Twice annually, FutureSox writers 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, the names for 16-30 and those who just missed the list. For more details on any of the prospects, 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: With just two of the names from January’s Top 30 list “graduating” (Carson Fulmer and Aaron Bummer), some new acquisitions and a full draft class, one of the most-talent rich farm systems in baseball has only gotten deeper. The consensus among national publications’ is the White Sox system is somewhere among the top three in MLB. The rebuild is now well into the development-focused phase, with minimal prospect acquisition remaining by trading away major leaguers. Injuries have been rough this year, affecting about a quarter of the list below, but most of the injured prospects will be back to full health soon.
This was a fun group to vote, argue and write about. White Sox fans should feel good about the team’s 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: 1st, no change]
- 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 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 enough 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. What has 2018 brought? Cruising through 53 games at AA Birmingham (.317/.368/.556, 10 HR, 7.9% K/PA), followed by destroying International League pitching (.376/.425/.679, 8 HR, 11.6%) in 29 games so far at AAA. All as a 21-year-old. He’s ready. Whether he’ll be up this season or next April is a risk/reward decision for the front office.
2. Michael Kopech, RHP [Previous: 2nd, no change]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (33rd overall) in 2014 by BOS, acquired via trade December 2016
Michael Kopech is one of the top few pitching prospects on the planet. How about an 80-grade fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-to-upper 90’s (and will touch 100) throughout starts? Wipe-out slider with plus two-plane break? Change-up and 2-seamer that are around major league average? Heck what about a curveball that he pulled out of nowhere this season for fun? 2018 had it’s bumps for the flame-thrower to be sure. There was a mid-season blip where his command wavered as he onboarded some adjustments, and the results showed it. But in his last five starts: 31 IP, 27 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 41 K. If Eloy is 100% ready for the majors, Kopech is 95% and right on his heels. Like Eloy, he could come up this year, or it may be April of 2019. It should be a wild, fun ride whenever he does.
3. Luis Robert, OF [Previous: 3rd, no change]
- 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 doled out, Robert‘s signing surprised more than a few given the team’s previous history of coloring inside the lines. Robert is one of those gems who analysts label a five tool player, and his ceiling is nearly as high as the players above him on this list. It’s his floor, and now some added (albeit minor) concerns around his health and missed development time, that keep him at 3rd on our list and almost slid him to 4th. This season has seen Robert play only 21 games in A-ball, sandwiched between two injuries to the same thumb. He’s now back with the Winston-Salem Dash after rehabbing in Arizona. There is a lot of risk in his raw profile, but 70-grade or better speed, above average hit, power and arm tools, a good shot to stay in center field and premium athleticism give fans plenty to dream on.
4. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS [Previous: NEW]
- Drafted 1st Round (4th overall) in 2018
Our first new entrant nearly passed up Robert for the 3rd slot. Nick Madrigal exemplifies the plus hit tool. It took him 72 professional plate appearances before he struck out, and to quote David Lee of Baseball Prospectus recently: “It’s like watching a major leaguer on rehab when he plays in A-ball“. Defensively, he’s projected to be an above average or even elite-level defender at second base, and some feel he could play shortstop in the majors. The only obvious gap is around power, but we aren’t talking about Juan Pierre here. He grades out around 40, will spray drives into gaps and down lines and occasionally put some over the fence. Madrigal is moving fast and projects to continue doing so, potentially reaching the majors in late 2019 (though 2020 may be more realistic).
5. Dylan Cease, RHP [Previous: 6th, +1]
- Drafted 6th round in 2014, acquired via trade in July 2017
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Dylan Cease moved up just one slot since our last list. He’s made a big leap in 2018, and could make a case to be as high as 3rd on this list. After having his innings carefully managed in recent years, he’s at 112 this year and still holding velocity. His stuff has looked great: a Four-seam fastball at 95-99 with late movement, 12/6 hammer curve that shows plus, a change-up that in our viewings has shown above average at times, and a slider and two-seamer. Those three above average or better pitches have propelled him statistically too. After 13 dominant starts at High-A (2.89 ERA, 6.5 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 10.3 K/9), he’s been even better in seven starts in AA (1.99 ERA, 5.5 H/9, 2.9 BB/9, 12.8 K/9 – and that includes a 4.2 inning, 5-run showing in his first start!) at age 22. On his current path, Cease could be part of the rotation in Chicago in 2020, or perhaps even late next year.
6. Zack Collins, C [Previous: 5th, -1]
- Drafted 1st Round (10th overall) in 2016
All prospects have a mix of tool grades, but Collins takes it to another level and makes it tough to project his future. Power is true plus, and he’s got elite plate discipline. The hit tool was graded above average out of college, but his swing hitch (which is still sort of there) and accompanying swing-and-miss raise questions. Defensively he’s got an average or better arm, but the rest of the glove and foot work are such that most analysts peg his chances of staying behind the plate at less than 50/50. His erratic 2018 performance just adds to the unknowns. He opened in a 2-for-51 rut, then slashed a whopping .348/.510/.580 in his next 34 games, before settling in at .227/.352/.387 since. His ranking here reflects the club’s view that he’s still got a decent shot to be a catcher at least part time, but that’s still an open question.
7. Dane Dunning, RHP [Previous: 7th, no change]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (29th overall) in 2016 by WAS
Dunning had an excellent first half. He shredded Carolina League batters in five starts (2.59 ERA, 1.1 BB/9, 11.5 K/9) and was quickly promoted to AA where he continued to show well (2.76 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 10.0 K/9). Then in late June he left a start with a mild elbow sprain, punching his ticket for a 6-8 week rehab program. It’s hard to quantify the actual risk until he begins throwing again, but Dunning might have been a slot higher on the list without this injury. When healthy, Dunning brings three pitches that scouts label as above average (downhill fastball 91-94, recently modified spike-curve, slider), and a change-up that’s coming along. He’s also got a bulldog presence on the mound. He could return late in the season and possibly throw in the AFL if ready.
8. Alec Hansen, RHP [Previous: 4th, -4]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2016
Another pitcher who was bit by the injury bug (forearm soreness), Hansen got a late start to his 2018 campaign in mid-June. Unfortunately, for reasons that are unclear, the command improvements he’d shown as a pro in previous seasons disappeared. In 9 starts with the Barons, he walked 42 batters in 35.2 innings, and was recently demoted back to Winston-Salem to work more closely with his whisperer, Pitching Coach Matt Zaleski. Looking at last year’s scouting reports, Hansen brought a 70-grade mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, a slider and curveball that have shown above average at times. He also features a work-in-progress change-up, all from an intimidating 6’9″ frame creating big angle and extension. Hopefully he gets back on track – he’s done it before.
9. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 10th, +1]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1.6M)
The third straight prospect on this list who battled an arm injury in 2018, Micker Adolfo will miss the remainder of the season and return in April or May of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a pinhole tear in his UCL. That doesn’t mean 2018 was a lost season. Adolfo played in 78 games as a DH with Winston-Salem, furthering developmental strides at the plate as evidenced by a .283/.368/.466 line as a 21-year-old at High-A. Plus or better raw power, a cannon arm (pre- and hopefully post-surgery), big athleticism and improvements to his hit tool all highlight the prospect package. His ceiling isn’t far behind Robert, but he’s got rawness to work through and time to make up.
10. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF [Previous: 21st, +11]
- Signed from Venezuela in 2012 ($450k) by BOS, acquired via trade December 2016
Luis Alexander Basabe makes the biggest leap up our list, thanks to answering questions that followed him into 2018. A knee injury forced some missed time in last season, but we now know that the injury nagged him even when he was playing. Sure enough, repeating the level this year (at nearly the exact same age as Adolfo), he improved in every facet, evidenced by his OPS jumping 233 points and resulting in a promotion to AA Birmingham in June. Basabe brings 60+ grade speed, an advanced eye at the plate (12.8% walk rate this year), above average raw power he’s just starting to tap, and the tools to stick in center field. He’s now playing at AA, three years younger than the average Southern Leaguer.
11. Blake Rutherford, OF [Previous: 9th, -2]
- Drafted 1st round (18th overall) in 2016 by NYY, acquired via trade July 2017
Rutherford and the two outfielders above him could be justifiably ranked in any 1-2-3 order. Nearly a year younger than the other two while opening the year at the same level, Rutherford doesn’t have the raw power of Adolfo or quite as much speed as Basabe, but his hit tool is much more advanced and overall defensive game more mature. In 2018, he’s hitting .306, making good contact (16.9% K/PA), and showing a little power (33 XBH, 6 of them home runs) through 92 games. Like the other two, that’s a nice bump from his 2017 results. There’s no rush given his age, and he likely goes to AA to open 2019.
12. Zack Burdi, RHP [Previous: 14th, +2]
- Drafted 1st round (26th overall) in 2016
The only news to report here since our January list is that Burdi recently started a rehab assignment in the AZL, so he should be back at Charlotte this month. He’s also a candidate for the AFL. In case you need a refresher, Burdi is one of the top relief prospects in MLB. His fastball is a dancing nightmare that runs 97-100 and has touched 102, paired with a true wipe-out slider in the low 90’s. He’s got a change-up as well. Assuming he’s healthy next spring, expect Burdi to become a late inning mainstay with the White Sox by mid-season 2019.
13. Luis Gonzalez, OF [Previous: 22nd, +9]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2017
Another outfielder who made a big jump up the list, Luis Gonzalez has put himself in the discussion with the elite outfield prospects in the system. When we interviewed Gonzalez in April at Low-A, he said he wanted to hit .300 and be in AA by the end of the 2018 season. That seemed quite ambitious, and yet… He batted .300/.358/.491 in 55 games with Kannapolis, and .301/.356/.494 in 39 games so far with Winston-Salem. Those numbers from a true center fielder with mature defensive skills and plenty of arm (he pitched in college) who was just drafted in June 2017. He’s flashes some power too, with 12 long balls so far this year, and he’s got speed to burn. Don’t sleep on this guy.
14. Jake Burger, 3B [Previous: 8th, -6]
- Drafted 1st Round (11th overall) in 2017
Like Burdi, Jake Burger hasn’t played official games in 2018 so there isn’t a lot new to report. After tearing his Achilles tendon in a Cactus League game in March, he re-tore it in May and the process started over again. He’s out for the season at least, and may not start 2019 in April. As a reminder, Burger was drafted as one of the most polished college bats available with high grades for the power and hit tools. There are questions about whether or not he will stick at the hot corner as a fairly stocky player, but the Sox feel he’s got a good shot and some pundits agree. We’ll get our next look in 2019, but for now, he slides down the list a bit due to missed development time and injury risk.
15. Steele Walker, OF [Previous: NEW]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2018
It’s indicative of how deep the White Sox system is, that a high 2nd round pick doesn’t show up on the following list until 15. Steele Walker took an over-slot signing bonus ($2M versus $1,556.100 slot) to sign. Analysts differ on whether or not he can stay in center field, but the White Sox believe he can. Offensively, Walker has an advanced hit tool and has shown substantial power, including in wood bat play. Speed is only average by most grades, but his glove work is strong. An efficient swing with notable bat speed should allow him to move up quickly, and though he joined the team late after taking time to heal from an oblique injury he’s already gone three levels to Class A Kannapolis in his draft year.
(NOTE: For prospects 16-30 below we are just listing the names, click their player profile to learn more.)
16. Jordan Stephens, RHP [Previous: 15th, -1]
17. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 16th, -1]
18. Gavin Sheets, 1B [Previous: 12th, -6]
19. Ian Hamilton, RHP [Previous: 26th, +7]
20. Spencer Adams, RHP [Previous: 11th, -9]
21. Konnor Pilkington, LHP [Previous: NEW]
22. Kodi Medeiros, LHP [Previous: NEW]
23. Tyler Johnson, RHP [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
24. Lenyn Sosa, SS [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
25. Ryan Cordell, OF [Previous: 20th, -5]
26. Jimmy Lambert, RHP [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
27. Luis Curbelo, SS/3B [Previous: 24th, -3]
28. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: 30th, +2]
29. Alex Call, OF [Previous: 27th, -2]
30. Thyago Vieira, RHP [Previous: 17th, -13]
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