|Original Published Date: October 24, 2017|
The White Sox have taken a chapter out of the Houston Astros and have gone through a difficult rebuilding process that should result in a contender for years to come. As the Astros discovered, it will come with pain at the major league level but the talent they have assembled is quite impressive.
Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech are top 20 prospects in the game and have a chance to be impact performers as soon as next season. Despite an inconsistent season, Blake Rutherford’s upside is still quite high. And then there is Luis Robert; the White Sox big Cuban signee. While he’s young, the upside is quite impressive.
It’s quite a list and could have been even better if Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito were still eligible. When will they start winning? 2019 would be my guess.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 OF
The ability for teams to evaluate players has improved to the point that we are surprised when a team misses on a player. That evaluation excellence has now extended to teams ability to identify 16-year-old Latin kids that have a chance to become stars in a decade.
You can look no further than the Cubs acquisition of Eloy Jimenez in 2013 for an impressive $2.8 million dollar and the level of skills he is showing at 20-years-old. To their credit, the Cubs handled him with kid gloves, moving him one level at a time. In turn, he excelled and then got traded to the White Sox, the Cubs crosstown rivals.
While the White Sox started him off in High-A, after 29 games and an OPS of 1.092, they had seen enough and promoted him to Double-A. He did pretty well there as well, posting a .956 OPS in 18 games.
Scouting Report: Jimenez has the profile to be a power hitting right-fielder in the major leagues. At a projectable 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Jimenez is still growing into his body and we are just beginning to see his strength match his physical size. When it does, he projects to have plus in-game power with a chance to hit 30 plus home runs annually.
He doesn’t currently control the strike zone well but as he matures and develops, his aggressive approach should be tapered. However, he’s always likely to swing and miss a lot but with a trade-off of double-plus power. While he currently has average speed, that likely will not remain as he fills out. Until then, he could steal high single-digit stolen bases annually.
Fantasy Impact: Jimenez is one of the best prospects in the game and should, therefore, be owned in all Dynasty League formats. While it’s hard to project more than 30 home run power, given the production we are seeing in the major leagues today, he could easily hit 40 or more bombs annually. The ceiling is an all-star performer with a chance to compete annually as the top home run producer in the game with a .260 batting average and 5 to 8 stolen bases.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Fantasy Ace or Lockdown closer
As with many of the players on this list, Michael Kopech arrived in Chicago through a high profile trade. I think it’s safe to say, he did not disappoint in his inaugural season in the White Sox system. The highlight for me was his brief but powerful performance in the Futures Game in Miami where he easily hit triple-digits and dominated in his one inning. While the upside is a top-of-the-rotation starter, the Futures game gave a glimpse of what he could be if he moved to the back of the bullpen.
Scouting Report: Kopech has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues. Everyone knows about the easy 100 MPH plus fastball, but the pitch has natural cutting action and just explodes out of his hand. By the way, I write that phrase all the time…” explodes out of his hand”, I know it’s cliché, but I’m trying to relate the movement. It’s not straight and batters struggle picking up the movement. While most fastballs are not meant to be swing and miss pitches, this one is.
He complements his fastball with a hard slider that also is not picked up well. The change-up is clearly his third pitch but has taken a step-up since 2016 and looks like it will grade out as at least an average offering.
The area of concern continues to be Kopech’s control. He just doesn’t throw consistent strikes as was demonstrated by his well over three walks per nine last season. It’s a problem that has derailed many elite pitching prospects before him (see Tyler Glasnow), the athleticism and determination are there. While there will be struggles early in his career, I think he figures it out and becomes a dominant pitcher at the highest level.
Fantasy Impact: Kopech is far from a finished product but the arm is special and he could be a force in fantasy. If his control improves, he has ace potential. If it doesn’t, he could be an elite closer. For fantasy owners, it’s a win-win situation.
Highest Level: DSL, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 OF
The White Sox won the Luis Robert sweepstakes last spring which cost them a cool $26 million dollars plus another $12 million in penalties. From all accounts, they had to go that high as a number of other teams were bidding aggressively for the 6-foot-3 Cuban outfielder. The big question is will it be worth the investment.
The hype surrounding Robert was equal to that of fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada. While Moncada worked his way to the top of our prospect rankings, I’m not sure Robert will. He’s clearly got tremendous tools, but he lacks the explosive speed of Moncada; unfortunately not his penchant for striking out.
Scouting Report: There is a lot to get excited about Robert. First, he looks the part as have many of the recent high-end Cuban emigres; tall, lean and well proportioned. He also has the elite bat speed that gives him the upside of plus in-game power. While other reports have claimed he has plus speed, I’ve heard from evaluators who have clocked his time as more average to above average speed. Plus, most believe that as he matures, that above-average speed will degrade a grade if not more.
The biggest concern is his swing and miss tendency. He could easily have a mid-20’s strikeout rate but that might be tempered a bit as he seems to have a decent understanding of the strike zone. Assuming a 25% strikeout rate, a 10% walk rate, and a decent BABIP, projecting a .260 batting average with a .330 OBP seems like a reasonable baseline. If you combine that with 30 home runs, the upside is an all-star corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Robert will be one of the top three picks in all Dynasty League redrafts next season. If Otani stays in Japan, then he moves up to a top two. I don’t think the upside will be that of Yoan Moncada but since he’s already demonstrating an understanding of the strike zone, the floor might be higher. If you’re looking for a comparison, let’s stay in Cuba and go with Yasiel Puig. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Puig, he quietly had a very solid season with a little more upside in the tank.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 25 SP
The White Sox were at again in July when they moved Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees for a package that was headlined by Blake Rutherford, the Yankees number overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. For the casual fan, it was a headscratcher. At the time of the trade, Rutherford was hitting a modest .281 with a .391 slugging with two home runs in Low-A. Once he was traded, it was more of the same in Kannapolis. It’s the danger of scouting the stat line instead of the player.
Scouting Report: While he had a difficult year, the industry is still very high on the Rutherford. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Rutherford has an athletic build with all-around solid skills. He has good bat speed that should allow him to hit for above-average power, good foot speed to project double-digit stolen bases and a solid approach that should provide him enough of a hit-tool to allow his secondary skills to play. Sure, he showed little power, but he made good contact (80%) and also showed decent plate discipline (8.2% walk rate).
After spending a full season in Low-A, there’s a chance that Rutherford repeats the level. However, he turns 21 in May so the White Sox might move him up a level so he can stay on an appropriate course to the big leagues.
Fantasy Impact: The sum of the tools is what will give Rutherford value in fantasy. The ceiling is a 20 home runs, 10 to 15 stolen bases with a .280 batting average. That’s not a star but a very good and impactful fantasy player. While his 2017 season was disappointing, most players do not mature in a vertical straight-line. Instead, it’s two steps forward and one step back in a very zigzagging line. Ultimately though, I think Rutherford achieves his ceiling and will be a solid fantasy contributor.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 25 SP
Taken in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Dylan Cease made his way to the White Sox in the Carlos Quintana trade. While he might not be at the same prospect level of Eloy Jimenez, the upside is still sky high and I think he has a chance to be a number two starter in the big leagues.
Scouting Report: Dylan Cease has a power arsenal that consists of an 80-grade fastball that sits in the upper nineties, hitting triple-digits with regularity. He complements the fastball with an improving curveball that he’s now able to throw for strikes. The change-up also took a nice step-up and while it’s still his third pitch, shows enough promise that we can grade it out as a future above-average offering.
The delivery is very easy, oozing with athleticism. He’s able to repeat his delivery well and his 3.00+ walk-per-nine rate should improve as he’s able to throw his curveball more consistently for strikes. Yeah, he’s had Tommy John Surgery, but so did Jacob deGrom early in his career and things have worked out just fine.
Fantasy Impact: I own Dylan Cease in two of my Dynasty Leagues and wish I had him in more. The profile points to a number two starter profile or a lock-down closer. The reason I throw out the closer option is based on how hard he throws. If he were 6-foot-5 and throwing 100 I would feel better, but he’s 6-foot-2 and many times those guys wind up in the pen. Regardless, he’ll make my Top 100.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 Pitcher
Dane Dunning was the third elite pitcher to be bundled in the offseason deal for Adam Eaton. He doesn’t have the double-plus arsenal of Giolito and Lopez but instead brings excellent control and command combined with an above-average arsenal that should allow him to have a long and successful major league career as a number three starter.
The White Sox started him off slowly in 2018 by assigning him to Low-A Kannapolis where he had little resistance. In four starts, he struck out 33, walked four and gave up one earned runs. At the end of April, he was promoted to High-A where he once again pitched very well. In 22 starts, he posted a 3.51 ERA, striking out 135 and walking 36. He will likely start 2018 in Double-A with an outside chance to see Chicago by the end of the year.
Scouting Report: Dunning has good stuff but it plays up because he pounds the strike zone with double-plus control. It’s an approach that’s a double-edged sword. You want to throw strikes but if the stuff is not good enough to miss bats, you can get pounded. I don’t think that will be the case with Dunning as the fastball sits 91 to 93 MPH with a lot of movement. His best secondary pitch is his change-up but his curveball does show promise and continues to improve.
Fantasy Impact: Dunning is an intriguing arm to own in a Dynasty League. The upside is a nice fourth starter on a fantasy team with seven to eight strikeouts per nine, an excellent WHIP but a slightly inflated ERA.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
You almost forget how deep the White Sox organization is when you see guys like Luis Alexander Basabe down at number seven. Basabe potential would make him a top-three prospect in most systems, but not for the White Sox. The system is just too deep.
While the skills are still plentiful for the young outfielder, they didn’t translate well last season. In 107 games in High-A, he hit just .221 with five home runs but he did steal 17 bases. His batting average was skewed by a low .286 BABIP but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (24% strikeout rate) in order to reach his potential of a starting outfielder in the big leagues.
Scouting Report: Basabe has excellent bat speed with a chance to hit for above-average power in the future. While there’s a chance he can hit 20 home runs in a season, I do think that will be his upper limit. He’s also a plus runner with a chance to also steal 20 plus stolen bases annually.
While the hit tool is far from polished, he is starting to show better plate discipline and a semblance of an approach. He still strikes out too much and he might not ever post a plus 80% contact rate, but I also don’t think he’ll be a strikeout machine either.
Fantasy Impact: I don’t think Basabe will make my Top 100 list as he falls into the 101 to 150 range. He should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues formats with the upside of a 20/20 contributor. The hit tool still needs some polish but the tools and overall game are very exciting.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 Pitcher
Alec Hansen had a very nice season but nonetheless fell seven spots from last year’s ranking. It’s what happens when you add the level of talent that the White Sox have over the past 12 months; and that doesn’t include the graduation of Yoan Moncada, last year’s top-ranked player.
Hansen pitched well in 2017. He spent the first half of the year in Kannapolis where he posted a 2.48 ERA in 13 stars before making his way to High-A Winston Salem. While he walked a few more, he again showed similar dominance that he did in Low-A. He was rewarded in late August with a promotion to Double-A, which is where he will likely start the 2018 season.
Scouting Report: Hansen scouting report can be summed up as follows: great size, plus stuff but with below average control. I’m seeing more and more of these profiles and I’m not sure why? Clearly, players are getting bigger, but 10 years ago, a 6-foot-7 athlete was on the basketball court, now, they seem to be everywhere in baseball.
Hansen has a double-plus fastball that can easily hit the upper nineties but sits 94 to 96 MPH. Given his height, he gets excellent plane and is able to run his fastball into arm-side batters. His best secondary pitch is a hard slider that is a true swing and miss pitch. He also shows a feel for a change. When he’s on, he has top-of-the-rotation stuff. However, as with many tall pitchers, he struggles to repeat his delivery and that’s when the wildness can take over.
When watching him pitch, it’s easy to dream that you’re looking at Tyler Glasnow 2.0, although he’s a bit heavier. They have similar stuff and size and both struggle to repeat their delivery. However, to-date, Glasnow has found at least 45-grade control and it remains to be seen whether Hansen will.
Fantasy Impact: The improved control was indeed encouraging with Hansen, but I still believe he will struggle the throw strikes early in his career. Long-term though, I think he’ll be a solid number three pitcher with a chance to be more.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B
After an impressive junior season at Missouri State, Jake Burger put himself into position to be a first-round draft pick in last June’s draft. The White Sox took advantage and selected him with the eleventh overall pick paying him a $3.7 million dollar signing bonus.
After a long college season in which he posted a 1.081 OPS with 22 home runs, walking more than he struck out, the White Sox wasted little time in getting him some professional at-bats. After four games in the AZL, the White Sox assigned him to Kannapolis in the Sally League. In 47 games, he hit .271 with four home runs and 28 strikeouts and 13 walks. While he didn’t overwhelm, he likely showed enough to start 2019 in High-A.
Scouting Report: As Burger demonstrated in college, he has plus power with an advanced feel for hitting. He understands the strike zone and should be able to post a high OBP to go along with 25 home run potential. He’s a below-average runner, so speed will not be part of his profile.
While he played third in college, I believe the White Sox will move him to first as soon as 2018. That will put pressure on his offensive game as right-right first baseman must hit to make it. I think he will.
Fantasy Impact: If you are drafting in the late stages of the first round next season in your Dynasty League redraft, I would consider Burger. He’s not a sexy name but I think he could have a solid major league career with the upside of a 25 home runs and a .270/.350 batting average/on-base percentage.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 Pitcher or Closer
The White Sox selected Carson Fulmer with the 8th overall draft pick in 2015 MLB Draft. He hasn’t pitched particularly well since making his professional debut with a 4.96 career ERA in 252 minor league innings. While he’s struck out over eight per nine, he’s also walked 4.6 per nine.
The White Sox though didn’t seem to care about his performance and promoted him to the majors this year. He did show flashes, like his September 10th outing against the Giants where he threw six strong innings, striking out nine and giving up only one run. However, he ended the year with a 3.86 ERA and a 5.01 walk-per-nine rate.
Scouting Report: Fulmer has two plus pitches in his fastball and curve. The fastball sits 92 to 94 MPH and can touch higher with his curve grading out as a plus, maybe even a double-plus pitch. It’s a hard curve thrown 78 to 81 MPH with heavy, tight rotational spin. His change-up lags the other two pitches but it can also get swings and misses. The arsenal has top-of-the-rotation written all over it.
The problem is the delivery. If you are high on Fulmer, you see a max effort delivery in the mold of Max Scherzer. If you’re on the opposite end, you see a reliever, but likely with the stuff of a closer. The interesting thing is he did both in his college career at Vanderbilt. As a freshman, he was used exclusively as a reliever and split time in the rotation as a sophomore where he also saved 10 games. In his junior year, he was used exclusively as a starter, throwing three complete games. So far, he’s been used in both roles as a professional.
Where do we see Fulmer? I think he’s bound for the bullpen, but I might be in the minority.
Fantasy Impact: Starter or closer? It doesn’t matter as much to the fantasy owner assuming you play in a traditional five category format. Fulmer is therefore pretty valuable in the Dynasty League game. The easiest path to the big leagues continues to be in the bullpen and we are betting that is the path that he takes.
2018 Emerging Prospect
Micker Adolfo was a big J2 signee in 2014 and even made our White Sox Top 10 list. However, he’s really struggled since being signed before finally starting to put things together last season. He’s always had plus raw power and it showed up in-game with 16 dingers. He’s still striking out too much and never walks, so there’s still a long way to go. But, he’s once again relevant and back on the prospect map.