With the stove not quite warmed up yet, let's do a mail bag. We asked our followers on social media (Twitter and Facebook) and discussion forums (like SoxTalk.com and the White Sox Reddit) for their burning questions about the White Sox farm and prospects, and they delivered. In fact we got so many that we are going to have to split this into two articles. This is the first half...
What is the point of protecting 2 30yo+ journeyman relievers who are not part of the rebuild & leaving Peter, Polo, Guerrero off of the 40 man? --Paulywannacracker (@nocrackers30 on Twitter)
What potential Rule 5 picks intrigue you for our #WhiteSox (either major league or minor league portion) --Section 108 (@fromthe108 on Twitter)
Rumors aside, this is the topic of the hour around White Sox prospects, so no surprise that we got multiple questions about it. The White Sox protected a handful of prospects from the Rule 5 Draft last week, but left fans and pundits scratching their heads at some of the omissions. And yes, they left the likes of Danny Farquhar and Al Alburquerque on their 40-man roster. The only reasonable explanation that comes to mind is that the front office is concerned about a severe lack of bullpen depth, but given that the 2018 White Sox are highly unlikely to contend that seems a stretch.
Jake Peter and Jordan Guerrero do have some risk of being selected. Peter is seen by analysts as a likely MLB utility man with tools to possibly be more, and since he can play basically every position on the field, he can be stashed on a bench for the season. Guerrero isn't as MLB-ready, but the young lefty has back-of-rotation talent and could be hidden in a bullpen for a season and not be totally out of his league. This writer puts better than even money that at least one is stolen away in a couple weeks.
The Sox have one slot open on their 40-man roster, and seem likely to make at least one selection in the Rule 5 (they could make more if other current players are traded away, for example). As for who that is, we'll have a preview up next week, after we've done some homework. There are hundreds of eligible names.
What kind of organizational depth are we missing? At this point, should Hahn be targeting specific positions (I would think infielders, particularly catchers, 3B, 1B), or still chasing "best player available"? Is further organizational depth worth the potential loss in "intangibles" Abreu provides at the major league level? --'loulevin19' on White Sox Reddit
Biggest Sox system need: LHP's, Center Fielders or 3rd basemen? --Chris Hill (@Chill39 on Twitter)
Speaking of adding depth, we get questions similar quite often. For the amateur drafts, the club should and will target the best talent available regardless of position. It is true that the front office needs to do a high level ongoing gap analysis that will effect trades and signings. But even the team is still in a talent maximization phase more than filling the gaps at this moment in the rebuild. Finding the last few pieces will come in 2019 or 2020.
Today, the system's strengths are primarily starting pitching and outfielders. Third base does seem like a weak spot, though Jake Burger could very well stick there which brightens things up a bit. Left-handed relief help is thin as well, and really just upper level relief prospects period. Middle infield could use a boost too, because even with Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada in Chicago, you can't have too much skilled infield depth.
Who is your favourite whitesox prospect in A or lower? --Josh Dop (@josh_dop on Twitter)
Who is your favorite candidate outside of the top 30 for a breakout in 2018? --southsider2k5 on SoxTalk
I am not sure I have a "favourite" bloke in the lower levels beyond the obviously high-talent names like Luis Robert, Jake Burger, Dylan Cease, Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo. A few guys likely to be at A/A+ to start 2018 that are not as often discussed, but whom have real MLB potential, include outfielders Luis Alexander Basabe and Luis Gonzalez, shortstop Yeyson Yrizzari, and catcher Evan Skoug. I'd also keep an eye on some of the high-round 2017 draftee pitchers like Tyler Johnson, Lincoln Henzman and Kade McClure.
Outside the likely top thirty (our new list will come out in late January), a few players to keep in mind: SS/3B Amado Nunez, SS Lenyn Sosa, and 3B Justin Yurchak. All three look to me like players that could jump onto the radar in 2018. Plus those three arms I mentioned above.
If I had to make a top 5 LatAm prospects list who will be Low-A or lower in 2018 (aside from Robert), my personal list would probably be: 1. Amado Nunez, 2. Jhoandro Alfaro, 3. Lenyn Sosa, 4. Carlos Perez, 5. Franklin Reyes. I'd also throw in catcher Jose Colina. I'm sure there are other guys who have not yet played stateside that belong in the conversation, but I don't have enough information to make that leap yet.
For which prospects do you see 2018 as a make-or-break season? For example, if Casey Gillaspie has a bad 2018 then he'll be a 26-year-old, playing a power-premium position with two straight years of struggles at the plate in AAA. --BernankesBeard on White Sox Reddit
While I've never been a fan of the phrase "make or break season", the former Fed Chairman's facial hair is correct that some players have more at stake than others. Beyond Gillaspie, a number of AAA-level players have a short window to hit this year if they want a good chance at a major league career, such as outfielders Jacob May and Ryan Cordell, infielder Eddy Alvarez, and OF/1B Daniel Palka. Beyond Charlotte, a number of relievers need to move up quickly to stay on the radar, including Zach Thompson, Louie Lechich, Mike Morrison and Matt Foster. Then there are formerly high-ranked prospects who may have just one year left to show progress, highlighted by the likes of Trey Michalczewski, Keon Barnum, and Courtney Hawkins.
Projected Starting 5 at class: A, AA, AAA --Double TT (@TeaserTommyTT on Twitter)
Here's a fun exercise. The single biggest strength of this system is starting pitching, so the rotations for the four full season affiliates should be a lot of fun in 2018. Here are my best guesses (and some of these really are just plain guesses):
- AAA: Michael Kopech, Spencer Adams, Jordan Stephens, Jordan Guerrero (if not taken in Rule 5), unknown free agent or Tanner Banks
- AA: Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, AJ Puckett, Ian Clarkin, Bernardo Flores
- A+: Dylan Cease, Andre Davis, Jimmy Lambert, Luis Martinez, Yosmer Solorzano
- A: Tyler Johnson, Lincoln Henzman, Kade McClure, Blake Hickman, Kyle Von Ruden (John Parke or Zach Lewis are also possible)
Hansen will probably open with AA Birmingham, but if he dominates there as he has at every other stop he'll be in Charlotte during the season. So very similar to Kopech's 2017, yes. I think MLB is unlikely in 2018 for Hansen - I'd put him on more of a 2019 track.
Is it too early to speculate about the levels that top 30 prospects begin at in 2018? Is there significance to Vizquel managing at WS? --Gucas Liogito (@GucasLiogito on Twitter)
Who do you think will have the best record in 2018 for the sox minor league? --Eli Taber Fugitt on Facebook
Well Gucas, we've just started the transactional offseason, and it's probably a fool's errand to try to peg players to levels just yet. Then again, I am both a fool and a huge baseball nerd because I do in fact have a big board I update occasionally. But don't look for our published projections until around January or even February, after the dust settles. As to the addition of Omar Vizquel, after the departure of Willie Harris, they likely wanted an MLB-experienced voice for the key prospects in High-A.
With the above caveats, we do have an 80%-ish idea where most of the key prospects will play, which means we have at least a vague idea of where the system's strengths will be (at least for the first half). It looks to me like Charlotte and Winston-Salem have the best overall talent base to open the year and should both be very competitive. Birmingham should have a much-improved team, and probably gets even better in the second half. Kannapolis will be young and probably inconsistent, but won't lack for raw talent.
Stay tuned next week for Part 2, in which we will answer even more reader questions!
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Filed under: Mail Bag