Youth is Used Pretty Well, Actually, By the Young

There are suddenly a bunch of talented post-teens playing major league baseball and making everyone feel bad about themselves. Juan Soto, currently the only actual teenager in big league baseball, hit a three-run home run on the first pitch of the first at-bat in his first game started for the Nationals. Ronald Acuña, who turned 20 in December, has four home runs and is hitting .260/.324/.450 for the Braves. His teammate, 21-year-old Ozzie Albies, is battling for the league lead in home runs (he’s currently at 14). Newly 19-year-old Vlad Guerrero Jr, hitting .423 in double-A, and 20-year-old Bo Bichette (both for the Blue Jays), are among those right behind.

The White Sox farm system is the best it’s ever been. Do we get any teenage prodigies? As it turns out, no, because it’s highly unusual to make the major leagues at such a young age. Last year around this time, I wrote an article checking out the youngest Sox prospects in full-season leagues; if there’s one thing that I know is relatable, it’s bitching about getting older and the unstoppable, grinding passage of time, so here we go again! Who’s gotten older, who’s gotten younger (?!), and how we can go back in time to make our past selves more productive.

Michael Hickman: DOB 11/5/1996

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Michael Hickman, who is probably not related to best-selling Dungeons & Dragons spin-off novelist Tracy Hickman, not that anybody on this page this spent most of middle school reading those, making that the first association that comes to mind when seeing the name Hickman, is an interesting prospect. Let’s get this out of the way: he’s a young guy, just over five years old in dwarf years (only a toddler on the elven timeline). As long as Hickman remains with the White Sox, he will be forever pursued by the fact that he was drafted by the team twice, in the 36th round of 2015 and again in the 13th round of 2016.

That second one stuck, and Hickman’s slowly been working his way up. This is actually just his first full-season year after two years in rookie ball. So, this is a guy with 95 professional games under his belt, which makes sense because he was born only recently. Hickman was drafted as a catcher, but spends about as much time at first base for Kannapolis.

Hickman has some things to work on – he’s sporting 38 strikeouts to go with 38 total bases in 30 games played – but is certainly someone to keep an eye on. This is a big season for him, adjusting from short-season ball to the full grind (is that a metaphor for aging? Probably, let’s say it is), and as my mom has always said about catchers who may or may not be first basemen, you can never have too many.

Eloy Jimenez: DOB 11/27/1996

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There’s not a lot to say about Eloy at this point. He could work on walks, I guess, with only eight in 136 plate appearances. He’s also hitting .328. He’s also just outside the top 10 in hits for the Southern League, despite missing the first few weeks of the season. He’s also #2 in home runs, with eight (trailing just teammate Seby Zavala’s 10). As I write this, he’s 1-1 with two walks in today’s game, so excellent timing on the walks thing.

Eloy Jimenez is probably major-league ready right now but he’s still somewhat-explicably in double-A. Also, he won’t turn 22 until well after the season is over. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

Yosmer Solorzano: DOB 2/11/1997

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Solorzano, a starting pitcher who was extremely young and on the Intimidators the last time I wrote this article, is still a starting pitcher, still extremely young, and still on the Intimidators. He turned 21 in February, and thanks to the two players below, he is no longer the newest (physically, chronologically) of the Sox system. His future in the organization is doubtful, but he’s also so absurdly young it seems silly to write him off already.

Solorzano has been in the organization since 2014, and if you think he’s young now, wait until you hear how old he was then!! (17). He’s definitely shown signs of talent – it’s hard to stick around for four years in professional ball if you don’t – but he walks a truly hellacious amount of dudes. To be as fair as possible to Solorzano, a) he’s young!!! very young and b) this is just his second year in full-season ball, and he’s already shown marked improvement from his forgettable 2017 Intimidators campaign.

Blake Rutherford: DOB 5/2/1997

Blake Rutherford gets ready to hit the cages, at the hitter's mini camp in AZ, January 2018 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

Blake Rutherford gets ready to hit the cages, at the hitter’s mini camp in AZ, January 2018 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

Blake Rutherford, one of fourteen outfielders on the Dash, turned 21 mere days ago, and don’t worry, I am disgusted by this fact. Rutherford had a rough start to his White Sox career last season after he was the main return in the Todd Frazier trade, but he’s turned it around and then some in 2018. Like all these children, he could stand to walk a little more, but I mean, who am I to judge? I haven’t been on a walk in months.

The power hasn’t quite developed yet, which is understandable because he is 21 years old (I’m distressed writing this), although two of his three dongs this season have come in his last 10 games. He’s also holding his own with nine doubles and three triples so far. There have been singles, though, and a lot of them, enough to earn him a .307 batting average.

Like almost every other member of the Dash outfield, Rutherford has probably hit well enough to earn a promotion, and also like every other member of the Dash outfield, he’s so young that there’s no need to rush.

Luis Robert: DOB 8/3/1997

Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo on Opening Day for the Dash, 2018 (Clinton Cole / FutureSox)

Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo on Opening Day for the Dash, 2018 (Clinton Cole / FutureSox)

I just want to say that Luis Alexander Basabe only barely missed this list (he was on last year’s), which would have meant that 3/5 of the youngest players in the system were Dash outfielders. Of course, at this point, who isn’t a Dash outfielder? Also, I’m pleased to announce that I’m about to sign with the Dash, as an outfielder.

Maybe one day I will forgive Luis Robert’s thumb for causing him to be placed on the DL literally the day I arrived at spring training to see him in March, but until he starts appearing in game action, that day will not come. Robert, signed last year for Big Money, is 20 years old and has appeared in sports in spurts. He’s already dealt with several injuries – nothing major, but enough to keep him limited to just 28 games in his one calendar year of Sox prospect-dom (that and visa-related issues). He hit .310/.491/.536 with 12 stolen bases in those games in the Dominican, in addition to .300/.417/.600 line over 12 big-league spring training appearances, which helps ease the waiting.

The good news is that Robert is rehabbing in Arizona as we speak, and the latest deets are that he’ll be joining the Dash sometime in late May or early June. Finally, we’ll be able to rejoice and be jealous of a 20-year-old who’s already earned more in his career than everyone reading this page combined! Baseball is fun and mortality is bad!

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