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. The list is then released in two parts.
This is the “teaser,” where we release the back half of the list with player capsules for prospects ranked 16-30. The full list of top 30 prospects, with a more detailed overview, capsules for 1-15, and a list of players who just missed the Top 30, will be released the next day.
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 contributors saw almost every full season affiliate live for multiple games in the past year, in addition to the back fields at Spring Training, AZL, fall instructs and the AFL.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The full list article will go into more detail on this, but here are a few key things to know. Despite “graduations” of a couple key prospects, the system remains one of the deepest and most talented in MLB. We are deep into the development-focused phase of the team’s rebuild efforts.
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.
THE LIST (prospects ranked 16-30)
16. Jordan Stephens, RHP [Previous: 15th, -1]
- Drafted 5th Round in 2015
Stephens just keeps plugging along, putting together solid starts as he moves up despite not being mentioned among the top arms in a deep White Sox system. The 25-year-old right-hander has given up a few more hits than his career norms in 14 starts so far in AAA, but the peripherals remain steady, as does his stuff. Stephens has a low 90s fastball that can run to 95, an above average curveball as an out pitch, slider/cutter and change-up, and throws all of them consistently for strikes. Jordan is a possibility for a September call-up this year, and appears to be a legitimate candidate for a back of the rotation starting role, or at least a multi-inning reliever in the majors.
17. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 16th, -1]
- Drafted 12th Round in 2015
Over the last few lists, no player has been as repeatedly controversial among our writers as Seby Zavala. Looking at the initial (pre-argument) rankings of our individual writers, the second-ranked catcher in the system was placed anywhere from 10th to 21st overall. Defensively he’s got an average arm and good athleticism, but has struggled at times with blocking. Seby was promoted to Charlotte in part due to defensive improvements though, and he’s now seen very likely to stick behind the plate. That’s good because his hit and (especially) power tools have played well above average for the position, though he’s not gotten a good run going yet in AAA in part due to a nagging wrist injury. Like fellow 2015 draftee Stephens, Zavala could be in Chicago come September.
18. Gavin Sheets, 1B [Previous: 12th, -6]
- Drafted 2nd round in 2017
What to make of Gavin Sheets so far as a pro? He’s hitting for average (.290 as of this writing), drawing walks (41 in 395 PA), making much more consistent contact than your average slugger (16.7% K/PA), and even showing some pretty good defense at first, all while playing a smidge below league average age in High-A. What he’s not doing is the one thing a first baseman with projected plus raw power would be expected to: hit a lot of home runs. Game power often comes last, but 4 HR in 93 games is unexpectedly low. Read this deep dive into his approach and mindset, and judge for yourself whether or not you need to worry.
19. Ian Hamilton, RHP [Previous: 26th, +7]
- Drafted 11th Round in 2016
Hamilton makes one of the biggest leaps up our list, thanks to refinement of his stuff and finding the results at the higher levels to match the tools. After missing lots of bats with the Barons to open 2018 (34 K, 20 H in 25.1 IP), the Washington State product was promoted to AAA Charlotte where he’s hitting the strike zone much more consistently (2.1 BB/9 so far) while still striking out more than a batter per inning. Hamilton throws a mid- to upper-90s fastball with significant movement, paired with a tight slider that runs around 90 give or take a tick or two. Ian looks more and more like he could be part of the team’s bullpen future, now just a phone call away from Chicago.
20. Spencer Adams, RHP [Previous: 11th, -9]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2014
After one of the biggest rises, here is one of the biggest drops. Spencer Adams has had an enigmatic 2018, opening the year with Birmingham and putting up nearly identical numbers to his 2017 campaign there. Then he was promoted despite the OK-but-not-great results, and with AAA Charlotte in 9 starts he’s getting hit far less often (8.5 H/9 vs 10.5) but his walk and strikeout rates have gone severely to the negative (4.0 BB/9 which is high for him, and just 4.2 K/9). This has the hallmarks of “working on something.” Adams is also still just 22 in AAA so there is really no rush and he would benefit from more time at that level. His stuff is fringy but if he can stay consistent with his repertoire, there’s still a 4th/5th starter profile in play. Alternately he could play up his fastball and slider a bit in a relief role.
21. Konnor Pilkington, LHP [Previous: NEW]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2018
One of three 2018 draft picks among our top 30, Pilkington will be on a strict innings limit after a long college season so we aren’t going to get a good pro look from him this year. A young collegiate junior who is still 20 years old, the lefty had been projected as a potential upper first round pick after a big sophomore season. But his stuff and results fell back this spring, allowing him to drop to the Sox in the 3rd (and a little under slot to sign). The team clearly felt his junior season was more an aberration than a pattern and Baseball America had him at #60 in the draft class. You can read more about Pilkington in our draft day write-up, which includes some videos.
22. Kodi Medeiros, LHP [Previous: NEW]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2017 by MIL, acquired via trade July 2018
The only trade acquisition since our January list, Kodi Medeiros is projected by most analysts to be a lefty specialist reliever. But there are some, including the White Sox based on their statements, who feel he can remain a starter. The pitch portfolio is headlined by a heavy fastball in the low 90s that’s been as high as 95 and a slider that has received plus grades. But command is still iffy and the rest of the repertoire has yet to blossom. For now, the Sox are keeping Kodi a starter to see if that role can work out. As a 12th overall pick in 2014 and strong one-two punch headliner, the potential is enticing.
23. Tyler Johnson, RHP [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
- Drafted 5th Round in 2017
The fifth straight pitcher on our list, this one a power reliever who has made a big jump into the top 30 after being just outside of it in January. A 5th round pick last year who the team briefly considered converting to starting, Tyler Johnson has already been at three levels in a little over a year and has been nails at his current High-A stop (5.1 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 13.5 K/9). His repertoire features a four-seam fastball that runs 94 to 99 with a lot of life, a slider hovering near 90 that can bite hard, and a change-up. When we saw him in April, his command was quite soft as he battled with an inconsistent, arm-heavy delivery. But he’s made changes throughout the season that are clearly working for him. If he can throw strikes consistently, with his stuff, Tyler could be a high leverage reliever in the majors.
24. Lenyn Sosa, SS [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
- Signed from Venezuela in 2016
Like Johnson, Lenyn Sosa makes the jump from January’s ‘Just Missed’ group into the Top 30 thanks to strong signs of progress in 2018. Sosa showed up in the AZL last year at the tender age of 17 and held his own there (.270/.330/.358), and this year with Great Falls he’s doing even better statistically at the plate (.301/.328/.434). He’s been nearly three years younger than league average at both stops, and making contact at a very high rate (11.4% K/PA this season). Defensively he’s played mostly at shortstop with some time at second and third, and based on local reports is handling the infield well (a team official has also said they feel confident he will stay at short). Full season ball will tell us more, but for now the combination of high contact against much more mature competition while being likely to stick at shortstop puts him squarely on the radar.
25. Ryan Cordell, OF [Previous: 20th, -5]
- Drafted 11th Round in 2013 by TEX, acquired via trade July 2017
Cordell is a tough prospect to evaluate at this point. Coming into the season (when we ranked him 20th) he looked to have a good shot at breaking camp with the Major League club, and he showed well in spring training. Then he went to AAA, hit .132 in his first 10 games, broke his collar bone colliding with the outfield wall and just returned to AAA a couple weeks ago. Now he’s riding an 8-game hitting streak for the Knights while playing mostly center field and looking for another shot. Above average raw power, plus speed and the ability to cover all three outfield slots (combined with the current outfield mess in Chicago) make it likely he gets a September call-up.
26. Jimmy Lambert, RHP [Previous: Unranked, n/a]
- Drafted 5th round in 2016
This is the most pop-up of prospects on our Midseason list. Taken in the 5th round in 2016, Jimmy Lambert‘s stuff and numbers were best described as middling in his first two pro seasons. But thanks to some physical and approach adjustments, this 23-year-old has leapt into the prospect picture. The numbers at his current assignment with AA Birmingham are excellent so far (2.88 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 10.8 K/9 in 5 starts), but more importantly he’s added 3-4 mph to his fastball (now running 92-95 typically) and more sharpness to his breaking pitches thanks to strength work. He’s also been using data to improve his pitch sequencing and targets, which you can read more about here. If he can sustain the improvements, he could move even further up the list soon.
27. Luis Curbelo, SS/3B [Previous: 24th, -3]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2016
Luis Curbelo has taken a bumpy road as a pro. He opened his career in the AZL putting up strong offensive numbers at first, before seeing them fall back as the season wore on. After opening 2017 in Great Falls, he suffered a knee injury in just his third game and missed the rest of that season. Now in full season ball (despite playing in just 48 pro games across his age 18 and 19 seasons), the numbers have not shown well thus far and he’s got a lot of rawness per local reports. That said, the raw talent is still there – quick hands and above average raw power, plenty of arm for any infield slot and signs of good defensive instincts. He’s also still just 20 so he could certainly repeat at Kannapolis, and we are sticking with the ship here despite the numbers not yet echoing the talent.
28. Bernardo Flores, LHP [Previous: 30th, +2]
- Drafted 7th Round in 2016
Consistency has been the goal for the raw but intriguing Flores, and he’s made noticeable strides in that area in 2018. Repeating his delivery much more consistently, locating his pitches more effectively, and even getting his velocity bands into a tighter range to gain better repeatability of command were all on display when we saw him in April versus what we had seen in 2017. And the numbers are backing it up, as he jumped to AA after 12 starts with the Dash. In his first 8 starts with the Barons, Flores has posted a 2.29 ERA, throwing a lot of strikes (1.9 BB/9). There is no true standout pitch yet but his heavy fastball, curve and change all show signs of average or better potential, and it all plays up as his command improves. He’s also still just 22.
29. Alex Call, OF [Previous: 27th, -2]
- Drafted 3rd Round in 2016
Sometimes lost in the Los Angeles-level traffic jam of outfield prospects in the system, Alex Call had to show he was fully “back” from repeated intercostal muscle issues that wiped out much of his 2017 season. After scuffling a little at first in his return to Winston-Salem (.224 AVG in April), he took off (.273/.379/.469 in May and June) before being promoted to AA Birmingham in June. There he’s been arguably even better (.279/.363/.471 in 41 games) in his age 23 season. Probably a corner guy who could play center in a pinch, Call has a refined hitting approach that keeps his OBP high and there’s a little pop in his bat too. Above average speed and “off the charts” make-up round out the package and increase his chances to actualize the talent.
30. Thyago Vieira, RHP [Previous: 17th, -13]
- Signed from Brazil in 2010 by SEA, acquired via trade in November 2017
Recently promoted to the big leagues, Vieira brings some fire to the mound with his arm and his personality. His command struggles in the spring and for a good portion of the 2018 season have dropped his stock, but the raw tools still tantalize fans with hopes that some Don Cooper magic can bring focus for this hurler. The main feature for Thyago is an 80-grade fastball that runs 95 to 100 with substantial run. He’s toyed with a number of offspeed pitches but for now it’s mostly slider and changeup, neither of which are standout offerings but have improve enough to keep hitters off the fastball just a little bit. That and general control improvements explain his improving numbers as the 2018 season went on in AAA, ending in his promotion to the Sox.
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