Twice annually, the writers at FutureSox work together to produce a list of the top prospects in the White Sox system. We use a voting system among the staff, then argue out specific players and rankings, until we come to a final list. The list is then released in two parts.
This is the "teaser", where we release the back half of the list with player capsules for prospects ranked 16-30. The full list of top 30 prospects, with a more detailed overview, capsules for 1-15, and a list of players who just missed the Top 30, will be released the next day.
ELIGIBILITY: We consider a "prospect" any player in the White Sox organization who has not yet achieved MLB Rookie status.
HOW WE EVALUATE PROSPECTS: You can read this primer to get an idea of how we go about the sticky, subjective business of ranking prospects. Our writers saw every full season affiliate live for multiple games in the past year, in addition to the back fields at Spring Training, fall instructs and the AFL.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The full list article will go into more detail on this, but here are a few key things to know. Despite some "graduations" of key prospects, the system remains one of the deepest and most talented in MLB. We are deep into the development-focused phase of the team's rebuild efforts.
FOR MORE DETAILS: If you click on the bolded player's name, you'll be taken to that player's prospect profile, where you can find deeper details, links to videos and other content.
THE LIST (prospects ranked 16-30)
16. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 27th, +11]
- Drafted 12th Round in 2015
First on the back half of the list is also our biggest overall riser among repeating players. Zavala has established himself a viable major league catching prospect who is making a case to be part of the team's next contender. He's got above average raw power that translated into leading the farm in home runs in 2017 (21), paired with improving plate discipline (22.9% K/PA, 10.6% BB/PA in A+), and a quick bat. The defensive end is a mixed bag - average arm strength and release times, good actions on balls in play, but a weakness in blocking pitches. He's also been playing a little old for level, but he's a catcher and he has had to fit around Zack Collins' developmental path. Seby should see time in AA in 2018 and he's been invited to major league camp for this spring.
17. Thyago Vieira, RHP [NEW]
- Signed from Brazil in 2010 by SEA, acquired via trade in November 2017
It's not often relievers make a deep farm system's top thirty prospects, but this list will have a few. Vieira is on the cusp of the majors (in fact he's already appeared in one MLB game), and he's got a true plus-plus fastball that sits 97-100 and has been as high as 103. His primary offspeed offering is a power curve that some evaluators have put a plus tag on, but he lacks command of both offerings as well as consistency in delivery. Sounds like a Don Cooper Center for Kids who Throw Real Hard student in waiting. With a big personality and aggressive mound presence, Vieira is likely to see action with the Sox in 2018.
18. Casey Gillaspie, 1B [Previous: 14th, -4]
- Drafted 1st Round (20th overall) in 2014 by TB, acquired via trade in July 2017
Gillaspie is one of the hardest White Sox prospects to evaluate and rank at this point in his career. A top 100 MLB prospect as recently as a year ago on some lists, he was projected to be a plus power bat with plate discipline to spare. But his 2017 changed everyone's outlook as he bottomed out with a .223 AVG in AAA and evaluators soured on his hitting mechanics and projection for game power. That's a big problem for a pure first baseman profile. Was 2017 a blip or did he hit a wall? Few prospects in the system have such a binary near future. He could break camp with the big league club or go back to AAA to open 2018, but either way we'll quickly have an idea where his career is headed.
19. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: 18th, -1]
- Drafted 15th round in 2014
This lefty got some attention recently when he wasn't protected on the 40-man roster, but the fears of him being selected in the Rule 5 turned out to be unfounded. He's still very much a prospect, but the 23-year-old who hasn't been to AAA wasn't worth the risk to other teams. After some tweaks going into 2017, Guerrero's current repertoire features a low 90's fastball with some sink, a resurrected slider he had shelved for a couple years prior, a curveball and change-up. Those tweaks along with getting past two straight years of doubled innings saw him bounce back nicely, repeating the level. The change of pace is a plus offering and his best pitch, with the curve behind it. When he's locating his fastball and staying down in the zone, he profiles as a back end starter.
20. Ryan Cordell, OF [Previous: 23rd, +3]
- Drafted 11th Round by TEX, acquired via trade July 2017
Cordell has a fairly polished profile; relatively safe* with a high floor. He's an outfielder with five tools that all project to at least average. Power is above average raw, but beware of some of his PCL-inflated totals from 2017 with Colorado Springs. He handles the corners well defensively, and can play center in a pinch. Speed is plus. The asterisk on the "safe" description is that he missed the second half of last year with a back issue, which makes him a bit of a wildcard for a return to full health. He'll be 26 to start 2018 and is vying for a major league job, though he may be ticketed for AAA to start. If he's 100% healthy, the power-speed combo could make him a buy-low success story.
21. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF [Previous: 20th, -1]
- Signed from Venezuela in 2012 ($450k) by BOS, acquired via trade December 2016
A mirror to the outfielder we just discussed, Basabe has a much higher ceiling but a much lower floor to go with it. Coming into 2017, some pundits projected he could break into T100 lists, but instead he scuffled badly in High-A. After a solid April he ended up with a .221/.320/.320 line on the season and struck out in 24% of his plate appearances. Caveat: he had knee surgery after the season and there are indications it was bothering him for some time before then. The tools are rave-worthy: Plus speed, projects for above average power, draws walks and works counts, maturing defense that indicates he could stick in center, and he's still young for his levels of play (was 20 years old last season). Basabe likely repeats at Winston-Salem to open the year, but if he bounces back he should see AA before the season is out.
22. Luis Gonzalez, OF [Previous: 28th, +6]
- Drafted 3rd Round
Continuing the run of outfielders, Gonzalez is much newer to pro ball but like Basabe, his ranking is a lot about projection. At draft time his calling card was a tantalizing combination of plate discipline (58:32 BB:K rate at UNM) and defensive skills that make him a true center fielder. There is some power potential there too, but not at prodigious levels. MLB Pipeline put an Ender Inciarte comp on him in their draft write-up. Chatter from Kannapolis and Fall lnstructs reflected a feeling that scouts were seeing a future major leaguer. The former Lobo had probably the widest range of initial rankings from our writers among all the ranked players - 2018 should tell us a lot.
23. Ian Clarkin, LHP [Previous: 22nd, -1]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (33rd overall) in 2013 by NYY, acquired via trade July 2017
Clarkin's career has been plagued by injuries: a rolled ankle in his debut year, elbow issues in 2015, and a torn meniscus in 2016 means he has only thrown 258 pro innings in parts of five pro seasons. More of a command and control pitcher, his fastball runs in the low 90's with some sink (has touched as high as 95), and he also throws a big-bending curveball, a change-up, and a recently added slider. The current tools for this soon-to-be 23-year-old aren't in wow territory, but he has thrown strikes pretty consistently and made effective use of a full arsenal. An NL scout gave him high marks for command, which is impressive given the lack of innings. His first round pedigree and relative developmental age indicates there is still unexplored potential, so don't assume he's maxed out.
24. Luis Curbelo, SS [Previous: 26th, +2]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2016
Curbelo got 3rd round money in the 6th round in 2016. Evaluations at draft time of above average power potential for a middle infielder, soft hands and plenty of arm for any infield slot were confirmed in AZL looks in his pro debut. There were some questions about his range and whether he'd stick at short, and of course as a teenager he lacked refinement on both sides of the ball. But he seemed to be on a solid track until just a few games in with Great Falls last year, when he went down with a knee injury and eventually had surgery for a meniscus tear. Missing a year of development time isn't a great thing, but he's still just 20 years old and he's already taking swings in the cage in Arizona here in January.
25. A.J. Puckett, RHP [Previous: 24th, -1]
- Drafted 2nd Round by KAN, acquired via trade July 2017
A.J. Puckett's prospect stock has fallen back a bit since his draft year (when he signed for $1.2M in the 2nd round), but there is still plenty to like in his profile. With a strong pitcher's build and plus athleticism, the 22-year-old has marched up to High-A as a prolific strike thrower. His repertoire features a fastball that runs 89 to 94 that he locates at will, a plus change-up and a work in progress curveball. 2017 saw Puckett get hit a little harder and walk a few more guys, but also increased his strikeout rate significantly.
26. Ian Hamilton, RHP [Previous: Not Ranked]
- Drafted 11th Round in 2016
When the White Sox signed Hamilton from Washington State, there was some debate on starting versus relieving. The debate is over, he's set for the bullpen, and he's jumping up our list after doing more than just adapting to the role. After showing a mostly 93-94 mph fastball with some fade in his draft year, he's now mid-to-upper 90's and has hit 99. His slider, per two different reports, has a hard snap and now plays in the upper 80's to 90 range. The delivery has some substantial effort to it but he threw plenty of strikes in 2017 anyway. Ian has a big arm and he could move up very quickly. He should open 2018 with AA Birmingham for his age 22/23 season.
27. Alex Call, OF [Previous: 30th, +3]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2016
Call is a tough read at the moment. He came to pro ball with a polished bat, mature approach and a shot to stick in center, along with a college track record of a strong hit tool. His pro debut across rookie and Class A ball echoed that, putting up a .308/.394/.445 line with good contact rates. Then in April he went down with an intercostal muscle injury, missed a good chunk of the season and put up some rust-confirming numbers when he did return. Assuming he stays healthy, Alex has still the profile to be on a starting OF path. But now he's got a substantial crowd of other A-ball outfielders to battle it out with, so 2018 looks to be a dog fight. He's been showered with praise for work ethic and baseball IQ throughout his time with the Sox, which will be put to the test in 2018.
28. Aaron Bummer, LHP [Previous: Unranked]
- Drafted 19th Round in 2014
This former Cornhusker has thrown just 87.2 innings in his minor league career, yet his back story could be it's own article. Short version: pummeled PIO hitters in his pro debut in 2014, minor elbow surgery for "loose bodies" in his elbow, rehab, Tommy John surgery, rehab again, returned for just 16 innings in late 2016, suddenly was throwing upper 90's, went A+-AA-AAA in 2017 and reached the majors in July (and he's still not past the rookie qualification). Bummer's 95-99 MPH heater is complemented by a wicked slider, but his command over both pitches is still a work in progress (he walked 15 batters in 22 MLB innings). But with two pitches that can be plus or better when he's right, he has a high leverage reliever ceiling in sight.
29. Tito Polo, OF [NEW]
- Signed from Colombia in 2012 by PIT, acquired via trade in July 2017
Polo's carrying tools are speed and defense. He's a 70-grade runner and a true center fielder, which gives him a high floor. What makes Tito stand out from others in that mold is that he's also got some pop in his bat (16 HR in 2016) and has consistently hit for high average as he's moved up despite being younger than league average at each stop. On the downside, he's a very aggressive hitter who will expand the zone and that could expose him against AA and AAA pitching as he spends time at those levels. And while he did hit .301 last year across A+ and AA, the home run power also disappeared and likely he's more of a gap power guy in the majors. Polo is a good bet for at least a 4th OF floor, and the tools are there for more if he improves his plate discipline.
30. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: 29th, -1]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2016
This lefty is another wildcard. His fastball was all over the board in velocity in movement in 2017, with various looks (from our writers and others) showing anywhere from 84 to 95 with variable movement (2016 reports had him as high as 97). His curveball has good bite in the higher band (mid-70's), but he sometimes rolls them in around the upper 60's. The change-up is probably his best off-speed pitch and shows plus potential as well but is inconsistent, ranging from 74 to 82 and not always getting the anticipated drop. Talking with coaches, it sounds like Flores plays with his velocity intentionally to at least some degree. Despite the rawness (he was a reliever in college primarily and needs reps) and inconsistencies, he usually throws quite a few strikes. The 22-year-old should open 2018 in Winston-Salem where he will continue to work with his Great Falls and Kannapolis pitching coach Matt Zaleski to reach some of his untapped potential.
***Tune in tomorrow to see the complete Top 30 White Sox Prospects list!
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