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 then released in two parts. But we did already post a list of the players who just missed the list yesterday, right here.
This is the “teaser”, where we release the back half of the list with player capsules for prospects ranked 16-30. The full list of top 30 prospects, with a more detailed overview and capsules for 1-15, will be released tomorrow.
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 and contributors saw every stateside affiliate live for multiple games in the past year, in addition to the back fields at Spring Training, fall instructs and the AFL.
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.
THE LIST (prospects ranked 16-30)
16. Adam Engel, OF [Previous: 10th, -6]
- Drafted 19th round in 2013
A true center fielder with plus-plus speed, Engel was recently added to the 40-man roster and could see time in Chicago in 2017. He’s also a prime athlete, draws walks at an above average rate and has plenty of arm for any outfield slot, but two nagging questions are keeping him from being ranked higher. One is around the hit tool – he’s made consistent contact for short stretches, but continuously tinkers with mechanics and goes on extended stretches with lots of swing and miss. The other is that while he has the physical strength for more power and teases it at times, he’s never actually displayed much of it in games. Engel’s reasonable floor is a 4th outfielder bench player, but if he can consistently show even an average hit tool and/or start translating raw to game power, he could be a starting MLB CF and more.
17. Trey Michalzewski, 3B [Previous: 6th, -11]
- Drafted 7th round in 2013
2016 wasn’t kind to Michalczewski, as a (perhaps too) challenging assignment to AA in his age 21 season resulted in some ugly numbers (.226 AVG, 27.5% K/PA). At the plate, this switch hitter shows better feel for bat to ball from the left side, but more power from the right. Defensively he’s got good hands at the hot corner, but struggles with a hitchy throwing motion and the footwork needs refinement. These reports haven’t changed, and now he’s likely to repeat a level for the first time. That’s probably a good thing, he’ll still be young for the level at 22 and the chance to have some in-game success is valuable. The ceiling of a starting MLB third baseman remains in play, but improvements in his bat-to-ball skills and defense are needed.
18. Charlie Tilson, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2011 by STL
Acquired in trade from the Cardinals for LHP Zach Duke last July, the New Trier High grad made his major league debut on August 2nd and promptly tore his hamstring in the outfield. It was a bad enough rupture that surgery was required, and this makes projecting a future for Tilson a little murky. The Cardinals’ 10th-ranked prospect at the time of the trade, Tilson’s carrying tool was plus-plus speed, and soft tissue injuries requiring surgery carry substantial risk to completeness of recovery. He has made consistent contact as a pro and hit for average at each level, though the power grades out substantially below average. Before the injury, scouting reports saw him as a probable 4th outfielder with the possibility to start if he could add a little more pop. At last report, Tilson will be clear for full work in Spring Training, and hopefully he can get back to 100% in games.
19. Jake Peter, INF [Previous: 19th, no change]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2014
Peter plays all over the diamond (six positions in 2016) and he’s been remarkably consistent on our rankings – he’s been 17th to 19th for four straight lists. Of course with the recent addition of top end prospects to the system, staying 19th might as well be moving up six slots, as a strong campaign split between AA and AAA has boosted Jake’s stock. Peter has an advanced plate approach and natural bat to ball skills, and though he’s an average runner he will steal or take an extra base thanks to widely-praised baseball IQ. Power is minimal, but he does have a strong arm that is plenty for any position on the field (including pitching, having hit mid-90’s on the mound in college). Jake’s combination of defensive flexibility and ability to get on base give him a utility infielder floor, and he could be something more like a super-utility player.
20. Amado Nunez, SS [Previous: 13th, -7]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2014 ($900k)
No player we discussed for this list had a wider set of evaluations, with writers arguing for a place as many as ten slots away in either direction. Signed for 900k (2nd highest ever for the Sox, at the time) in 2014, Nunez went straight to AZL in 2015 as a 17 year-old, then repeated the level in 2016 and showed well statistically (.287/.320/.370). He’s played exclusively at short so far and the glove and arm appear to grade out for it, but there are questions about whether his range will be enough as he matures. Reports from the AZL (ours and others) indicate flashes of excellent defensive skills, coupled with patches of ugliness, which is no surprise for a raw player like this. He has a loose swing with quick hands, some power projection, and the organization speaks highly of his make-up. This is a player that could move dramatically on this list in the next year.
21. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 9th, -12]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1.6M)
Adolfo is a premium overall athlete who projects for plus (or better) raw power and has a strong arm. But thus far in three pro seasons, he has yet to have any sustained success on the field translating the tools to results. Certainly it’s worth noting that Adolfo has only played 138 games across those seasons as he missed time to injuries (pulled hamstring twice, broken leg on a slide, fractured hook of hamate bone), and as he skipped the Dominican Summer League, that’s his entire pro resume. But his mechanics at the plate are inconsistent and his approach is immature, as is his outfield defense. Likely to repeat at Kannapolis in 2017, Micker will be focused on staying healthy and applying a consistent plate approach and swing. The gap between floor and ceiling here is still quite wide.
22. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: 12th, -10]
- Drafted 15th Round in 2012
Guerrero‘s rapid ascent up prospect lists stalled a bit in 2016, though his struggles were entirely predictable and not a reason to panic. The lefty’s innings load had gone from 25.1 (2013) to 78 (2014) to 149 (2015), all after being sidelined with some shoulder issues. So it was no surprise he struggled in AA as a young-for-level 21/22-year old this past season, and he was shut down a little early with some soreness not related to his shoulder. Guerrero generally has good command of a low 90’s fastball, a plus change-up and an emerging curveball, though he uncharacteristically struggled with location in 2016. It’s not a flashy package of pitches, but there’s the foundation for a back end starter if he bounces back in 2017, likely repeating in Birmingham.
23. Eddy Alvarez, SS [Previous: 26th, +3]
- Signed as UDFA in 2014
The White Sox have a number of utility infielder types in the majors and AAA, and adding Yoan Moncada to the mix further (though indirectly) narrows Alvarez‘ window to reach the majors. But aside from a 2-month doldrum opening at AA last year, this Olympic medalist in speed skating has done nothing but beat expectations at each stop, culminating in a late look in Charlotte to end last season. Alvarez has shown surprisingly strong plate discipline and plate approach, weaponized his plus speed on the base paths, and shows enough defensive chops to look playable in the middle infield. The soon-to-be 27-year old has mostly played shortstop so far, but look for him to work at second and possibly other positions in 2017 in AAA. His high degree of smarts and athleticism have allowed him to move up quickly despite the long layoff from baseball, and his improbable sprint to the majors could cross the finish line this year.
24. Brian Clark, LHP [Previous: 20th, -4]
- Drafted 9th Round in 2014
In some ways like Guerrero, lefty Clark doesn’t have any wow tools, but taken as a package there’s a potential major leaguer here. The 9th round pick in 2014 has moved up fast, skipping Low-A and briefly reaching AAA in his third pro season. Though he has succeeded in a starting role, the White Sox see Clark as a middle reliever going forward (he’s not a LOOGY profile). Clark can paint corners with a low 90’s fastball that touches mid 90’s, and mixes in a sinker, slider and change as well. He throws lots of strikes, coming from a high enough release to generate ground balls with regularity. How his breaking pitches develop will likely dictate the level of his future success.
25. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: Unranked]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2016
Flores makes what amounts to the biggest jump up the rankings among players who were in the system in 2016. The lanky lefty was very inconsistent in college in virtually every way, but the Sox saw something and it seems they were right. After working mostly in relief in college, he was a starter in Great Falls in his draft year and the team appears to want to keep him in that role. Flores has a fastball that typically runs 91-94, but was as high as 97. He’s also got a change-up with screwball-like movement, along with a cutter and a curve. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs recently ranked Flores the 15th best prospect in the system, so we aren’t exactly breaking ground here, but Flores is pretty new to the radar for most of our readers. He likely opens 2017 in Kannapolis.
26. Corey Zangari, 1B [Previous: 17th, -9]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2015
The big, powerful first baseman got a big bonus ($510k) and matched it with a big draft year across both rookie affiliates. But an assignment to full season ball before he even turned 19 turned out to be too much, and he struck out 106 times in his first 248 plate appearances in Kannapolis before being sent back to Great Falls in 2016. Zangari has plus or better raw power, but also a long swing and an approach that requires some work. The good news is, in both 2015 and 2016, after facing early adversity he adjusted and improved demonstrably as the season wore on. That will be a key asset as he moves forward, as he’s purely a first baseman defensively and will need to hit his way into a future major league job. How Corey looks in Spring Training may dictate if he gets another shot at Kanny to open the year, or stays in extended camp and rookie ball to get more comfortable first.
27. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 24th, -3]
- Drafted 12th Round in 2015
Drafted as a bat-first backstop, Zavala went ham offensively in his draft year. His 2016 in Kannapolis was more mundane though still solid for a catcher (.253/.330/.381), brought down by a June swoon as be battled a nagging leg injury (he was shut down for part of July). Defensively he’s developing better than expected, showing an average arm, good footwork and getting positive reviews for his work with the pitching staff. Offensively he’s got some power, and shows a quick, compact swing that pounds the ball between the gaps. Zavala is a below average runner, but has notable baseball acumen and professional bloodlines. It will be interesting to see where he starts 2017, with Collins being ready for about the same level.
28. Dylan Covey, RHP [NEW]
- Drafted 4th Round in 2013 by OAK
Originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2010, Covey was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in the post-draft physical and elected to go to school at University of San Diego, where he pitched well enough to be snagged in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by Oakland. After a couple average seasons in the Athletics system, Covey appeared destined for a breakout 2016 campaign by starting the year with a 1.84 ERA over six starts in AA Midland. However, an oblique strain prematurely ended his regular season, but he did pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Despite this, the Oakland organization decided to not protect him from the 2016 Rule V Draft, where the White Sox happily took him. Covey has a diverse arsenal: heavy sinker at 89-93, a split-change that is his out pitch, and a curve and a slider. Covey has a chance to find the back-end of the White Sox 2017 rotation if Rick Hahn deals a current starter between now and Opening Day. If not, Covey could break with the team in long relief.
29. Luis Martinez, RHP [Previous: Unranked]
- Signed from Venezuela in 2012 ($250k)
Martinez is a good example of how slow (and hopefully fruitful) developing young LatAm talent can be. Martinez posted solid numbers in his pro debut, but when he was pushed along to his first taste of full season ball in Kannapolis in 2015 he struggled mightily, posting a 5.38 ERA. However, when repeating Kannapolis in 2016, Martinez improved in every statistical category from the previous year and finished with an impressive 3.81 ERA, a 9.3 K/BB, and 3.4 BB/9 over 137 innings. According to in-person scouting, Martinez worked with Kanny pitching coach Jose Bautista on revamping his delivery and improving his off-speed stuff. The new and improved Martinez features a mid-to-low 90’s fastball, and two inconsistent but developing secondary offerings, a change-up and a slider. Expect Martinez to start the 2017 season in the Winston-Salem rotation.
30. Rymer Liriano, OF [NEW]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2007 ($300k)
Liriano burst onto the prospect scene by slashing .298/.365/.465 between Low-A and Advanced-A Ball in 2011 and quickly landed on several 2012 preseason top 100 ranking lists. His stock begin to waver in 2012 when his numbers declined in A+ and AA and suffered even more when he was lost for the 2013 season thanks to Tommy John surgery on his throwing shoulder. He bounced back to nearly 2011 numbers in 2014, hitting .291/.362/.473 between AA and AAA, which earned him in a promotion to the majors. He struggled in his big league audition (121 PA), and was relegated back to AAA where he spent the entire 2015 season. Following the 2015 season, the Padres traded Liriano to the Milwaukee Brewers after designating him for assignment. Any hope for a career revival in Milwaukee was cut short as Liriano was struck in the face by a pitch in Spring Training and missed the 2016 season. The White Sox claimed Liriano off waivers from the Brewers in October and he will vie for an outfield slot on the major league club in Spring Training.
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