The Chicago White Sox have pulled off what is likely their last blockbuster deal ahead of the non-waiver trading deadline, packaging their three largest remaining trade chips to the New York Yankees in exchange for prospects OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, OF Tito Polo, and 32 year-old reliever Tyler Clippard.
It’s a savvy move for General Manager Rick Hahn, who instead of making separate deals has maximized his remaining trade chips into a haul that brings the White Sox another top 100 prospect along with two solid supplemental pieces.
OF Blake Rutherford
The prize of the package is outfielder Blake Rutherford, a prep bat the White Sox were high on ahead of the 2016 draft. He ended up falling to the Yankees at 18th overall in what has been speculated to be a prearranged deal for the outfielder who grew up a Yankees fan. Rutherford is the rare five-tool player, who projects to be at least average in all five facets of his game. Both the hit tool and power tool look to shake out above average down the road, as Rutherford has a clean swing from the left side and the ability to spray line drives to all fields. At 6-3, 195 lbs, he could fill into his frame more and turn some of his solid contact into over-the-fence production. With Yankees A-Ball affiliate the Charleston RiverDogs, Rutherford has seen his power play mostly in the form of doubles-pop (20 on the year), to go along with a pair each of triples and home runs.
He’s currently slashing .281/.342/.391 while playing all across the outfield with Charleston. Rutherford is athletic enough to stick in center and for the time being, and has enough speed to have decent range out there. But his arm has the potential to play in right field as well if he fills out as expected. His overall speed is solid but not exactly plus. That said, he’s still swiped nine bags in thirteen attempts this season. While Rutherford’s game is still propped up by projection, there currently exists a very stable profile in which he has shown early polish. That’s been apparent from his time playing with Team USA in the U18 tournament to earning the nickname “The barrel” in Yankees camp. Rutherford fits right in with a suddenly strong White Sox outfield crop that also now features Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. He’s a 20-year-old in the lower levels, so there’s some risk here but there’s more than enough ceiling to make up for it. As far as ceiling goes, Rutherford can hang with just about anyone presently in the system.
Links (and sources for above) with more detail…
Video via Prospect Pipeline
Video via 2080 Baseball:
LHP Ian Clarkin
Clarkin was selected 33rd overall by the New York Yankees in the 2013 draft, one selection behind prodigious slugger Aaron Judge. The San Diego prep pitcher’s career has been plagued by injuries: an ankle that cut his 2013 season short, lingering elbow problems that cost him his entire 2015 campaign, and most recently a torn meniscus in his knee that ended his 2016 season in July. Now (presumably) healthy, Clarkin is pitching well in A+ Tampa, posting a 2.62 ERA as a starter, with 58 strikeouts to 25 walks over 75.2 innings.
Clarkin has three pitches that he commands and project as at least average offerings. According to MLB Pipeline, his fastball has gained velocity, sitting 90-93 MPH, and topping out at 95 with some sink. His most consistent off-speed pitch is a curveball with lots of break to it. In addition to the curve, Clarkin features a change-up that flashes, and a developing slider that he just started throwing last year.
In a system stocked full of righty starters, the southpaw Clarkin is a nice addition to an already deep crop of starting pitching talent. He lacks the pure upside of some of the other arms the White Sox have acquired, but his draft pedigree and relatively fresh arm makes him someone to watch as he accumulates innings.
Video via J. Chipman:
OF Tito Polo
Tito Polo was signed out of Columbia as a 17-year-old by the Pittsburgh Pirates way back in 2012. After bouncing around in their Dominican Summer League, Polo came stateside in 2014 where he put up solid numbers; good enough that he was sent to the Yankees by the Pirates to complete the Ivan Nova trade in 2016. Polo began this year with A+ Tampa, but earned a promotion by slashing .289/.346/.434. Tito has been on fire over 14 games for AA Trenton, hitting .382/.460/.545 with 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts. The speedy Columbian is lethal on the base paths, swiping 46 bases in 2015, 37 more last year, and has already 27 SB’s this season.
White Sox fans might recall Tito Polo as the spunky center fielder for Jose Quintana‘s Columbia team in the World Baseball Classic. He acquitted himself well during that tournament, hitting .222/.417/.222 in a loaded Pool C that included the USA and the Dominican Republic.
*Rob Young also contributed to this report*
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