144 A-ball innings, the majority of both happening at Winston-Salem, and the long season didn’t appear to wear on him. He showed an ability to maintain 93 mph into the sixth inning at the end of the season.

Home runs were his lone issue, even after accounting for the hitter-friendly dimensions of his home park. There’s room to improve his command, which is more necessary since he’s not overpowering on the level of Kopech or Hansen. Fortunately, the White Sox have some solutions when stuff flattens out (stay tall, keep the plane, etc.).

Micker Adolfo: He finally showed the kind of promise that warranted a $1.6 million bonus, mostly because he finally played in enough games. He was healthy enough to appear in 112 games, which represents a career high by a comfortable margin. He did miss the end of the season and South Atlantic League playoffs due to a broken hand to give him the documented injury he’d been missing.

As a 20-year-old, he hit .264/.331/.453 for Kannapolis, which represents improvement with his contact. He struck out 149 strikeouts over 112 games, so there’s still a chasm in his plate-discipline numbers. The walk rate did move in the right direction after a sluggish start, although the K rate did, too, which might be the byproduct of a deeper counts.

  • April: 1.5% BB, 30.3% K
  • May: 3.8% BB, 26.9% K
  • June: 8.0% BB, 30.4% K
  • July: 9.1% BB, 34.5% K
  • August: 8.6% BB, 35.8% K

Assuming he starts the season in Winston-Salem — a fair guess since the White Sox liked him enough to add him to the 40-man roster — he’ll still be age appropriate for a prospect of note in High-A. He doesn’t have much ground to give in this department now that every season in the minors is an option year, but the fact that he’s compelling enough to warrant a roster spot is a victory in and of itself.

Coming up: Five more categories and upwards of 20 names. We’ll see if any of them get eliminated extremely.


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PauliePaulie
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PauliePaulie

Prospect week kicks shark week’s ass.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

It’s only 9:23 a.m., but I feel confident in saying that “Slipper Stairs” will be the highlight of my day.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

SPREAD THE ADOLFO LOVE

Josh Nelson
Editor

I’m excited to watch him this year. Wish Kannapolis had streaming capabilities. Maybe when they move into the new stadium.

seven11
Member
seven11

He should start in Winston-Salem but not sure if they have it either? I’m looking forward to seeing Basabe take a step forward repeating there as well.

Josh Nelson
Editor

Winston-Salem has one of the better streaming broadcasts in MiLB.

jorgefabregas
Member

https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/effectively-wild-episode-1172-season-preview-series-astros-and-white-sox/

Jason Benetti does the White Sox preview on Effectively Wild (around the 40:40 mark).

Reindeer Games
Member
Reindeer Games

I’m kind of surprised they’re projected worse than the Marlins or even the Royals.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

Yeah, I don’t get the Sox being behind the Marlins, either. The Tigers are going to be quite awful, too.

That’s why they play the games!

Greg Nix
Editor

Looking at the projections, Fangraphs REALLY hates the White Sox pitchers.

jorgefabregas
Member

Part of it is just depth charts. The White Sox best five starting pitchers are probably not going to be starting opening date. Likewise, the starting lineup would likely be better if Eloy was playing LF and Nicky bumped Davidson to the bench or whatever. Also, the depth charts have Engel as the starting CF, which seems unlikely.

Eagle Bones
Member
Eagle Bones

Re: gnix, that is steamers projections.  Zips seemed to be more optimistic, will be interesting to see if they move up once those are folded in.

35Shields
Member
35Shields

Re: Eagle Bones

I’ve noticed, anecdotally of course, that ZiPS seems more optimistic in general. I’ve never bothered to fully compare the two or their accuracy, but it seems like ZiPS usually projects a higher WAR than Steamer.

jorgefabregas
Member

PECOTA has the Sox at 73 wins, third in the AL Central.

 https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/dc/

Red_Hair_White_Sox
Member
Red_Hair_White_Sox

So you’re saying that PECOTA finally has justification for hating the Royals?

Otter
Member
Otter

I think a good case to add Spencer Adams to the trending up group could be made. Fastball isn’t where you’d want it to be, but pitched well at 21 in AA still not walking anyone and a six point jump in K% in AA.

steely3000
Member
steely3000

I was listening to WSCR the other day (yeah I just happened to turn it on), and the hosts and some reporter (I don’t recall who) were comparing Eloy Jimenez to Carlos Lee. They seemed pleased with that comparison, but I’m not sure if that is damning Eloy with faint praise. Lee was a fine hitter, but as for me I hope Eloy turns out better than that (especially since Lee could steal bases and apparently Eloy can’t). Are my hopes too high?

Josh Nelson
Editor

What are you hoping for from Jimenez?

After watching Jimenez play at Winston-Salem and Birmingham he reminds me of Jermaine Dye.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

Would not complain if Eloy had a career like JD’s for the Sox. (Especially the Series MVP part, duh.)

Brett R. Bobysud
Member
Brett R. Bobysud

If Jimenez is Jermaine Dye, I’m absolutely thrilled.

 

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

Young Jermaine Dye or White Sox Jermaine Dye ?

gibby32
Member
gibby32

My hopes?  Albert Belle or Manny Ramirez.

ParisSox
Member
ParisSox

Hank Aaron.  Anything else will be a disappointment, clearly.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

I think Lee is someplace close to the median outcome.

Josh Nelson
Editor

From 2000 to 2004, Lee averaged 27 HR and 94 RBI. I know those are just counting stats, but that’s a nice five-season run (15 bWAR during that stretch).

35Shields
Member
35Shields

It’s worth noting that a 60 FV player is supposed to produce roughly 3 WAR per season. https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/scouting-explained-the-20-80-scouting-scale/

Considering that most publications give Eloy an 60 FV, the Carlos Lee comp seems spot on .

joewho112
Member
joewho112

Lee’s output in context or out of it (i.e., Lee relative to his peers or Lee’s same number but in the present environment)? Lee was a good hitter but in the late 1990’s/early aughts, his output wasn’t special. I was under the impression Eloy was that just above average.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Lee relative to his peers.

KenWo4LiFe
Member
KenWo4LiFe

If You could guarantee me Carlos Lee’s career for Eloy I’d sign up right now and not think another second about it. But we better not trade him for a piece of junk like last time. Dammit.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

Get over it already.

KenWo4LiFe
Member
KenWo4LiFe

Never.

Reindeer Games
Member
Reindeer Games

You think KenWo would rather have a world series victory but naw, it’s still “MOAR DONGZ PLEASE!”

Brett R. Bobysud
Member
Brett R. Bobysud

This has been discussed in previous comment threads, but where do you guys think Dunning starts off the year?

My gut tells me he’ll start back at Winston-Salem, but a small part of me thinks he might get assigned to Birmingham if he does well in the Spring.

Greg Nix
Editor

I’d be shocked if he starts in Winston-Salem.

PauliePaulie
Member
PauliePaulie

Birmingham

Josh Nelson
Editor

Birmingham. Sticking with Alec Hansen.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Looks like Ballantini is taking over SSS

PauliePaulie
Member
PauliePaulie

Who?

joewho112
Member
joewho112

Chet Lemonhead, I believe

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Yup

PauliePaulie
Member
PauliePaulie

thx

yinkadoubledare
Member
yinkadoubledare

Former Sox beat guy for Comcast Sportsnet.

So the Sox SBNation site will continue to be run by an actual media person, while the Cubs one will continue to be run by a sentient bologna sandwich.

Reindeer Games
Member
Reindeer Games

Hey now!  I think SSS could use more wild speculation about how many fans are at games, but only if it comes with the manager of the site rage flaming an threatening to block people that make fun of how dumb it is in the comments section.

lastof12
Member
lastof12

Count me as one that doesn’t know why this split happened. I’m sure the defectors have their reasons and maybe it’s been revealed elsewhere as to why SSS was vacated. Either way, I firmly acknowledge Jim is an honorable man and I ‘m not going to question that.

That said, I am concerned where this split is heading. My hope is we still have the meth-up and the mini-meths (or whatever the hell you want to call it here). I also noticed where some missing posters were planning on upping their comments at SSS. I hope that occurs either here or there as well. I’ll miss the camaraderie if it lessens.  

Patrick Nolan
Editor

RE: lastof12

If it helps, I share your same concerns, and have been worried about all of that pretty much since the split was on the horizon. I don’t want to lose the social aspect because it’s a major reason I got sucked into SSS in the first place, and a major reason that I wanted to begin writing. Count me as one rooting for coordinated methups/machups.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

Patrick and lastof12: Me, too! I mean, I just got here. I don’t want to have to choose a side.

gibby32
Member
gibby32

There is substantive quality, insights and hard work both places.  Yet, the combined buzz over the past 1+ month is less than it used to be at southsidesox previously.  Maybe it’s the offseason, but I’m skeptical.

Josh Nelson
Editor
Greg Nix
Editor

As far as community, I for one will comment more at both sites when there’s more to talk about. It’s only through the herculean efforts of Jim/Josh/Pnoles that there’s any insightful or substantive Sox content to discuss here. Mike’s done a fine job at SSS, but even apart from the slow offseason, early February is the worst time for baseball talk.

Reindeer Games
Member
Reindeer Games

It sucks that its split up, but the community seems to be making an effort on both sides to stick together and there’s still good interaction on the twitter.  I think Chet Lemonhead taking over SSS will be awesome and joint meth-ups are without a doubt a must.  As a joiner during the Jim era, I’m loyal to him, plus Josh was really nice to my girlfriend at the meth-up, so I’m here first, but I try to read and contribute to conversations both places.

jorgefabregas
Member

Good news.

mikecws91
Member
mikecws91

Fake news!