Welcome to Rankings Week, mid-season 2018! Twice a year, we rank the top prospects in the White Sox system. The schedule of events looks like this:
- Monday: The Just Missed article (this one)
- Tuesday: Prospects ranked #16-30, with capsules
- Wednesday: The FULL LIST, with 1-15 capsules
- Thursday: Writers' roundtable discussion of the rankings
The White Sox farm system still stands as one of the two or three deepest in all of baseball. Since our last list in January, only two eligible players have "graduated" or otherwise left the system (Carson Fulmer and Aaron Bummer), while the system has had a new draft class and a few other acquisitions since.
That brings us to this list: 16 players who did not make the top thirty this cycle, but who our writers discussed and considered for it. The depth of talent on the farm means that even these players (and probably more) are legitimate prospects. If you want proof of this, check out our last version of this "Just Missed" group from January - a good 10 of those 15 players have made leaps and some will be on our new top thirty. These are prospects on the edge of the radar, and history says some of them will end up contributing value down the line.
NOTE: Players are not necessarily listed in a specific order, though the first four listed were the ones closest to making it...
LHP Jordan Guerrero
Guerrero was our "last out" from the top thirty - in fact he'd have been on the list if not for a late July trade acquisition. This 24-year-old has taken a long and winding path that you can read about in his Prospect Profile. Even his 2018 has been an adventure, getting hit hard in 14 games at AA then being promoted anyway, and now in AAA is getting hit far less but his peripherals have declined. Jordan has a plus change-up, a still-developing curveball and a heavy fastball in the 89-93 range, from a good pitcher's frame. He doesn't profile as a LOOGY, probably more a multi-inning reliever, with a ceiling of a back of the rotation starter if he can advance his fastball a bit further. He is Rule 5 eligible this coming winter.
RHP Jonathan Stiever
If it weren't for that aforementioned late July trade, Stiever would have been the last man out. The club's 5th round pick in June, this righty was ranked 88th by MLB Pipeline and 125th by Baseball America in the class before the draft, grading him out as more of a 3rd round pick talent-wise. Athleticism (was the Wisconsin Football Player of the Year in high school), a low-to-mid 90's fastball with sharp sink and run, and advanced feel for offspeeds highlight the profile of this 21-year-old. He's struck out 31 batters in 21 innings for Great Falls thus far in his pro debut. You can read more about Stiever in our article from his draft day.
SS Laz Rivera
This 28th round pick has done nothing but beat expectations to a pulp in his first calendar year-plus as a pro. Laz-o-matic (as our Julie Brady has taken to calling him) has hit for high average at every stop (.329 combined this year), shown a little power (11 HR in 99 games this year) and a lot of contact (17% K-rate), added some havoc on the basepaths (14 SB), and generated positive reviews from evaluators of his defense at shortstop. The 23-year-old does need to learn a little more patience at the plate, but if he keeps producing this way as he moves up you'll see his name in a future Top 30 list. You can learn more about him and see video in our in-person write-up here.
3B Bryce Bush
Based on our internal discussions, the general feeling is that if there was one name we left off the list who is most likely to make us look far too low on him ranking-wise, it's Bryce Bush. A 33rd round pick who took 5th round money to sign, the 18-year-old destroyed AZL pitching (.442/.538/.605) over 14 games, walking 8 times against just 4 strikeouts in 52 PA, before being promoted to Great Falls. And based on some local reports, he's been much less raw than expected at the plate, and flashing some skills at third base defensively. Lots of ceiling room for this very athletic surprise signing.
INF Danny Mendick
Mendick has shown surprising power this year (11 HR so far, with home games in a power-suppressing park) while playing exclusively at the key shortstop position. The 24-year-old doesn't have a standout tool, but he's fought and scratched his way from 22nd round pick and minor league bench player to starting shortstop in AA and having a shot at a major league utility infielder future. Glove work and arm play at all infield slots, he's got fringy but effective hit and power tools, and some speed (16 SB so far). He should see AAA late this year or to open 2019 with a chance to find his way onto a major league roster as a role player, but he is Rule 5 eligible this winter.
CF Luis Mieses
Signed for $428k two years ago, Mieses' calling card in those early reports was above average to plus power potential but questions around his defense (where he was thought to be likely corner-only) and hit tool. Yet so far in his age 18 campaign in the AZL, Luis has been putting bat to ball consistently (14.9% K/PA), and playing the majority of his games in center field. Marks from local analysts have been high on his arm strength, and pretty good on the glove and foot work too. If he does turn out to be a true CF, or able to play there passably at least, the package takes a step forward in intrigue.
Drafted in the 4th round in June, Delgado was the first "surprise" pick the Sox took, in that he wasn't considered by national analysts to be a 4th round graded talent. Yet he signed for slightly above slot to peel him away from a college commitment (FIU). As noted in our draft day post about Lency, the thought seems to be that he's got a big arm that will play anywhere, but there is less assuredness that he can stick at shortstop defensively. His bat is raw, which is showing in the early results in his pro debut with the AZL affiliate. More data is needed on this infielder before we have a good feel for him.
The word "athleticism" gets thrown at a lot of players, but Ti'Quan's is at another level than most anyone around him. When we saw him in April, the word "loose" also very much applied, in both the good and bad senses. You could see the talent then, but since that time he's made great strides in consistency and body control, to where we can now see that value in his results. The 21-year-old hit .232 with no HR in April. Since then? .280 with 5 HR. And reports are that his defense is improving noticeably as well, while playing a couple years younger than league average.
OF Joel Booker
2018 has been quite a roller coaster for Joel Booker. Already known for plus or better speed (here's a video of him grabbing a walk-off win by STEALING HOME in the 9th inning), Joel hit the heck out of the ball and got on base a lot to open the season with Winston-Salem (.297/.389/.469 in 53 games), while showing he can handle all three outfield slots defensively. But since being promoted to a more age-appropriate level with AA Birmingham, he's seen his K-rate balloon while his hitting and on-base results have tumbled too. Does he have the hit and zone tools to get on base enough for the speed to work? The jury is still out, but keep him on the radar.
RHP Ryan Burr
Acquired a year ago in exchange for international slot money that the Sox weren't going to use anyway, Burr has marched through three levels already. Striking out consistently more than a batter an inning since come to the ChiSox organization, the all time saves leader at Arizona State went on a ridiculous 18-game run at AA Birmingham from late May to late July (0.36 ERA, 14 H, 11 BB, 30 K in 24.2 IP) that pushed him to AAA Charlotte. He's got a mid-90's fastball that goes higher at times, and an above average slider. 2019 is probably a more realistic timeframe for his ascension to the majors, but a September call-up this year is not out of the realm of possibility.
RHP A.J. Puckett
This right-hander acquired in the Melky Cabrera trade last year, has yet to pitch in 2018 as he battles elbow issues. This in part explains his drop from 25th on our last list, to off the list this time around, due to missed development time and health concerns. His 2017 season wasn't exactly scintillating either. But this is a 2nd round pick from just two years ago who pounds the strike zone and has a plus change-up to complement his fastball, so he's very much still on the radar.
LHP Ian Clarkin
Much like Puckett, Clarkin is a pitcher acquired during the 2017 season who was ranked on our January list (23rd in this case), only to fall off this time around in part due to injury considerations. The lefty's 2018 opened with nine rough starts at AA (6.29 ERA, more walks than strikeouts) before hitting the disabled list with elbow issues in late May. After three rehab games in the AZL, Clarkin has been working in relief at Winston-Salem and now back with Birmingham. It is unclear if this is a temporary or permanent move, but a lefty with three pitches that project to MLB average or better, he's still a prospect even in the bullpen.
RHP Jose Ruiz
Like Burr, a reliever acquired for essentially nothing (in this case off waivers in December) is making a case to be part of the next contending team's bullpen. After missing plenty of bats in High-A (6 H, 22 K in 13.1 IP), Ruiz was quickly promoted to AA where similar trends continue (7.1 H/9, 11.5 K/9). He's control over command at this point, but doesn't need to be a surgeon with a mid-90's fastball that will approach triple digits and a slider that, at times, can move pretty wickedly.
RHP Kade McClure
The very tall 6th round pick from 2017, McClure was looking darn good in his first seven starts with Kannapolis this season (2.53 ERA, 42 K vs 14 BB in 41 IP). After impressing in person in late April (you can read that report with videos here), Kade seemed likely to edge into the back end of the next Top 30 list. Unfortunately, he went down with a knee injury in the 1st inning of his 8th start and then had surgery on May 30th to correct a dislocated knee cap and repair ligament damage. He likely won't be ready to pitch until October, and hopes to play in winter ball.
RHP Lincoln Henzman
Selected two rounds earlier than McClure, Mr. Henzman made quick work of South Atlantic League hitters in his first full season assignment too (2.23 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, just 1.0 BB/9 in 13 starts). Now up a level with the Dash, the White Sox have pulled back Lincoln's innings load because he's building stamina after working in relief in college, but the team has said they see him as a starter in the long run. You can get a detailed picture of this worm-burner in our in-person write-up (2nd pitcher down).
INF Eddy Alvarez
We won't rehash the unusual and winding path Eddy has taken to get here - you can get all that detail in his Prospect Profile if you wish. But Alvarez has had a sneaky good 2018 season, getting on base at a .350+ clip and increasing his power output (31 XBH in 73 games so far) in AAA while playing mostly shortstop and second base. He's 28 now and a starting role seems far-fetched, but a September call-up and a shot at a utility infielder role in the majors are not out of the question. His globally-honed work ethic could be the difference-maker.
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