The State of the System: The prospects have arrived. There’s more to come. And yet, and yet… well, this isn’t a state of the “organization” I guess. The system is still good.
The Top Ten:
- Eloy Jimenez, OF
- Nick Madrigal, IF
- Michael Kopech, RHP
- Dylan Cease, RHP
- Luis Robert, OF
- Dane Dunning, RHP
- Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
- Blake Rutherford, OF
- Alec Hansen, RHP
- Micker Adolfo, OF
1. Eloy Jimenez, OF
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed August 2013 out of the Dominican Republic by the Chicago Cubs for $2.8 million; acquired from the Cubs in 2017 for Jose Quintana.
Previous Ranking(s): #1 (Org), #6 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: .355/.399/.597, 12 HR, 0 SB in 55 games at Triple-A Charlotte; .317/.368/.556, 10 HR, 0 SB in 53 games at Double-A Birmingham
The Report: The only things that could slow Jimenez down in 2018 were minor pectoral and hip injuries. When he was on the field he mashed. While never a hitter that needed to sell out to get his 80-grade raw power into games, the assumption was that Jimenez would start to have the usual power hitter swing-and-miss issues in the upper minors. That did not happen. While it doesn’t radically alter the projection—we postulated he could be a plus hitter the last two seasons—it does make us a bit more confident that he’ll reach the upper bounds of the OFP below. He’s not going to win a batting title, but he’s shown enough with the bat now to make us think he could win a home run crown.
Jimenez looks like a left fielder at the highest level—and not an asset there—so as we’ve intoned before, he will have to hit. But the only thing keeping him from proving it in the majors was Chicago’s
attempts at service time manipulation insistence that he needed further work on his outfield defense. We don’t think it’s getting all that much better. We also don’t think it will matter much in the end.
OFP 70—Perennial All-Star left fielder
Likely 60—Plus regular who makes a few All-Star Games
The Risks: Low. He’s hit in the upper minors. The top-of-the-scale raw is making its way into games. He probably should have been up already, but that’s now one for the courts to decide, maybe.
Major league ETA: 2019, likely shortly after the clawback date
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Hey now, this is what ya came for. Jimenez is far and away the best fantasy prospect we’ve discussed so far, and that’s because he’s on the short list of best fantasy prospects in the game. Worst case, Jimenez figures to be a top-25 outfielder in the mold of a modern day Justin Upton who hits 30-plus bombs with a tolerable average. If he really clicks, we could be talking about more of a top-10 outfielder who mashes .280-plus with closer to 40 bombs, a la vintage Nelson Cruz. Either way, you’ll be happy you own him for years to come.
2. Nick Madrigal, IF
Height/Weight: 5’7” / 165 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted fourth overall in the 2018 draft, Oregon State University; signed for $6,411,400.
Previous Ranking(s): NR
2018 Stats: .306/.355/.347, 0 HR, 6 SB in 26 games at High-A Winston-Salem; .341/.347/.409, 0 HR, 2 SB in 12 games at Low-A Kannapolis; .154/.353/.154, 0 HR, 0 SB in 5 games for the AZL White Sox
The Report: If you are reading this blurb, you are the type of high-info fan who doesn’t need me to tell you that Nick Madrigal was the best pure hitter in the 2018 draft class. So let’s pose a question: Is Nick Madrigal an 8 hit? Granted, the connotation is more “should you give Nick Madrigal an 8 hit?” The scale only works if you use all of it, as KG used to write, but I’m more comfortable giving an 8 OFP than an 8 hit. You can’t replicate major-league stuff, scouting, and sequencing in the minors, and you certainly won’t do it in the Pac-12.
However, you can see Madrigal’s elite barrel control. You might notice he struck out five times in 173 pro plate appearances coming off a full college season where he struck out seven times in 201 PA. It’s not a metal bat swing, and there’s present 4 raw power here despite his frame. He’ll sting baseballs in the gap, and you’d think all that raw would get into play eventually. The White Sox are enthusiastic about moving him to shortstop, and he may have the hands and range for the 6—he’s a plus-plus runner—but his arm likely won’t allow him to make all the throws you want from a major-league shortstop. A plus second base glove isn’t a bad fallback though, nor are “the lesser Altuve seasons” as a reasonable projection. I guess I never really answered the question I asked at the outset, did I?
OFP 70—All-star middle infielder if some power comes
Likely 60—First-division second baseman if it doesn’t
The Risks: Low. There may not be enough power in the profile to be an impact bat in the end—famous last words nowadays—but Madrigal was the safest bet to hit major-league pitching in his draft class and immediately became one of the safest bets in the minors as well. David Lee likened him to “a major leaguer on rehab” when he saw him in A-ball this summer.
Major league ETA: Could be late 2019 if the White Sox push him, so pencil in second half 2020.
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Aren’t you just so, so tired of every short middle infielder getting compared to Dustin Pedroia? I mean, Pedroia isn’t even the game’s preeminent short middle infielder at this point! It’s so annoying. Anyway, uhh, Pedroia hit .305/.372/.457 with an average of 16 bombs and 20 steals per season from 2007-2013. Add a few more steals, and that’s likely what we’re looking at in Madrigal, who’s already got a pretty solid case as a top-15 dynasty league prospect.
3. Michael Kopech, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’3” 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 33rd overall but the Boston Red Sox in the 2014 Draft, Mount Pleasant HS (Mount Pleasant, TX); signed for $1.5 million. Acquired from Boston for Chris Sale.
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (Org), #17 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: 5.02 ERA, 6.84 DRA, 14 ⅓ IP, 20 H, 2 BB, 15 K in four games for the Chicago White Sox; 3.70 ERA, 5.19 DRA, 126 ⅓ IP, 101 H, 60 BB, 170 K in 24 games at Triple-A Charlotte
The Report: Kopech had another frustrating season, although for slightly different reasons than we’re used to with him. At the end of 2017 there was a #narrative that Kopech was taking a little off of his triple-digit fastball to improve his command, prompting speculation that that adjustment explained his dominant second half. Kopech didn’t carry it over into 2018 though, and was back to his Wild Thing ways until August, when he posted a 36:1 K:BB ratio and was called up to Chicago.
Then came the torn UCL. 2019 will be a lost season for Kopech, his most frustrating yet. That’s all plot, but the story hasn’t changed significantly. Kopech still has an elite fastball flanked by a potential plus-plus slider that has led to video game minor league K-rates. His change may actually have gone from “improving” to “improved,” although it still isn’t a significant part of his repertoire. The problem here is that he’s just never showed the ability to throw enough strikes to hit his lofty ceiling for more than one- or two-month bursts. That’s better than never doing it at all, but it still leaves us with the same control/command questions on top of the new Tommy John recovery questions. The TJ might accelerate a move to the pen for Kopech, but 18 months can change many things in baseball. For now, all we’ll do is bump his risk factor.
OFP 70—No. 2 starter or elite relief ace
Likely 55—No. 3/4 starter or second division closer
The Risks: High. The “not everyone comes back 100% from Tommy John” caveat aside, Kopech does not have much of a track record of throwing enough strikes or enough good strikes to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. Check back in 2020.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I stood my ground on Kopech last year, holding firm to the notion that he was a top-5 dynasty league pitching prospect even when the going got rough. Unfortunately, there’s no real way for me to make that argument now that Kopech is likely 18 months away from any sort of meaningful fantasy contribution. It’s still reasonable to hope that Kopech blossoms into a high-WHIP, high-strikeout fantasy starter a la Chris Archer, but there are quite a few red flags at this point. Hold on to him if you’ve got him, but don’t look to aggressively trade for him either.
4. Dylan Cease, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 Draft, Milton HS (Milton, GA); signed for $1.5 million. Acquired via trade from the Chicago Cubs.
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org ), #47 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: 1.72 ERA, 2.75 DRA, 52 ⅓ IP, 30 H, 22 BB, 78 K in 10 games at Double-A Birmingham; 2.89 ERA, 2.86 DRA, 71 ⅔ IP 28 BB, 82 K in 13 games at High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: It feels like we’ve been waiting a very long time to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station. After years of caution from both sides of Chi-Town, the White Sox unleashed Cease in the spring, letting him throw full starts on a fairly regular rest cycle. He responded brilliantly, showing off his full arsenal, including an improved slider and change to go along with a fastball and curve combo that both rank among the better pitches in the minors.
OFP 70—Top of the rotation starter or elite reliever
Likely 55—Good pitcher in some role or another, limited by durability
The Risks: High—similar to Kopech’s, actually. Cease’s health record is spotty at best: Tommy John around draft time, some shoulder soreness here, arm fatigue there. His 23 starts and 124 innings in 2018 both represent career-highs, and that’s still a good pace off an MLB starter’s workload in his fourth full pro season. He might end up being more of a good candidate for the Josh Hader high-leverage multi-inning reliever role than a starter’s role, even in a higher-end outcome.
Major league ETA: Mid-to-late 2019. —Jarrett Seidler
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take:
5. Luis Robert, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed May 2017 by the White Sox out of Cuba for $26 million.
Previous Ranking(s): #5 (Org), #55 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: .244/.317/.309, 0 HR, 8 SB in 32 games at High-A Winston-Salem; .289/.360/.400, 0 HR, 4 SB in 13 games at Low-A Kannapolis; .389/.389/.611, 0 HR, 3 SB in 5 games for the AZL White Sox
The Report: The international man of mystery… wasn’t really healthy enough to solve much of the mystery, was he? Limited by thumb and knee problems, he never made it out of A-ball and didn’t hit much when he was on the field. Sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost reps, he promptly pulled his hamstring. When healthy, he’s shown off the high-end speed and hit potential that prompted the White Sox to give him so much money in the first place. Despite uncertainty about the shape of his future performance, there’s enough bat speed and control here to give him a real shot to hit for average. He’s flashed significant raw power too, but that aspect hasn’t quite made it to 7 PM yet. He should comfortably stick in center, perhaps even excelling there.
OFP 60—First-division center fielder
Likely 50—A fine starting outfielder, but not a star like his bonus might suggest
The Risks: He’s a speed guy who keeps hurting his legs. Like last year, we still suspect the underlying tools are there for him to shoot up our lists, but we’ll continue to hedge until he puts together a sustained run of health and offensive performance.
Major league ETA: 2020, give or take a year. —Jarrett Seidler
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If Robert’s injury history prevents him from running a ton or keeps him off the field, obviously that’s a big fantasy issue. But people tend to discount just how much rope stealing bases gives a fantasy player: Only 11 players swiped more than 30 bags last season, and only another 17 swiped 20-plus. Let’s assume a healthy Robert’s floor is something like Ender Inciarte 2018: .265 with 10 bombs and 28 steals with 83 runs scored. That was still enough to qualify as the 21st best outfielder in 5×5 leagues, per ESPN’s player rater. Robert is still super valuable, is what we’re saying. Be patient.
6. Dane Dunning, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 29th overall in the 2016 draft, University of Florida, signed for $2 million. Acquired via trade from the Washington Nationals.
Previous Ranking(s): #7 (Org), #89 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: 2.76 ERA, 3.60 DRA, 62 IP, 57 H, 23 BB, 69 K in 11 games at Double-A Birmingham; 2.59 ERA, 3.46 DRA, 24 ⅓ IP, 20 H, 3 BB, 31 K in 4 games at High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: I’ll grouse a lot in these column inches over the coming months about needing new ways to describe mid-rotation projections. Regardless, Dunning might just be the template for this profile. His body is built to log innings—”eyes of doe and thighs of stallion” as Los Campesinos! sing—with an easy delivery and relatively compact arm action that portends at least average command of four at least average pitches. His fastball is a low-90s heavy sinker with wicked armside run. Dunning spots it to both sides, and when he’s locating well armside he might as well be playing catch. The movement and command make the velocity play up, and you could call it a potential plus fastball without raising my hackles.
The secondaries all settle in between average and solid-average. Dunning offers two different breaking ball looks: An 11-5 big breaking curve that shows a bit early, but that he commands well, and a shorter mid-80s slider that almost looks cutterish at times. His feel for the change can come and go, but it flashes plus with good sink and fade when he gets it in to lefties. There’s no clear major-league bat misser, but everything works, and everything works well off each other. Everything was humming along for Dunning in 2018, and he might have even seen big-league time in September if not for a sprained elbow that put him on the shelf for the entire second half of the season. Pitchers, man.
OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—No. 4 starter
The Risks: Medium. Dunning is throwing again with no issues, but “elbow sprain” is always going to make me dramatically tug at my collar in a Vaudevillian way. Beyond that, this profile is carried at least in part by pitch mix and command, and that doesn’t always get fully sussed out until major-league bats get involved.
Major league ETA: Assuming no further arm issues, late 2019.
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Dunning has proximity on his side, but upside and that elbow sprain are two pretty big strikes against him. Do I prefer him to many of the other dozen-plus mid-rotation starters who could be pitching by July? Yes. Does that make him a lock for the top-101? No, but if he misses it won’t be by much.
7. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
Height/Weight: 6’0” 160 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed by the Boston Red Sox August 2012 out of Venezuela for $450,000; acquired from the Red Sox for Chris Sale.
Previous Ranking(s): Next Ten (Org)
2018 Stats: .251/.340/.394, 6 HR, 9 SB in 61 games at Double-A Birmingham; .266/.370/.502, 9 HR, 7 SB in 58 games at High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: Basabe began 2018 where he ended 2017, in High-A Winston-Salem. In his first go-around, the athletic outfielder didn’t display much power and scuffled through an injury-laden campaign that finally ended when he got surgery to repair his left meniscus. 2018 was a different story, as a healthy Basabe looked more comfortable and showed a much better approach.
At the plate, Basabe uses a moderate leg kick to create plenty of torque from his lower half, and that’s something that just wasn’t there the year before. It’s a sweet pull-happy swing from the left side, and there’s above-average raw power in the bat from that side of the dish. He was listed at just 160 pounds last year, so he has room to add weight.
Basabe’s ultimate value will be shaped by his defensive home, and I’m fairly optimistic he’ll be able to stick in center. He tracks the ball well and takes a good first step, though his routes could use a little work. The arm is above-average and would play up in a corner spot, but he’ll have every opportunity to make it work in center. While he didn’t have the same kind of offensive performance in Double-A as he did in Winston-Salem, he looked healthy again and it was a positive season overall.
OFP 50—Solid center fielder with some speed to boot
Likely 40—Remains rail thin and ends up at a corner spot
The Risks: High. The swing can get a little long, with a mild bat wrap that sometimes hinders his ability to get the stick through the zone. If he can’t play center, he loses value and perhaps winds up in a reserve role. —Victor Filoromo
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Basabe is a better IRL prospect than a fantasy one, but he’s not without his uses in our world. The hope is he ends up as a solid all-around contributor and fantasy OF4/5 once he grows into a little more power. The fear is that he becomes the type of generic 20-homer threat who’s only interesting if he’s playing every day. Still, if you held on to him after his miserable 2017, his stock is trending up.
8. Blake Rutherford, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 195 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 18th overall in the 2016 Draft, Chaminade College Preparatory School (West Hills, CA); signed for $3.28 million. Acquired from the New York Yankees for David Robertson.
Previous Ranking(s): #8 (Org), #90 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: .293/.345/.436, 8 HR, 15 SB in 115 games at High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: Rutherford makes fairly consistent contact from the left side of the plate, with quick hands and a fluid swing without a lot of pre-pitch noise. He’s always had an advanced feel at the plate, and he’s able to get ahead in counts and drive the ball into the gaps. For now, power isn’t a huge part of his game. He’s still young and still learning his body, and you’d naturally expect him to add some weight as he matures. If he can incorporate more lift in the swing it would be easier to project him as a future 20-homer guy.
It’s also worth mentioning that Rutherford has struggled with southpaws throughout his minor league career. While he saw time at all three outfield spots this season, the majority of it was in right field. A corner spot may suit him best, as his average arm and solid-average speed are perhaps a bit short of requirements in center, particularly if he gets bigger.
OFP 50—Solid-average regular, corner outfielder
Likely 40—Platoon bat, plays against righties only
The Risks: High. As Rutherford grows into his body, he’s less likely to stay in center. Could a team put him there? Sure. But he’s going to be better suited as a corner outfielder, and if his power doesn’t develop, he’s going to be a tweener. Factor in the concerns against left-handed pitching, and there are an awful lot of variables in the profile. —Victor Filoromo
Major league ETA: Late 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Basically you’re hoping for Stephen Piscotty as a best-case outcome here. That gives Rutherford a pretty modest ceiling, but I like his odds of hitting it more than most. A potential very back-end of the top-101 guy for me, though it’s likely he falls short in favor of higher upside dudes. Still, if you held on for his rough 2017 second-half, good job.
9. Alec Hansen, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 235 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 49th overall by the White Sox in the 2016 Draft, University of Oklahoma, signed for $1,284,500.
Previous Ranking(s): #3 (Org), #40 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: 6.56 ERA, 5.98 DRA, 35 ⅔ IP, 30 H, 42 BB, 35 K in 9 games for Double-A Birmingham; 5.74 ERA, 4.48 DRA, 15 ⅔ IP, 14 H, 17 BB, 20 K in 5 games for High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: Oof. There’s a player development maxim that once a player shows a particular ability, he can always rediscover it. This might run the other way for Hansen, in that his 2016 implosion in college shows that it can all fall apart for him at any time. Hansen came down with the dreaded forearm tightness in spring training, didn’t show up on a field until June, and was beyond terrible upon his return. He struggled mightily to throw strikes, and after consecutive starts of six, nine, and seven walks in Double-A, he was demoted back to High-A. He wasn’t much better there, failing to make it to the fifth inning in any of his five starts and walking more than he struck out. We’re still ranking him because there’s still a big fastball and breaking ball kicking around somewhere in there, and he has an injury excuse. But he’s gotta get back on track.
OFP 50—The command gets better enough for him to be an adequate starter or good reliever
Likely 40—The command only gets better enough for him to be a fringe starter or adequate reliever
The Risks: Extreme. Well, if he keeps on the present track with the whole balls and strikes thing he’s never going to reach the majors. Forearm stuff generally isn’t great for a pitcher. There was lots of reliever risk here anyway, and it would not surprise me at all if he gets it together in the pen and even becomes dominant, a la Dellin Betances. Both the positive and negative risk probably aren’t quite captured in the OFP/likely scale.
Major league ETA: Over/under is probably around early-2020, but there’s a lot of variance here. —Jarrett Seidler
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I’d rather roll the dice on someone like Hansen than on any of the myriad back-end starter types who appear at this junction on lists for lesser farm systems. That’s a bit of a false choice though, and while Hansen should be owned if your league rosters 150-plus prospects, he’s really just a lottery ticket. For our purposes, his best odds at sustained success may come as a closer.
10. Micker Adolfo, OF
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2, 2013 out of the Dominican Republic for $1,600,000.
Previous Ranking(s): Next Ten (Org)
2018 Stats: .282/.369/.464, 11 HR, 2 SB in 79 games at High-A Winston-Salem
The Report: Adolfo’s injury log is staggeringly long for a 22-year-old position player. Ankle and hand issues bothered him in 2015 and 2016, and then his 2017 was cut short after he punched a wall and fractured his hand. This year, he labored through a torn flexor muscle and strained UCL until July, when the White Sox shut him down so he could undergo Tommy John surgery. His 2018 maladies kept him away from the outfield and limited him to DH duties.
Adolfo has plus raw power, and between the loft in the swing and his considerable upper-body strength, he gets to it pretty often in games. He doesn’t have a great feel for contact and there will be some swing and miss in his game, but his eye is improving and he’s chasing fewer pitches out of the zone these days. He’ll have to continue to make adjustments to pick up off-speed stuff, but damn it, he’ll hit mistakes and he’s got a cannon for an arm; there are usable tools in the shed.
OFP 50 —Corner outfielder with plus arm, 30-homer guy
Likely 40—Bench bat with holes in swing
The Risks: Very High. The injury bug has bit Adolfo in some way in each of the last four years. While he finished the year at High-A, he’s also going to be 23 in September of 2019, so you’d like to see some sort of progress next season. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to return from Tommy John, but when he does, he needs to stay in the lineup. —Victor Filoromo
Major league ETA: 2021
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: He could be interesting if he ends up getting regular playing time, but that’s a pretty big if at this point. Frankly, it’s not too difficult to find guys like this on the waiver wire even in super deep leagues. You can pass.
The Next Five:
11. Zack Collins, C (Double-A Birmingham)
I got a chat question this summer about Collins 2018 season so far, and described it as “holding serve.” The combination of his long, leveraged swing and good eye at the plate has kept him on the three true outcome slugger path, which would make him an easy top ten guy in this system if we thought he was even passable at catcher. But Collins still struggles with his receiving and spent a significant amount of time in Birmingham as a DH (FWIW, our advanced catching metrics had him as one of the worst framers in Double-A). Collins has a strong arm, but there is a lot of bulk to get going, and his throwing mechanics aren’t always clean. Teams are far less willing to play this type of profile behind the plate these days, and it’s possible that Collins just isn’t playable in the majors as a backstop. The bat won’t be quite good enough to carry first base, so while strictly speaking he’s a 5/4 type profile, the actual variance here is much larger.
12. Luis Gonzalez, OF (Advanced-A Winston Salem)
Gonzalez has perceived makeup concerns—which may partially explain why he fell to the third round in the 2017 draft—but his on-field performance in 2018 offers little to quibble with. He has one of those sweet lefty swings and hits line drives line to line. There’s enough loft in the swing to project average game pop, and Gonzalez stays in well against lefties. He’s splitting time between center and the corners at present, and to be honest he doesn’t exactly have a lower half that screams “up the middle” player. Gonzalez also mashed at levels you’d expect a college bat to mash at. The offensive profile still may be good enough to carry an everyday corner outfield spot, but we’ll know more when the polished New Mexico product gets his first taste of Double-A next season.
HAMILTON: Pardon me, are you relief pitcher Ryan Burr, sir?
I’m Ian Hamilton, flamethrowing reliever at your service, sir
God, I wish we put up more WAR
Then we could prove we’re worth more than we’re collectively bargained for
BURR: Fastball less, slider more
Okay, so usually I run out of ways to describe fastball/slider college closers much later in the offseason. Hamilton is the slightly harder-throwing one, and Burr is the taller one. They’re close friends and remarkably similar prospects on the whole. Both blew us all away in Double-A and Triple-A this year, and both came up in August and struggled a bit in the majors. Usual caveats about command and functionality of third pitch from this profile also apply if they’re going to stay in the room where it happens. The Hahn administration has built a lot of potential high-end reliever stock, so it remains to be seen whether the White Sox bullpen is wide enough for both. And yes, they’re in on the joke. —Jarrett Seidler/Lin-Manuel Miranda
14. Jake Burger, 3B (Did not play)
The Double Stack took a double thwack to his 2018 season. Two achilles ruptures, the first in spring training, the second while rehabbing, cost him an entire year of development. Burger was already a large adult son—check that nickname again—and likely bound for the cold corner in the medium term, but the injuries will certainly accelerate that process. There’s enough uncertainty in his pro career in general now that you could argue for dropping him off the list entirely, but… well, we really like the bat.
15. Seby Zavala, C (Triple-A Charlotte)
While BP’s website wants to autocorrect this guy’s name to “Sexy Zavala,” there is nothing in the profile here that suggests such nominative determinism. Zavala is… well, “Zack-Collins-lite” isn’t precisely correct. He’s a superior defender to Collins—one of the reasons he was bumped to the International League first—but not so good that you’d want him as your first choice backstop. The bat isn’t quite as loud as Collins, and backup backstops nowadays don’t fit the “medium-power, fringy glove” profile that was all the rage in the 2000s; where have you gone, Henry Blanco? Zavala also isn’t athletic enough to be a “jack-of-all-trades-and-also-a-catcher,” which is en vogue on the north side of town. So we’re left with a bit of a square peg prospect, although at a quick glance he might appear like many of the fringy catching prospects in most teams’ 11-20.
Others of note:
The Lefty with a change-up
Bernardo Flores, LHP (Double-A Birmingham)
Flores is an uptempo southpaw with a high leg kick and hand break that sends his lean limbs in a bunch of different directions. It looks gangly but its deceptive, he repeats well, and there isn’t pronounced effort at any point. His fastball only sits low-90s, but Flores puts it where he wants and can change eye levels effectively. As you might have deduced from the lead-in, the changeup has above-average projection. He sells it well and can get it in to righties with sink and fade. He has two breaking balls—a slow, inconsistent curve that rolls across the plate and a slurvy slider—and both are below average. Flores doesn’t really have a consistent bat-missing option, but there’s enough command and change he could soak up some innings as a 5th starter/swingman/middle reliever.
We don’t usually write about One True Outcome Guys
Gavin Sheets, 1B (Advanced-A Winston-Salem)
Last year Sheets clocked in the Next Ten as a college first baseman with plus raw, not much of a pro track record, and a positional future that would put a lot of pressure on the bat. These are almost as common as polished lefties with an above-average change. As much as we love Big Boy SZN here at the BP Prospect Team, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as those crafty lefties, and in 2018 Sheets couldn’t even offer much in the way of majestic dingers. Despite a leveraged swing and only average bat speed, he also didn’t strike out all that much. He did, however, take 52 walks. Given his pedigree, he should have smashed the Carolina League, but after a weird season, for now we can just say there is still a lot of pressure on the bat.
The Factor on the Farm
Zack Burdi, RHP (complex-league AZL)
Burdi has fallen behind the other power relief arms in the White Sox org while he sat on the sidelines rehabbing his 2017 Tommy John surgery. But there is a reason he went in the first round as a relief-only college arm. Burdi offers triple-digit heat, a wipeout slider, and he was essentially major-league-ready when his UCL blew. His few weeks of rehab in the AZL were uneven, as you’d expect, and he’s getting some extra reps in Fall Ball as well. We’ll have to wait to see him in camp next spring before confirming the closer stuff is still there, but if so he could walk into the White Sox Opening Day bullpen. Yep, that’s all I got. I’ve never seen Hamilton.
Top Talents 25 and Under:
- Eloy Jimenez
- Tim Anderson
- Yoan Moncada
- Nick Madrigal
- Michael Kopech
- Dylan Cease
- Luis Robert
- Reynaldo Lopez
- Dane Dunning
- Luis Alexander Basabe
The top three are already major league contributors or very close to it. Jimenez’s superstar potential far outweighs the already productive if not quite finished products that are Anderson and Moncada.
Anderson over Moncada was a tough call, but the placement says more about the strides the former made in 2018 than the latter’s perceived struggles. Anderson’s essentially league-average offense in 2017 made him … well, essentially a league-average player, especially given how well his glove has come along at short. He paired a sterling defensive season with essentially the same offensive production as ever, albeit with a considerable leap in the power department. As a sure-handed defender at a key position with adequate offense and solid power, he gets the edge.
Moncada hasn’t yet matured into the type of player many expected when he was a top prospect. Still, his league-leading strikeout total obscures some growth at the plate, particularly in eschewing pitches outside of the strike zone (18th best among qualified hitters). Even with his contact issues last year, he still showed enough of the tools people once raved about to portend a career as a very good regular, even if he doesn’t look like a superstar.
Kopech likely would have ranked No. 2 on this list if he hadn’t torn his UCL, which will keep him out until 2020. He slots in right behind Madrigal, the White Sox top pick in the 2018 draft. Madrigal more than held his own in High-A in the few months we saw of him following the draft. Kopech still has the higher ceiling, but arm injuries to pitchers are … well, you know.
The back five falls right in line with the prospect rankings above, with Lopez sandwiched in the middle. Lopez was just about the only young White Sox pitcher to not suffer any significant setback in 2018. He outpitched his peripherals for most of the season and showed enough durability to suggest he can stick in the rotation. He likely settles in as something of a backend starter, which limits his ceiling to the point where I’m comfortable putting talented but volatile prospects like Cease and Robert ahead of him. Still, his raw stuff—even if it winds up in the bullpen—is good enough to outweigh the high floor/low ceiling types like Dunning (who also missed time with an injury) and Basabe. —Collin Whitchurch
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now