The Top Prospect Report is a weekly FutureSox feature throughout the season, highlighting the performances of the top prospects in the White Sox system, with emphasis on the top 15 rated prospects as classified by the most recent FutureSox top 30 rankings. Check back every week to get updates on the progress and movement of the top-rated talent throughout the White Sox system.
Top Pitcher of the Week: Dylan Cease, Winston-Salem
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF (Birmingham)
After a delayed start to his season due to injury, Jimenez struggled at the plate his first week back in action (4-21, 2 HRs, hitless in first 10 at bats of the season). He has picked it up over the last week though, with four multi-hit games (including his last three), raising his batting average nearly 100 points (11-33, 2 HRs, 9 RBI in his last 7 games). If Jimenez continues this high level of production over the next several weeks, a promotion to Charlotte (or even Chicago) may not be too far off.
2018 Season Line: .263/.290/.526 (.817 OPS), 15 H, 4HR, 3 2B, 0 3B, 14 RBI, 0 SB, 3 BB, 9 K, 62 PA
2. Michael Kopech, RHP (Charlotte)
Kopech was just named the White Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April. Kopech, who turned 22 on Monday, has dominated the International League through five starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start yet and his has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4:1. He already has had a 10-strikeout game (a loss to Indianapolis) and his pitch count has increased gradually each game.
Barring injury or a major setback, Kopech should be on the mound for the White Sox before the 2018 season closes, and likely before the All Star Break. According to White Sox GM Rick Hahn, Kopech’s rise to the majors will not be rushed and the organization would like to see improvement in his change-up and mound composure before a big league promotion happens.
2018 Season Line: 0-1, 2.67 ERA, 35 K, 9 BB, 5 GS, 27.0 IP, 1.11 WHIP
3. Luis Robert, OF (Winston-Salem – currently on disabled list)
According to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, Robert is still a week or so away from partaking in hitting drills, as the White Sox are being extra cautious with his injured thumb. Once he is able to fully grip a bat, it is expected he will spend time in extended spring training before being assigned to Winston-Salem in June barring any setbacks.
2018 Season Line: N/A
4. Alec Hansen, RHP (Birmingham – currently on disabled list)
Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports that Hansen is scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime next week, after being sidelined the last two months with right forearm soreness. According to Hahn, the injury is not serious and the team is being cautious with the hard-throwing right-hander. Hansen will most likely need some time in extended spring training, once he is cleared for game action, before reporting to Birmingham.
2018 Season Line: N/A
5. Zack Collins, C (Birmingham)
After an abysmal start to the 2018 season (2-37 from the plate in his first 13 games), Collins has turned things around in a major way over the last nine games (14-33, 2 HRs, 7 RBI, nine-game hitting streak) as he has raised his batting average from .054 to .229. While his batting average may be low, Collins has still maintained his keen eye at the plate and ability to reach base by drawing 22 walks. One reason for the major turnaround has been cutting down on his strikeouts (only six in the last nine games, 19 in his first 13 games).
When you look at Collins’ full body of professional work, you see the reason why the White Sox selected him in the first round two years ago. Having just reached the equilavent of a full season of games in his short professional career, in 576 at bats, he has 28 HRs, 81 RBI, 29 2Bs, .382 OBP, .439 SLG, .821 OPS, 142 BB and 200 Ks. As he has improved behind the plate over the last year, I’m sure the White Sox organization hopes to see similar production at the plate as he has shown recently.
2018 Season Line: .229/.415/.414 (.829 OPS), 16 H, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 10 RBI, 1 SB, 22 BB, 25 K, 94 PA
6. Dylan Cease, RHP (Winston-Salem)
Cease has not disappointed in the beginning of his first full season in the White Sox organization. His start on Monday has been his most dominating thus far as he struck out 12 batters (0 walks, retired 19 in-a-row) in seven innings, while allowing only two hits versus Lynchburg.
Cease credits Dash pitching coach Matt Zaleski and a gameplan to mix in his change-up more, with propelling him to another level of dominance. With 36 strikeouts in five starts, Cease ranks in the top ten in all of minor league baseball for most punch-outs.
2018 Season Line: 3-1, 2.05, 36 K, 12 BB, 5 GS, 26.1 IP, 1.03 WHIP
7. Dane Dunning, RHP (Birmingham)
After only four starts at Winston-Salem (he led the Carolina league in strikeouts with 31), Dunning became the first White Sox top prospect to be promoted when he made his Birmingham debut last week. After a solid Double-A debut, Dunning was dominating in start number two, allowing no runs and four hits while striking out five over six innings. The White Sox organization and fans alike have pleasant dreams of Dunning, Cease and Kopech, along with youngsters Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer making up a dominant big league staff for years to come in Chicago.
2018 Season Line: 3-1, 2.48, 40 K, 6 BB, 6 GS, 36.1 IP, 0.96 WHIP
8. Jake Burger, 3B (out of the season w/ Achilles injury)
Burger continues to recover from season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon and is expected to be fully recovered by 2019 spring training.
2018 Season Line: N/A
9. Blake Rutherford, OF (Winston-Salem)
While two outfielders we will get to shortly have been getting a lot of attention, Rutherford has been quite impressive as well in the early going. He’s fallen back a bit from his torrid start (.700 OPS in last seven games), overall he’s having a very successful season as a just-turned 21-year-old in High-A. The power is still lacking, but everything else is clicking.
2018 Season Line: .341/.370/.459 (.828 OPS), 29 H, 0 HR, 8 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI, 5 SB, 5 BB, 17 K, 92 PA
10. Micker Adolfo, OF/DH (Winston-Salem)
Everyone is still awaiting word on how Adolfo’s pinhole UCL tear is healing (or isn’t), but meanwhile he just keeps mashing. Recently named the Carolina League Player of the Month, Adolfo has hit six bombs in less than a month of play, is walking more this year than in the past and has given the Sox nearly everything they could have wanted thus far. The strikeouts are still a concern, though they are a tad bit better than last year.
2018 Season Line: .327/.387/.602 (.989 OPS), 32 H, 6 HR, 9 2B, 0 3B, 24 RBI, 0 SB, 8 BB, 34 K,111 PA
11. Spencer Adams, RHP (Birmingham)
Adams missed most of Spring Training while his finger healed from an injury in September, and perhaps that rust is showing because he’s struggled so far in his return to the Southern League where he was fairly successful in 2017. His walk rate is higher than at any stop in his pro career, and he is getting hit much harder, though the whiff rates are pretty much identical to last year.
2018 Season Line: 1-3, 7.56, 19 K, 9 BB, 6 GS, 25.0 IP, 2.08 WHIP, 5 HRA
12. Gavin Sheets, 1B (Winston-Salem)
Last season’s second round pick has been getting on base at a very high rate, and making contact much more efficiently than your typical power-hitting first base prospect. Unfortunately, what has been absent so far is any game power. Sheets has strength to spare and will put on a show in BP, but in games he seems more focused on contact and pitch selection at this time. It may be mysterious in the short term, but in the long term it could be exactly the right plan for the time being. Only time will tell.
2018 Season Line: .275/.414/.350 (.764), 22 H, 0 HR, 6 2B, 0 3B, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 17 BB, 13 K, 99 PA
13. Carson Fulmer, RHP (MLB – White Sox)
Fulmer looking all over the place in his first few starts with the White Sox to open this season, but after a recent mechanical tweak he’s suddenly found his rhythm. His first four games, he posted a 7.50 ERA, walking 9 batters and allowing 17 hits in just 12 innings. In the two starts since, 1.38 ERA, 4 walks and just 7 hits allowed in 13 innings. Hopefully whatever he changed can stick.
2018 Season Line: 2-1, 4.32, 18 K, 13 BB, 5 GS (and 1 relief appearance), 25.0 IP, 1.48 WHIP
Burdi begins the season on the disabled list for Charlotte, while he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery last July. It is anticipated that the hard-throwing reliever will miss much of 2018 while he recovers. Prior to the injury, Burdi was on the fast track to the major leagues, and it would not be surprising if he was a member of the White Sox bullpen in 2019.
2018 Season Line: N/A
15. Jordan Stephens, RHP (Birmingham)
Stephens begins the 2018 season with a return to Birmingham after an injury-delayed 2017 (forearm tightness) kept him to only 16 starts. The overall numbers are pretty darn close to what he posted last year, and he’s trending better. He has thrown two straight scoreless starts over 11 innings. If he continues this trend, he could be in Charlotte in the not-too-distant future.
2018 Season Line: 2-3, 3.67, 24 K, 8 BB, 5 GS, 27 IP, 1.29 WHIP
16th – Seby Zavala, C (Birmingham)
Many Sox fans scratched their heads at the alignment of Collins and Zavala at the same affiliate, but so far it’s certainly worked OK for Seby (at the plate at least). So far he’s slashing .326/.401/.628 with 26 extra-base hits in 35 games (including 5 long balls). His walk rate is the highest it’s been in his career, though so is his strikeout rate. It will be interesting to see which of the top catching prospects in the system goes to AAA first.
21st – Luis Alexander Basabe, OF (Winston-Salem)
To call Basabe’s performance this year a bounce-back would be an understatement. Luis Alexander leads the entire system in multiple categories, and so far has posted a .315 average, 4.13 OBP and .629 slugging percentage. His 5 home runs already equals last full season’s total, and his peripherals have improved. Basabe is very likely to jump up prospect lists, and he could also jump up the ladder to AA when Luis Robert arrives in Winston-Salem.
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Filed under: Top Prospect Report