Twice annually, our senior writers huddle and compile their personal top 30 rankings of the White Sox system. Then the real fun begins; as we critique each others lists, ask questions, and share valuable scouting information we might have picked up from our in-person affiliate visits or gleaned from other sources. The end result is our final FutureSox top 30 list that is a weighted fusion of our original individual lists. This article is an on-going series that lets our writers explain their rationale for a prospect they ranked higher and lower than the consensus. The first number next to each prospect is the ranking assigned by that writer, then the second number is what they were ranked on the actual list.
If you would like to look back on the preseason edition of this article, you can find it here.
Highest: Laz Rivera (27th, NR)
I was highest or tied for highest on four players, but here I’ll pick Laz Rivera to discuss as he’s the one I’ve seen the most this year. Everyone agreed he was very close to the Top 30, but only myself and Dan Santaromita put him in our final lists. The case against includes two main factors: age (he’s 23 in A-ball), and profound aggressiveness at the plate (resulting in an anemic 2% walk rate and adding risk to his hit tool). For me, the former requires context – he reached High-A a year after being drafted and just keeps hitting. And while the latter is a very real issue, it’s also one that can be adjusted, especially for a player with a quick, efficient stroke. I also am fairly confident he can stick at shortstop defensively, which combined with a strong hit tool and a little power and speed make for an intriguing package.
Lowest: Kodi Medeiros (NR, 22nd)
I was the only writer to not put Medeiros in my Top 30 (everyone else ranged 19 to 24). And I can assure you I got pummeled for it in our discussions. The difference-maker for me is about role. None of us have been able to see Kodi pitch yet, given he just arrived in the system as we were voting, so we all have to rely on other sources. Having read those, it seems clear to me that Medeiros is a LOOGY. There is reason to believe he will be quite good in that role too, but here’s the problem. Ranking relievers in the Top 30 is tough as it is, unless they are elite. And lefty specialists have an even narrower role. I can’t see, in a deep system, how even a relatively high end LOOGY prospect is among the thirty best. I’ll be perfectly happy if he proves me wrong.
Luis Gonzalez is having a great year across two levels of A ball. The 2017 3rd rounder out of The University of New Mexico is right in the middle of a cluster of outfielders in the White Sox deep system. He plays all three outfield spots with a strong throwing arm and has the ability to stay in CF in the long run. The 22-year-old sported a 141 wRC+ while at Low-A Kannapolis to start the season. He then received a promotion to the White Sox High-A Affiliate in Winston-Salem. He’s continued to hit for the Dash. Luis has an identical 141 wRC+ with a .390 OPS and a staggering .209 ISO while playing all over the outfield defensively. As a fairly advanced former college two-way star, he should start next season with Double-A Birmingham and should be firmly in the outfield mix in late 2019 or early 2020.
Luis Curbelo has really struggled at this dish in Kannapolis. The 20-year-old was an overslot $700K signing in the 6th round in 2016. Luis missed most of 2017 with a knee injury and was pushed back to A ball this year. He’s been playing primarily at shortstop with the Intimidators but he’s 6’3″ 205 pounds and scouts have always thought that he;d end up at 2B or 3B in the long run. He has the arm strength and good hands to play at the hot corner. Curbelo possesses plus bat speed and shows batting practice power that he hasn’t been able to tap into on a consistent basis in games. He doesn’t walk enough and he needs to hit a lot more to stay on this list in the future. This ranking is based mostly on tools and upside but Luis needs to perform and soon to stay here.
Lowest: Zack Burdi (15th, -3),
For the record, I think Zack Burdi is going to be awesome but he’s a reliever though. I ranked the former Louisville closer 15th in the system because I felt like there are 14 other players (starting pitchers or position players) that offer more long-term value. Burdi underwent Tommy John Surgery last year and is working his way back pitching the AZL. Chris Getz mentioned that Zack might pitch in the prospect studded Arizona Fall League and that would be a good experience. Burdi has an 80-grade fastball to go along with a 65-70 grade slider. Burdi showed inconsistent command and control at times but his fastball sits in the 95-100 mph range on a consistent basis. Burdi was the 26th overall pick in the 2016 draft and the 23-year-old is one of the very best relief prospects in the sport despite the injury. He should be in the mix to pitch for the White Sox in Chicago in 2019 and could very well be the closer in the very near future.
Highest: Bryce Bush (30th, NR)
Bush received a late push to get in the top 30, but I was the only one to pull the trigger. His talent could rank higher than even where I had him, but at least he got a vote on the list. There was a general consensus among the group that not having him on this top 30 could make us look bad in the future. That said, if he continues to hit anything like the way he did in Arizona (.442/.538/.605), we will correct things in the next preseason list. Director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler said Bush has top five round talent, and he is producing to back that up. The White Sox could have gotten a steal in Bush and he is on our radar for sure.
Lowest: Spencer Adams (26th, -6)
I used to be a big believer in Spencer Adams. He was drafted in the second round out of high school and dominated the Arizona Rookie League right away (59 strikeouts, 4 walks in 41.2 innings). I thought that was a sign that he would emerge as the team’s top pitching prospect in a year or two. However, as he moved up the system his strikeout numbers faded. His great control allowed him to maintain a fair amount of success. At 20 years old he averaged 1.7 BB/9 between High-A and AA. The lack of strikeouts seem to have caught up with him in AAA though. Since moving up to Charlotte, Adams has more walks (31) than strikeouts (29) in 64.1 innings. He has managed a 3.36 ERA, but that doesn’t seem sustainable. He is still just 22 so he is young for AAA, but he’s going to have to get more strikeouts to believe he can have any success in the majors.
Highest: Jimmy Lambert (22nd, +4)
Once a fringe prospect, Jimmy Lambert overhauled his entire pitching arsenal and changed his trajectory through the White Sox system. Now armed with a 92-96 MPH four-seam fastball, a biting curveball, and an improving change-up, Lambert has seen unprecedented success in 2018. The 2016 5th round draft pick has a combined 3.67 ERA with 110 strikeouts to just 27 walks and 77 hits through 95.2 innings. When challenged with a promotion to AA Birmingham, he has responded by dominating Southern League hitters and improving his numbers across the board. Alas, it seems my fellow writers are slow to believe, as he barely made the last spot or two on many of their lists. I’m buying the breakout and am expecting a strong finish to the year from Lambert with a possible major league call-up as early as next season.
Lowest: Luis Basabe (13th, -3)
I saw Basabe’s jaw-dropping performance in the Futures Game and love the steady improvement of his numbers from an injury-plagued 2017 season. He undoubtedly is tooled up, flashing his plus arm, speed, strong defense, and above average raw pop. My big concern with Luis is his hit tool, which FanGraphs gave a current 25 future 40 grade to on the tradition 20-80 scouting scale. It is true he has improved his barrel control and swing this season, but he is struggling to make solid contact in Birmingham, slashing .233/.330/.362 with a strikeout rate above the dreaded 30% marker. He is just 21 years-old and has shown the aptitude to adjust, so I have no problem ranking him 13th in a very strong White Sox system, but top 10 is too rich for my taste.