It’s Rankings Week here at FutureSox and our Top 30 list will be released over two installments tomorrow and Thursday. As you are likely aware, the White Sox acquired a number of significant prospects so far this offseason. That combined with a strong 2016 draft and continued emergence of Latin American prospects contributed to the system quickly getting much deeper in talent. This means that a number of prospects worth keeping an eye on didn’t make our Top 30.
Below is a list of 15 White Sox prospects who were in discussion to be on the list, but just couldn’t fit. All are prospects and have potential to provide value in the majors in the future. For each we give you a few sentences on why they are there, and in some cases, why they didn’t make the top thirty…
OF Jacob May: This one may be the biggest surprise for our readers. May has plus speed, is a true center fielder, and is probably less than a year away from being MLB-ready as a 4th outfielder. The reason he didn’t make the list (beyond the dramatic increase in high end prospect depth) is about his ceiling. The 2013 3rd round pick doesn’t project for any power, has a fringy arm, and hasn’t shown much on-base ability, making him likely a speed-and-glove guy. That said, he could spend substantial time in Chicago this year and/or next amidst the rebuild.
RHP Tyler Danish: And here is the other likely surprise. Danish throws pitches that dance from an unorthodox low 3/4 slot and he breezed through levels up to High-A as a teenager. But as he has faced more disciplined competition in the upper minors, his sinker-slider combo hasn’t been enough and he’s been hit hard the past two seasons. He also had knee surgery (scope) and missed the last couple months of the 2016 season. He’s still just 22 and it’s way too early to give up on him, but he’s got ground to make up in 2017.
RHP Matt Cooper: Matt has already surpassed any reasonable expectations for a 16th round pick, and his combination of strong command of a sinking fastball, an unusual curve/change pairing and emerging slider have created an intriguing relief profile. He was ranked 29th on our last list and he simply lost a numbers game here with the talent added to the system. Cooper is still on the radar for 2017 or 2018 bullpen duties.
OF Aaron Schnurbusch: Here is our “pop-up” prospect. Schnurbusch was a pitcher his first two years in college before putting up mediocre offensive numbers at Pitt for the last two. Drafted in the 28th round last year, Aaron improbably posted the best overall offensive performance of any hitter at Great Falls since they became a White Sox affiliate in 2003. He’s a premium overall athlete with a plus arm too, but it’s still too early to tell how much of his performance is buoyed fundamentally versus playing as a 22-year old in an offense-friendly rookie league. 2017 in full season ball should answer that question.
RHP Victor Diaz: This flame-throwing right-hander may be the “last” name discussed among the prospect returns for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, but he’s a prospect nonetheless. Diaz profiles similarly to another White Sox prospect, Robin Leyer, though Diaz’ fastball has an extra couple clicks and hits triple digits on occasion. He’s also had more success with substantially less development time than Leyer at similar levels. You can’t teach this kind of arm strength.
SS Johan Cruz: Expectations were high for Cruz after the defensive specialist exploded offensively in rookie ball in 2015 as a 19 year-old. But his first year in full season ball last season wasn’t nearly as kind – he posted unspectacular numbers with Kannapolis, and only played 65 games due to multiple DL stints. A shortstop who has flashed both offense and defense as he has at times is always worth tracking, and Johan will still be just 21 years-old for the 2017 season. So while he has fallen back on our rankings, he’s got tools and time to jump again.
RHP Yosmer Solorzano: This physical doppelganger for El Duque Hernandez has fallen back from 21st in part due to the numbers game, but there are other factors as well. A relatively late signee at 18 years old who skipped DSL ball, Solorzano shows unusually good command and pitchability, as well as stuff with substantial sink. But his fastball tops out around 90 without a ton of room for more development, and the breaking stuff hasn’t come along much yet. An assignment to a full season club this year will provide a better look into his likely future.
OF Josue Guerrero: How does one rank a 16/17-year old player who hasn’t seen time in pro ball, and who’s scouting reports are built mostly on showcases? It’s hard to justify a T30 berth for such a player, even one who was a Top 50 July 2nd LatAm signing that shows substantial raw power and a feel for putting bat to ball. Those reports, combined with a $1.1M price tag and major league bloodlines, mean he’s a player to keep on your radar. He just isn’t ready to break onto our lists yet.
C Jhoandro Alfaro: Another Latin American signee, but Alfaro has seen some time in the DSL and AZL and been exposed to more analysis. This Columbian signee has been drifting around near the back end of our lists for a year or two, mostly on the shoulders of good defensive tools and a strong arm. The bat will likely take time to develop, but he supposedly has better skills on defense than his brother Jorge (highly ranked Philadelphia prospect) did at signing.
OF Courtney Hawkins: This is the story everyone knows. Hawkins has been struggling while doubling up levels since his first full pro season, and despite tantalizing displays of power, the big questions around his plate approach and hit tool generally remain unanswered. His 2016 showed no material progress from the previous year at the same level, statistically or from local scouting reports.
RHP Zach Thompson: This 6’7″ righty snuck in at 29th on our last list, after showing big improvement in his age 22 season in Kannapolis. His two fastballs and knuckle-curve work well together and he’s started to miss bats with greater frequency. Thompson’s statistical success hasn’t been sustained for more than half a season yet, but the tools are there for a potential major league reliever if his development continues.
3B/1B/OF Nick Delmonico: The story here has more twists and turns than we can cover in a few sentences, but it’s known the White Sox were very close to bringing him up in 2016 as a role player and he may get that shot in 2017. Delmonico has played both corner infield spots and some outfield, his bat has serious potential, and a rebuilding 2017 White Sox team may be an ideal spot for him mid-season if the opportunity arises. Watch him in Charlotte early this coming season.
RHP Brad Goldberg: A recent addition to the 40-man roster, Goldberg has also taken a winding road to get to the doorstep of the majors. He isn’t likely to make the club right out of Spring Training, but this reliever is on the short list for the in-season call-ups that will inevitably come. Brad’s fastball can reach the upper 90’s, he draws weak contact and generates ground balls when he isn’t missing bats.
1B Matt Davidson: After two brutal seasons in AAA, Matt seemed to finally turn a corner in 2016 and got a call-up, only to break a bone in his foot in his first game with the Sox. He is on the 40-man roster, the big club still doesn’t have a full-time DH and they may trade their third baseman before or during the season, so he’s certainly got a good shot at another MLB look. Then we can see if he’s really come around enough with his hit tool to be a major league contributor.
OF Joel Booker: In case you didn’t notice, the 2016 White Sox draft found a bounty of outfield prospects, if early indications hold. While Alex Call, Jameson Fisher and even the earlier-mentioned Schnurbusch are getting more pub, Booker has emerged as another name to watch. Possessing plus-plus speed and showing strong outfield defensive skills, this Iowa product hit .312 with a .403 OBP across both rookie affiliates and stole 41 bags in 44 attempts in his draft year. He will have to fight for regular playing time in A-ball amidst a crowd, but the club likely finds a way to get him that.
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