Top 30 White Sox Prospects, Preseason 2016 - Full List

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 about specific players and rankings, until we come to a final list. The list is then released in two parts.

This is the full list – the top 30 prospects in the White Sox system at present, with capsules for the top 15 players, plus a list of players who were considered but just missed the top 30. Capsules for players ranked 16th through 30th can be found in our article that went up yesterday.

NOTE ON 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 stateside affiliate live for multiple games in 2015, in addition to the back fields at Spring Training, fall instructs and the AFL.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM: To set the table, eight of the top thirty prospects from the midseason list (July) are no longer in the system due to trades, claims or “graduation” to the majors: Frankie Montas (ranked 3rd on previous list), Micah Johnson (5th), Trayce Thompson (10th), Tyler Saladino (13th), Zack Erwin (16th), Myles Jaye (17th), Jeffrey Wendelken (28th) and Junior Guerra (30th). That doesn’t include Yency Almonte, also traded away and likely to have made this new list. This means the middle of the system took a pretty serious hit, and as a whole it’s not as strong as it was at last read.

The system at present can best be described in three segments. The top three players compare well with the same from most other organizations, with all of them likely to appear on MLB-wide Top 100 lists. The next slice, from fourth through the teens, took the brunt of the impact of those losses and is lacking the sort of likely major leaguers you’d like to see. But there is hope in the back half of the list. We are finally starting to see some significant Latin American talent reach the stateside teams and show themselves as true prospects, and despite losing the 2nd through 4th round picks it appears (in the very early going) that the team did well in the 2015 draft. As a whole, the list is a step back from the 2015 Midseason version, but it’s not devoid of talent either.

For the record, it was a very close vote on who would be number one.

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.

1. Tim Anderson, SS     [Previous: 2nd, +1]

  • Drafted 1st round (17th overall) in 2013

We have a new number one – thanks to his faster-than-anticipated development in 2015 at the key AA level, Anderson sneaks into the top slot. Moving up to Birmingham at just 21 years old, this one-time surprise JuCo pick hit .312, improved his walk rate during the season (to a still sub-optimal 4.4%), maintained a reasonable contact rate (20.7% K/PA), became a weapon on the base-paths (49 SB in 62 ATT) and perhaps most importantly, made significant strides on defense at short. Anderson is an elite athlete with plus (or better) speed, very quick hands and bat speed, and surprisingly good swing adjustment skills for someone this young and raw. On the negative side he’s still not selective enough at the plate and expands the zone too often, leaving him vulnerable to more advanced pitchers, which we observed first hand in August. And while it now appears likely he’ll stick at shortstop, he’s still got work to do defensively (as he’s acutely aware of, based on interviews). While there are those questions around his pitch selection and defense, he’s shown he can make quick adjustments in both cases, and looks like the shortstop of the future for the White Sox.

2. Carson Fulmer, RHP     [Previous: 1st, -1]

  • Drafted 1st round in 2015 (8th overall)

To be clear – Fulmer didn’t do anything wrong to fall to the 2nd slot. He is developing as expected, and could just as easily be number one, with Anderson passing him by a hair because of his improvements. Fulmer breezed through his pro debut in 9 load-limited outings, mostly in Advanced-A ball with Winston-Salem: 22 IP, 16 H, 5 ER, 9 BB, 25 K. The Vanderbilt right-hander already features a plus mid-90’s fastball with variable arm-side run, and a curve with two-plane break that often shows as plus. He’s also got a low-to-mid-80’s change-up that shows significant potential, and has supposedly been experimenting with a cutter. The biggest concern with Fulmer has been his high-effort, almost violent delivery, which leads some to believe his body may not stand up to a major league starter’s workload. But he’s shown no health issues or diminished velocity thus far, and he appears to have already nearly secured an effective late inning reliever floor. If he can maintain the rigors and improve one or both of his third and fourth offerings just a bit, he looks like a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues and possibly more. Fulmer is slated for AA Birmingham to open 2016, and could be in Chicago as soon as this summer.

3. Spencer Adams, RHP     [Previous: 4th, +1]

  • Drafted 2nd round in 2014

Seen as a bit of a steal at draft time (he was a 1st rounder for many analysts), Adams looked every bit a 1st round pick in his pro debut. He showed the big mid-90’s fastball and a slider that was downright unfair at times, and his peripherals in the AZL backed that up (4 BB, 59 K in 41.2 IP). In 2015 in his first full season assignment with Kannapolis, Adams struggled to adopt some tweaks from the coaching staff, and saw his velocity dip and movement dissipate early in the season, with his numbers again echoing his reality (36 K in 51.2 IP in first 12 starts). But the slender righty did adjust, was promoted to A+ Winston-Salem where his velocity and pitch quality started to show up again. Context is important here: this is a teenager bumping up to 130 innings and making the necessary early adjustments. Adding endurance and strength, and spending more time in his modified delivery, will go a long way as he’s physically set up to pitch. Look for Adams to repeat at the same level, still young for the level in his age 19/20 season, and potentially move up quickly.

4. Trey Michalczewski, 3B     [Previous: 6th, +2]

  • Drafted 7th round in 2013

Signed to an over-slot bonus more indicative of a 3rd round pick, Michalczewski came into the system with all the right tools to be a Major League third baseman. His numbers so far have been good but not great, with his 2015 season at Winston-Salem showing a .259/.335/.395 line and 21.4% strikeout rate – but he was a year or two younger than the league average player. Michalczewski has raw power that hints at above average future game power, a patient approach at the plate and good bat speed. He’s also got decent speed on the base paths. Defensively he has soft hands, but he’s got a hitch in his throw and his actions are still stiff and mechanical. Swing and misses have been an issue at times, though it improved this season. Becoming a regular 3B in the majors is still in sight for this Oklahoma prep product, and he’ll be challenged in AA in 2016.

5. Tyler Danish, RHP     [Previous: 7th, +2]

  • Drafted 2nd round in 2013

2015 gave Danish something he’d never experienced before in his baseball career: struggles. After having minimal trouble getting batters out at every high school and professional stop, AA hitters figured him out in Birmingham, where he was hit hard (11.9 H/9), uncharacteristically walked batters (a still-reasonable 3.8 BB/9) and didn’t miss many bats (5.7 K/9). The right-hander with a cross-fire delivery reminiscent of Jake Peavy was just 20 years old in AA, the youngest pitcher in the Southern League on Opening Day, so some struggles were to be expected and are no reason to jump off a cliff here. Danish’s fastball runs 88-92 with significant sink and run, his change-up is of the off-the-table variety and gets swings and misses, and he has a slider that isn’t yet as consistent but shows well on good days. Tyler could repeat AA twice and still be young for the level, so patience is called for here. Adjustment is needed, but he’s an unusually mature young player who’s capable of it.

6. Jordan Guerrero, LHP     [Previous: 14th, +8]

  • Drafted 15th round in 2012

One of the biggest risers on our list, Guerrero broke out in 2014 and just kept impressing in 2015. Despite nearly doubling his innings (again), the young southpaw cruised through South Atlantic League lineups with Kannapolis (2.28 ERA, 6.8 H/9, 1.6 BB/9, 9.8 K/9 in 9 starts) before being promoted to Winston-Salem and posting strong (but not as dominant) numbers there (3.94 ERA, 7.9 H/9, 2.0 BB/9, 8.5 K/9). Guerrero has been developing backwards – he already had a good change-up in 2013 that now multiple scouting types have called plus, but his fastball went from 89-90 to now more 91-93 and his command of both is very advanced. His curveball shows good movement as well and has been improving, with that third offering being a probable difference-maker for his future development. As a command-reliant pitcher without a ton of present velocity and who has dramatically increased his workload, AA could be a big challenge for him in his age 21/22 season but that is his likely destination.

7. Jacob May, OF     [Previous: 11th, +4]

  • Drafted 3rd round in 2013

2015 was an eventful year for May. He opened the season on a tear with AA Birmingham (.311 AVG, 25 SB in 52 games) before a nasty collision with Anderson and concussion recovery took him out of play for about six weeks. His numbers weren’t as good on return, but that’s to be expected. May’s best tool is plus speed, and he’s also shown a good feel for hitting and strong route and glove work in center field. His arm is fringy and there isn’t going to be much power in his game, but the speed, bat-to-ball skills and defense give him a likely 4th outfielder floor with a shot at a starting CF job if it all comes together. It’s not clear if May opens 2016 in AAA for his age 24 season, but if he doesn’t he’ll likely be there during the season.

8. Adam Engel, OF     [Previous: 22nd, +14]

  • Drafted 19th round in 2013

Another true center fielder playing a level behind May, Engel makes the biggest jump on our list. A very nice AFL campaign (he won the league MVP award), advancement of the hit tool during the regular season and the loss of prospects above him all helped propel his leap. Engel has teased since being drafted in 2013 (19th round, but a 10th round-level 100k bonus) with big tools – he’s a plus-plus runner (stole 65 bases in 76 attempts in 2015), has a very strong arm, premium athleticism and some raw power lurking in a body build one analyst compared to Mike Trout. The hit tool is the biggest open question with Engel – he’s been steadily making better contact and retooled his hitting approach multiple times during the season, resulting in a .279/.373/.419 line in his second half at Winston-Salem and carrying into the AFL. Engel is slated for AA Birmingham for his age 24 season in 2016, where we’ll see just how effectual his offensive adjustments really are.

9. Courtney Hawkins, OF     [Previous: 9th, no change]

  • Drafted 1st round (13th overall) in 2012

It’s hard to find a prospect going into his fourth pro season that still has as much gap between floor and ceiling as Hawkins. Taken without context, his .243/.300/.410 line in AA Birmingham is pretty uninspiring, and the 30.3% K/PA rate is frightening. Tools-wise, Hawkins still has big time power and a cannon arm. It’s also worth noting, as a very young 21-year-old in the Southern League with deep pitch recognition problems, his performance in the injury-shortened 78-game season wasn’t a disaster. The bugaboo for the former first rounder is his struggles recognizing pitches and poor zone judgment that put a lot of swing and miss in his game. Defensively he’s had some struggles but improved in 2015 according to multiple people who watched him (he was on the DL with plantar fasciitis for our visit this year) and his arm means he’s got a good chance to be an average corner guy. Hawkins almost assuredly repeats AA this year and will still be young for the level at 22 years old, and we’ll get some idea if he can improve his hitting approach enough to complete the package.

10. Micker Adolfo, OF     [Previous: 8th, -2]

  • Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1,600,000)

Outfielders, get your outfielders here! The fourth straight on our list, Adolfo signed a team-record IFA bonus and came into the system with hints at big raw power, athleticism, speed and arm strength. He skipped the DSL and hit the AZL as a 17-year-old in 2014, and it showed – he hit 5 HR in 198 PA, but also struck out in a whopping 42.9% of his plate appearances. In 2015 he seemed to be making marked improvements, making better (but still iffy) contact and hitting for a higher average, improving defensively and even attempting a few steals. Then he suffered a spiral fracture of his tibia on a slide into home plate gone wrong in early August and missed the rest of the season. The prognosis is full recovery well ahead of Spring Training. Adolfo will still be just 19 in 2016, is growing into his body and has already been flashing those athletic tools. The ceiling is quite high here (and the floor quite low), and he should return to a rookie affiliate, probably Great Falls this time, for this upcoming season.

11. Chris Beck, RHP     [Previous: 12th, +1]

  • Drafted 2nd round in 2012

It started to look as if Beck had turned a corner in late 2014 and early 2015. The big kid from Georgia improved his command, mixed in an improved cutter to substantially raise his strikeout rate and lower his hit rate over 2014 and even made a spot start in Chicago. But after two straight abbreviated outings in June he disappeared, and ended up having Ulnar Nerve Translocation surgery (same as Micah Johnson). Word is he’ll be fully ready for Spring Training, though he only got in 60 innings in 2015 so he’ll have some work ahead. Beck’s mainstay is a sinker in the 92-95 range (touches 96), complemented by a cutter, slider and very good change-up. When he keeps his pitches down in the zone he’s quite effective, but as he tires he tends to leave his fastball & change-up up where they move less and get hit harder. In theory he’s probably the “next starter up” going into 2016, and if he’s back to full health (UNT surgery usually includes a full recovery) he still looks like a major league back end starter or long man.

12. Corey Zangari, 1B     [Previous: 20th, +8]

  • Drafted 6th round in 2015

For the second time in three years, the White Sox selected a high school infielder from Oklahoma in the back half of the top ten rounds of the draft, and paid them a bonus around half a million dollars (more in line with 3rd round money). In 2013 it was Michalczewski, and this time it’s power hitting first baseman Zangari. At draft time, reports spoke of impressive raw power, and an arm strong enough that some felt he might end up pitching (he hit 95 in high school). The power did indeed show up in his pro debut, but probably more impressive was the ability to make quick adjustments that he displayed. After struggling in his first month of action (.240 AVG, 1 BB, 21 K in 77 PA), he made quick changes and ended up with an impressive final line of .323/.356/.492, with 11 BB and 49 K in 208 PA. You can read much more detail about his background and first pro season in our in-depth article from Kim Contreras. Defensively he had his struggles in his pro debut, so this will be an area in need of refinement. But the combination of power, adaptability and feel for hitting is rare in the White Sox system and could propel Zangari up the ladder quickly.

13. Brian Clark, LHP     [Previous: 25th, +12]

  • Drafted 9th round in 2014

Clark put up some nice numbers in his draft year in Great Falls, and for 2015 was promoted straight to Winston-Salem (skipping Kannapolis). With the Dash he began the season in the bullpen (in part to manage his workload) and later transitioned to the rotation where his performance was even stronger (and where he’s said he’s more comfortable). Despite the double-promotion and role changes he posted a 2.33 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.6 K/9 in 89 innings. Clark throws from a fairly high slot that gives his 4- and 2-seam fastballs (4S runs up to mid-90’s) nice downward plane that induces weak contact, and he commands both well. He also has a slider and a change where quality and command are a little less consistent, and the future of those offerings is likely key to whether he’s a starter or reliever down the line. He’s likely ticketed for AA going into his age 22/23 season.

14. Eddy Alvarez, INF     [Previous: 24th, +10]

  • Signed as UDFA in 2014

The word ‘unique’ is overused, but it truly fits Alvarez‘ path going from JuCo ballplayer to Olympic speed skater to pro ballplayer. You can see his profile for more detail on his unusual backstory, but the front story is just as interesting. After 3.5 years away from baseball, he dominated rookie and A-ball in his first year (.346/.433/.500, 9/19 SB/ATT, 27 BB & 34 K in 210 PA), then in 2015 hit almost as well across A and A+ (.296/.409/.424, 88 BB, 85 K in 553 PA) while dramatically upping his value on the bast paths (53 SB in 68 ATT). Alvarez has plus speed, elite atheticism, very good zone judgment and patience at the plate. There’s a little pop in his bat too, and the switch hitter can get around on good heat from both sides of the plate, though the Pedroia-sized infielder is never likely to be a big power threat. Defensively he’s been playing mostly shortstop and has shown off good instincts and some spectacular plays. However, he also shows a lack of refinement (not surprisingly) and his arm is fringy from the far side of the infield. The Olympic medalist will be 26 for 2016, likely in AA Birmingham, but calendar age needs to be taken with context in this case.

15. Johan Cruz, SS/3B     [Previous: 26th, +11]

  • Signed from Dominican Republic in 2012 ($450,000)

When the White Sox signed Cruz as part of their first big post-Wilder international class in 2012, his defensive skills were most often cited for value, while his bat was a bit behind. After a prototypically rough age 17 campaign in the DSL (.123/.216/.376), he was much better there in 2014 as an 18-year-old (.329/.424/.471) and was promoted to the AZL briefly. In 2015 he went to Great Falls and was among the offensive leaders on the team (.312/.338/.442, 6 HR in 285 PA). He was playing mostly 3B in Montana, but that was to give the team a better look at some recent draftees at the position and the club says Cruz will be back to shortstop in 2016. His defensive skills are impressive but raw and he needs to learn some patience at the plate. With his raw tools on defense and what has developed into a nice swing with some power potential, there’s a high ceiling here. He’ll likely be the starting shortstop at Kannapolis in 2016 at just 20 years old.

16. Jordan Stephens, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

17. Jake Peter, INF     [Previous: 18th, +1]

18. Jason Coats, OF     [Previous: 21st, +3]

19. Yosmer Solorzano, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

20. Peter Tago, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

21. Seby Zavala, C     [Previous: Unranked]

22. Thaddius Lowry, RHP     [Previous: 19th, -3]

23. Maiker Feliz, 3B     [Previous: Unranked]

24. Carlos Perez, C     [Previous: Unranked]

25. Omar Narvaez, C     [Previous: Unranked]

26. Danny Hayes, 1B     [Previous: Unranked]

27. Landon Lassiter, OF     [Previous: Unranked]

28. Antonio Rodriguez, OF     [Previous: Unranked]

29. Matt Cooper, RHP     [Previous: Unranked]

30. Matt Davidson, 3B     [Previous: 15th, -15]

OTHERS RECEIVING CONSIDERATION (in order): Andre Wheeler, Blake Hickman, Jackson Glines, Keon Barnum, Matt Heidenreich, James Dykstra, Taylore Cherry, Jhoandro Alfaro, Christopher Comito, Franklin Reyes, Robin Leyer, Brad Goldberg, Kevan Smith, Amado Nunez, Nick Delmonico

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    Matt, what did you mean when, regarding Eddy Alvarez, you said: "The Olympic medalist will be 26 for 2016, likely in AA Birmingham, but calendar age needs to be taken with context in this case"? Most of the time when writers say that they mean that an older player has more experience than his peers. That would not be the case here, so what did you mean?

  • Thanks for your question, Jim. Taking age into context can mean the player is older OR younger than his peers at similar levels or experience. In Alvarez' case, clearly as a 26 year old he's going to be older than nearly all true prospects around him in the minors. But because of the 3.5 years of missed baseball, you need to see the full picture.

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