Twice annually, the writers at FutureSox 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.
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, capsules for 1-15, and a list of players who just missed the Top 30, will be released later this week.
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 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.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The full list article will go into more detail on this, but here are a few key things to know. This is the strongest the White Sox system has been in perhaps its history of an organization. Rick Hahn has boldly and decisively stripped his major league team of tradeable assets and it yielded a bonanza of young talent in return. The result is a deep and talented top 30 list that is full of potential major league talent.
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. Gavin Sheets, 1B [NEW]
- Drafted 2nd round (49th overall) in 2017
Ranked 60th on MLB Pipeline and 65th on Baseball America, on paper Sheets was a bit of a reach at pick 49, but Scouting Director Nick Hostetler said that he was a player they immediately targeted after the Jake Burger first round selection. What piqued the Sox interest is not a secret; Sheets (6’4”, 230) has huge raw power and an advanced approach at the plate. He controls the zone well and is not your typical high strikeout rate slugger, only striking out 37 times over 286 plate appearances his last season at Wake Forest. Sheets has continued that success into pro ball, slashing .308/.402/.473 over his first 26 games, and an impressive 11 walks to just 16 strike outs to boot. This is an impressive offensive profile, a true middle-of-the-order power bat if everything clicks. In years past, Sheets would easily be a top 10 prospect in the Sox system, but with the influx of talent (and his first base-only profile), he ends up at #16.
17. Zack Burdi, RHP [Previous: 8th, -9]
- Drafted 1st round (26th overall) in 2016
After being drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, Burdi flew through the White Sox system to AAA, pumping the zone with an electric fastball (video of him hitting 102 MPH), a wipeout slider, and a developing change-up. He started this season back in Charlotte, biding his time for an anticipated midseason call-up. Unfortunately for Burdi, disaster struck as he was forced to leave a July 9th appearance with elbow discomfort and it was discovered shortly after he had a ligament tear that required Tommy John Surgery. This certainly sets Burdi’s timeline back, with a possibility he won’t pitch again at full strength until the 2019 season. The good news is that TJS full recovery rates have been extremely high and Burdi was essentially major league ready at the time of the injury. He will have a long and difficult road back to the mound, but it is very likely Burdi is still the closer of the future closer for the next contending White Sox team.
18. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: 22nd, +4]
- Drafted 15th round in 2014
Jordan Guerrero is one of the rare system veterans to see their names rise on this list and its a testament to his success. Guerrero is repeating Birmingham from a tough go-around in 2016, where he posted a 4.83 ERA and an uninspiring 7.1 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 rates as a 21/22 year old. When a player repeats a level, you want to see a marked improvement and Guerrero has done that across the board with a 3.71 ERA and 8.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. What has changed? Guerrero has ditched a cutter he featured last year in favor for a slider, which has been particularly effective on left-handed batters. Guerrero’s best pitch has always been his plus change-up, which he throws often to right-hander batters, giving him very even splits to RHB and LHB, and even an elevated strikeout total to righties (79 of his 117 strikeouts have been against RHB). Guerrero always featured a curveball, which when combined with an improving slider, has taken him from relying fastball/change-up, to a more well rounded four pitch mix. This development from Guerrero has taken him from simply an intriguing lefty arm, to a real starting pitching prospect that could be knocking on the door of the major league rotation sometime in 2018.
19. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 21st, +2]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1.6M)
After another injury plagued season in 2016, Adolfo needed a healthy season to showcase what he can do and thus far he has delivered. Still only 20 years old, the 2013 July 2nd class bonus baby has slashed .275/.338/.465 for Kannapolis after hitting .219/.269/.340 there last season. We were able to do in-person scouting on Micker over multiple games in May, and the results were very impressive. He is still a physical specimen (6’3”, 200), but he told us that he worked hard on his agility and conditioning and came into the season lighter and faster than before. The result has been a nice blend of power (41 extra-base hits), improved approach at the plate, and extended outfield range with his signature cannon for an arm (7 assists). He also has been steadily decreasing his strikeout percentage, which is still at a worrying 30.6%, but down from 33.2% last season and the eye-popping 44.4% in 2015. Adolfo is still a raw package overall, but 2017 might be the year we remember as the beginning of him putting it all together.
20. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF [Previous: 9th, -11]
- Signed from Venezuela in 2012 ($450k) by BOS, acquired via trade December 2016
After a breakout year last season (.264/.328/.452) and being included in the Chris Sale package, expectations were high for Luis Alexander Basabe coming in the 2017 season and we ranked him aggressively at #9 on our preseason list. The White Sox started him at A+ Winston-Salem and after a solid April, he struggled mightily in May (.196 BA) and June (.161 BA). The good news is that he rebounded in July to hit .253/.326/.410, so the hope is he made the necessary adjustments and will carry that over into the rest of the season. Additionally, Basabe is young for the Carolina League at 20 years old, so his struggles are to be expected and are nothing to panic over. He still has an intriguing package of tools; CF defense, speed, plate discipline, and some pop.
21. Carson Fulmer RHP [Previous: 6th, -15]
- Drafted 1st round (8th overall) in 2015
Carson Fulmer’s stock is in free fall, not just due to all this new talent, but because he’s had such profound struggles in 2017. At the end of 2016, it appeared the bulldog from Vandy had found the right mechanical changes to improve command without losing all the edge on his stuff. But this year he’s been very hittable and walking far too many batters as he struggles to command his offerings. The trending thought process is now that he should be moved to the bullpen, where perhaps he can focus on fewer pitches and get a little more of his edge back. At 23 years old in AAA he can repeat the level and still be age appropriate, and it’s been known all along that his mechanics could spell trouble. Should the Sox give him another year to figure it out as a starter, or change his role now so he can get adjusted to it?
22. Ian Clarkin, LHP [NEW]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (33rd overall) in 2013 by NYY, acquired via trade July 2017
Clarkin’s career has been plagued by injuries: a rolled ankle in his debut year, elbow issues in 2015, and a torn meniscus in 2016 means he has only thrown 258 pro innings in parts of five pro seasons. More of a command and control pitcher, his fastball runs in the low 90’s with some sink, and he also throws a curveball with big break, a change-up, and a recently added slider. The ceiling for this 22-year-old isn’t super high, but he has thrown strikes pretty consistently and made effective use of a full arsenal. His first round pedigree and relative developmental age indicates there is still unexplored potential.
23. Ryan Cordell, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 11th Round by TEX, acquired via trade July 2017
Ryan Cordell, acquired from Milwaukee for reliever Anthony Swarzak, is an outfielder with a polished profile. At 25 years old and slashing .284/.349/.506 at AAA Colorado Springs, Cordell is a relatively safe prospect compared to some of the other names on this list. While the term “five tool player” is bandied about often, Cordell actually fits the bill, though none of the his tools currently project as anything much more than average. Defensively, he has played 1B/3B/SS but has played the OF almost exclusively over the last two seasons and is rangy enough to play center field. Cordell is currently on the DL with a lower back injury that has kept him out of action since June 26th and it was reported at the time of the trade he would likely need a couple more weeks. When he returns, expect him in the Charlotte outfield with an eye on a possible September call-up and vying for spot on the big league roster out of Spring Training.
24. A.J. Puckett, RHP [NEW]
- Drafted 2nd Round by KAN, acquired via trade July 2017
A.J. Puckett’s prospect stock has fallen back a bit since his draft year, but there is still plenty to like in his profile. With a strong pitcher’s build and plus athleticism, the 22-year-old has marched up to High-A as a prolific strike thrower. His repertoire features a fastball that runs 89 to 94 that he locates at will, a plus change-up and a work in progress curveball. As a side note, Puckett nearly died in a car accident in high school that put him into a medically-induced coma for two weeks, ending what had been a promising path as a quarterback. A.J. was ranked the 13th best prospect in the Royals system by MLB Pipeline prior to the trade.
25. Jameson Fisher, OF [Previous: 14th, -9]
- Drafted 4th Round in 2016
Drafted out of Southeastern Louisana in the 4th round last year, Fisher was statistically one of the best hitters in college baseball. He started his college career as a catcher, but an injury pushed him to first base (where most scouts projected him), but the White Sox had other plans. With no prior experience at all, the White Sox made Fisher a left fielder and it has been a steep learning curve. While his bat flourished in Great Falls (.342/.436/.487), he struggled defensively, even injuring himself multiple times awkwardly trying to make plays. This season the roles have flipped. He feels much more confident in the outfield, but is uncharacteristically hitting a sluggish .251/.344/.415 between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Those developments have put his prospect stock on hold, and this drop in the rankings is mostly due to premium talent coming into the system. Fisher still owns an advanced approach and a plus hit tool, so hopefully his offense gets back on track.
26. Luis Curbelo, SS [Previous: 15th, -9]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2016
Luis Curbelo was selected in the 6th round last year, but received a $700k bonus more in line with the 3rd round. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 104th best prospect going into that draft, this prep selection shows bigger power than is typical from a middle infielder with potential for more as he fills out. Defensively he shows soft hands, quick first step and plenty of arm for any infield slot, but there are concerns he will need to move from shortstop to third base due to range limitations. Curbelo opened this year in Great Falls for his age 19 season but went down with a knee injury in late June, and he hasn’t returned since. His drop on our list is less about the injury, and more about the talent added above him and the fact that much of the talent level is based on projection at this point.
27. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 24th, -3]
- Drafted 12th Round in 2015
Zack Collins gets most of the prospect pub for White Sox catchers and for good reason, but the second best backstop in the system today continues to make a strong case for consideration. Seby Zavala doesn’t have a single plus tool, but he’s above average in power (as shown in leading the entire farm in home runs at this point) with a short, quick swing. He’s hit consistently for average and drawn walks at an OK rate as well this season, even with an ice-cold April. Defensively his arm is fringy in strength but he has a quick release, defends athletically and presents a quiet target. He’s also got a high baseball IQ and commands the field. Questions include his age for level (23 just reaching High-A), plate blocking skills that need improvement, and some swing and miss in his game. But he’s very much on the radar and has shown enough this season to stay in our competitive top 30.
28. Luis Gonzalez, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 3rd Round
Luis Gonzalez was among the wave of college bats selected by the White Sox in the 2017 draft who showed big time plate discipline. The University of New Mexico product posted an absurd 58:32 BB:K rate his last year with the Lobos. But Gonzalez has the tools too – he looks like a true center fielder with the speed, arm and instincts to stick. There’s also some power potential, shown in the fact that 40.5% of his hits this spring went for extra bases, though he’s likely not a big time home run hitter as a pro. MLB Pipeline puts an Ender Inciarte comp on this outfielder from Mexico.
29. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: 25th, -4]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2016
Flores was an under the radar prospect who landed on the back-end of our preseason list thanks to some positive reports and results from his debut season at Great Falls. He started this year at Kannapolis, where he excelled, posting a even 3.00 ERA over 78 innings with 70 strikeouts to just 13 walks. We saw one of his starts in May, and though he did not have his best stuff, he still flashed some major league abilities. Flores has a diverse arsenal that he is still firming up, which is understandable, considering he was used primarily out of the bullpen in college so he has limited reps. At his best, he has a fastball that he locates well, a potential plus change-up with some cutting action, and a firm curveball that he shows the ability to bury or throw for strikes. That is an intriguing enough profile, combined with the strong stats to back it up, that keeps him in the top 30 in a very deep system.
30. Alex Call, OF [Previous: 12th, -18]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2016
This ranking was a tough call. Alex Call put up big numbers at Ball State and was selected in the 3rd round in 2016, and seemed to have little issue with Pioneer or SAL pitching in his pro debut (.308/.394/.445 in 73 games). He’s also got a chance to stay in center field, though some analysts feel he’s destined for a corner slot. His 2017 was derailed in April with an intercostal rib muscle injury – which had come up previous to his pro career as well – and he’s just now getting back into the swing of things. It’s hard to tell if such an injury will have a lasting or recurring effect, but local reports on his looks at the plate since returning have been lackluster (which could very well just be rust). It may be 2018 before we get a more solid idea of who this soon-to-be 24-year-old is as a ballplayer.
***Tune in tomorrow to see the complete Top 30 White Sox Prospects list!
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