Baseball America kicks off White Sox prospect ranking seasonMicker Adolfo is one of a few prospects to crash the party. (Jim Margalus / Sox Machine)

Baseball America kicks off White Sox prospect ranking season

Five takeaways from the first farm system ranking of the offseason

As long as the White Sox are rebuilding, at least we’ll have the farm system rankings to anticipate.

Baseball America cracked open the Sox’ leaderboards by publishing its top 10 list on Wednesday, with an accompanying chat.

When it comes to outlets, I prefer to size them up year over year to get an idea of how players’ skills have been weighted in the past, and what might have changed. Cross-checking the last two years of BA lists results in this:

Rank 2017-18 2018-19
1 Eloy Jimenez Eloy Jimenez
2 Michael Kopech Michael Kopech
3 Alec Hansen Dylan Cease
4 Luis Robert Nick Madrigal
5 Dane Dunning Luis Robert
6 Zack Collins Micker Adolfo
7 Jake Burger Dane Dunning
8 Blake Rutherford Blake Rutherford
9 Gavin Sheets Luis Gonzalez
10 Dylan Cease Steele Walker

From just 10 names — or 20 if you’re willing to count twice — five things jumped out at me:

No. 1: A major course correction on Cease.

Baseball America was the lowest on Cease last year, putting him at No. 10 while every other ranking I saw had him in the top five. They had the most bearish outlook on his combination of an upper-echelon repertoire with significant durability issues. One full, healthy and dominant season at High-A and Double-A later, Cease now finishes in the money.

No. 2: What a tumble for Hansen.

Cease usurped Hansen, who tumbled all the way out of the top 10. He’s one of the players I’m most curious about, since he boasted top-50 prospect status last season. That said, it’s hard to argue against Hansen’s exclusion, especially when somebody like Luis Basabe can’t make the cut.

No. 3: That’s a lot of outfielders.

Six of the top 10 White Sox prospects are now outfielders according to BA, with both Adolfo and Gonzalez making sizable leaps into contention and Rutherford holding his ground despite the challenges. In the subsequent chat, Josh Norris had Basabe in his next two. We’ll see how he finishes up the AFL, but I still think I like him the best of the group after Jimenez and Robert.

If you’re wondering how Rutherford survived the turnover, BA is buying more power than he has shown:

His above-average raw power hasn’t turned into many home runs, and those he has hit are all pulled. Some scouts attribute this to a lack of “snap” in Rutherford’s wrists, though the White Sox believe his power will grow. He shows the ability to impact the ball both early and late in the hitting zone, giving him an ability to hit the ball to all fields.

No. 4: Beware of the second-round pick.

Walker’s inclusion surprised me, at least until I dug up last year’s list and saw Sheets at No. 9 despite similar underwhelming results in his pro debut. I do wonder if there’s a recency bias over players who were heavily scouted and considered as draft prospects, as Walker had a disappointing, injury-hampered start to his pro career.

No. 5: Madrigal is the only first-round pick.

Zack Collins drifted off the list because it’s unclear how he’ll get to the majors with his hit tool and catcher skills being what they are at this point. Jake Burger isn’t around because of his two Achilles explosions. Zack Burdi is still searching for his velocity after Tommy John surgery. Carson Fulmer wasn’t a factor in September call-ups. It speaks to the depth of the rebuild that the White Sox are able to come up with 10 compelling prospects without any help from their recent first-rounders, but it’s also a hard way to develop impact players when so many first-rounders are hitting hard times.

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BeefLoaf108
Member

Good post Jim! You dug into a bunch of the things I’m interested in. The last thing I am curious about, is when the White Sox finally graduate Eloy & Kopech (or if you removed them from these types of lists) where does the org grade out against the other orgs. I wouldn’t be shocked if even including them they fall out of the top 5 this season, but I guess we’ll see.

Josh Nelson
Editor

I think they will fall out from the Top 5 without Eloy and Kopech.

Trooper Galactus
Member

You only say that because Steele Walker hasn’t had enough PAs to take Eloy’s place in the rankings yet.

Double_Dog
Member
Double_Dog

Wouldn’t be too surprising, considering we will have promoted Moncada, Eloy, Kopech, Lopez, & Giolito since this train started.

Jason.Wade17
Member

Kopech will remain in the prospect rankings until after the 2019 season, so that will help keep the rankings up. Also, adding a #3 pick in baseball helps. So much could change.

If you just removed them today, I’d say they’d be around 10-ish.

joewho112
Member
joewho112

Isn’t Kopech on the major league roster during his DL stint since he was on the major league team when he was injured?

Greg Nix
Editor

He’ll lose service-time/rookie status but won’t playing time benchmarks for prospect lists. See: Alex Reyes.

Jason.Wade17
Member

I don’t believe he loses rookie status, thats the same rules of eligibility as most prospect lists have.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

The rookie eligibility threshold can be eclipsed by either service or playing time.

But rookie eligibility service time is limited to being on the active roster when the 25-player limit is in place, unlike arb/free agent eligibility service time. Being on the 60-day DL during the regular season will preserve his rookie eligibility.

Papa Giorgio
Member
Papa Giorgio

Stick a fork in Collins? I think I am.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Well, his power numbers were down in a park known to suppress power, and he led the league in walks, so he still has carrying tools on offense. Problem is if he doesn’t stick at catcher (which seems likely) he’s infinitely less interesting.

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

Been very high on Luis Gonzalez the hit and obp tools are there, good speed, good arm, lefty bat…. I could go on. Considered a sleeper no more at number 9!

The outfield logjam is getting thick, time to find a team with the same situation of a back load of catchers or corner infield types, and make a prospect deal.

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

Pretty sure “team with backload of catching prospects” is a unicorn.

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

St Louis has Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner

KC has MJ Melendez blocked by Perez and the royals could use their pick on Rutchman….

There are some guys out there, but I do agree C is a pretty tough spot to find teams with an abundance

Eagle Bones
Member

Dodgers have Ruiz and Smith in the minors (and may bring back Grandal and/or sign/trade for another catcher to go with Barnes this offseason).

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

Ruiz is interesting and the sox could get a good look at him in spring… maybe some type of deal for dunning and something else for him….Dunning and nate jones enough? IDK the point is I think guys are out there and I would prefer to move some of our extra OF before SP but we should have a fairly good stockpile of each.

denbum
Member
denbum

I’m hoping Sox use #3 pick on one of the top 2 catchers in the draft

MrTopaz
Member
MrTopaz

Yeah, but how f*cking cool would it be to pull off a trade with a  unicorn?

Trooper Galactus
Member

I considered myself high on Gonzalez, but him and Walker over Basabe? Sorry, that’s nuts.

moncada5ever
Member

It’s really nice to have OF be our deepest position group in the farm with the production that we saw from outfielders at 35th and Shields last year.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

Hahn mentioned yesterday by name, Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, José Ruiz, Caleb Frare, Jace Fry, Aaron Bummer . Add Minaya, Jones, and maybe Banuelos , That’s your bullpen.

Josh Nelson
Editor

This is what Luis Robert thinks of Nick Madrigal ranked ahead of him…

Greg Nix
Editor

Now at .358/.414/.491 in the AZL. I’ll take it. 

Otter
Member

Yeah I’m back in.

Trooper Galactus
Member

If he does that in Birmingham I’ll need to change my underwear hourly.

Eagle Bones
Member

I’m assuming he says “make sure your volume is turned up” because of the sound of the bat, but the thing I really noticed was the gasp from the crowd.

patrickcroberts
Member
patrickcroberts

And then the laughter there at the end. Love that.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

His swing looks so good.

Eagle Bones
Member

Love the compact load. No Zack Collins there.

lil jimmy
Member
lil jimmy

All the way out of Cubbyland!

yolmers gatorade
Member

Loouu Boobbb. I don’t know why I am so excited that he is playing well given all the money they spent on him. Still, if he is ready by 2020, they’ll be a totally different team.

Maybe the Sox should just punt on 2019. They’ll have two outfield prospects ready for major league time in 2020 (my bet is Lou Bob plus Basabe or Adolfo). They’ll have Rodon, Kopech, Cease, and Lopez. They’ll have a great young bullpen. Someone like Collins, Sheets, or Palka can play first. Just wait a year, then park a dump truck full of money in front of Arenado and either Garrit Cole or Chris Sale and go win a World Series.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Harper and Machado would still be 27 for the 2020 season, if I’m not mistaken. They’re once-in-a-victory-orifice opportunities.

As Cirensica
Member

And people need to start thinking that Arenado might sign an extension with the Rockies…so don’t count the chickens before they hatch

yolmers gatorade
Member

Yeah, ok, but if they can’t sign Machado or Harper, it is probably better to have a clean payroll for 2020 than give multi year contracts to B list players.

moncada5ever
Member

My dad just sent me this from work at the United Center, and they had a Harper jersey on the Jordan statue…LETS GO @barstoolWSD pic.twitter.com/7N0D9d6VMn

— T.J. (@TBPB915) November 8, 2018

knoxfire30
Member
knoxfire30

Once we sign Harper imagine how much easier it will be to sign Machado.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

There’s at least some reason to believe the Sox approached Kopech about offering Bryce #34.

Josh Nelson
Editor

Good confirmation that we know the White Sox are actively recruiting Bryce Harper. Let’s see how good they are at recruiting him.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Can we move him back to catcher?

Patrick Nolan
Editor

What if Bryce Harper is actually the best pitch framer in the major leagues?

OK that’s ridiculous but he’s probably not much worse than what we’ve got!

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Move Narvaez to RF and we’ve got a juggernaut!

Otter
Member

Okay, Hawk.

asinwreck
Member

Nope, this suggestion – though a terrible idea — is more logical than Harrelson deciding Carlton Fisk should play left field.

Trooper Galactus
Member

Gloveonchair would not only be a better framer, I’d probably trust his blocking skills more.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

I want to know which players they coerce volunteer to run airport shuttle service and star in the recruitment video.

Greg Nix
Editor

Chris Volstad, Trayce Thompson, and Ryan Lamarre. “Hi Bryce, we’re all guys who you won’t have to play with next season if you sign with the White Sox.”

moncada5ever
Member

A little harsh on Lamarre to group him with them 2, eh?

Trooper Galactus
Member

Not especially.

MrTopaz
Member
MrTopaz

We’ll always have that one game in New York. Or was it at home against the Yankees? Never mind, I think your point stands.

Jason.Wade17
Member

I know its all slightly tongue in cheek and what not, but Harper’s a guy you don’t just bring in Tim Anderson and Moncada. You have to pull out the big guns right? Like a Limo of Frank Thomas, Michael Jordan, and President Obama, right?

Josh Nelson
Editor

Probably why the recruiting meeting could be at the United Center

MrTopaz
Member
MrTopaz

They fill the United Center with anyone vaguely famous who’s ever been connected with the Sox. John Cusack and Eddie Vedder pretending they’ve been diehard Sox fans all their lives. Jeff Daniels for that one documentary he hosted. Mandy Patinkin. John Landis. Norm from Cheers (pnoles: relevant interest alert). The whole thing backfires, though, when Richie Daley the Younger shows up, and it turns out the one thing Harper can’t abide is graft-ridden municipal government.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

I think we’re better off turning this into a Louisville basketball recruiting visit.

Patrick Nolan
Editor

Underrated

I think we’re better off turning this into a Louisville basketball recruiting visit.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

Or maybe we’ll find out on an upcoming episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians that it was just elaborate camouflage to stage a belated intervention for Kanye.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

Maybe more like Adam LaRoche and the Duck Dynasty cast’s face merkins for Harper.

asinwreck
Member

That’s a clown car, bro.

Right Size Wrong Shape
Member
Right Size Wrong Shape

Benny the Bull

Lurker Laura
Member
Lurker Laura

I’ve said that I don’t think Harper is coming to the Sox, even with the biggest offer, but I’m glad that the Sox themselves don’t share my pessimism.

soxfanpa
Member
soxfanpa

I’d love some big signings, but I just don’t like him as a person. It would be pretty miserable to let that dislike fester for the life of his 36 year contract.

ndsoxfan
Member

I don’t want the White Sox to pay what it’s going to take for Harper.  He had a 10 war season which is really hard for me to wrap my head around but last year was 1.3.  2016 was 4.7 and 2015 was 1.5.  35 million a year for that is the kind of deal that could ruin the whole rebuild 

As Cirensica
Member

Machado should be priority one because he plays 3B, a position the Sox have no one in the minors who can step in. We have myriad outfielders out there.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

They can trade players they block. The preference should be for whichever option makes the team more likely to win games rather than preferring the aesthetics of one way of building a roster over another.

ndsoxfan
Member

I agree with what you’re saying, but how do you feel about Harper specifically?

roke1960
Member

The advantage of Harper is the left handed power bat. I think he would really thrive in Chicago.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

I feel like we’ve heard that said about more than 1 former Nationals before.

Eagle Bones
Member

Yeah but this one’s got a great beard to go with it.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

I’d prefer Machado because of the defensive value and flexibility. I also think he’s got a bit of an edge in overall consistency even if Harper’s ceiling is higher (if he can ever reach it again).

But I also just really don’t enjoy watching Harper play so it’s difficult to be objective. I had the same problem with Samardzija, for that matter.

Eagle Bones
Member

He’s averaged 4.6 fWAR per 600 PA over his career. 140 career wRC+. Steamer projects him for a 5 win season next year. I have zero worries about the bat. The downturn in defensive numbers last year is a little worrying, but that really came out of nowhere. Maybe injury related?

roke1960
Member

I’d probably prefer Machado also, but it’s great that we’re actually having this conversation about the White Sox!

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

FWIW Statcast’s OAA has him in the red for 2016 and 2017, too. Though not as definitively.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

Also, citing averages doesn’t address a critique of his consistency–that he achieves his averages by way of a bigger range of outcomes.

Harper has more swing and miss in his game and isn’t as consistent in making productive contact, even if he walks more. While the Sox would benefit from any kind of improvement, they’d especially benefit from more middle of the order consistency.

karkovice squad
Member
karkovice squad

Abreu wins another Silver Slugger.

It’ll be ironic when a reigning Silver Slugger becomes Comeback Player of the Year.