Updated Top 10 Prospects (2017): Chicago White Sox: Breaking Down A Suddenly Stacked System…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Less than 24 hours after receiving a bounty for Chris Sale, the White Sox struck again as they acquired a trio of right-handed pitchers in exchange for Adam Eaton.  Prior to the Winter Meetings the White Sox farm system seemed barren, but now it is ripe with talent primed to make a quick impact.  How does it all fallout?  Let’s take a look:


1) Yoan Moncada – Second Baseman (Previous – #1)
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – A

His MLB debut was a significant disappointment and may have fully exposed the warts to his game, as he struck out 12 times in 19 AB.  As he was hitting home runs (15) and stealing bases (45) in the minors it was an easy thing to overlook, but it is important to note that it was extremely prevalent there as well:

  • High-A – 21.1%
  • Double-A – 30.9%

He also showed the ability to draw a walk (15.8% and 13.0%, respectively), and at his age there’s hope that he can make the necessary adjustments but it’s going to take him time.  He’s clearly transitioning into more of a power hitter and suddenly shows the potential to be a consistent 20/35 type player (with the upside of even more).  He just needs to learn how to hit for power while also limiting the strikeouts.  If he can do that, you are looking at one of the truly elite players in the game.


2) Lucas Giolito – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – NR)
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – A

Giolito made his debut in 2016, though it was rather underwhelming (6.75 ERA, 4.64 K/9, 5.06 BB/9).  No one is about to question the pure stuff, including a minor league career 9.7 K/9, though he did have some issues with his control while at Double-A (4.3 BB/9 over 71.0 IP).  That raised a bit of a red flag, though it hasn’t been the norm (3.0 BB/9 for his career).  At 6’6” it is possible that it takes him a little bit of time to fully harness his stuff, but last year’s issues should not be viewed as a significant red flag.

He also struggled with the long ball in the Majors (2.95 HR/9), though a 1.48 GO/AO in the minors again indicates that it isn’t a significant concern.  He has the stuff to be one of the elite starters in the game, in time.  Just be patient and allow him to develop.


3) Michael Kopech – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – #2)
ETA – 2018
Grade – B+

He missed the start of the season after breaking his pitching hand, and the incident (when coupled with last year’s suspension) certainly brings question to his maturity.  It’s certainly fair, though there’s no questioning the actual talent.  Pitching at High-A he racked up 82 K over 52.0 IP this past season and owns one of the biggest fastballs in the minor leagues.  His control is a question (5.02 BB/9), though there are reports that the team is working on his delivery to help him find consistency.  If he can get there, the upside of a true ace is there.  The upcoming season is going to be a telling one, but he has the potential to develop into a Top 10 pitching prospect overall.


4) Reynaldo Lopez – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – NR)
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B+

Lopez averaged 95.8 mph on his fastball over 44.0 innings in the Majors, which shows just how hard he throws.  It’s a plus, but there are concerns about his ability to consistently repeat his delivery (watching him give up 6 HR in 33.0 IP at Triple-A is a sign of the issue) and that could ultimately lead to a full-time transition to the bullpen.  If that were to occur he’d earn the “closer of the future” label, though for now there’s little reason for the White Sox to look to make a change.  Look for them to push him as a starter, with the potential that he breaks camp with the team, and see if he can handle the role.


5) Alec Hansen – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – #3)
Grade – B (borderline B+/A- upside)
ETA – 2019

All of the attention was going to be put on the “top” two names in the system (though the Chris Sale trade changed all that), but r the team’s 2016 second round pick carried 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.


6) Zack Collins – Catcher (Previous – #4)
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.


7) Carson Fulmer – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – #5)
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

There are two significant questions hanging over Fulmer, and you can argue that they actually go hand-in-hand:

  1. Can he solve his control issues?
  2. 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.


8) Dan Dunning – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – NR)
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

The Nationals’ first round pick in ’16, he quickly showed his potential as he wrong up 32 K, 7 BB and a 3.06 GO/AO over 35.2 IP.  He did spend some time as a reliever in college, but he’s viewed as a potential fast mover as a starter with tremendous control.  The “third” piece in the Adam Eaton trade, there’s definitely reason to believe in him as a viable starting pitcher.


9) Luis Alexander Basabe – Outfielder (Previous – #6)
Grade – B

He needs to cut down on his strikeouts (25.7% at Single-A), but he also showed an intriguing blend of power (12 HR) and speed (25 SB).  His twin brother was traded to the Diamondbacks during the season, but most feel that Boston kept the twin with the higher upside at the time.


10) Zack Burdi – Right-Handed Pitcher (Previous – #7)
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.


Dropped Off:

  • Charlie Tilson – Outfielder (Grade C+)
  • Adam Engel – Outfielder (Grade C+)
  • Spencer Adams – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade C+)
  • Jordan Stephens – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade C+)
  • Jameson Fisher – Outfielder (Grade C+)
  • Trey Michalczewski – Third Baseman (Grade C)

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com

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Grading System:
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:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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