The calendar has flipped to July and for us at FutureSox and our beautiful prospect obsessed readers, this is truly a magical time of the year. With nearly all of the 2018 draft class signed and in the fold, the White Sox are fielding six (seven if you include the DSL team) full squads packed with premium talent, all hoping to be a part of the next contender on the South Side. To celebrate and introduce the new faces on the rookie level teams, let's break tradition and start at the bottom of the system and work our way up.
Reminder that all the performances and numbers presented below are aggregated over the past two weeks since the last Hot List on June 19th, unless otherwise noted.
Arizona League White Sox (Rk)
Venezuelan outfielder Harvin Mendoza was a member of the White Sox 2015 J2 class that also included He Who Shall Not Be Named, but was a relative afterthought by bonus size, only garnering an 100k pact. He spent the last two seasons in the DSL as a 17- and 18-year-old, hitting consistently for average and drawing more walks (78) than strikeouts (76). This season Mendoza has made his stateside debut and has been crushing it in his first six games, slashing .435/.519/.652 with three walks and only one strikeout. The slugging % is inflated thanks to three doubles and a triple, which is an encouraging sign because he didn't show much power in the DSL. With those type of numbers, he is a young prospect to keep an eye on as he matures.
Fellow international J2 signees Anderson Comas (.333/.364/.367) and Luis Mieses (.291/.304/.509) are also off to impressive starts in their US debuts. 2018 7th round prep draft pick Cabera Weaver is handling Arizona just fine as a 18-year-old too, slashing .281/.410/.344 over his first 10 games of his pro career. The AZL squad is filled with intriguing teenagers.
While Comas and Mieses were big bonus headliners of the 2016 J2 class, RHP Brayan Herrera signed for a scant 70,000 dollars. A former position player who converted to the mound, Herrera is a bit older (20) than his classmates, but Baseball America's Ben Badler reported at the time of his signing he was throwing a 95 MPH fastball and a hard slider, while flashing a curveball and a change-up. This season Herrera has a sparkling 1.20 ERA with 9 strikeouts, 2 walks, and 11 hits allowed over 15 innings of work. 2018 26th round pick Devon Perez (9.1 IP) and 29th rounder Taylor Varnell (12 IP) have both started their careers without allowing an earned run. Varnell (19/3 K/BB) and Perez (18/0 K/BB) are both former college hurlers and are clearly too advanced for the Arizona League.
Great Falls Voyagers (Rk)
Joining the trio of talented 18-year-olds already mentioned, 2016 J2 bonus baby Lenyn Sosa has been off to a raucous start to his 2018 campaign. Sosa is slashing .349/.344/.508 through his first 16 contests. The .508 slugging % is eye-popping considering Sosa's age and comparatively slight build (6'00'', 180). 2018 28th round pick Logan Sowers was a highly productive hitter at the University of Indiana, so it is no surprise that through his first 17 games with the Voyagers he is hitting .321/.424/.464.
Signed as a free agent after being released by the Tampa Bay organization in April, Spencer Moran is more interesting than your average minor league free agent. A 2014 11th round pick out of high school who fell in the draft due to signability concerns, the Rays incurred draft bonus penalties by going overslot to sign him. Now 22 years old, Moran has thrown back-to-back shutouts in his last two starts for the Voyagers, striking out 13 batters to 3 walks over 13 innings.
Kannapolis Intimidators (A)
21-year-old catcher Carlos Perez started the season off slowly, but has caught fire over his last 8 games, slashing .367/.387/.400. 20-year-old Luis Curbelo has struggled with knee injuries that temporarily delayed his development, but he is reportedly healthy now and his numbers have improved as the season has gone on. Curbelo has hit .333/.360/.542 over the last two weeks, which has raised his season slash line to a respectable .277/.325/.411.
Palos Heights, Illinois native Zach Lewis has been getting the job done for the Intimidators, posting a 0.82 ERA over his last two starts. Reliever Jose Nin has not allowed an earned run since May 25th and has lowered his season ERA to 1.80 in the process.
Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
While the injury to Luis Robert stings, the Dash have a plethora of bats that are picking up the slack for their fallen teammate. Center fielder Luis Gonzalez was finally freed from Kannapolis and has been annihilating the Carolina League, slashing .405/.457/.548 in his first nine games with the Dash. I foretold a Gonzalez breakout in the off-season, but he has exceeded all expectations with his play this year, slashing a combined .316/.373/.500. Since we are already patting ourselves on the back, FutureSox Editor-in-Chief Matt Cassidy saw 1B Gavin Sheets during a powerless April, but told us not to worry. Sheets is proving those words to be prophetic, as he has hit an incredible .396/.400/.585 over his last 12 games, which included a two home run game on June 28th. Continuing with the theme of tremendous raw power, Micker Adolfo is tapping into his, slashing .385/.455/.692(!!) over his last 10 contests. He has been in the system since 2014 so his name doesn't elicit the same reaction as shiny newcomers to the system like Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert, but make no mistake, Adolfo possesses just as high a ceiling as those players.
There are many more Dash bats who deserve recognition, but in the consideration of time, I'll list in bullet points with their stats over the last two weeks:
- Blake Rutherford--.310/.326/.524
- Ti'Quan Forbes--.306/.350/.500
- Mitch Roman--.306/.359/.333
- Luis Robert--.300/.389/.333
- Laz Rivera--.298/.327/.511
- Yermin Mercedes--.290/.353/.452
Birmingham Barons (AA)
Bryant Flete has slashed .310/.429/.345 over his last 10 games, leading his fellow Barons in AVG and OBP. Joel Booker was not far behind, as the former Iowa Hawkeye has hit .298/.340/.447 since arriving in Birmingham.
Bernardo Flores continues to impress in a breakout season, posting a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings since joining the Barons. Fellow 2016 draft pick Jimmy Lambert earned a promotion to Birmingham after spinning back-to-back 8-inning quality starts for the Dash. He kept rolling in his Barons debut, striking out 7 batters over six innings of one-run ball. Lambert has drastically changed his approach this season from a contact/groundball oriented attack to spiking his K/9 all to the way to 10.2 while maintaining his walk rate. Flores and Lambert are rarely mentioned as future White Sox rotation pieces, but they are stepping up as welcomed depth behind the Kopech's and Hansen's of the system. Reliever Ryan Burr had a rough beginning of the season, but has been lights out in June/July, only allowing an earned run, 5 hits, 6 walks, and striking out 17 batters spanning his last 13 innings.
Charlotte Knights (AAA)
At 31 years old and with 946 minor league games (and 197 MLB games) under his belt, Jake Elmore is basically the poster child for being an org guy. "Org guy" is of course short for organization guy, roster filler, essentially a stopgap because the Sox don't have a younger player there with more promise. While it isn't a glamorous (or particularly secure) job, it's a testament to guys like Jake who are good enough to continue to get paid to play baseball into their 30's. Elmore is earning it on the field, leading the Knights over the past couple weeks slashing .333/.543/.417 with a crazy 11 walks over 9 games. Eloy Jimenez, on the other end of the spectrum in the minor league world, hit .293/.383/.463 over his first 12 contests since joining the Knights. However, Jimenez will be out for the next two weeks with a leg strain, so guys like Elmore will have to do the yeoman's work in his stead.
Michael Kopech had a couple of rough starts in June, but has bounced back to string together a 1.59 ERA over his last three starts spanning 17 innings with 23 strikeouts. Donn Roach continues to cruise, posting a 1.13 ERA over his last starts to lower his season ERA to a fantastic 2.65. In the Knights bullpen, Ian Hamilton (4.2 IP, H, 7 K, BB) and Thyago Vieira (5 IP, 2 H, 5 K, BB) both have a perfect 0.00 ERA during our sample.
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