Top White Sox Prospects, Midseason 2015: Players ranked 16-30

Twice annually, the writers at Future Sox 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 released in two parts. This is the list of players ranked from 16th to 30th in the system, including brief capsules about each player. The Top 15 with their capsules, as well as a list of players who were considered but just missed the top 30, will be released in a couple days. Think of this one as a teaser.

How do we evaluate and rank players? Read this primer to see how we go about it, but suffice to say we look at players from a number of different angles. It is worth noting that our writers have seen 23 of the new top 30 in person this season or last, and we’ve interviewed 18 of them.

NOTE ON ELIGIBILITY: We consider a “prospect” any player in the White Sox organization who has not yet achieved MLB Rookie status.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The full list article will go into more detail on this, but here are a few key things to know. First, four of the top thirty from the offseason are no longer eligible: Carlos Rodon (1st) and Carlos Sanchez (8th) have graduated, Andy Wilkins (25th) was traded away, and Mike Recchia (28th) retired from baseball. Since that previous list we’ve seen spring training, three to four months of season play, and the amateur draft. The list reflects a lot of changes, and all but three of the 16th-30th ranked names on this list were not on our previous top 30. That’s a lot of turnover, and a lot of new (or returning) names to know, so let’s get started.

THE LIST (prospects ranked 16th through 30th)

16. Zack Erwin, LHP     [NEW]

  • Drafted 4th Round in 2015

Zack Erwin was the second player taken by the White Sox in this year’s draft, after Carson Fulmer, due to the team’s lack of second and third round picks. Erwin was almost exclusively a starter at Clemson this past year and he developed his workload gradually in college – pitching 60 innings of relief his freshman year, 72.2 innings as a swing man in his sophomore year and 106.2 innings his junior year. Erwin’s fastball sits in the 87-91 mph range and is of the heavy variety. He has good command of his secondary stuff, but his calling card is his ability to induce ground balls. Erwin has seen early success this season at Great Falls, showing in his stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio. As of right now, Erwin profiles as a back of the rotation starter at the big league level.

17. Myles Jaye, RHP     [Previous: unranked]

Jaye was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays along with Daniel Webb after the White Sox flipped Jason Frasor back to his original team – the White Sox having acquired Frasor for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen. After entering 2014 as the #23 prospect in the White Sox organization, Jaye struggled in Birmingham with a 5.32 ERA and a 5.0 K/9 rate. In 2015 his walks have gone down and his strikeouts have gone up – raising his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 1.38 to 2.23. The core results are dramatically better – his ERA about half what it was the year prior, WHIP down to 1.15, and the hit rate down significantly. The key for Jaye’s development has always been his secondary stuff and his control, as his low- to mid-90s sinker is his bread and butter. There are reports of a revamped slider entering Jaye’s arsenal, which might be as responsible for the improvement as anything else. The 23-year-old Myles Jaye will likely finish this season in Birmingham before entering Charlotte’s rotation next year. If his success carries over to AAA he might have a future as a back end starter in the majors or as a long man out of the bullpen.

18. Jake Peter, 2B/SS     [Previous: unranked]

  • Drafted 7th Round in 2014

When Jake Peter was drafted, many were surprised the White Sox didn’t use him as a pitcher considering his 96 mph fastball, but it seems they made the right call. Peter dominated rookie ball and was promoted all the way to Winston-Salem, skipping Kannapolis, during his first season of pro ball. Peter struggled with the Dash to finish out 2014 but has made the necessary adjustments to succeed this year – a year that has included hitting streaks of 20 and 11 games. Peter’s walk rate is up to 8.9 percent and his strikeout rate is sitting at a comfortable 15.6 percent. Peter has above average speed and is more likely to hit a triple than a home run, and his defense has been noted as above average at second. Peter recently moved to left field with defensive wizard Cleuluis Rondon moving from shortstop to second and Eddy Alvarez taking over shortstop for the Dash. With a strong arm, high baseball IQ and good defensive instincts Peter’s likeliest path to the bigs is as a super-utility player, though he has the ceiling of a starting second baseman.

19. Thaddius Lowry, RHP     [Previous: unranked]

  • Drafted 5th Round in 2013

Thaddius Lowry is a 6’4″ pitcher with a fastball that flirts with upper 90’s and a slider that shows good break. Early in his career he was walking a few too many and not missing many bats, but has improved on both ends this year (current 2.4 BB/9, 6.4 K/9). Lowry has seen steady progression in his three years with the White Sox, and his 2015 results are significantly better than 2014 across the board as he has improved repeatability of his delivery as well as command of his core pitches. The 20-year-old is still young for Kannapolis but if he finishes this year strong he’ll likely see a promotion to Winston-Salem to begin 2016. Development of his third pitch, a change-up, will be a major factor in what his future role will be. Right now Lowry profiles as an eventual back end of the bullpen pitcher in the big leagues, but if he continues to show growth and improvement he could fight his way into a big league rotation.

20. Corey Zangari, 1B     [NEW]

  • Drafted 6th Round in 2015

Corey Zangari was drafted in the sixth round this year as an over-slot signing – inking for $225,200 more than his slot allotment of $284,800. Zangari is a big 240 lb., 6’4″ first baseman with plenty of raw power that saw him hit 19 home runs in his senior year of high school. There was some question of whether a team might draft him as a pitcher, as he has hit mid-90s from the mound – but it appears the White Sox are going to try him at first base (at least for now). Zangari has already hit three home runs this year for the AZL White Sox and his hitting results have improved as the season has gone on, particularly in contact rate (near 30% K/PA in his first 16 games, 19% in last 12). The 18-year old also caught in high school, though he wasn’t projected as a catcher in the pros. Zangari’s ceiling is that of a power-reliant 1B in the majors, but he’s got a lot of refinement to do before he gets there.

21. Jason Coats, OF     [Previous: unranked]

  • Drafted 29th Round in 2012

Jason Coats has been on the fringe of the prospect radar since 2013, repeatedly just missing our lists. After falling down the draft board in 2012 due mostly to a knee injury at TCU, and missing pro ball that year as well, his performance in A (2013) and A+ (most of 2014) wasn’t big enough to make up for being old for level at each stop. But in 2015, he opened the season going on a doubles tear with AA Birmingham and after just 12 games (with an .886 OPS) he was promoted to AAA Charlotte where the just-turned 25-year old was suddenly more age-appropriate. So far there he’s improved over time as he adjusted, and had a .897 OPS in July with 12 walks to double his season total. Coats doesn’t have a single plus tool but does nearly everything well. His bat to ball skills have given him consistently good contact rates, and he’s got enough power to have hit 15 HR each of the past two seasons (and he’s on pace for more this year) thanks to a surprisingly quick bat, and gets lots of doubles from a line drive swing. The speed is above average, he’s a very good corner OF who can cover center in a pinch, and there is plenty of arm strength from all three slots. It’s hard to say where Coats slots into the future plans with the team as currently constructed, but that construction could change.

22. Adam Engel, OF     [Previous: 24th, +2]

  • Drafted 19th Round in 2013

Another in a line of “toolsy” outfielders, but this one has been making better contact than the likes of Keenyn Walker, Jared Mitchell and Courtney Hawkins. Adam Engel‘s physical build has been compared to Mike Trout, but with plus speed which he’s shown off by stealing 97 bases across last year and half of this year. The power potential is significant, and he did hit 11 long balls last year but he’s got just 4 so far in 2015. He’s retooled his swing this year and the overall hitting results have been uneven, resulting in an OPS that is still just scraping against .700. Defensively, he’s a true CF who handles the position well. Engel is 23 in Advanced A so he’s right around or perhaps slightly behind the age curve, so you’d want to see the results blossom a little better this year than they have. The improved contact and walk rates should have allowed the tools to translate. But his athleticism, raw tools and improving peripherals make him a potential late bloomer, so he’s still a guy to watch.

23. Jake Jarvis, INF     [Previous: unranked]

  • Drafted 10th Round in 2014

When Jake Jarvis was drafted in 2014, it took some pundits by surprise as he was seen as un-signable. Further flummoxing baseball types was that Jarvis was taken as a hitter, despite possessing a low 90s fastball and a promising curve off the mound. Jarvis is very athletic and obviously has a strong arm, Perfect Game said the ball jumps off his bat, and Kiley McDaniel had given him a 3rd round grade before the draft. Jarvis’ debut in the AZL last year wasn’t special, though he had a good walk rate (8.9%). This season the 20-year old opened with Great Falls and has shown some power (3 HR) while improving his contact rate from last year, and there have been positive reports on his defense at second base. This ranking is still heavy on projection, and we’ll know more when he hits Class A and/or we start getting some in-person reports.

24. Eddy Alvarez, SS     [Previous: 30th, +6]

  • UDFA, signed in 2014

Why would a 25-year old infielder with minimal power in A-ball make this list? The back story is long but detailed here – in short, Alvarez went more than three years without picking up a bat because he was busy collecting medals as a speed skater. Despite the time away after just a year of JuCo ball, he’s registered .400+ OBP’s and .800+ OPS’ in rookie and A ball during his first full pro year, while stealing 51 bags and playing good to at-times spectacular defense at shortstop (as well as some second base). This switch-hitter has an unorthodox plate approach without much leverage, but enough bat speed to get around on legit fastballs, leading to good contact rates and gap power. His batter’s eye is surprisingly refined, posting an over 15% walk rate. Defensively he’s shown enough arm strength to handle short, with quick actions and good instincts (though there is still some rawness there and the arm isn’t a strength). The speed is true plus, and his base running techniques have improved as he’s gone from a 9/19 SB/ATT last year to 46/54 thus far in 2015. The sports IQ here is sky high, as his maturity and Olympic experiences give him a big advantage. While it may have looked like a stunt signing at first, it is starting to appear that Alvarez has a shot at a major league future, likely as a utility infielder if he makes it. Alvarez was recently promoted to Advanced A Winston-Salem where he’s posted a .389/.511/.611 line in his first 11 games, while mostly playing shortstop.

25. Brian Clark, LHP     [Previous: unranked]

  • Drafted 9th Round in 2014

Lefty Brian Clark has been getting attention in 2015 for his combination of missing bats and, when hitters do make contact, forcing them to pound the ball into the ground. Despite skipping a level to go to Winston-Salem this year, this Kent State product has been striking out nearly a batter an inning while also generating a ton of ground balls (2.18 GB:FB is best among qualifiers in the entire system stateside). Clark’s got a 4-seamer that runs mid-90s, and a 2-seam sinker in the low 90s that generates a lot of weak contact. He’s also got a slider and a change-up, with the change-up being the difference-maker for him between starting and relieving. This 22-year old began 2015 in the bullpen but it appears he is now ramping up into a starting role.

26. Johan Cruz, INF     [Previous: unranked]

  • International amateur free agent signing in 2012

Johan Cruz was part of Marco Paddy’s first July 2nd international class in 2012, receiving the second highest bonus at $450,000 as a 17-year old. Cruz was described at the time by Baseball America as one of the best defensive shortstops in the Dominican but his bat needed to catch up. That turned out to be true as Cruz’s first stint in the Dominican Summer League was less than stellar, hitting .123/.216/.160. However, he made the adjustments necessary and slashed .329/.424/.471 over 22 games the next year in the DSL and the Sox eagerly sent him stateside to the Arizona League Sox, where he largely struggled. Cruz is proving his mettle again, as in his first full season in rookie ball at 19 years old he is hitting well for the Great Falls Voyagers. Interestingly, he has mostly played at third base for the Voyagers, where previously he only played at shortstop. A lot of Cruz’s future value would be predicated on his ability to stick at shortstop, but his natural talent and encouraging improvements at the plate is enough for him to land in the back-end of the White Sox prospect ranking list.

27. Kevan Smith, C     [Previous: 21st, -6]

  • Drafted 7th Round in 2011

Kevan Smith was drafted as a former football player turned baseball project with lots of athleticism and raw tools. Smith is an offense-first catcher who has good power (10+ home runs from 2012-2014) and good plate discipline (career .368 OBP). Defensively behind the dish he is bit of a work in progress, but he has a strong arm and is athletic enough to envision he can stick at catcher. Reports on his pitcher handling have been very good, which is something the White Sox key on, so that helps his chances at a major league role. After crushing younger competition in rookie ball and the A affiliates, Smith starting drawing serious attention with a very solid .290/.376/.437 line in AA Birmingham in 2014. That earned him a spot on the 40 man roster and a promotion to Charlotte in 2015, but unfortunately he has posted career lows across the board thus far with the Knights. He’s been hitting better lately, but the transition is taking time. At 27 years old, Smith’s window to make the major league club is narrowing and he would need a strong second half of the season to stick on this list for next year.

28. J.B. (Jeffrey) Wendelken, RHP     [Previous: unranked]

  • Acquired from BOS in July 2013 (Jake Peavy trade)

Jeffrey Wendelken was acquired in the package that sent Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox at the 2013 trade deadline. The Red Sox had him working as a reliever where he was effective and the White Sox continued him in that role when they acquired him in 2013. However, in 2014 they converted him to a starter (as they often do with key relief prospects) and he struggled as his ERA ballooned to 5.25, hits per inning rocketed, and strikeouts per inning dropped dramatically. The White Sox got the picture and in 2015 he was promoted to the Birmingham bullpen where Wendelken has been excelling, showing great control with the Barons, and he struck out 56 batters in his 43 innings before his recent promotion to AAA Charlotte. Wendelken has reportedly added a few ticks to his fastball with the White Sox and has 7th-8th inning potential if he continues to develop. His change has been described as above average and his breaking stuff is coming along.

29. Nick Delmonico, 3B     [NEW]

  • Signed as minor league FA this spring

Nick Delmonico is a former high draft pick (6th round of the 2011 draft) and sought after prospect that appears to be enjoying the change of scenery to the White Sox organization. Delmonico, regarded at the time as a top prospect in Baltimore’s system, was traded to Milwaukee in exchange for closer Francisco Rodriguez in 2013. After putting up sub-par numbers with Milwaukee’s A+ team, Delmonico was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamines in July of 2014. Delmonico was then released by the Brewers after he failed to report for Spring Training in 2015 and the White Sox decided to give the kid a second chance. He quickly rewarded them by hitting .400 in the first week with the Kannapolis Intimidators and was promoted to Birmingham to provide more of a challenge. Thus far with the Barons Delmonico is hitting .262/.324/.361 and has played third base exclusively. He will need to improve upon the slugging if he aspires to be considered a real option at third in the majors. However, there is hope for his power as he did hit 11 home runs over 95 games in 2012 and 13 more home runs over 82 games in 2013. In 2015 he has one home run, which he hit with Kannapolis. Nonetheless, it appears the Sox made a good gamble by adding him and if his power returns, he could be much higher on this list in 2016.

30. Junior Guerra, RHP     [NEW]

  • International professional UDFA, signed this offseason out of Italy

Prospects come in all shapes and sizes and all travel different roads to relevance. Junior Guerra has had an especially interesting road as it’s included stops in multiple organizations, independent ball, and several professional leagues abroad, including Mexico, Venezuela, and Italy. The 30-year-old journeyman has hopefully found a home in the White Sox organization, as he has been excellent in 2015 with them including a short stint in the majors. Guerra owns a 3.33 ERA with 87 punch-outs over 70.1 innings between AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation. Guerra works with a mid-90’s fastball, a slider, and a split-finger change that he uses to put away batters. Most recently, Guerra has been working out of the Charlotte bullpen and would be one of the first the White Sox would call up if injuries happened to a major league reliever.

***Watch for the full Top 30, with capsules for the top 15 players and a list of others who just missed the cut, coming in a day or two.

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