Welcome to White Sox prospects rankings week, midseason 2017! We release Top 30 Prospects lists twice a year. For each cycle, we post three articles. The first gives short blurbs on a handful of players who did not make the list, but were discussed and just missed. Tomorrow we will release the 30th to 16th portion of the list, then Thursday the complete midseason list.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, the White Sox farm has gone from one of the shallowest to possibly the deepest in all of baseball in the course of about 14 months. A raft of trades sending out valuable MLB players for prospects, two full drafts and some big international signings, combined with minimal exodus from the minors, have propelled the impressive leap. So it should be no surprise that the list of prospects who couldn’t quite fit among the top thirty players in the system is as talented as it’s been in a very long time.
Normally we try to keep this list to about ten or twelve names. But with the new depth of the system, we are going to sixteen this time around, and there are plenty of players beyond even that 16 with some degree of prospect shine.
The below players are not necessarily listed in rank order. But all were discussed among our writing team as players that were seen by some as top thirty names, or at least were guys some or all of us felt were very close. For players where we have a detailed prospect profile, there is a link at the end of each players snippet so you can learn more. Keep an eye on these prospects, as history shows that some of them will end up on our next list, and a few will likely even make it to the majors at some point.
The team’s 7th round pick this year signed for 5th round money, and he was the “last man out” from our Top 30. A Chicago-area native (Libertyville HS), Skoug was ranked the 48th best prospect going into the draft by MLB Pipeline and 78th by Baseball America. A cold start in his junior campaign with TCU and some substantial swing-and-miss in his game caused him to drop in the draft, but there’s still a lot to like in the offensive potential. There is some question as to whether Skoug will stick at catcher, with his bat considered ahead of his backstop work.
LHP Aaron Bummer
You might not think a reliever who lost nearly two years of development time shortly after being taken in the 19th round would be looked at as much of a prospect, but he’s recently been called up to the majors and with good reason. Bummer recovered fully from Tommy John surgery, pumping upper 90’s velocity with his fastball. He’s also now added a different, and reportedly wicked, slider as his out pitch. His invite to big league camp in the spring wasn’t a charity, but a presage; the Sox see him as a legitimate major league bullpen arm.
3B/1B/OF Nick Delmonico
Delmonico has taken a winding path to get where he is today, which is at AAA and seemingly close to a major league call-up. Playing primarily at third base but also a smattering of other slots (1B, LF, RF), he’s not a great defender at any position but is good enough on the corner infield to work there part time in the majors. The value is in his bat – a quick and leveraged swing give him at least average grade power with potential for a little more, he draws walks and has increased his contact rate (as shown in a nice 16.9% K/PA). The recently-turned 25-year-old has cooled off in the last month, but is still the most likely call-up if an opportunity arises in the 3B/1B/DH realm. (Prospect Profile)
RHP Matt Cooper
Here’s another late round pick (16th in 2014) who has far outperformed expectations for his pedigree. Cooper added some velocity and an effective two-plane slider to his change/curve Y-split offering and strong command, and did nothing but dominate hitters through both levels of A-ball and AA. But after opening this season with a dozen strong starts for Birmingham (3.61 ERA, 25 BB, 72 K in 62.1 IP), he threw two stinkers (13 ER in 9.2 combined innings) and then went on the Temporary Inactive list in mid-June. We are told that it’s a personal issue, and not an injury or suspension. Of course we hope that things work out well for Matt regardless of baseball, but his career seems to be on a temporary hold at the moment. (Prospect Profile)
After being acquired in the Zach Duke trade last year, this New Trier grad was seen as a potential starting center fielder, at least in the short term. But a series of injuries – starting with a torn hamstring in his White Sox debut and continuing with fractures in his foot and then his ankle – have kept him out of baseball for a year already and his earliest return seems to be 2018. Tilson’s speed, glove work in center and propensity for making contact are all still tantalizing. It’s just tough to see how he will fit into the picture in the rebuild at this point. (Prospect Profile)
RHP Brad Goldberg
Like Bummer, Goldberg is a hard thrower recently added to Chicago’s bullpen as Hahn continues dealing away major leaguers. Added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, his call-up seemed an inevitability. The results in four MLB appearances thus far haven’t been great, but it’s early and the Sox likely give him time to settle in. Goldberg’s fastball runs mid-to-upper 90’s (touching as high as 99), and when it’s right in the lower part of the zone it has substantially heavy character. In case you haven’t seen him pitch yet, here’s our in-person report from May.
INF Amado Nunez
Nunez drops from 20th on our last list to out of the top thirty, but like many on this list, his drop is more a function of the talent added above him than any failure on his part. Listed as a shortstop when he signed for $900k in 2014, the thought was always that he’d likely have to move to third base, and that’s where he’s been playing this year with Great Falls. Defensively he’s got soft hands and plenty of arm for any slot on the infield. At the plate he has a loose swing (in both the good and bad sense) with some power projection, and he’s recently been showing good contact rates. At 19 years old he’s still a ways off, and there’s no rush on his path. (Prospect Profile)
INF Jake Peter
As 2016 came to a close, Peter had reached AAA and it was looking likely he’d get a shot at the bigs in 2017 as a super-utility player. Over the last season and a half, this former two-way college player has played every infield position and both corner outfield slots. In a surprising assignment back down to AA Birmingham to begin this season, Peter started ice cold (.170/.227/.230 in his first 26 games) before turning it on and tearing the cover off the ball (.324/.399/.432 in the next 49 games in AA) and earning a recent promotion back to Charlotte. The infield bench in Chicago is already pretty full, but don’t be surprised if Peter gets a look in September or next spring. (Prospect Profile)
SS/2B Eddy Alvarez
The parallels between Alvarez and Peter are striking. Both utility infielder types promoted late last season to AAA before opening back in AA and struggling in the first month of play. Alvarez also got back on track eventually, but not as quickly or prolifically as Peter. Back in AAA as of a few days ago, Alvarez’ path to the majors is even murkier, but he’s still on the radar. His defense at shortstop has improved quite a bit, but the Olympic athlete needs to show his bat can play in the upper levels. (Prospect Profile)
OF Jacob May
It was a mild surprise when Jacob May broke camp with the White Sox this season, given his limited exposure to the upper levels of the minors. He struggled mightily at the plate in his brief 15-game stint in the majors (.056 AVG, 17 K in 42 PA) and was demoted back to Charlotte, where his hitting has been just OK-ish (.251/.310/.330, 24.1% K/PA). This 25-year-old is still in the picture for another look, especially given his glove work and speed, but he’s been passed by Adam Engel on the depth chart at this point and will need to make a strong case to muscle his way back in. (Prospect Profile)
RHP Tyler Johnson
Selected in the 5th round this past June, Johnson signed for a little above slot and was announced as a starting pitcher despite working as a closer in college. He will be used this year in short stints to keep his innings load in check, but look for him to join a rotation next April. The 21-year-old South Carolina product has a fastball that can reach 99 (but more often works mid-90’s), a slider and a change-up.
INF Danny Mendick
Here’s your pop-up prospect for 2017. A year ago, 2015 22nd rounder Danny Mendick was wearing down the pavement on I-85 as an org-wide utility infielder, bopping around three affiliates and filling gaps as needed. Since then he’s fought his way into full time play, flashed impressive leather in the middle infield, bashed Carolina League pitching and been promoted to AA Birmingham. The 23-year-old has put himself on the radar and was even discussed for a potential berth at the back end of the new top thirty list.
LHP Brian Clark
Clark has been on the edge of the radar for a couple years now, putting up strong results in a quick ascent up the ladder. His stuff isn’t going to blow anyone away – his fastball runs typically 90-92 in a relief role and none of his offspeed pitches are described as plus. But he’s been effective by locating and changing eye level with heavy stuff from a deceptive delivery. Thus far in AAA he’s been giving up a fair amount of hits (.313 AvgA), but his 4.8 K:BB ratio is a positive indicator. He’s not a LOOGY candidate, with his splits running even or reverse, so his likely end role is as a middle or long reliever. (Prospect Profile)
Peaking as high as the 4th best prospect in the White Sox system in 2015, Trey Michalczewski has fallen back quite a bit while repeating AA with mediocre offensive results. He was briefly demoted back to High-A this year where he had no trouble back in Winston-Salem, but upon returning to Birmingham he’s back to the same struggles. Michalczewski did reach the Southern League at the tender age of 21, apparently sooner than was appropriate, and he’s still young for the league at 22. But two seasons at the same level, fighting with a .200 average and a near-30% K/PA without much power are problematic signs. (Prospect Profile)
Another third baseman, Justin Yurchak is just getting his pro career underway. Selected in the 12th round of this year’s draft as a rare 20-year-old college pick, Justin signed for a $150,000 bonus more in line with a 7th or 8th rounder. Nick Hostetler has mentioned him as a guy he was surprised was still available at that point in the draft, and the results so far seem to echo that. Yurchak has not only posted a .295 AVG and .403 OBP in his first 29 contests with Great Falls, he’s also walked (21) more times than he’s struck out (18) in 134 plate appearances.
Another 2017 draftee, this one a 9th round senior sign ($25k bonus) who has been bashing the rookie-level Pioneer League. Beware of rookie league stats for 4-year collegiate players, but Dedelow has a college track record for power and is showing a strong contact rate to go with it. Craig’s first 33 games with the Voyagers: .316/.358/.632, 9 HR, 14 2B, and just 18 K in 154 PA (though just 9 walks as well).
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