Top 30 White Sox Prospects - 2015 Preseason

from Dash Board Blog

Twice annually, the writers at Future Sox work together to produce a list of the top prospects in the White Sox system. A small twist this year - we're going 30 deep instead of 25, partially as a reflection of how much deeper the system has gotten.

This is the full top 30, including capsules for the top 15. For capsules on 16-30, see this earlier post from two days ago. At the end of this article we also list a few players who fell just short of our rankings.

NOTE ON ELIGIBILITY: We consider a "prospect" any player in the White Sox organization who has not yet achieved MLB Rookie status.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM: Since our Midseason 2014 list, the system has graduated and/or lost some ranked prospects (Chris Bassitt, Rangel Ravelo, Scott Snodgress), but also added a few interesting names (Nolan Sanburn, Michael Ynoa, Onelki Garcia). Several draft picks from 2014 had strong pro debuts, and continued increases in international spending are beginning to pay dividends. The very top of the list is strong, with four or even five prospects likely to show up on one or more of the all-MLB top 100 lists. The system is also showing its strength in depth, as the back end of the list is as strong as we’ve seen in some time. Some of the players on the "Others Receiving Consideration" list who just missed the top 30, would likely have made it just a few years ago.

RELEVANT STATUS CHANGES: Three of the top 30 players from the offseason list have graduated and/or are no longer in the organization: Rangel Ravelo (10th), Scott Snodgress (20th) and Chris Bassitt (25th).

THE LIST

1. Carlos Rodon, LHP     [Previous Rank: 1st, no change]

  • Drafted 1st Round (3rd overall) in 2014

Carlos Rodon is the unanimous number one among our writers, and was arguably the top prospect in the 2014 draft class. The lefty signed for $6.582M, the biggest signing bonus in franchise history and the biggest signing bonus in that year's draft. Rodon dominated as a sophomore at North Carolina State, and by relative standards took a step back as a junior, allowing him to fall to the White Sox at No. 3. His 2014 pro debut was impressive: going from Rookie to A+ to AAA, he struck out a whopping 38 batters in 24.2 innings, posting a 2.92 ERA. The walks were a little higher than you'd like to see (4.7 BB/9), but considering his fast ascent it shouldn't indicate much more than a need for a little more refinement. In addition to a very good mid-90's fastball, Rodon's slider is a truly plus pitch and possibly the best single pitch in the entire draft class. He also features a change up that flashes plus potential and a curve. This 6'3", 235-pounder is strong, physically mature and ultra-competitive. Look for Carlos to have a shot at the Opening Day rotation or possibly the bullpen in Chicago, but more likely he'll spend a few more months in AA and/or AAA to get fully dialed in (and pass some arb-related dates) before reaching the big leagues.

2. Tim Anderson, SS     [Previous: 2, no change]

  •  Drafted 1st Round (17th overall) in 2013

The other unanimous vote was for this raw but very toolsy shortstop at number two. Anderson is extremely athletic and possesses 80-grade speed in addition to very quick hands at the plate that generate easy power. His 2014 season was impressive on multiple fronts, especially for a raw 20/21-year old who had been more focused on basketball until college. With Advanced-A Winston-Salem, this JuCo product compiled a .297/.323/.472 line with 31 extra-base hits in 300 plate appearances, before suffering a fractured wrist. On his return the Sox challenged him further by assigning him to AA Birmingham, where he hit .364 in 10 games. He then went to the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League to make up lost time and hit .301/.343/.430 in 23 games. There are two caution flags with Anderson. Defensively, he flashes potential at short but struggles (primarily with footwork) at times, and some pundits have suggested he may need to move to 2B or the outfield at some point. He also has been allergic to taking walks thus far (just 2.5% BB/PA in 2014 vs 22.5% K/PA), which isn’t a major concern yet but he’ll need to adjust in that area eventually. The tools on this athlete are just so loud that they overwhelm the concerns at this point, and his ceiling is quite high. Look for Anderson to open 2015 with AA Birmingham for his age 21/22 season.

3. Frank Montas, RHP     [Previous: 6, +3]

  • Signed in 2009 from Dominican Republic by BOS, acquired via trade in 2013

He may have been the “second piece” of the return for Jake Peavy (after Avisail Garcia), but Montas looks like he could push that trade over the top in favor of the White Sox. Seen as a raw pitcher with a fantastic fastball and command issues before the trade, with some tweaks made by the White Sox, Montas has emerged as one of the top arms in the system. The Dominican right-hander missed time in 2014 with meniscus surgeries in both knees, but he was dominant in his 81 innings in 2014 (mostly with A+ Winston-Salem): 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.9 K/9 in 10 starts as a 21-year old. Even more telling though are the scouting reports. Montas’ fastball has been described as a mid-to-upper 90’s beast (has gone triple digits at times), the slider has lots of movement and flashes plus, and his change-up is becoming more consistently playable. There is some risk the control issues he had until this past season could return, and the 2-pitch-dominant arsenal could mean he’s headed for the bullpen. But a closer-type role might only enhance his effectiveness with those two strong pitches, if he doesn't stick as a starter. Assuming he doesn’t steal a bullpen slot in Chicago (which has been hinted as possible), he should be in AA Birmingham’s rotation to open 2015.

4. Spencer Adams, RHP     [Previous: 5, +1]

  • Drafted 2nd Round in 2014

While everyone was focused on the top 2014 pick Rodon, they may have missed the apparent steal the White Sox grabbed in the second round. Projected by Baseball America as the #23 prospect going into the draft, the club grabbed Adams at 44th overall and scouts have been raving since. This prep right-hander already has a fastball that runs 92-96 with good movement and a slider that flashes legitimate plus, in addition to a curve and change, at just 18 years old. At 6’3” and a listed 171 pounds, his slender frame could still add strength, and his delivery is reported as advanced in repeatability for his age. In his pro debut with Rookie affiliate AZL White Sox, this Georgia native put up some ridiculous peripherals: 59 strikeouts against just 4 walks in 41.2 innings (a nearly 15:1 K:BB ratio). Here’s an in-person report on Adams from Seven Future Hit, including video from his AZL time. Adams won’t even turn 19 until late April this year so he may be in Great Falls, but given his advanced polish the Sox may assign Adams aggressively to full-season ball at Class A Kannapolis.

5. Tyler Danish, RHP       [Previous: 8, +3]

  • Drafted 2nd Round in 2013

This pitcher with a Peavy-esque delivery just keeps proving naysayers wrong. At draft time scouts questioned whether he could remain a starter, and once he appeared in pro ball his unorthodox delivery and pedestrian fastball velocity left some pundits wary. After giving up zero earned runs in his senior high school season, Danish breezed through rookie ball and a brief look in A-ball in his draft year (combined 1.20 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 28 K vs 5 BB in 30 IP) at age 18. This past season after tuning up with Kannapolis in 7 starts (0.71 ERA in 38 IP), Danish reached A+ Winston-Salem and had his first taste of struggles, giving up 12 ER in 11.2 IP in his first three starts. Here’s how he responded the rest of the season: 1.69 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 20 BB, 71 K and a 1.43 GB:FB rate in 80 IP. Danish’s fastball may typically only run 88-92 (has touched higher), but it has crazy sink and run, and he also brings a slider and change that both show lots of movement and flash plus with surprising command. Tyler has put on noticeable strength in his pro time thus far, and if his body can indeed handle the strain of his delivery and increasing workloads, he’s got real mid-rotation or better potential. Look for the Sox to challenge Danish with an assignment to AA Birmingham to open 2015 at age 20.

6. Micah Johnson, 2B     [Previous: 4, -2]

  • Drafted 9th Round in 2012

Johnson leapt onto the radar in 2013 by leading all of professional baseball in stolen bases (84 in 110 attempts) while posting a strong line at the plate (.312/.373/.451) across A, A+ and AA. This past season the speedster from Indiana had his way with Southern League pitching at Birmingham (.329/.414/.466, 13 XBH, 10 SB in 37 games), then held his own but wasn’t as strong offensively with AAA Charlotte (.275/.314/.370, 12 SB in 65 games). Just as important though, he missed time due to minor hamstring issues during the season, which he told us recently he’s fully healthy from and ready to prevent in the future. This 9th rounder is very athletic and possesses at least 70-grade speed, and will be working on base-running techniques with new coach Vince Coleman in the spring. Johnson makes good contact (14.6% K/PA in 2014), had drawn walks at a nice clip until his AAA campaign, and can be a game-changer on the base paths. Defensively though, he’s had significant struggles with the glove. Some have suggested a position change, but that doesn’t look like a solution as his arm probably isn’t ready for the outfield – the club seems to agree, as they have him focused purely on getting better at 2B for now. Micah is right in the thick of the race for the second base job in Chicago for 2015, though he could perhaps use a little more polish on both sides of the ball at AAA first.

7. Courtney Hawkins, OF     [Previous: 3, -4]

  • Drafted 1st Round (13th overall) in 2012

The 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Hawkins arrived loudly, hitting well across three levels to A+ as an 18 year old. Then 2013 happened: .178/.249/.384, a whopping 37.6% K/PA rate, 6.8% BB/PA and a month missed to a shoulder injury to boot (he did still hit 19 HR). Repeating A+ in 2014, the numbers improved pretty dramatically: .249/.331/.450, again 19 HR, 27.8% K/PA, 10.3% BB/PA. The improvement wasn’t just luck either – you can see his adjustments in our swing analysis piece on Hawkins from April. Tools-wise, Hawkins has a plus arm and plus raw power, and slightly above average speed. Defensively he’s a corner OF long term with plenty of arm and improving routes and glove work. At the plate he’s improved his pitch selection and the power certainly is significant, but clearly the big question is whether he can make enough contact. His struggles with handling off-speed stuff are still significant, though improving. Still just 21 years old, Hawkins could open in A+ for the third straight year and still be young for level, but more likely he’ll be stretched and sent to AA Birmingham. Such a challenging assignment should give us a clearer idea of just how far the adjustments have come.

8. Carlos Sanchez, SS/2B     [Previous: 9, +1]

  • Signed in 2009 from Venezuela

Sanchez will be competing with 6th-ranked Johnson for the starting 2B role in Chicago this year, and is also in the mix for a utility role. Repeating 2014 as a still very young-for-level 21/22 year old in AAA Charlotte, this Venezuelan infielder posted a pretty strong .293/.349/.412 line, including 7 home runs (he’d hit a grand total of 4 in 5 pro years prior), and stole 16 bases in 20 attempts. The switch-hitter didn't look overwhelmed during his MLB debut either, though his .250/.269/.300 line certainly wasn't spectacular. Defensively, Sanchez has good range and glove work with plenty of arm for second, and he's playable but probably not starting material at short. The 23-year old does have some speed and he's been pretty efficient on the basepaths (33-for-44 in SB attempts in 2013-2014). Sanchez is here in great part because he's already established a floor of a major league utility infielder at least, and his reasonable ceiling is a lower division to league average starting second baseman. While Sanchez may have a leg up on Johnson for the second base job on Opening Day given his defensive superiority and higher level experience, he'll need to perform well in 2015 to keep his grip on it.

9. Trey Michalczewski, 3B     [Previous: 11, +2]

  • Drafted 7th Round in 2013

While this Oklahoma prep star was drafted in the 7th round, he was signed for 3rd round money and that's a better reflection of the talent level. The Sox challenged Michalczewski by assigning him to full season ball with Class A Kannapolis about a month after his 19th birthday, and the results there were mostly positive: .273/.348/.433, 9.1% BB, 42 XBH including 6 HR in 116 games. He did also strike out 28.3% of the time and had some struggles defensively at third, but given he was two to three years young for level and had only played the hot corner sparingly until 2013, he acquitted himself well. That earned him a brief late-season promotion to A+ Winston-Salem for just 19 games, where he was solidly four years younger than most of his peers. This 6'3" switch-hitter's power is mostly projection at this point (though he showed hints of it in 2014), but scouts believe it could be significant. Michalczewski has a strong arm, is athletic and has surprising quickness and speed for his frame. Look for him to start 2015 back with Winston-Salem as a 20 year old, multiple years younger than most players the Carolina League.

10. Micker Adolfo, OF     [Previous: 12 +2]

  • Signed in 2013 from the Dominican Republic

Like the player above him on this list, Adolfo's ranking on the list is heavily based on projection, and even more so in this case. Signed at age 16 for $1.6M in 2013, MLB.com had ranked him the 2nd best prospect in that year's July 2nd international class. Tools-wise Adolfo has big raw power, a strong arm and plenty of athleticism for a corner outfield position. The outfielder formerly known as Zapata skipped DSL and went straight to the Arizona League rookie affiliate as a 17-year old in 2014. Predictably he flashed his potential but was generally overmatched: .218/.279/.380, 17 of 39 hits for extra bases including 5 long balls, but also a big 42.9% K/PA rate in 198 plate appearances. Here is an in-person scouting report from the AZL via Grading on the Curve. Having spent the first 14 years of his life in his native US Virgin Islands, Micker speaks fluent English and may have less trouble with the transition to living stateside than some of his peers. The club has indicated it plans to be patient with this very young and raw outfielder, so he'll likely be at one of the two rookie affiliates again in 2015 playing in his age 18 season.

11. Chris Beck, RHP     [Previous: 13, +2]

  • Drafted 2nd Round in 2012

This 2012 2nd round pick may be the hardest pitcher in the system to evaluate. On the surface, here is a starting pitcher who posted solid core numbers (3.54 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) and good control (2.6 BB/9) across AA and AAA as a 23 year old in his second full year of pro ball. On the other hand he wasn’t missing many bats, posting a K/9 rate (5.1) that often indicates future trouble. Beck has a heavy fastball that runs low to mid-90’s and rates above average, a cutter that is becoming a big part of his game, and a change-up that has matured into what looks like a major league offering. But while he was drafted in part due to a strong slider, his breaking pitches at present don’t seem to do anything for the scouts who’ve seen him pitch. When we saw him live last year, he spent most of the game throwing nothing but the two fastballs. That last point may indicate a “he’s working on something” factor, and he did miss a lot more bats in his brief AAA stint, so there is hope the low K rates are not such a huge worry. Beck will likely be in the AAA rotation to open 2015.

12. Matt Davidson, 3B     [Previous: 7, -5]

  • Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (35th overall) in 2009 by ARZ, acquired via trade in 2013

When Davidson was acquired during the 2013-2014 offseason in exchange for Addison Reed, he came with a MLB Top 100 pedigree and expectations to become the future at third base, starting with 2014. Instead, after losing out to Conor Gillaspie in spring training, Davidson went on to have a hugely disappointing campaign with AAA Charlotte: .199/.283/.362, 30.4% K/PA. Given his defense was seen as marginal at 3B, the pressure was going to be on his ability to hit, hit for power and get on base. He did manage to hit 20 long balls and his 9.1% walk rate was OK, but you can’t hit below .200 in AAA for a full season and expect a call-up. The good news is that he’s still showing significant power (17 to 23 HR in his full seasons), draws some walks, and is going to turn 24 in spring training so he’s got time to come around. He’ll need to show in AAA this year what he has in pre-2014 seasons to get a shot.

13. Jace Fry, LHP     [Previous: 16, ,+3]

  • Drafted 3rd Round in 2014

Though fellow pitchers Carlos Rodon and Spencer Adams garnered more attention from the draft (with good reason), there's also a lot to like with this third rounder signed for slightly over slot value ($760K vs $726K slot). Baseball America and MLB Pipeline had him ranked just inside their top 100 draft prospects. Posting a 1.80 ERA and 98 K against 30 BB in 120.1 IP in a strong conference for a national seed is an impressive feat, and he tossed a no-hitter as well. This TJ surgery survivor (2012) has a sinking fastball in the low 90's, a good change up, a slider and a curve in his repertoire. Due to his college innings load, Fry saw limited but successful action with Great Falls this year (9.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K). He should start 2015 with Class A Kannapolis for his age 21/22 season.

14. Jacob May, OF     [Previous: 15, +1]

  • Drafted 3rd Round in 2013

Where Chris Beck drew the greatest variation among our writers for ranking among pitchers, Jacob May was the enigmatic equivalent among position players. On the plus side he’s got 70-grade or better speed with advanced polish on the bases (61/75 SB/ATT in 1.5 seasons), handles center field well and is improving there, makes good contact (15% K/PA) and has at times looked very good at the plate. On the other hand, he didn’t show much game power in 2014 (2 HR) and likely won’t be a serious power threat in the future, he’s been very streaky at the plate (monthly OPS: .441, .669, .927, .911), and the overall offensive results were just average in a hitter-friendly park at A+ Winston-Salem (.258/.326/.395 in 472 PA). He also missed the last month of the season to a minor injury. The upward trend during the year, his obvious athleticism and speed and the contact rate are all indicators that he doesn’t have far to go to do more with the bat, especially given the scouting reports from draft time mentioning very good bat speed. May will likely be with AA Birmingham to open 2015, which will be a good challenge for his age 23 season as he’ll be on the younger side for the league.

15. Cleuluis Rondon, SS/2B     [Previous: 14, -1]

  • Signed from Venezuela (by BOS) in 2010, acquired via trade in 2013

Rarely do you see scouts put a "plus-plus" tag on any tool for any player, but Rondon has had numerous such descriptions heaped on his defensive skills. A wizard at short and second, this acquisition from the Peavy trade has always had one big question following him: can he hit? After posting a less than stellar line in Kannapolis this year (.233/.295/.262, 19.3% K/PA), Rondon was promoted due to Tim Anderson's injury and surprisingly posted better numbers there: .247/.315/.354, 14.9% K/PA. There's no current power in Rondon's game and he doesn’t draw a lot of walks (8.1% BB/PA), though he does have some speed (16 SB, though also 12 CS). Interesting note: Rondon was exclusively a right-handed batter until 2013, when he started switch-hitting. The assignment to Advanced-A ball was very aggressive for this 20-year-old with a raw hit tool, but his truly stellar defense means he's got major league potential if he can hit at all. Look for Rondon to likely be back at Winston-Salem this year, where he’ll still be young for the level.

16. Tyler Saladino, INF     [Previous: 23, +7]

17. Trayce Thompson, OF     [Previous: 17, no change]

18. Nolan Sanburn, RHP     [NEW]

19. Andre Wheeler, LHP     [Previous: Unranked]

20. Keon Barnum, 1B     [Previous: 21, +1]

21. Kevan Smith, C     [Previous: 18, -3]

22. Michael Ynoa, RHP     [NEW]

23. Luis Martinez, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

24. Adam Engel, OF     [Previous: 22, -2]

25. David Trexler, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

26. Jordan Guerrero, LHP     [Previous: 24, -2]

27. Andy Wilkins, 1B     [Previous: 19, -8]

28. Mike Recchia, RHP     [Previous: 27, -1]

29. Andrew Mitchell, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

30. Eddy Alvarez, INF     [NEW]

OTHERS RECEIVING CONSIDERATION (in order of last-out): Jake Peter, Brian Clark, Jason Coats, Jefferson Olacio, Onelki Garcia, Adam Lopez, Jose Barraza, Brandon Brennan, Kyle Hansen, Jared Mitchell

What do you think of the list? Someone too high or low? Anyone we missed? Comment below or engage with us on Facebook, Twitter or SoxTalk!

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