January 12, 2015
Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Tim Anderson
What Happened in 2014: Anderson more than held his own during an assignment in High-A before a fractured wrist ate into the second half of his season, but the shortstop didn’t miss a beat in a brief taste of Double-A after returning and continued to rip in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Impact athlete; oozes fluidity; easy stroke with natural lift; loose and explosive hands; well above-average bat speed; barrels fastballs well; turns around velocity with ease; contact is loud; thunder in the stick; shows pull-side power potential; double-plus run; puts it in an extra gear quickly; soft hands; good footwork; quick transfers when throwing.
Weaknesses: Raw overall game; plays on ability over polish; questions on instincts at short; doesn’t get the best of reads off the bat; range plays down; arm comes up a bit short on left side when making long throws; may ultimately end up at second base or in outfield; approach and plate discipline are unrefined; can struggle handling secondary stuff; gets out on front foot often; still learning how to cover all four quadrants of zone with swing.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player/occasional all star
Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited upper-level experience; wrist fracture (2014); refinement of strike-zone management.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s so much fantasy potential in Anderson’s game here as a five-category threat who could steal north of 30 bases at the major-league level. He’s going to be slightly more attractive in AVG leagues than OBP or points formats, but Anderson is a potential first-round fantasy pick, even if he doesn’t stick at shortstop (or the infield, for that matter).
The Year Ahead: Anderson is a true five-tool talent who can be absolutely electric on the diamond when everything is flowing in unison. The athleticism is the fast-twitch type that fuels explosiveness with all of his actions, while the stroke shows a high level of ease and control due to the strength of his wrists and forearms. It’s easy to fall in love with the 21-year-old when watching him on the field and a strong showing in 2014 has continued to reinforce that the initial refinement of his overall game has begun to take. The future has the potential to be very bright, with all-star caliber seasons not out of the question, though there’s still a high level of rawness in the player’s game, especially when it comes to the defense and strike-zone management skills. Opinions are mixed as to whether Anderson can stick on the left side of the infield, with his arm and fringy instincts drawing the most concerns from sources. Given the athleticism, the Alabama native could keep his value as an up-the-middle defender with a move out to center field or transition well to second base where the arm is a better fit. It’s ultimately going to come down to the refinement of the aforementioned offensive secondary skills to reach the peak potential. They’ll be tested heavily in an assignment in the Southern League this season, with the belief here that the prospect can make the necessary adjustments and prove he’s trending towards rounding into a future impact major leaguer.
Major league ETA: 2016
2. Carlos Rodon
What Happened in 2014: Seen as the consensus first overall pick in last year’s draft for most of the spring, Rodon fell to the third overall slot due to some inconsistencies during the season and signing concerns, where Chicago ended up stepping up to the table to meet the price, and then tracked him all the way up to Triple-A by season’s end.
Strengths: Good size; thick lower half; muscular legs; excellent strength; good arm action; fastball works 92-96 with big late life and tailing action; attacks hitters with heater; snaps slider with a loose wrist; wipeout break at 85-88; bat-misser; changes shape when needed; throws for a strike; flashes feel for changeup; moderate fading action; competitive mentality; mature on the mound.
Weaknesses: Little projection left in body; some concerns about maintenance going forward; aggressive delivery with some effort; pace gets inconsistent; runs into ruts of releasing fastball early; command can come and go; leans heavily on slider; changeup is distant third in arsenal; tends to stay elevated and float; needs to throw with more trust and conviction.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited pro experience; emergence of third offering.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s probably not a safer pick to take in dynasty drafts this year than Rodon, who has a low SP3 floor and the potential to border on SP1 status (with near impact performance in all four categories), if he plays up to the potential he flashed so often at NC State. He’ll be one of the first players from the 2014 draft to make the majors, which will make him a popular target among teams who fancy themselves reloaders, rather than rebuilders.
The Year Ahead: Rodon has been a much-talked-about name on the radar dating back to his freshman season at North Carolina State University, and for good reason. The big left-hander features a very lively heater that consistently reaches the mid-90s and snaps off an extremely devastating slider. Both pitches may very well end up playing as plus-plus weapons at the 22-year-old’s disposal when all is said and done. Toss in his mentality to come right after hitters, and this arm can be downright nasty on opposing bats in extended stretches. Chicago aggressively pushed Rodon to Triple-A to finish out last season, with all signs pointing to the lefty making his debut this year, which could possibly come as early as right out of spring training. The most likely scenario is that the prospect spends some time in the International League to get into the cadence of starting as a pro and on a roll before coming up around midseason. Despite the proximity to The Show, though, the North Carolina native is still a work in progress when it comes to his fastball command and execution of the changeup. Both aspects may lead to some early career inconsistencies, but there should be enough growth with both to make a mid-rotation starter role well within his reach.
Major league ETA: 2015
3. Tyler Danish
What Happened in 2014: The former second-round pick put together a strong first full professional season across two levels, where he flashed advancing stuff and proved to be more than capable of handling low-minors hitters.
Strengths: Improving strength; has begun filling into body; strong competitive streak; creates angle on hitters via lower slot; repeats arm action well; fastball works 88-92 with strong sink and late life; can reach for more when needs it (94-95); tough to square up when in lower tier; slider flashes good tilt and bite; delivers from same angle as heater; can be very nasty on right-handed hitters; turns over changeup with drop and tumble; plays off of fastball well; plus pitchability; finishes well to throw strikes; rubber arm.
Weaknesses: Unconventional delivery with low three-quarter slot; lefties get a good look out of hand; change will come and go; still learning how to feel consistently; slider can sweep and spin across the plate; tends to have trouble throwing glove-side due to arm angle; relies on movement and location with heater; more strike throwing than command at present.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to reach Double-A; emergence of changeup to neutralize left-handed hitters.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Danish has been overlooked in fantasy since being drafted last year due to a combination of non-elite stuff and a funky delivery. However, there are no pictures in 5x5 valuations, so we have to look past that. Danish could be a workhorse who puts up good ratios and could strike out 160-170 batters a year if he can make it work—and we’ll have a much better idea of that after 2015.
The Year Ahead: There are times when we can dwell on an aspect of a player’s game because it is unconventional or not in line with the perceived norm. Danish’s delivery certainly falls into this realm, but too much focus on it will only lead to losing sight that there is some nasty stuff coming out of this right-hander’s hand. Armed with a low-90s sinking fastball, darting slider, and deceptive change, the 20-year-old loves to attack opposing bats and wears a noticeable competitive streak on his sleeve. The heater and slide piece are the more advanced offerings at present, which was on display this past season while carving up two levels of the low minors. The slope will get more slippery for Danish in Double-A this year, especially when it comes to pushing the consistency of his change to aid in attacking left-handed hitters. Are there concerns about how the delivery may limit the ultimate role? Sure. Is it possible the slider and change don’t reach their on-paper potential? Absolutely. But, the realistic role speaks to the belief here that this arm has what it takes to make it work in the rotation in the long run, with the expectation the coming year will represent another developmental step in the right direction.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
4. Spencer Adams
What Happened in 2014: The three-sport prep star out of Georgia only lasted until the 44th overall pick in this year’s draft before being selected by Chicago with the early returns after signing offering a good clue that a quick assimilation into pro ball is likely.
Strengths: Very athletic; long and lean with a high waist; easy delivery; repeatable; loose arm; deceptive release; fastball presently sits low 90s with late life; can touch higher when reaching (95); potential for sitting velocity gains as physically matures; slider flashes tight spin and bite; horizontal movement; potential swing-and-miss offering; shows feel for low- to mid-80s change; mild fading action at present; delivers with solid arm speed; finishes delivery well; plus command profile; very projectable arm.
Weaknesses: Immature physically; needs added strength to enhance stuff and stamina; shorter arm action; can get around the ball; delivery presently lacks lower-body explosion; some cleanup needed to maximize overall package; slider gets on the loose and slurvy side when wrist wraps; inconsistent with release of changeup; offering tends to float within the strike zone; fastball straightens out in higher velocity band; long way to go developmentally.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme; 18-years-old; complex-league resume; large gap between present and future.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s no shortage of talent and risk here, but the projectable right-hander is a very viable third-round pick in medium-sized dynasty leagues this year—assuming you don’t mind a long burn. Adams has the stuff to get strikeouts and the control/command projection to get the most out of it, making him a great flier.
The Year Ahead: This right-hander is basically an on-paper sketch at the present, but all of the ingredients are here for the arm to really start to take off now that he’s in a structured environment. Adams is a former three-sport star in high school who oozes athleticism and looseness with a legit chance for big developmental gains with the overall package now that the focus is solely on baseball. The 18-year-old already comfortably sits in the low 90s with his lively heater and shows the early feel for reeling the offering in. Evaluators are bullish that as the 6-foot-3 frame starts to fill out and the prospect gains more “man-strength” velocity gains can take to potentially push the fastball into the double-plus range. While the secondary stuff is on the inconsistent side and Adams is in the early stages of finding an identity with them, it’s not hard to see either rounding into average-to-better pitches down the line. The future potential listed here may end up looking a little light down the road, though there’s a healthy serving of risk and variability on the plate. The next twelve to eighteen months should see a focus on building the righty’s stamina and sharpening the secondary arsenal, especially the changeup. This is a very good looking arm, and one that can start to gain both developmental traction and a boost in status by season’s end.
Major league ETA: 2018
5. Francellis Montas
What Happened in 2014: The Dominican flamethrower showed improving crispness with his arsenal and more fluidity in the delivery when on the mound during the year, but dealt with meniscus injuries to both knees that took a chunk of time out from the season and kept him from a full-fledged breakout year.
Strengths: Elite arm strength; very strong lower half; fastball comfortably works 94-98 with ride in upper velocity band and good life in lower tier; can reach for triple digits; explosive offering; snaps slider with loose wrist; shows tight rotation with depth and dart at 86-89; pitch made good progress since turning pro; improving strike-throwing ability; showing progress spotting in all four quadrants.
Weaknesses: Delivery can get messy and loose; mechanics aren’t the smoothest; fastball gets flat when elevated; lacks good plane in upper tier; can get hurt in that area despite velocity; slider can get slurvy and lose bite; needs to throw for a strike more in sequences against advanced bats; changeup is more of a “show me” piece; carries extra weight; conditioning will need to be consistent focus.
Overall Future Potential: 6; late-innings reliever (upper-tier closer)
Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited Double-A experience; multiple knee injuries (2013/2014); continued delivery refinement.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Montas has to be projected for fantasy as a reliever, but fortunately for him, he projects as one of the top relief prospects in the game. The arm can rack up strikeouts with a nasty one-two punch, but the usual caveats apply for reliever investments.
The Year Ahead: For those who have seen Montas since his early career stateside, the elite arm strength and intensity of the fastball have always stood out as strong positives, while the effort and nature of the mechanics have led to thoughts that the bullpen was going to be the ultimate home. The developmental hurdles to reaching his potential centered on whether any other pieces of the arsenal would emerge as a viable offering and if the delivery could smooth out enough to boost the command. The soon-to-be 22-year-old has taken the initial steps towards answering those questions over the course of the past season or so, especially when it comes to the tightening of his slider and getting a bit more loose with his delivery to aid in throwing strikes. The big test for Montas will come with an assignment in Double-A this year. It’s a two-fold exercise for the prospect to prove that he can continue to push those improvements and also stay on the field for an entire season after battling knee injuries in 2014. The view here sees this prospect poised for a true breakout if the latter holds true with an impact back-of-the-bullpen arm coming that much clearer into focus as a result.
Major league ETA: 2016
6. Chris Beck
What Happened in 2014: The right-hander out of Georgia Southern University continued to prove he’s capable of logging heavy workloads deep into a season, though the bat-missing concerns still loom as he approaches the major-league level.
Strengths: Big and strong frame; durable; flashes feel for craft; fastball operates 90-93 with good sink; can reach for more when ahead in the count; slider shows late cutting action; will induce weak contact; plays well off angle of fastball; capable of dropping curveball in for strikes and changing eye levels; can turn over average changeup; moderate arm-side fade; throws strikes; capable of holding stuff deep into games.
Weaknesses: Stuff is more average to solid average across the board; relies heavy on pitching to weak contact; concerns on lack of bat-missing ability; lacks a wipeout secondary offering; fastball flattens out from middle of thighs and up; conditioning has been an issue in the past; delivery gets on the stiff and rigid side in stretches.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter/swing man
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; 32 starts in the upper levels; mature arsenal; pedestrian secondary stuff.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s really no reason to own Beck in a mixed league. There’s just not enough in the profile that spells a fantasy return, whether it’s the extremely weak strikeout rates, or the hittable nature of his repertoire.
The Year Ahead: Beck’s done little to bring any doubts toward the notion that he’s an arm trending towards reaching the major leagues, which appears likely to happen at some point in 2015 if he continues to prove he can handle the upper levels like he displayed this past season. The right-hander from Georgia shows feel for a four-pitch mix that he uses to keep hitters off-balance and has also demonstrated the ability to handle a meaty workload as a starter the past two full seasons since turning pro. The 24-year-old will set his sights on the International League this season, where the big test will be whether he can squeeze anything more out of his secondary arsenal to miss bats with more frequency. A brief taste of the level to close out 2014 offered an uptick in this department, but at the end of the day Beck is likely who he’s always been—an arm that can eat innings and limit damage by changing speeds and looks to induce weak contact. While it’s not a high or sexy ceiling, and there’s pressure on the more limited margin of error, things can play in the back of the rotation or in a swingman role out of the pen on a deeper pitching staff.
Major league ETA: 2015
7. Courtney Hawkins
What Happened in 2014: Hawkins rebounded from a disappointing first season in High-A, where the 21-year-old smacked 48 extra-base hits, but also continued to flash big swing and miss and offer concerns on the translation of the hit tool.
Strengths: Plus athlete; muscular build; thick lower half; well above-average raw power; excellent bat speed; creates strong leverage with swing; power plays to all fields; punishes mistake fastballs middle-in; runs well for size; arm for right field; strong makeup.
Weaknesses: Actions can be on the stiff side; some restriction in upper body due to bulk; shows too much swing and miss; swing gets long when trying to cover outer third; pitch recognition needs considerable refinement; approach is ultra-aggressive; lacks a plan at the plate; defense in center is below average (corner profile).
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular
Realistic Role: 4; below-average player
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach upper levels; huge gap between present and future.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The power may be tempting, but even if he makes it as a major-league starter, the batting average is going to really ugly up the overall value he provides. In an OBP league, it’s more palatable, but the name recognition far outpaces what he’s actually worth in dynasty leagues right now.
The Year Ahead: There were definitely improvements for Hawkins this past season in a return to the Carolina League that saw the outfielder produce more consistent hard contact and more of his natural raw power translate into game action. Still, the swing and miss as a result of his subpar pitch recognition and a crude approach at the plate leave strong concerns as to whether the hit tool is going to totally spoil the party against the more advanced arms at the next level and beyond. An assignment in Double-A awaits the muscular right-handed hitter in 2015, where the rubber is likely going to meet the road for the prospect in terms making tangible adjustments to tone things down at the plate and better combat breaking stuff. A typical plate appearance from Hawkins usually sees him pick on a fastball early in the count, and if it’s not put into play things start to spiral downhill once arms have the advantage of changing their looks. There’s plenty of raw power here and an ability to impact the ball when getting into favorable hitting conditions that suggest a power hitter can emerge with further honing of the secondary skills. It’s just becoming a tall order that the gap can be closed and evident that the shortcomings are likely to limit the overall end product.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
8. Carlos Sanchez
What Happened in 2014: Sanchez rebounded well in his second tour at Triple-A, where he flashed more of his trademark contact ability and continued showing his above-average defensive game, before a call to the big club began the learning process at the highest level.
Strengths: Advanced skills for age; feel for making contact; good bat speed from both sides; controls head of the bat well; loose hands; willing to use the whole field; picks up spin well; soft glove; fluid actions; always engaged in the game; strong makeup reports.
Weaknesses: Limited physical projection; average size; well below-average power; swing is geared to line-drive contact; impact of the bat is on the light side; arm comes up short at times on left side of infield; fits best at second base; profile is mostly glove.
Overall Future Potential: 5; average major leaguer
Realistic Role: High 4; utility player/second-division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; major-league ready; glove-first player.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you loved Freddy Sanchez, you might like Carlos Sanchez a little at first. But then you’ll realize that he’s not as natural of a hitter and he has far too much competition for near-term playing time and you’ll hit the trade market or free agency.
The Year Ahead: After a down 2013 campaign, the Venezuelan infielder showed much more comfort at the plate this past season in the International League, which culminated with Sanchez earning a look with Chicago to close out the year. The overall results during his 28-game foray in the bigs are fairly indicative of what to expect from the 22-year-old as a whole. While the bat is on the light side when it comes to the power department, there’s feel for the barrel and good contact ability as a result of hands that stay nicely inside of the baseball. The defense is the calling card here for the prospect, which can easily play as plus at second base thanks to soft hands, strong instincts, and clean actions all around. Sanchez also has the ability to slide over to the left side of the infield, though the arm limits things to more of a fill-in type. It’s second base if this player is to carve out a role as a regular. Prior to the acquisition of Emilio Bonifacio, it was believed that this season would see the youngster enter camp in a competition with fellow infield prospect Micah Johnson for the nod as the Opening Day second baseman. Further work proving he can manage plate appearances better against elite competition will go a long way to Sanchez winning the spot and also proving there’s enough consistency with the bat to hold down the position for the extended future.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014
9. Micah Johnson
What Happened in 2014: Johnson’s game continued to round towards major-league ready status in the system’s upper levels, though a hamstring injury nagged the player for much of the season before ultimately being shut down in mid-August and missing out on a chance for a call-up in the process with the trade of former incumbent Gordon Beckham.
Strengths: Excellent athlete; fast-twitch actions; plus-plus run; accelerates well out of the box; capable of impacting the game once on base; puts pressure on fielders; easy stroke; can square up velocity; will work the count; up-the-middle approach; shows some gap pop.
Weaknesses: Glove is below average; can struggle with reads at second; tends to rush; questions on future as infielder; may ultimately move to outfield; arm fits at keystone, but not enough for left side of infield or a corner; well below-average power; contact tends to be empty; can be neutralized with soft stuff; will lunge on front foot; fringy overall instincts.
Overall Future Potential: Low 5; second-division player
Realistic Role: High 4; bench option/below-average player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; major-league ready; elbow surgery on resume (amateur); questions on glove.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Johnson has actual speed, and is better from a fantasy standpoint than the four names ahead of him, but there’s a fair chance that he is going to lose the second base job to Emilio Bonifacio before he ever got it in the first place. He makes for a more interesting redraft reserve play than dynasty grab, given his ability to jump in and steal 30 bases at a moment’s notice.
The Year Ahead: If it weren’t for a lingering hamstring injury that dogged Johnson since a May stint on the disabled list, there’s a very real possibility the 24-year-old infielder would have spent the last six weeks of 2014 auditioning for the team’s second base position. While the speedy prospect was hampered in the field by the leg injury, with his range and actions affected at times, evaluators have been mixed on whether Johnson’s presently below-average glove is going to be up to par for handling the position full time. Some sources are more bullish on the player being a better fit in the outfield. Given the limited potential value of the glove, there’s a fair amount of pressure on the bat to perform, and subsequently the speed to really impact the game. It’ll come down to the player continuing to show he can manage plate appearances and put offerings into play hard enough as a result. The ceiling isn’t overly high here, with the likely outcome a utility player in the long run, but 2015 will serve as a chance to prove things can play a bit higher for the next few seasons.
Major league ETA: 2015
10. Jacob May
What Happened in 2014: The speedster spent the year in the pitcher friendly Carolina League, where the overall line was a bit mixed, but the outfielder flashed improvement managing counts and handling center field.
Strengths: Very good athlete; double-plus runner; speed shows in all aspects of the game; chance to impact on the bases; closes on the ball well in center; roams into both gaps well; plus range; compact stroke from both sides of the plate; feel for barrel; hands work well; flashes the makings of a patient approach; big-league bloodlines.
Weaknesses: Lacks physical projection; routes and judgment in center need work; arm is below average; won’t play in a corner; below-average power ceiling; will need to learn how to pick spots to combat quality arms; expands zone and chases stuff with break at times; left-handed stroke gets loose; reads off pitchers need work; effort and pace can play down.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; fourth outfielder/below-average player
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach upper levels; development of glove.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Any time you have a prospect with 70 speed, fantasy owners perk up their ears, but while May is an intriguing flier in deep leagues, there’s a ways to go here before we can consider him in anything remotely shallow. He’s a name to keep an eye on in 2015 though.
The Year Ahead: May is an intriguing prospect mainly based on his speed and defensive potential, but the switch-hitter does flash the type of stroke that lends thoughts to being capable of rounding into a line-drive contact bat down the line. At the peak, the soon-to-be 23-year-old offers potential as a top-of-the-order burner who can set the table for the thumpers that follow, disrupt on the bases, and become a favorite to the pitching staff for his ability to go get the ball in center field. It isn’t a potential impact profile, but helps set the offensive tone and provides strong defense at a premium position. There is some work to go for May to make the vision a reality though. While the routes and reads in center have been improving, the prospect can lapse for stretches and drift around rather than crisply hunt fly balls down. Technique consistency is imperative as the arm falls well short in a corner, and the future prospects for achieving status as a regular hinge on sticking in center. A likely assignment in Double-A to start 2015 will also be a strong test for the player to prove his approach is up to the task of handling higher quality arms, and that the stick is trending towards producing enough true contact to get on-base at an acceptable clip. There’s a major leaguer here, with some work, and one who can stick around for a while if the level of polish really starts to come with experience.
Major league ETA: 2017
Prospects on the Rise:
1. 3B Trey Michalczewski: The Oklahoma native possess the prototypical frame and size that tends to draw attention when discussing potential power-hitting third baseman. There’s also plenty of natural strength here just waiting to be tapped into. This past season was relatively mixed from a performance standpoint, but youth and a pretty swing from both sides of the plate represent strong allies for Michalczewski as the level of experience starts to build. The main aspect of near-term focus resides with the soon-to-be 20-year-old’s ability to pick up spin more quickly. This prospect will once again be age-advanced for his league in 2015, which makes things a careful study of experience level versus physical limitations in assessing the progress with the aforementioned need. A good showing being quicker with his trigger, along with not overcommitting his weight at the sight of every offering, will be solid signs things are starting to take, and push the status to a firm top-10 prospect in this system by next offseason.
2. RHP Nolan Sanburn: Acquired from Oakland in exchange for Adam Dunn at this past year’s waiver-deal deadline, this right-hander offers a potential power arsenal highlighted by a fastball that will work in the mid-90s and hard-breaking curveball that can miss bats. Sanburn also will throw the breaking ball harder for a slider look, while altering hitters’ timing via turning over a changeup with arm-side action as well. The profile would get a present status boost if the 23-year-old could sustain things in a starter’s role, but the lack of size is a concern when assessing whether he can handle the rigors of the long season in that capacity and a shoulder injury in early 2013 has led the former starter to work exclusively from the pen since returning that season. The organization may very well be inclined to give Sanburn an extended shot in the rotation again, with a quicker-tracking late-inning reliever as a definitive fall back if the stuff proves to play down too much. Either way, the Double-A litmus test awaits in 2015, where the feel here says he passes it with flying colors.
3. OF Micker Adolfo: While the stateside debut on paper wasn’t overly impressive, it is important to put into context that the Dominican import was playing in rookie ball this past summer at the ripe old age of 17 when most are gearing up for senior-year glory and to grace the halls as the “big man on campus.” Adolfo’s 6-foot-3 frame already shows signs of filling out, with a solid amount of present strength that makes batting practice sessions filled with towering fly balls and rising drives landing over the fence. The typical concerns exist for a player of this nature, including whether there is going to be progression with the hit tool for enough contact to happen and the associated gains needed with developing a pro approach. A lottery ticket for sure, but one with the type of fluid swing from the right side and early feel for the game to start showing the type of progress to affirm top-10 status in the near future.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)
1. 3B Matt Davidson: The wheels completely feel off the tracks for the third baseman this past season in an ugly display at Triple-A that saw him fail to hit above the Mendoza line and fan at an accelerated clip. Davidson did flash some of the home-run power he is known for, but it’s tough seeing anything other than a return trip to the International League to start this year. Still, if the soon-to-be 24-year-old can channel prior form during the early portion of the season and regain offensive traction in the process, the chance very well exists he can push right back into the picture at the hot corner for the big club. There are times when the difference between failure and success is only the slightest adjustment, especially in a grinding mental game like this. The swing and miss may very well be the limiting factor here, but based on prior track record and solid reports on the work ethic a reemergence as a potential average regular is achievable.
2. C Kevan Smith: It’s been a modest progression in terms of speed through the chain for the backstop despite coming out of the University of Pittsburgh back in 2011, but Smith will enter Triple-A this season looking to build off of a strong 2014 campaign that saw him finish out the year in the prospect rich Arizona Fall League. The ceiling isn’t overly high here, with the profile in line with a potential backup, but with the overall nature of the position, there is a chance he can stick in that type of role for some time. Given his background as a former college quarterback, the expectation that the 26-year-old can throw is an accurate one. The arm plays as about plus behind the dish, with a quicker release and solid accuracy down to second. The overall defense is still a bit unrefined and inconsistent though, so some improvement shown this season will go a long way to instilling confidence he can handle the position should the need arise for the team during the summer.
3. RHP Michael Ynoa: The developmental road hasn’t gone quite as planned for this former multi-million dollar Dominican signee, with the majority of the career to date dotted with injuries and struggles putting any type of consistent string of positive results together. A change of scenery can go a long way as a jump start for a player, and that’s exactly what Ynoa now has in being acquired by Chicago as part of the deal that brings Jeff Samardzjia to the south side of the city. It may be more of longer shot that the right-hander gets an extended chance to contribute in 2015, but don’t rule out that the 23-year-old can’t ride the wave all the way up to the big club’s bullpen on the strength of his mid-90s heater and more consistently plus curveball. It certainly wouldn’t be the outcome that the promise suggested years ago, and there are still concerns about the player’s level of buy-in, but the chance taken by the organization may pay off with a late-innings fixture for a handful of seasons.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
The graduations of Chris Sale, who missed our deadline by a day, and Jose Quintana thin out the White Sox 25 and under talent list quite a bit. There is some help on the way with two potential impact players in Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon. Both of those players highlight how recent drafts have started to turn the boat around on an organization that was recently rated dead last in terms of overall health. The White Sox have found success of late when mining Latin American talent, including their Cuban imports, who have yielded high returns. This is a trend that will have to continue, especially in the short term, as they have limited draft resources to work with due to the free agent signings of David Roberston and Melky Cabrera costing them their second- and third-round draft picks.
Avisail Garcia has reached a familiar crossroads for physically gifted players who’ve yet to tap into what is perceived to be their true potential. A labrum fracture threatened to cut short his entire 2014 campaign in early April. However, Garcia healed quickly and came back in August, finishing the year with 190 plate appearances and the same questions we have about what his production will be at the highest level. Defensively, he’s fine. Garcia has more range than you’d think by looking at his massive frame and has a true right-fielder’s arm. The offensive game needs more polish and missing a big chunk of the season last year certainly doesn’t help things. His lack of zone control makes it possible that his 2014 line (.244/.305/.413) is the most likely outcome for future production, as the hit tool will play down because of his desire to try to hit everything thrown his way. The possibility for more remains and his birthday is still friendly to his cause, but we still have only an abstract idea of what he can be. The mid-20s are usually the time when more starts being asked of people, and baseball players are no exception. It’s time for him to produce.
Erik Johnson, once a top 101 prospect, lost a lot of his 2013 shine with a poor season across the major and minor leagues. His velocity dipped, as did the sharpness of his stuff, and he was eventually shut down in mid-August with shoulder fatigue. The arrow is pointing down here, but Johnson is still a wild card in an organization that could use another solid RHP in their rotation.
The White Sox are pursuing contention aggressively in 2015, and while it may hurt them in this June's draft, it has left them with a roster that looks to be immediately competitive. It’s possible that both Rodon and Francellis Montas find themselves with major roles on the White Sox roster as soon as mid-season. As an organization, the White Sox appear to be moving in the right direction. –Mauricio Rubio
A Parting Thought: This system is definitely on the rise thanks to recent drafts and shrewder international pursuits, with the front starting to shine with some potential impact and contributor-type talents, though things start to drop off quickly when assessing the overall depth.