by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Chicago White Sox have some top end talent in their farm system, but the two “premier” names also have significant questions hanging over them. Thanks to several trades and the graduation of others, the farm system looks relatively barren of impact talent at the moment (though if the rumors are true these rankings will change dramatically over the coming weeks). Is there anyone who could ultimately make a significant jump/impact in 2017, though? Let’s take a look:
1) Alec Hansen – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B (borderline B+/A- upside)
ETA – 2019
All of the attention is going to be put on the “top” two names in the system, but right now you can argue that the team’s 2016 second round pick carries the most upside. It was only 54.2 IP, but he certainly made an impressive impact in his first taste of professional baseball:
1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.48 GO/AO
Standing at 6’7” and 235 lbs., he throws hard and is an imposing figure on the mound. With pitchers his size the mechanics are going to be a question, but if he can find consistency he has the upside of a top of the rotation arm. He’s going to be a name to watch closely, as he can quickly prove to be a diamond in the rough. His upside is arguably higher than Zack Collins & Carson Fulmer, who carry significant questions. It’s a bold move to rank him ahead of the two, but until they can answer the questions their upside value appears to be capped.
2) Zack Collins – Catcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
No one is going to argue about his power potential, especially with 13 extra base hits over his first 131 professional AB. The problem, though, is going to be the swing and miss he showed in his game. Of course he also showed a good command of the strike zone, so there is going to be hope (the numbers are during his time spent at High-A, which was 153 PA):
- Strikeout Rate – 25.5%
- Walk Rate – 21.6%
There’s also a question regarding if he will be able to stick behind the plate or not, with 1B/DH a potential landing spot. If that’s the case, is a 25-30 HR corner infielder with a ton of strikeouts really a standout prospect? Hopefully he proves us wrong, but at this point the 2016 first round draft pick carries some significant risk.
3) Carson Fulmer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived
There are two significant questions hanging over Fulmer, and you can argue that they actually go hand-in-hand:
- Can he solve his control issues?
- Can he stick as a starter?
If he can’t fix the control (minor league career 4.6 BB/9 over 126.0 IP) he will likely be transitioned to a full-time relief role. Of course he has the potential to be a lights out closer, though walks and potential home run issues (0.7 HR/9) could prove to be a stumbling block there. The name is going to catch people’s attention, but there are significant concerns regarding his potential.
4) Zack Burdi – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2017
He was drafted with the thought that he would be closing for the White Sox in the not too distant future. At this point, having reached Triple-A in his first professional season (he was a 2016 first round draft pick), his time could come extremely quickly. He does need to fine-tune his control, something he struggled with last season (20 BB over 38.1 IP), but he showed strikeouts (51 K) and groundballs (1.46 GO/AO), which gives him the potential to be among the elite closers in the game.
5) Charlie Tilson – Outfielder
Grade – C+
ETA – Already Arrived
Acquired from the Cardinals, the fact that Tilson comes in at this point speaks volumes to the state of the system. While he swiped just 15 bases in 351 AB at Triple-A last season, he had 46 at Double-A in ’15 so there certainly is speed. He also showed the ability to make consistent contact (12.9% strikeout rate), something fellow prospect Adam Engel struggled with (which is why Tilson got the higher spot on our rankings).
6) Adam Engel – Outfielder (Grade C+)
7) Spencer Adams – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade C+)
8) Jordan Stephens – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade C+)
9) Jameson Fisher – Outfielder (Grade C+)
10) Trey Michalczewski – Third Baseman (Grade C)
A 27.5% strikeout rate while at Double-A is a significant red flag and something that will be difficult for him to overcome moving forward.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: