Ask FutureSox, Part 2 - Rutherford, Cease, Clarkin, relievers, coaching and more

Ask FutureSox, Part 2 - Rutherford, Cease, Clarkin, relievers, coaching and more
Blake Rutherford manning an outfield slot for the Intimidators (photo provided to FutureSox by Tiffany Wintz)

This is the second set of #AskFutureSox questions we got from our readers on various social media and discussion forum channels last week. We published the first set on Friday, which you can read here. In this second and final set, we dig into a lot more specific prospects and front office staff, as opposed to higher level viewpoints.

Do you project Dylan Cease as a starter or a relief pitcher long term? From what little I've seen, he has punchout stuff, but his control has lapses and durability has been a concern. --'southsidecpa' on White Sox Reddit

The stuff certainly looks like the beginnings of a starter's mix - a plus fastball that can hit triple digits, a hammer similarly rated out as plus, and a couple other developing pitches. This despite the lack of innings under his belt, but therein also lies the rub. He did cobble together 93 innings last year (plus Fall Instructs work) while under tight restrictions, and the results were overall quite positive. Certainly he's a starter until he can't be, which rides mostly on his health (though he'll need further improvement in command as well). I wouldn't pretend to be able to predict his medical fortunes. If he can build up to 150+ IP endurance in the next two years, with his stuff and the command improvement likely to come with that time, I'd bet on him being a starter. The backup plan is a late inning reliever.

What's Luis Robert Stat Line look like in A ball this year? Also is Rutherford expected to bounce back from the Year he had? --Barry Baker (@barrybaker8664 on Twitter)

I am never comfortable projecting minor league stat lines, and certainly not for a guy who has never played stateside ball. But I do think people who see him blazing through full season leagues may need to tone down the expectations a bit. He's super-talented but needs some time, and I'd expect him to spend most of his 2018 in A-ball.

On the second topic, the short answer is yes. Blake Rutherford struggled far more in the second half last year than was expected. But he's still got the tantalizing tools, and will open 2018 as a 20-year-old and still below league average age. There is every reason to believe he rebounds. How far he bounces, and whether or not we start to see some power translation, are open questions.

Are there any former Braves int'l prospects that are newly free agents that it would be worth the #WhiteSox tossing their $300k spending limit at this offseason --Section 108 (@fromthe108 on Twitter)

For those unaware, the Braves were hammered with major penalties for greater-than-usual corruption in Latin American amateur signings. One of the results is a group of a dozen Braves prospects are now free agents and able to re-sign with another team. Most players will get less this time around than they got when originally signing, but guys like Kevin Maitan won't bottom out either. So focus on the names around the bottom of the payscale ladder, and that's where the Sox could strike. As of this time, the White Sox have about $1.1M left to spend in the current period, but are limited to a max of only $300k per player.

If the Sox don't pick off one of those players, look for them to trade much or all of their remaining cap space for prospects this offseason.

I'm interested in what you guys think about Ian Clarkin. I know hes had injury issues but from the little i've heard he was healthy in 2017. If so he feels under rated to me? What am I missing? I like his profile and being a lefty helps. If you have any insight on Basabe's 2017 I'd be interested in that as well. His base stats are just straight up bad. His average and power look pitiful on paper. Any idea what happened in 2017 and how much optimism there is for him going forwards? --'Neat_On_The_Rocks' on White Sox Reddit

The White Sox clearly believe in Clarkin's ceiling, so much so that they added him to the 40-man roster despite that he's never pitched above High-A. A left-hander with a mix of three pitches that project to be MLB average is definitely valuable, and his relatively healthy 2017 showed increasing fastball velocity resulting in solid numbers. Despite the injuries, he's not dramatically behind the age curve, and he will need to increase his innings load substantially in 2018 to continue down the starter path (to this end, he pitched in Fall Instructs after the regular season). He should be among the team's top thirty prospects, albeit on the back end.

Basabe is a tough read at this point. Going into 2017, a few analysts felt he could make his way into some MLB top 100 prospect lists within a year. Instead, he scuffled badly, and battled some minor injuries. To call back to an earlier question, while 2018 isn't exactly make or break for a 21-year-old who is now on the 40-man roster, he does have a lot to prove. The combination of tools in hit, speed and raw power have not diminished and still hint at that very high ceiling. But he will need to see some substantial translation to results on the field this coming season. In short I wouldn't read a ton into his 2017 numbers, especially when he was nagged by injuries, but that statistical focus should come more into play in 2018.

Does Will Kincanon have a chance to move up in Sox Top 30 prospects next year? What's his upside? --Luc McDowell (@lucmcd17 on Twitter)

What is the status of Victor Diaz and do you think he has any chance to figure in the Sox plans down the road? --SoxSteve on SoxTalk

I do love me some lesser-known relief prospects. It is rare for bullpen arms in the minors to be among the top thirty prospects in a deep system, because even if they are very good, their projected impact is smaller than that of starters or position players. Exceptions are usually reserved for elite arms like Zack Burdi and Thyago Vieira. That said, the former Indiana State Sycamore was given an over-slot bonus in the 11th round for a reason. Kincanon has a sinking fastball that runs low-to-mid-90's and has touched 97, along with two offspeeds that various evaluators have seen as flashing above average looks. Because command and consistency are lacking, he probably won't be a fast-mover, but his ceiling is that of a late inning major league reliever.

And here's another reliever, this one able to break triple digits. Diaz was ranked by some at the back end of the team's top thirty prospects coming into 2017, but he battled shoulder soreness and other ailments throughout the year and pitched just 12 innings. There's a lot of risk in the profile, but you never give up on that kind of velo and movement, so he'll get his chance in 2018 to re-track himself.

Will Matt Cooper be back in 2018? --Donaldo on SoxTalk

On this one I'll just say... keep an eye on this site in the next week or two for an update.

Do we have good coaches for developing guys in place? --Rich Fesi on Facebook

This was a sore point around the White Sox for years - a perceived lack of player development being a root cause of the team's inability to "graduate" successful prospects. These complaints have nearly disappeared in the last couple years though, due in part to players like Tim Anderson succeeding in the majors, but also the overall improvement of talent on the farm. The Player Development side of the house has seen a lot of changes during the rebuild, including Chris Getz taking over that department from Nick Capra. Some of the roving instructions, managers and coaches have changed as well. Any of the old tropes can be thrown away, and the new staff certainly can't complain about what they've been given to work with. The next two years will tell us a lot.

Is Eloy the besss, da besss, or some combination of the two? --witesoxfan on SoxTalk

You be the judge.

Thanks everyone for all the great questions. We should do this again sometime.

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