The White Sox have one of the best minor league systems in baseball, if not the best. Don’t believe me? MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs have six Sox prospects in the Top 100. Baseball America has five Sox prospects in their Top 100. Four players are on every list (Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, and Luis Robert) and four are in and out, depending on the source (Blake Rutherford, Dane Dunning, Zack Burdi, and Zack Collins). It appears there is a lot to look forward to for Sox fans in the near future.
However, it’s not *perfect, and if I had to guess I’d say Sox general manager Rick Hahn is aware of the holes. So let’s first illustrate the good in order to juxtapose that with the bad.
The Sox will have four starters in the rotation this year under 26 years old:
- Carlos Rodon (when he returns from shoulder surgery)
- Lucas Giolito
- Reynaldo Lopez
- Carson Fulmer
Barring some unforeseen setback, Kopech will join them at some point this season. Kopech is 21 years old. Zack Burdi looks like the closer of the future, and he will get his first work post Tommy John surgery in 2018. Burdi will be 23 years old a month from today.
The Sox have Avi Garcia coming off a career year in right field. Jimenez, like Kopech, is 21 years old and could make his major league debut in left field in June or July. 20 year old Robert is probably two years away from being the Sox center fielder.
The Sox signed veteran catcher Wellington Castillo to a two year contract with an option year this offseason. They have improving young catchers to battle for the back up spot this season in Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith. Big bat and OBP prospect Collins will start the year behind the plate at Triple A this season. Additional catching prospects Evan Skoug, a 7th round pick out of TCU last year, and Seby Zavala, a 12th round pick out of San Diego State in 2015, are also thought of highly in the Sox organization.
It appears the mound, the grass, and behind the plate are taken care of quite nicely for our Sox. Now, the concerns.
To say the Sox are set on the right side of the infield is a pretty safe assumption. Yoan Moncada has all of the five tools, and he could break out in a way that will put all of Major League Baseball on notice. Jose Abreu is one of the most quietly productive and impactful sluggers in all of baseball.
On the left side of the infield you have a talented former first round pick in Tim Anderson who needs to have a breakout season in 2018, and a valuable utility player who has been thrust into a starting role in Yolmer Sanchez.
The infielders of tomorrow may not be in the White Sox system currently.
Excluding catchers, 4 of the Sox Top 30 prospects are infielders:
- 3B Jake Burger, 1st round pick in 2017
- 1B Casey Gillaspie, 1st round pick in 2014 (Rays)
- 1B Gavin Sheets, 2nd round pick in 2017
- 3B Amado Nunez, signed in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic
Let’s get to know, albeit briefly and superficially, the three primary 1B, 3B, and middle infield prospects for the 2018 White Sox.
Gillaspie is the younger brother of former Sox third baseman Connor Gillaspie. Gillaspie’s struggles last year in Triple A (.223 AVG/.297 OBP, 15 HRs, 62 RBI with the Rays and Sox combined) with the Rays left him available in a trade. The Rays only requirement for Gillaspie was left handed middle reliever Dan Jennings, which means his once lofty prospect status has faded significantly.
Sheets was drafted in the second round for his power, but he only netted 4 home runs in 204 at bats between Rookie ball and Single A. Sheets had big numbers at Wake Forest University, but the road is littered with MLB prospects drafted in the second round that didn’t make it. Don’t believe me? Here is a link to the 2nd round picks of the 2014 MLB draft. Tell me how many of these guys are currently succeeding in the big leagues (hint-0).
Keon Barnum was a sandwich pick (48th overall) in the 2012 draft out of a Florida high school. He has gone the way of former Sox top prospects Lance Broadway, Kyle McCullough, Aaron Poreda, and Jared Mitchell, among others. He will not be playing first base for the White Sox in this lifetime or any other.
Burger put up pedestrian numbers in Rookie ball and Single A (.263 AVG/.336 OBP, 5 HRs, 29 RBI in 51 games) after being drafted by the White Sox in the first round out of Missouri State. Scouting reports claim he will hit for power and average, as well as play average or better defense at third base. With his quiet start as a professional, it stands to reason the Sox might fill the hot corner with a free agent if Burger isn’t ready to contribute by 2019.
Nunez is only 20 years old, but the back end of the Sox Top 30 prospects is ordinary, and it’s a stretch to believe Nunez will be in a position to contribute to the big club before he’s 25 years old, if ever. In 150 at bats last year, Nunez hit .193 with 1 home run.
Before the Sox started the rebuild by trading stars for prospects, Trey Michalczewski was the number one 3B prospect in their system. Despite a good glove, his offensive numbers have stagnated since he was a 7th round draft pick in 2013 out of an Oklahoma high school. In 495 at bats last year at High A and Double A, Michalczewski hit .243/.317 OBP, 13 HRs, 50 RBI, with 144 Ks to 45 BBs. His career numbers reflect his 2017 numbers symmetrically.
Danny Mendick, 24, was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Massachusetss-Lowell. The scouting report on him lists below average tools across the board, but an ability to play multiple positions capably. In 165 at bats at the Double A level, he batted .197.
Eddy Alvarez used to split his time between speed skating (he’s from Miami?) and baseball. Now the former Olympian is committing his full attention to baseball. In 34 games at Triple A Charlotte last year, Alvarez had zero extra base hits and 7 runs batted in. He batted .240 and struck out 32 times in 118 plate appearances.
Yeyson Yrizarri is regarded as a smooth glove man and a good overall defensive prospect. He was acquired from the Texas Rangers for international bonus pool money. However, his offensive numbers lag behind his defensive ability considerably. His 2017 line in the Sox and Rangers’ systems was .260 AVG/.290 OBP, 8 HRs, 48 RBI, with 78 Ks to only 8 BBs.
Remember, we used to have All-World minor league shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. (Ranked in three Top 100 lists: #52 MLB Pipeline, #9 Baseball America, and #5 Fangraphs). We traded him for James Shields. I’m sorry to ruin your dinner.
If Abreu leaves after 2019 (or sooner via trade), if Moncada gets hurt, if Anderson doesn’t take a major leap forward, and if Sanchez is in fact a bench player being used in a starting role, the reinforcements are extremely slim. The 2018 draft and the haul for Abreu and Garcia (if they’re traded) need to address the noticeable holes in an otherwise plentiful minor league system.
Next: *What if everything works out perfectly? A look at the perfect 2020 White Sox.