Significant Seven - A-ball outfielders a systemic strength

It’s no secret that the White Sox dramatically improved their prospect depth in the last year, through a combination of trades, non-trade acquisitions and a strong 2016 draft class. That improvement has been primarily dominated by pitching. The club has five pitchers that appeared on at least one Top 100 MLB prospects list (Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer, Alec Hansen), not to mention a handful of other high end arms in Zack Burdi, Dane Dunning, Spencer Adams and Jordan Stephens to name a few.

What about position players? The beast known as Yoan Moncada sits atop the heap, and (currently a) catcher Zack Collins is another T100 name. But the tightest phalanx of talent in the system on the offensive side of the ball may be the collection of outfielders who will open 2017 with one of the two A-ball clubs. Currently, none of the talented White Sox outfielders are on any top 100 prospect lists, but there is a solid group of them who will be vying for at-bats with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis that have shown potentially major league upside in their short time on the farm.

Let’s dig into seven of these outfielders, discussing where they might land in April and why. They are listed more or less in order of prospect ranking…

Luis Alexander Basabe

Basabe is the 9th best prospect in the Sox system and he’s been getting some Cactus League looks in Spring Training after handling the South Atlantic League (A-ball) with aplomb in 2016. He’s pretty much a lock for advanced A-ball Winston-Salem to open 2017. The switch-hitting outfielder oozes tools, but has a much higher reasonable floor at this stage than many similar toolsy outfield projects the club has previously attempted to develop. The Sox have said he’s High-A-bound, though he could be in AA before long.

Alex Call

Call was drafted as a refined bat in the 3rd round and showed every bit of that in his pro debut, compiling an .810 OPS in 46 games with Kannapolis (after a brief look in Great Falls with even better numbers). He hasn’t spent a full season in the SAL, but as a 22-year old with advanced skills and plate approach and that success, the Carolina League seems like a better fit. If Call can stick in center field, he could become a top 10 overall prospect in this system in 2017.

Jameson Fisher

Fisher’s bat and plate approach are every bit as refined as Call’s, and he probably has a higher offensive ceiling. But the 4th rounder spent all of 2016 in rookie ball, played in just 50 total games there as he missed time to minor injuries, and he’s still learning the outfield defensively. As a result, while it’s possible he skips a level, it’s more likely he goes to Kannapolis first. That lack of solidified defensive home is the main reason we ranked Fisher 14th, below Call at 12th, in our most recent top prospects list. He’ll be old for the level there (23), but developmentally it’s probably the best fit come April, though he likely won’t stay there for long.

Micker Adolfo

The second highest bonus international amateur signee the Sox have ever inked, Adolfo has been in the minors for three seasons but only played 138 games as he’s missed time to an array of injuries. He hit full season ball for the first time in 2016, but posted an anemic .608 OPS while striking out in 33.2% of his plate appearances in 62 games with Kanny. Micker’s big raw power and athleticism just haven’t gotten locked in yet in games, and there’s no good reason to promote the 20 year-old yet. His stock has dropped a bit, but the tools are still enticing and repeating a level in this case is the smart move.

Aaron Schnurbusch

Schnurbusch converted from pitcher to outfield for his junior season in college, put up two years of uninspiring numbers at Pitt, and was taken in the 28th round as a senior sign. He then proceeded to put up an historically prolific offensive season in Great Falls (see link above), with scouting reports talking about a plus arm, premium athleticism, and surprising power and plate approach. Despite never playing above rookie ball, Aaron has not only been on the lineup card for some Cactus League games, he actually got a start on Sunday night during a split squad doubleheader. The club obviously sees something there (as do some analysts), and at 23 years old, he looks like a strong candidate to skip a level and go to High-A.

Antonio Rodriguez

Rodriguez spent the full 2016 season in Kannapolis, but he posted a .588 OPS and an ugly 104:19 K:BB ratio in 508 PA. When I saw him in 2016, you could see the athleticism, arm strength, and potential at the plate, but he was in great need of refinement all around (see the link above for detail on that, with video). Going into his age 21/22 season he’s still appropriate for the level, and promoting him now would probably be too much risk. This will be a key year for Rodriguez, who has substantial raw tools. Similar to Adolfo, the results need to start showing up this season.

Joel Booker

  • Likely assignment: Kannapolis (90% confidence)

While Call and Fisher (and even Schnurbusch) have been getting some attention as a strong outfield group from the 2016 draft, Booker has barely been mentioned. Yet based on local reports, the 22nd rounder shows easily plus speed (his 41 SB in 44 ATT corroborate), mature route and glove work in center field, and a solid plate approach (.312 AVG, .403 OBP, 27 BB, 49 K in 302 PA line up with that). Of course he was playing in rookie ball as a 22-year old, which combined with his draft pedigree and a lack of power all help explain his absence from prospect chatter. But that’s not enough to dismiss him, and full season ball will be a good test to see if he can get on base enough to make the other tools play.

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    Welcome back! Great article(I almost always say that and what I mean is it's just the article subject I would want to read and not necessarily the quality of the writing, sorry). So now my 'oh no he didn't' moment. Micker Adolfo, really? Did he take Hanlet Otano's spot? They are always praising the international guy that recommends the Sox sign these guys(forgot his name). Every million dollar player the Sox ever signed under this guy stinks(except Jose Abreu). Micker Adolfo's real scouting report should read "Outstanding power and athleticism but not very good at baseball". Zero approach and pitch recognition at even the lowest levels. Never gonna make it.

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Quote: (I almost always say that and what I mean is it's just the article subject I would want to read and not necessarily the quality of the writing, sorry)

    Really, Jim?

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