Top 10 Prospects (2020): Chicago White Sox: Impressive System Or Just Top Heavy?

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The Chicago White Sox are widely considered to have one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, though it’s fair to wonder if it’s one or two prospects skewing the outlook. There’s no question that the top of the system is stacked, but how good are things beyond those few names? Could they be more bust than boom? Let’s take a look:

1) Luis Robert – Outfielder
ETA – 2020
Grade – A-

Robert is widely considered one of the elite prospects in the game and the power/speed upside was on full display in ’19 as he played across three levels (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A), hitting .328 with 32 HR (as well as 31 doubles and 11 triples) and 36 SB.  His contract extension has opened a path to the Majors immediately, though there are questions as to if he could struggle initially.  Overall he posted a 23.4% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate, and the SwStr% regressed as he moved up in levels:

  • High-A – 16.6%
  • Double-A – 16.8%
  • Triple-A – 21.1%

He also appeared to take a flyball-centric approach, with a 50.1% flyball rate, which could limit the ability to maintain an elevated BABIP.  There needs to be growth/development for him to realize his full potential, but the upside is there.

2) Andrew Vaughn – First Baseman
ETA – 2021
Grade – B+

In many systems Vaughn would be considered the top prospect, but he takes a backseat to Robert in Chicago.  Selected third overall in ’19, Vaughn reached High-A in short order and showed power (17 doubles and 6 HR over 245 PA) and a strong approach (12.2% walk rate, 9.3% SwStr%) along the way.  Already 21-years old his ascent could continue to come quickly, with an arrival at some point in 2021 seemingly likely.

It’s not all positive, as there are going to be questions whether or not his power will translate given his size (he’s listed at 6’0”).  As a first baseman/designated hitter type that’s going to loom large, but how the production translates this season (where he should reach Double-A, at least) will be telling to his long-term outlook.

3) Michael Kopech – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B

Kopech was sidelined for all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, though expectations are that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.  There’s no questioning the strikeout stuff, but there are questions regarding both his control and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (career marks):

  • Control – 4.41 BB/9
  • Groundball Rate – 41.4%

With the missed time both of those things could become bigger issues in the short-term.  It’s fair to wonder if a ticket back to Triple-A is in his 2020 future, and when he is on the mound how many innings will he be able to throw?  There were going to be questions even if he hadn’t missed time.

4) Nick Madrigal – Second Baseman
ETA – 2020
Grade – B

Madrigal brings speed and an impressive approach, though his lack of power drags down his overall outlook.  Over 532 PA split between High-A (218 PA), Double-A (180 PA) and Triple-A (134 PA) he hit .311 with 4 HR (36 total extra base hits) and 35 SB.  Of course we’d like to see a few more walks (8.3% walk rate), but his ability to make consistent contact (2.2% SwStr%, 1.9% at Triple-A) is as impressive of a statistic as you’ll find. 

The problem is that it’s impossible to anticipate power suddenly develop, considering he didn’t show it both in the minors or in college.  In today’s game the unique speed only player isn’t seen as being as valuable, though with his ability to make contact he could overcome it. 

5) Dane Dunning – Right Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – B-

He missed 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and he will miss time early in 2020 as he continues to recover.  In 230.1 innings between 2017 & 2018 Dunning showed all of the skills, with a 10.47 K/9, 2.50 BB/9 and 51.9% groundball rate, and prior to surgery there was a belief that he could ultimately prove to be the best pitcher the White Sox acquired from Washington (he was part of the trade that also netted Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez).  There are questions as to how he will recover, as there is for any pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery, but if he shows it his stock will rise significantly.

The Next Five:

6) Matthew Thompson – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Selected in the second round of 2019, he was seen as having first round talent but a poor senior year led to a drop in his stock.  He has the size and stuff to develop into an impressive prospect, but he needs a lot of work and development to get there.  Time will tell, but he leads a group of mid-level prospects with the potential to take the biggest step forward of the bunch.

7) Steele Walker – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – The left-handed hitter spent the bulk of 2019 at High-A, hitting .269 with 10 HR and 9 SB over 441 PA.  He showed the potential to develop a little bit more power (adding 26 doubles and 2 triples), and including his time at Single-A he had 51 total extra base hits over 528 PA (36 doubles, 5 triples and 10 HR).  Couple that with an ability to make consistent contact (8.2% SwStr% overall) and draw a walk (9.5% walk rate) and there’s potential to develop into a .270/20/10 type player.  He also may prove to be more of a fourth outfielder, given the limited upside.

8) Jonathan Stiever – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Stiever is a control artist who split time between Single-A (74.0 IP) and High-A (71.0 IP) in 2019.  Overall he posted an impressive 9.56 K/9 and 1.68 BB/9, though the pure stuff isn’t as impressive as the numbers and you have to wonder if he’ll be able to get as many swings and misses against more advanced hitters (13.3% SwStr%).  There also is the risk of home run issues (42.5% groundball rate) and if his secondary pitches don’t take a step forward he could shift to the bullpen.

9) Zack Collins – Catcher/Designated Hitter (Grade – C+) – It’s fair to wonder if some of his Triple-A production (.282 with 19 HR over 367 PA) came due to a favorable home ballpark and the general home run surge at the level.  He wasn’t nearly as impressive in the Majors, .186 with 3 HR over 102 PA, and while he’s extremely patient and can take a walk he also is likely to continue struggling with strikeouts (13.8% SwStr% in the Majors).  If he can cut down on the strikeouts there would be potential, but time will tell if he can get there.

10) Luis Alexander Basabe – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – Basabe brings an intriguing blend of power and speed, the question is whether or not he’ll be able to refine his approach.  He posted a 29.2% strikeout rate spending most of his time at Double-A in ’19, after a variety of injuries limited him to a total of 315 PA.  If he can prove that he’s healthy and cut down on the strikeouts the upside is there, but he ultimately could prove to be more of a fourth outfielder.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 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

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Professor,

    Thanks for the great article. Making some keeper decisions in a 15-team, 5-cat, H2H Dynasty League, am I nuts to trade Kershaw for Luzardo assuming we each add a bat to even it out? Who would you rather have for the next three years? Thanks as always, Professor.

    • I don’t love Kershaw for this year or moving forward personally, but who the bats are really would determine if I’d pull the trigger

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