by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The White Sox were aggressive with their rebuild, and it has brought exceptional results as they have amassed one of the elite farm systems in the game. A few key trades, notably jettisoning Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, have significantly bolstered the system. Who are the best of the bunch? Who could be on the precipice of making an impact? Let’s take a look:
1) Eloy Jimenez – Outfielder
Grade – A
ETA – 2018
Acquired from the Chicago Cubs as the centerpiece of the Jose Quintana trade, Jimenez split time between two High-A teams and ultimately reached Double-A amassing impressive numbers along the way:
.312 (104-333), 19 HR, 65 RBI, 54 R
The power is already evident (he also added 22 doubles and 3 triples) and it should continue to develop as he matures. Standing at 6’4” he looks the part of a 30+ HR hitter, and that’s exactly what he should become. The question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, with an 11.9% SwStr% overall last season (21.9% strikeout rate over 73 PA at Double-A). It’s something to monitor, but it’s a typical problem for a player with his skills. As long as he keeps the strikeouts in the 25-28% range, with it being possible for him to reach 40 HR in any given season, there is little reason to be concerned.
2) Michael Kopech – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2018
We all know he throws hard, hitting 100 mph often, the question is going to be if he can find a way to continually control his elite stuff. Last season he spent the bulk of the year at Double-A (119.1 IP) before getting his feet wet at Triple-A (15.0 IP). All told he compiled a 4.35 BB/9, and when you couple that with the potential for home runs to become an issue (40.1% groundball rate) there could be a few bumps along the way. Of course opponents need to make contact for the latter to become a problem, and that’s something that just doesn’t happen very often (12.5% SwStr% in ’17).
If Kopech can’t find his control consistently he could easily be shifted to the bullpen, where he will likely emerge as one of the elite closers in the game. While the White Sox will continue to try and develop him as a starter, given his upside potential, he should be an elite talent regardless of the role.
3) Luis Robert – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
Robert is going to draw comparisons to Yoan Moncada, especially as they now play for the same organization (Moncada, remember, was originally signed by Boston and ultimately traded to Chicago). In his first taste of professional baseball (Rookie Ball) Robert produced some strong numbers, hitting .310 with 3 HR and 12 SB over 114 PA. The obvious red flag is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, and while it was a small sample size posting a 28.5% SwStr% at this level is an eye-popping number. The hope will be that he can develop and improve with more experience, but we’ve seen a similar problem for Moncada help to derail his initial impact in the Majors (and should continue to do so).
There are also conflicting reports about Robert’s speed, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to amass big stolen base numbers (when he isn’t striking out). No one is going to question the overall talent, but there needs to be some development for him to fully be able to tap into it.
4) Dane Dunning – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
Dunning continues to fly under the radar, thanks to being part of one of the most impressive farm systems in the game. He shouldn’t be, however, as he would likely be the top prospect for many organizations. He spent the bulk of his time at High-A last season (118.0 IP), amassing impressive numbers over 144.0 total innings:
- ERA – 2.94
- WHIP – 1.15
- Strikeouts – 10.50 K/9
- Walks – 2.38 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.0%
Couple those numbers with a 12.1% SwStr% and it appears that the 2016 first round pick carries the full skillset that we look for. The question is going to be if these numbers will translate to the upper levels of the minors, something we should find out in 2018. He has the potential to really leap up prospect lists and is a player to have on all watch lists.
5) Dylan Cease – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
Cease is somewhat cut from a similar mold as Kopech, not that he throws as hard (though he does hit 100 mph), but that he needs to learn how to control his stuff to have continued success. Splitting time between two Single-A teams he posted a 4.24 BB/9 last season, though he did show a little bit more groundball stuff (43.6%) and there’s no questioning his strikeout ability (13.5% SwStr%). The other difference, though on the negative side, is that he’s listed at 6’2” and some may question his ability to hold up to a full workload. That could mean a transition to the bullpen is on the horizon, though time will tell.
The Next Five:
6) Blake Rutherford – Outfielder (Grade – B)
7) Alec Hansen – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
8) Luis Alexander Basabe – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
9) Jake Burger – Third Baseman (Grade – B-)
10) Zack Collins – Catcher (Grade – B-)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: