White Sox Prospects of the Month, July 2017

After each month of the minor league season, we name one position player and one pitcher as players of the month on the White Sox farm. Generally, players have to see full-time innings or plate appearances (~50 PA or 10 IP minimum), and still be a prospect (not reached MLB rookie status) to qualify. This is a reflection of the best performances by eligible players, which is not necessarily the same as overall prospect stock (though factors like age for level do come into play, just as they do in prospect evaluation).

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the players acquired in the latter half of July during the trade binge, we are not considering them eligible for the monthly awards because most of their performances were not in the White Sox organization. They will be eligible for August and going forward.

There were quite a few strong hitting performances in July, dominated by some 2017 draft picks. On the pitching side, there were two performances that were nearly identical, so we are splitting the pitching side award. Now let's look at who won, as well as a handful of other prospects who also had big months in July...

Note: Stats presented are for July only, unless otherwise noted...

Jake Burger at the plate for Kannapolis (via the Salisbury Post)

Jake Burger at the plate for Kannapolis (via the Salisbury Post)

HITTER OF THE MONTH: Jake Burger, 3B, AZL White Sox (Rk) and Kannapolis Intimidators (A)
Stats: .325/.432/.563 (.994 OPS), 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 8:9 BB:K, 0/1 SB/ATT in 95 PA (23 G)

The team's first round pick this year, Jake Burger didn't do much in a brief four-game tune-up with the AZL. But upon reaching Kannapolis he immediately put on a hitting show and hasn't stopped yet. A stout third baseman with plus power, Burger has not only made Intimidators fans happy, but also the media and the club's marketing departments who've been saving up all manner of graphics and puns to use as toppings on reports of his performance.

Perhaps most encouraging in his first month of pro ball isn't what he didwhen he made contact, but his plate discipline numbers. Striking out just 10% of the time for a power hitter is a good sign for sustainability of his success at the plate. He still has plenty of things to prove, and the time to do so, but this is an encouraging start.

Honorable Mentions
Craig Dedelow, OF (Rk): .323/.369/.667 (1.036 OPS), 9 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 7:9 BB:K, 4/4 SB/ATT in 105 PA (23 G)
Logan Taylor, OF (Rk): .377/.451/.557 (1.008 OPS), 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8:7 BB:K, 1/2 SB/ATT in 72 PA (15 G)
Jake Peter, INF (AA, AAA): .364/.424/.542 (.966), 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 10:32 BB:K, 3/3 SB/ATT in 119 PA (27 G)
Seby Zavala, C (A+): .323/.408/.516 (.925), 3 2B, 3 HR, 9:15 BB:K in 73 PA (19 G)

Two more 2017 draft picks, and two more of them showing those high contact rates that should make long-time followers of the White Sox minors breathe a sigh of relief. 9th rounder Craig Dedelow is a 4-year college player and should be hitting well in the Pioneer League, but his seven home runs are still impressive and he's whiffing less than 9% of the time. Logan Taylor was a 16th round pick and recently turned 23, but he's similarly making contact at a very high rate and getting on base at a lofty clip.

Jake Peter had a cold open to 2017 after being assigned a level lower than he might have wanted, but he's done nothing but hit since early May and earned a promotion back to Charlotte as a result. Peter profiles as a super-utility type who can man nearly any position on the field competently (or better) and hit a bit along the way. Seby Zavala has similarly been on fire after a chilly April and received a promotion of his own. He just keeps hitting and it's not impossible he sees AA late this season.

Michael Kopech (Ron Vesely) and Reynaldo Lopez (Matt Cassidy)

Michael Kopech (Ron Vesely) and Reynaldo Lopez (Matt Cassidy)

PITCHERS OF THE MONTH: 

Michael Kopech, RHP, Birmingham Barons (AA)
Stats: 2.08 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .174 BAA, 8 BB, 37 K in 30.1 IP (5 starts)

Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Charlotte Knights (AAA)
Stats: 2.10 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .183 BAA, 7 BB, 38 K in 30.0 IP (5 starts)

Look at those stat lines, and see if you can figure out who deserved the award. Posting nearly identical numbers on the month, it seemed the only way to go was to give the award to both of them.

Michael Kopech has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher in minor league baseball, but he's struggled with command at times. So the fact that he's now throwing even more strikes while still missing a ton of bats just adds to the excitement. Challenged in his assignment to AA, Kopech has risen to it and just keeps getting better even as his innings load whizzes by his previous career high.

Reynaldo Lopez sure looks like the next star prospect up for the White Sox. GM Rick Hahn has said more than once that Lopez is "forcing the issue", and he could be called up any day now. He's maintained this level of performance over his last seven starts, and local reports reinforce that he's ready for a return to the big leagues.

Honorable Mentions
Kyle Von Ruden (Rk): 1.72 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .218 BAA, 7 BB, 20 K in 31.1 IP (5 starts)
Jordan Stephens (AA): 2.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .246 BAA, 13 BB, 27 K in 36.6 IP (6 starts)
Matt Foster (A, A+): 0.87 ERA, 0.48 WHIP, .091 BAA, 2 BB, 15 K in 10.1 IP (9 games)
Connor Walsh (AA, AAA): 0.00 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, .220 BAA, 1 BB, 13 K in 12 IP (8 games)

Who is Kyle Von Ruden, you ask? Recently turned 23, the White Sox signed him as an undrafted free agent out of the independent Frontier League to eat up starts with Great Falls. But he's done more than eat innings, being their most statistically successful starting pitcher this year. Jordan Stephens makes his second straight appearance on this list. He's shown no problem getting Southern League hitters out despite missing April and May recovering from elbow tendonitis.

A pair of relievers are worth noting. 2016 20th round choice Matt Foster posted absurd numbers with the two rookie clubs in his pro debut, then decided to retire from baseball at the ripe old age of 21. Come spring of this year he changed his mind and came back to the White Sox, and so far he's had no trouble with hitters at either level of A-ball. Connor Walsh is a hard-throwing right-hander we don't talk about much, but he's always been on the edge of the radar and he's gotten a step closer to the majors with a promotion to Charlotte.

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