The White Sox aggressive rebuild appears ready to turn the corner, as some smart trades have helped to solidify the farm system as one of the elite in the game. The two top prospects on our rankings were acquired as part of the Jose Quintana trade with the Cubs, with Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning also near the top (and having come over in separate trades). Throw in some other smart moves, including the addition of Nick Madrigal in the draft, and some emerging under-the-radar prospects and it’s quite an impressive system. Let’s take a look:
1) Eloy Jimenez –
Grade – A
ETA – 2019
Jimenez is one of the elite prospects in the game, and he’s just waiting to show just how talented he is at the biggest stage. Splitting time between Double and Triple-A he hit .337 with 22 HR over 416 AB and there’s never been a question about his power potential. The issue was always if he would make enough contact, but he showed it at each level he played last season:
- Double-A – 17.1%
- Triple-A – 13.2%
Of course an overall 12.5% SwStr% shows that there is reason for concern, but all he needs to do is post a strikeout rate in the 22-25% range to have tremendous success. He should arrive early in the year, maybe before April is over, and could challenge for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
2) Dylan Cease –
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
If Michael Kopech wasn’t sidelined due to Tommy John surgery he might be the White Sox top pitching prospect… Might is the key word, because it’s hard to overlook the numbers Cease posted last season split between High-A (2.89 ERA over 71.2 IP) and Double-A (1.72 ERA over 52.1 IP):
- Strikeouts – 11.61 K/9
- Control – 3.63 BB/9
- Groundballs – 48.7%
You could argue that the strikeout potential is even greater, considering a 15.5% SwStr%. There are going to be questions about potential home run issues (he’s listed at 6’2” and hadn’t shown quite this type of groundball rate before). He also faces control questions, though last season’s mark was a promising step in the right direction. All he needs to do is continue this path, while continuing to improve his changeup, and you will get a top of the rotation arm.
3) Michael Kopech –
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
There has always been one significant question hanging over Kopech, his control. While he did reach the Majors last season he continued to show questions about his ability to throw consistent strikes (4.3 BB/9 at Triple-A, 4.4 over his minor league career). There are potential home run troubles (38.6% groundball rate at Triple-A), and while that’s not uncommon for hard throwers (and there may be no one who throws harder) it’s still something to monitor.
Kopech now faces another question, as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for 2019. We like to think that all pitchers are going to return without any issues, but that isn’t a guarantee. While he should be an impact starter, that’s a risk that can’t be ignored.
4) Nick Madrigal –
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
It’s possible Madrigal never displays much power, listed at 5’7” and 165 lbs., so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he didn’t homer (and only had 7 doubles) over his first 155 AB. What we can’t question is his ability to handle the bat, with a 3.7% SwStr% leading to a miniscule 2.9% strikeout rate. That’s an elite mark, regardless of the level, and do it right off the bat (including 98 AB at High-A) can’t be overlooked. Couple that with ample speed and he could develop into a .300/40 SB type force at the top of the White Sox lineup. Turning 22-years old in March, he could be fast-tracked and arrive in the Majors in short order.
5) Luis Robert –
Grade – B
ETA – 2021
No one is going to question the potential upside Robert brings, but there also seem to be endless questions:
- Health – In the past two seasons he’s missed time due to issues with his thumb, ankle and knee. Can he ever stay on the field to show off his talents?
- Strikeouts – Maybe part of it is the consistent missed time, but a 17.6% SwStr% is highly concerning.
- Power – In 186 AB in ’18 he didn’t hit a home run (after hitting 3 HR in 84 AB in ’17). There is the potential to tap into his power, but it would be nice to have seen some signs of it.
Overlooking his pure potential would be a huge mistake, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the questions that are currently hanging over him.
6) Dane Dunning –
Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
Dunning flew under-the-radar when the White Sox originally acquired him, as Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez got all of the attention. In the end Dunning could prove to be the best of the trio. Splitting time between Single and Double-A he posted a 2.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 86.1 IP, putting all of the skills on display:
- Strikeouts – 10.42 K/9 (11.9% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.71 BB/9
- Groundballs – 51.6%
He was shutdown due to a sprained elbow, which does hang over him a bit, but if healthy he could move into the B+ category or better.
7) Zack Collins – Catcher (Grade – B-)
Obviously a 29.8% strikeout rate is a significant concern, as it could get worse (he spent the year at Double-A). He also showed a tremendous eye (19.0% walk rate) and his 11.5% SwStr% doesn’t justify this type of gaudy mark. Even if he maintains this strikeout rate, with his power he could be your “typical” power hitting catcher. If he improves he could be Top 10 in all formats (and in OBP formats he’s a near lock to get there assuming he sticks behind the plate).
8) Luis Gonzalez –
Outfielder (Grade – B-)
Gonzalez is a prospect that’s easy to overlook, after he put up a rather pedestrian 14 HR/10 SB season over 482 AB between Single-A and High-A. That said his 9.2% SwStr% is promising (a lot more promising than many of the other prospects in the system) and his 40 doubles and 5 triples show that there could be more power brewing in his bat. He may not excel in any one category, but he has the potential to be productive across the board.
9) Luis Alexander
Basabe – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
After a fairly disappointing 2017 (.221 with 5 HR and 17 SB at High-A), Basabe rebounded and ultimately split the year back at High-A and Double-A. Over 515 PA he hit 15 HR with 16 SB, and a little bit more efficiency on the basepaths would go a long way (he got caught 12 times). He also showed an ability to get on base (12.4% walk rate) and his 11.2% SwStr% gives hope in his strikeout rate. Often overlooked, the skills could ultimately translate into a 20/20 campaign.
10) Micker Adolfo – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
You could argue Adolfo as a B- prospect, as there is plenty of upside in his power. However 92 K in 291 AB, courtesy of a 16.4% SwStr%, is highly concerning. The fact that it came at High-A, as a 21-year old (he turned 22 in September), makes it that much worse. That’s not to say that he can’t or won’t figure it out, but it’s something that needs to be monitored closely.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists: