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.
This is the full list, including capsules for the top 15, and listing the names for 16-30 and those who just missed the list. For more details on the other prospects, you can read our Just Missed teaser and the 16-30 list, each of which have capsules for the players listed.
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 and contributors took in games all over the system in the past year, both at the affiliates and on the back fields at Camelback Ranch.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: Despite the graduations of three top 100 MLB prospects (Moncada, Giolito, Lopez), this is still one of the best and deepest farm systems in baseball. What also stands out is how the list fell into three pretty clear tiers. The first group of four all make strong arguments to be among the top 50 in MLB. Then there is a second group of five players that are fringe T100 names or just outside of that. Third and finally is a swath of about 15 prospects that are highly interchangeable. One could virtually draw their names out of a hat and come up with a justifiable order, and not surprisingly there was a lot of variance among the writing staff across that tier. In any case, this was a fun group to vote, argue and write about. White Sox fans can feel very good about the future.
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.
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF [Previous: 2nd, +1]
- Signed from the Dominican Republic in 2013 by CHC, acquired via trade in July of 2017
Eloy is a monster. He’s got light tower power (literally) and a plus hit tool that combine to make him one of the top five prospects in the game. He plays defense competently enough on the corners to approach average with plenty of arm for either side. It’s rare for a prospect to have such a high floor to go with an All-Star level ceiling. He’s a below average runner, which is the main strike against him, but that weakness doesn’t register much when looking at his full skill set. Numbers? He posted a .947 OPS with 19 home runs in just 89 games last year, across A+ and AA at age 20. It would not be a surprise to see Jimenez make it to the majors by September, and it could be earlier.
2. Michael Kopech, RHP [Previous: 3rd, +1]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (33rd overall) in 2014 by BOS, acquired via trade December 2016
Kopech has all the makings of a future star. Tools? How about a true 80-grade four-seam fastball that sits upper 90’s and will touch 100 all the way through starts. Or a plus upper 80’s slider that is a true wipe-out offering. Or two other pitches – a 2-seamer in the low 90’s and a change of pace – that both are already approaching major league average. This from a guy who just turned old enough to buy his own beer during 2017 while in AA (not that he likely would, given his stringent dietary regimen). There is athleticism aplenty too, an aggressive mound presence, and an ideal pitcher’s build. Kopech more than doubled his innings from 2016 and still maintained that level of stuff. That big bump in reps and command that sometimes abandons him are the risks to watch for, but the ceiling here is very high. Like Jimenez, he too will likely reach Chicago in 2018.
3. Luis Robert, OF [Previous: 4th, +1]
- Signed from Cuba (indirect) in 2017 for $26M ($50M effective including penalties)
An international mega-prospect who received one of the highest international amateur bonuses ever, Robert’s signing surprised more than a few given the team’s previous history of coloring inside the lines. Robert is a true five tool talent and is hovering near the top fifty prospects in baseball despite all the unknowns. He’s got at least 70-grade speed, and is given above average or plus marks for his hit, power and fielding tools from national publications. The substantial caveat is that Robert (pronounced RAH-bert, just like it’s spelled) has yet to play stateside or in front of many evaluators, so these are tool grades of the most raw nature. He did recently draw plenty of chirps and dropped jaws from players and coaches during his BP sessions at the team’s mini camp for hitters. 2018 and full season ball will tell us a lot more.
4. Alec Hansen, RHP [Previous: 8th, +4]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2016
After the Sox grabbed Hansen in the 2nd round in 2016 following a troublesome final year at Oklahoma, no one doubted his tools, but many were skeptical he could ever find enough command to reach his potential. Since then, in 1.5 seasons, the very tall Coloradoan has shown he can replicate his delivery, fill up the strike zone and still display filthy stuff. His fastball sits mid-90’s and has been as high as 98, showing cut-like action to boot. His curveball is a big bender, and with his change-up provides two pitches that flash above average. An improving slider rounds out his arsenal. Command still requires more development and he does tend to lose some velocity late in starts, both of which are somewhat expected given his frame and experience level. He also struggles to control the running game. But the potential is there for a mid-rotation starter or perhaps more, and as he actualizes so quickly, Alec is racing up prospect boards and appearing on top 100 lists.
5. Zack Collins, C [Previous: 9th, +4]
- Drafted 1st Round (10th overall) in 2016
Coming into 2017, the consensus thought process around Collins was that the bat would play, but many were unsure he could stick behind the plate. Yet as we stand today, he’s made substantial strides defensively that are increasing his chances to remain a catcher, while there are some questions around the hit tool. Zack hit just .224 across A+ and AA (mostly the former), struck out in 27.4% of his plate appearances last season, and suffered from a pronounced load noise problem that he’s well aware of. There’s plenty of good news too – a huge walk rate (18.5%), plus power showing in games (19 HR), and the feeling among evaluators that he now has a good chance of being playable behind the plate in the majors. He’s also already in AA with a little over a year in pro ball as a catcher, 23 years old and has spent the offseason working on the perceived hitch in his swing and tendency to get pull-happy. The risks are real, but the ceiling of a high power, high OBP starting catcher has immense value.
6. Dylan Cease, RHP [Previous: 10th, +4]
- Drafted 6th round in 2014, acquired via trade in July 2017
In some ways similar to Hansen, Dylan Cease has big tools but there are questions about his ability to stick as a starter. Signing for 2nd round money in the 6th, the Cubs had been slow-rolling this prep pick who had Tommy John Surgery in high school. Recently turned 22 years old, Cease features a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball that’s been clocked as high as 101, and pairs that with a 12-6 hammer that scouts have raved about. An underdeveloped change of pace rounds out the present arsenal. Stuff is beyond command at this point by a wide margin, and the intentional tamping down of workload means he’s got more development ahead of him than others with three pro seasons might have. The floor, assuming he stays healthy, seems to be a high leverage reliever, but the White Sox believe he has a good chance to stick as a starter. This is a high ceiling, high risk pitching prospect, but if he can develop his 3rd and 4th pitches to even approaching major league average and reach starter innings, he could be a rotation weapon.
7. Dane Dunning, RHP [Previous: 11th, +4]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (29th overall) in 2016 by WAS
Another right-hander, this one with less risk but not quite as high a ceiling. Dunning’s offerings include a low 90’s heavy fastball that tops around 95, a plus mid-80’s slider and a change-up. He’s got a pretty ideal pitcher’s frame and shows a lot of athleticism, is a bulldog on the mound, and has been successful at each stop. While he doesn’t have an elite fastball like some of the pitchers above him on the list, his command is far more advanced. Dunning should be a fast mover and could reach the majors in 2019, or possibly even late 2018. How his repertoire fills out beyond the fastball-slider pairing will likely dictate his future.
8. Jake Burger, 3B [Previous: 12th, +4]
- Drafted 1st Round (11th overall)
Jake was one of the top power bats in the 2017 draft and he’s been given plus grades for the hit tool as well, which is always a good combo. Defensively, some analysts feel he isn’t likely to stay at the hot corner due to a lack of range and/or glove work, which would mean a move to first and a drop in his value. He’s also a below average runner and has a body that will need extra care. What offsets those concerns are high marks for make-up, good instincts and a strong arm on the field, a keen batter’s eye, and that plus power.
9. Blake Rutherford, OF [Previous: 7th, -2]
- Drafted 1st round (18th overall) in 2016 by NYY, acquired via trade July 2017
Rutherford was a White Sox draft target in 2016, but they elected to draft Zack Collins instead and Rutherford was selected by the Yankees eight picks later. After being rumored to be a White Sox trade target since, they finally got their man in the Tommy Kahnle/David Robertson trade. Blake was ranked among the top 50 prospects in baseball as recently as this past summer, but his first year in full season ball produced mediocre results. Analysts were surprised at the lack of power production as well. The good news is he’s going to open 2018 still at age 20, and there is a chance he can stay a center fielder, and the athleticism and bat-to-ball skills are not in doubt.
10. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 19th, +9]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1.6M)
After three seasons of injuries (broken leg, torn hamstring, broken hook of hamate, another hamstring issue), disturbingly high whiff rates and a lack of results to match the apparent talent, Adolfo needed exactly the 2017 he produced. This outfielder with premium athleticism played a full season for the first time, translated the raw power into games (16 HR with a power-suppressing home park), improved in virtually every statistical measure and showed a substantially matured plate approach. Micker is a physical specimen who grades out plus or double-plus in power and plus in arm strength, complemented by above average speed. There is still substantial swing and miss in his offensive game, but the big time raw talent is starting to shine through. He’s also still just 21 years old, even if it feels like he’s been in the system forever.
11. Spencer Adams, RHP [Previous: 13th, +2]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2014
Spencer Adams’ pro career has thus far been a play in three acts. In his pro debut, he featured a 92-96 mph fastball with big movement from a crossfire delivery, and a wicked upper 80’s slider. In 2015 and early 2016, the White Sox got him into the “tall and fall” school; the changes plus the rigors of a full season on a slender teenager pushed down his velocity (his fastball was hovering 89-91 at one point). But starting in 2016 and progressing through 2017, he’s added strength and stamina, the 4-seamer is more 92-94 with some 95’s, and both his 2S and slider have added bite. Adams has been pitching very young for levels, looking to to see AAA in his age 21/22 season. A back end starter role now seems quite likely, with some chance for more. Note: Adams tore a tendon in his finger in his last start of 2017 and is not quite 100% yet, so he may get a slightly delayed start in Spring Training.
12. Gavin Sheets, 1B [Previous: 16th, +4]
- Drafted 2nd round (49th overall) in 2017
On paper Sheets was a bit of a reach at pick #49 last June, but Scouting Director Nick Hostetler said that he was a player they immediately targeted after the Burger 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 whiffing 37 times over 286 plate appearances in his last season at Wake Forest. Gavin’s pro debut saw him fade a bit down the stretch after a long combined season, but he still showed good plate discipline (20:34 BB:K) as a 21-year-old who went straight to a full season league. First base profiles require big power production, so he’ll need to show he can mash in 2018.
13. Carson Fulmer RHP [Previous: 21st, +8]
- Drafted 1st round (8th overall) in 2015
Fulmer may have been the hardest prospect to rank in the top half of this list. After various attempts to soften the violence in his delivery, at times he still shows three pitches that are at least major league average with two (fastball and curveball) showing well above average when he’s on. But command leaves Carson regularly and without warning. He may be best served in the bullpen, where he can let it fly a little more and focus on just 2.5 pitches. But he also managed to string together a good set of outings in the majors late last year (1.64 ERA if you take away his first game), including 4 starts, as a 23-year-old with just 2 minor league years under his belt. For now the team wants to see Fulmer take a good shot at starting, and he likely opens 2018 in the White Sox rotation.
14. Zack Burdi, RHP [Previous: 17th, +3]
- Drafted 1st round (26th overall) in 2016
After being that rare reliever selected in the 1st round, Burdi flew through the White Sox system to AAA in his pro debut, pumping the zone with an electric fastball (video of him hitting 102 MPH), a wipeout slider, and a developing change-up. He started 2017 back in Charlotte, biding his time for an anticipated midseason call-up, and showing notable improvement in his command. Unfortunately disaster struck, as he was forced to leave a July 9th appearance with elbow discomfort that turned out to be a UCL tear, requiring Tommy John Surgery. The current timeline puts his return around the middle of 2018. The good news is that TJS full recovery rates are 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. That future is most likely in 2019.
15. Jordan Stephens, RHP [Previous: 15th, no change]
- Drafted 5th Round in 2015
A TJS survivor from his time at Rice, in two and a half seasons as a pro Stephens’ results have been very good – low walk rates, missing plenty of bats, and solid core results. In terms of stuff, the repertoire has changed a little bit, especially recently when he missed April and May of 2017 due to forearm tendonitis. He’s now throwing a low 90’s fastball that has been creeping up to the mid-90s, a new upper 80s cutter that replaces his slider, an above average curveball as his best offspeed offering, and a change of pace. Health concerns are real given the history and his 6′ frame for a starter, and he doesn’t have any plus pitches, but the complete package works and gives him a good shot as a back end starter or late inning reliever if he stays healthy.
16. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 27th, +11]
17. Thyago Vieira, RHP [NEW]
18. Casey Gillaspie, 1B [Previous: 14th, -4]
19. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: 18th, -1]
20. Ryan Cordell, OF [Previous: 23rd, +3]
21. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF [Previous: 20th, -1]
22. Luis Gonzalez, OF [Previous: 28th, +6]
23. Ian Clarkin, LHP [Previous: 22nd, -1]
24. Luis Curbelo, SS [Previous: 26th, +2]
25. A.J. Puckett, RHP [Previous: 24th, -1]
26. Ian Hamilton, RHP [Previous: Not Ranked]
27. Alex Call, OF [Previous: 30th, +3]
28. Aaron Bummer, LHP [Previous: Unranked]
29. Tito Polo, OF [Previous: Unranked]
30. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: 29th, -1]
What do you think of the list? Who would you have put higher or lower? Comment below, or connect with us on social media and discuss!
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