Welcome to Rankings Week, 2018! Twice a year, we rank the top prospects in the White Sox system. The schedule of events looks like this:
- Monday: The Just Missed article (this one)
- Tuesday: Prospects ranked #16-30, with capsules
- Wednesday: The FULL LIST, with 1-15 capsules
- Thursday: Writers’ roundtable discussion of the rankings
The Sox farm system is one of the strongest and deepest in baseball, even with the graduations of players like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito. That depth means there are true prospects in the system who will not even make our list of the top thirty. But many of them likely will get there soon, as names above them “graduate” and of course the players themselves develop and strengthen their stock. So don’t dismiss these players as not worth discussing – history says some of them will be major leaguers and provide value in Chicago.
At our last ranking (August of 2017), we listed 16 players who “just missed” the list – more than we’d ever covered before. This time around it’s 15. These are players that our writers discussed and seriously considered for the soon-to-be-released FS30, but they just couldn’t fit with the depth of talent. Keep an eye on these guys, because some could be donning the black and white the next time the White Sox reach the postseason.
NOTE: Players are not necessarily listed in any specific order
This year’s “last man out” at 31st in our voting/arguing/re-voting process, Yurchak does not have a typical profile. Taken in the 12th round for 10th round money ($125k), he was a draft-eligible sophomore plucked from from SUNY-Binghamton. His calling card is plate discipline – in the spring prior to the draft, he drew 41 walks and struck out just 12 times in 147 at-bats. The trend continued in Great Falls with a 43:33 BB:K ratio, and he posted a .968 OPS as a 20-year-old in his pro debut. There are questions about his ability to remain at the hot corner, but if he can stick, the profile could vault him up prospect lists in the future.
Fisher was selected in the 4th round in 2016 as a polished college bat, migrating to the outfield from catcher and first base, and showed well in his pro debut. He’s still very much on the radar, but unexpected troubles with the bat in 2017 have introduced some questions around the hit tool. Now 24, Fisher should reach AA at some point in 2018 and needs to rebound offensively to stay on track.
The White Sox were in on Yrizarri when he was initial signed as an amateur in 2013 and they followed him since, so it’s no surprise the team grabbed him from the Rangers last year. He’s got an intriguing package of decent glove work at short, 70-grade arm, and more power potential than your average shortstop prospect. So far he’s hit for average and hints of power, but is allergic to walks, playing a year or two young for levels.
Tilson, a Wilmette native and New Trier Trevian looked like a potential center fielder for the major league club in August of 2016, but a series of injuries (torn muscle and two broken ankles) have kept him out of regular season play for a year and a half. Given his value is partially speed-dependent, it’s awfully tough to say where he fits in the team’s plans now. But the hit tool was considered very mature, as was his outfield glove, prior to the late unpleasantness. If he can shake off the rust and be back to full health, he’ll likely find a role with the major league club.
RHP Tyler Johnson
A slightly over-slot 5th rounder last June, Johnson was a college closer but the Sox announced him as a starter. Since then, the indications are that he likely starts for now but probably slides back to the pen later (which is a common tactic the team employs for key relievers). Johnson’s fastball typically runs mid-90’s and has touched 99, complimented by a slider and a change-up. His pro debut included plenty of whiffs (13.0 K/9) but also some struggles finding the zone (6.7 BB/9) across rookie and A-ball.
RHP Kade McClure
While we’re on the 2017 draft, how about the 6th rounder, who also signed over slot? McClure has been mentioned by a few outlets as an arm to watch in the system going into 2018. At 6’7″, Kade looks to be slated as a starter, and he breezed through a quick 10-game cameo in his pro debut (collegiate workload meant a workload limit), striking out 19 in 11 innings.
RHP Lincoln Henzman
The first of a triad of righties selected in rounds 4 to 6 last June, Henzman was taken before the aforementioned Johnson and McClure. Like Johnson, the college reliever was announced as a starter when he was selected. The 2013 TJS survivor has a low-90’s heater with lots of sink, a sharp slider and split-change. The jury is still out on starting versus relief for Lincoln.
This Libertyville native was #31 on our mid-season list, the last man off the list, and he was hovering in the same territory this year. Drafted in the 7th round in June (for 5th round money), Skoug was given 2nd round grades at one point but fell back after some struggles with contact in his last year at TCU, allowing the South Siders to swoop in. Looked at as bat-first with big power potential, the key areas to watch with Evan are bat to ball skills and defense behind the plate.
SS/3B Amado Nunez
Nunez has been ranked as high as 13th overall in the system (prior to the rebuild getting fully underway), but he’s had more offensive struggles than anticipated. After splashing onto the radar with impressive looks (and numbers) in the AZL as an 18-year-old in 2016, Nunez’ 2017 across the rookie affiliates included less than inspiring numbers (.516 OPS) and only getting in 36 games due to injury. He’s also now moved to 3B, as was anticipated. Still just 20 years old, Amado gets positive notes for a smooth swing, good infield actions and plenty of arm for the left side. Stock is down, but don’t be too quick to dismiss his talent.
SS Jose Rondon
Recently acquired from the Padres, Rondon is on the cusp of the majors and in fact did play a brief 8 games with San Diego in 2016. His greatest skills are in the field, where he’s graded out as above average or better in glove, arm and speed by the usual pundits. He’s hit for average at times but some of the recent numbers may be league-inflated, and he won’t supply any power. His ceiling is probably a utility infielder with echos of an Eduardo Escobar profile, but the floor is high.
SS Lenyn Sosa
Sticking with shortstops but going from the cusp of the majors to barely old enough to get into an R-rated movie, we have 2016 J2 pickup Lenyn Sosa. Less than a year after signing as a 16-year-old from Venezuela, Sosa was in the AZL (having skipped DSL) and managed to hit .270 with an above average contact rate, and even showed a little power. All that from a player who we’re told likely will stick at a premium defensive position, and we have to take notice, even if we have only scant in-person reports to work from.
OF/1B Daniel Palka
A big 2016 offensive outburst combined with a move from 1B to the outfield boosted Palka’s prospect value. But 2017 saw his numbers falter a bit in AAA, including a dramatic drop in power. He’s also got swing and miss issues in his game, but did reduce his K-rate to 21% last year. The raw power is plus or better, and he did hit 34 bombs in 2016 across AA and AAA. He’s in the mix for a major league job in 2018, and if he can handle a corner OF spot competently, that further raises his stock. Whether his fallback in output in 2017 was a blip remains to be seen.
LHP Jace Fry
A middle relief profile doesn’t usually inspire much fanfare, but don’t dismiss Fry as just more flotsam for the bullpen churn. The new, post-second-TJS version of Jace Fry shows a fading mid-90’s fastball and an above average curve, along with the occasional change of pace and a cutter. He struggled with command in his brief (and rushed) MLB call-up last year, but with a little time in AAA he should be ready to contribute reliably in the majors.
INF Danny Mendick
Mendick is a feel-good story – he’s gone from minor league bench player to full timer to fringe prospect in about a year, which is not a path often tread. He plays competent or better defense at all the skill infield positions including shortstop, he hit well in High-A last year and made a strong showing in the AFL against higher level competition. The ceiling is probably a utility infielder, and he did struggle in AA upon promotion in 2017. But his strong bat to ball skills combined with those defensive chops mean he’s on the radar now, and he’s playing at age appropriate levels.
SS Laz Rivera
Why would a 28th round pick who played in the AZL at age 22 be in the team photo here? He did hit well (.296/.374/.446 with an excellent 12.2% K/PA), but you’d expect that for a senior sign in that league. He showed very high contact rates and played a premium position, which certainly helps. Then there are the local reports (and video) of a swing that got scouts’ attention, impressing on the hit tool. Add to that Scouting Director Nick Hostetler mentioning him specifically as a sleeper from the 2017 draft, and a White Sox coaching raving about his glove at short, and now he has our attention. Keep an eye on him.
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