|Original Published Date: October 21, 2014|
The White Sox minor league system has come a long way over the past two years. Drafting Carlos Rodon with the third pick in the 2014 first year player draft helped, but there’s depth including some very intriguing and high upside players. I’m particularly bullish on two right-handed pitchers in Francellis Montas and Spencer Adams. While Montas has the profile of a power-reliever, and a good one, Adams is an athletic 6-foot-4, 170 pound teenager with an exciting arm and tremendous physical projectabiliy. I’m also a fan of first baseman Rangel Ravelo. He’s clearly blocked by Jose Abreu, but he can really hit and the anticipated power is starting to develop. I continue to root for Courtney Hawkins but the strikeout and approach are getting worrisome despite him being the tenth youngest positional player in the Carolina League.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #1 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 235||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015|
For a year leading up to the 2014 draft, Carlos Rodon was touted as the best left-handed pitching prospect since David Price. His fastball was touching the mid to upper 90’s and his slider was viewed as a big-league-ready plus offering. Some evaluators even speculated that he could break camp in 2015 as a member of a major league starting rotation.
However, during his 2014 college year, Rodon arsenal became very inconsistent. On a good day, he would flash a mid-90’s fastball with a ton of late life while his slider was unhittable. Evaluators would smile and write #1 on their sheets. Then, on their next visit to see Rodon, his fastball velocity would be in the low-90’s while his slider would be flat and lacking bite. These inconsistencies eventually led the Astros to pass on him as the number one overall pick and fall (if you can call it that) to number three.
Were the inconsistencies a result of being overworked, poor mechanics or a combination of the two? He was clearly worked hard in college and as a young pitcher, struggled at times to maintain his release point. In fact, the situation reminds me a lot of 2010 when the White Sox took Chris Sale as the 13th overall pick. Sale was also inconsistent in college but by working with Don Cooper and the excellent White Sox pitching staff, cleaned up his mechanics and most importantly, has stayed healthy. After pitching 14.1 innings in the minors, Sale was promoted and never looked back. I expect a similar protocol for Rodon with the chance for similar results.
When Rodon is right, he has top-of-the-rotation stuff with a 92-94 MPH fastball and a plus-plus slider. The change-up needs work, but in his defense, he rarely threw it in college. The pitching mechanics are mixed. He does have excellent posture and balance and is direct to the plate. However, while he has a very good stride, he doesn’t take full advantage and actually stops short. This is better than a short-strider but it also doesn’t allow the energy from his delivery to flow and instead, it’s radiating in his shoulder and arm. He tries to compensate by an exaggerated trailing leg pull-over. It’s something that I’m sure the White Sox will work with Rodon to clean up.
Fantasy Impact: If you are in a Dynasty League that drafts players from the previous amateur draft, then Rodon is a worthy selection at number one. I’d always prefer to draft a bat but there wasn’t a Byron Buxton/Kris Bryant bat in the 2014 draft. Rodon should make his major league debut in 2015 and it could be early in the year. He has the upside of a strong number two but with some mechanical clean-up, the ceiling is a one.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
The White Sox selected Tim Anderson as the 17th overall pick in the 2013 first year player draft. He has the high athleticism that the White Sox love to draft and before breaking his wrist in late-June, was starting to translate some of the athleticism into baseball production. It’s far from a finished product as Anderson hasn’t met a pitch he doesn’t like; walking only nine times in 347 at-bats in 2014. That’s not a misprint, that’s nine!
Anderson carrying tool is his plus running ability. Despite stealing only 10 of 13 bases, he has the raw speed to steal 30 plus stolen bases, particularly if he develops better strike zone awareness. The swing is simple and compact with plus bat-speed and strength to give him low double-digit future home run power.
The hit-tool is still underdeveloped as he showed tremendous aggressiveness and a penchant to strikeout more than his swing suggest. His setup is unconventional as he has a wide setup which doesn’t allow him to produce much leverage in the swing. The hands though are impressive as he’s able to make adjustments and fight off difficult pitches. He does get fooled by off-speed pitches, which is likely a result of his lack of playing time as an amateur. He’s a kid that needs to play and losing six weeks to a broken wrist was unfortunate.
Defensively, Anderson has held his own at shortstop. He has a plus arm and has improved his footwork, particularly with his ability to go to his right. It’s not perfect and once again, he needs repetition, but the athleticism and arm should allow him to stay at shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: Anderson is a tough call in a Dynasty League. He has the speed to be a real fantasy asset and the bat speed to project as a 10/30 player at the highest level. However, the risk is very high as the hit-tool is very underdeveloped with little plate discipline. However, you need impact players on your fantasy team to win a title and Anderson possess the requisite tools. Just go in with your eye wide open as their is a large gulf between his current and future performance.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht:6-0 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
When scouting young players, the two things that give me the biggest rush is a triple-digit reading on my radar guy (that’s by far the coolest – trust me) or a sub-3.9 stop watch timing on a home-to-first dig. Micah Johnson gave me the rush on a hot afternoon in early October in beautiful Mesa Arizona when my stop watch said 3.88. I thought…well of course, he stole 84 bases, I expected him to be fast…and he was.
The White Sox can be aggressive with their top prospects, and they have indeed been with Johnson. Since being drafted in 2012, he has made it through the development process and is ready to bring his game to the south side of Chicago. He has plus-plus speed, although the stolen bases were noticeable down in 2014 where Johnson only stole 22 of 33 bases but more importantly, his hit-tool is starting to develop nicely.
The swing is short and direct to the ball, and with Johnson’s strength, he’s able to drive the ball more than you would think. His strength and swing path will result in more doubles than over-the-fence power but he could pop five to eight as he continues to add strength.
Johnson also makes solid contact and with good plate awareness as his 69K/37BB strikeout-to-walk ratio demonstrated. He needs a better two-strike approach and can expand the zone in hitters counts. Overall, it’s a hit-tool that projects above-average.
Despite Johnson’s athleticism, he’s only an average defender at second base. I don’t believe he has the footwork for short and the bat doesn’t profile at third or a corner outfield position. To my knowledge, he has never played center-field, so he’ll likely be at the keystone. That means the bat will have to play…and I think it will.
Fantasy Impact: Any player who has 84 stolen bases on their resume is fantasy relevant. The fact that Johnson has a developing hit-tool gives more credence that he could be fantasy relevant in the big leagues. I think he will and that could come in 2015 as the White Sox continue their rebuilding efforts. He’s a top 100 fantasy prospect for me given the upside and closeness to the big leagues.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #3 starter or closer
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
The trade that sent Avisail Garcia to Chicago for Jake Peavy was complicated. It involved three teams (White Sox, Red Sox, and Tigers) and six players. With trades like this, it’s easy to focus on the “Player’s you’ve heard of” and dismiss those who you don’t know, much less, have trouble pronouncing their name. That might have been where right-handed pitcher Francellis Montas landed. Who, What? Well, it turns out he’s pretty good.
Montas throws hard with the ability to run his fastball into the upper nineties in shorter burst. In fact, I registered 100 MPH on my gun during an Arizona Fall League game in October. He also throws a hard slider that sits 86-89 MPH, showing almost cutter action as well as slower, slurvy breaking pitch. The change-up is still a work-in-progress but has the look of at least an average pitch.
While the arm is special, the body and delivery have issues. Montas is a big boy…yes, his bubble gum card says he’s 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, but he’s a bit wider than that with a thick lower half. The delivery has a lot of effort and he frequently doesn’t finish off on his landing. He’s also quite slow to the plate on in the stretch and overall looks like he’s thinking way too much about the mechanics. It’s a classic example of a hard thrower moving from a thrower to a pitcher.
Montas was selected to play in the 2014 Futures game, but tweaked his right knee in late June and missed six weeks of the season. He also started the season on the DL after a having meniscus surgery on his right knee. It was valuable lost time, some of which has been mitigated by his participation in the Arizona Fall League.
Fantasy Impact: Guys who can throw 100 MPH but with effort, almost always wind-up in the pen. The White Sox have not giving up on Montas as a starter but if they do, he could easily be in Chicago in 2015. He’s an intriguing prospect with the upside as a number three starter or a potential late-inning reliever.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: 1st Div
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 210||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Rangel Ravelo has a right-right first baseman profile and that means you’ve got to hit and hit with power in order to play at the major league level. Ravelo has the size and batting practice power that is starting to translate to in-game production. In Double-A, he posted a .473 slugging percentage while hitting 11 home runs. While that home run total is far from impressive, it nearly tripled his output in 2013.
What is impressive is his hit-tool. He makes great contact (84%) while walking nearly as many times as he struck out. His .386 OBP ranked 12th in the Southern League but when you factor in his age, he ranked number one.
Ravelo has below average speed and therefore, I can’t explain his 10 stolen bases, but it could become his high water mark in his career. Since the White Sox are set at first base for at least the next five years, Ravelo will have difficulty finding playing time at the big league level. He does have experience at third base, but evaluators do not believe the glove will translate. Quite frankly, neither do the White Sox which is why he was moved to first.
Fantasy Impact: Ravelo is an intriguing prospect with the upside of a .300/.400/.500 slash line with the ability to hit 20-25 home runs. He’s blocked in Chicago but could be a trade or injury away from being fantasy relevant. He’s definitely a player to monitor in all Dynasty League formats.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
When the White Sox drafted Courtney Hawkins with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft, they were so bullish on the young power hitting outfielder from Texas that they moved him all the way to High-A at the ripe age of 18. Two years later, he’s still in Winston-Salem of the Carolina League; you guessed it, in High-A.
Hawkins carrying tool is massive raw power that he generates from impressive bat speed and just sheer strength and size. Currently holding him back is significant swing and miss in his game plus a very aggressive approach. That said, the reports on his progress have been positive in the second half of the year. He’s been taking more outside pitches the opposite away and laying off breaking pitches he’s unable to handle.
Time will tell if the changes Hawkins has made will translate once he moves to the upper minors, but if they do, the White Sox could have a power hitting right-fielder with the ceiling of 25 to 30 home runs. Remember, even though he’s repeating High-A, he’s still only 20-years-old and was the tenth youngest positional player in the Carolina League.
Fantasy Impact: The draft day shine is off Courtney Hawkins for Dynasty League owners. While the upside is a power hitting outfielder, slugging 25 plus home runs and adding 10 to 12 stolen bases, it’s equally possible that he’s an extra bat. It’s all going to depend on his ability to adjust his approach. It’s easy to say he can’t, but by all reports, he’s got great make-up and is a terrific kid who works very hard. That and shortening his swing could really help.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 170||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2018|
If you like to invest in young, athletic, and projectable pitchers, then Spencer Adams is your guy.
Adams was selected in the second round of the 2014 first year player draft and stands 6-foot-4, weighing a listed 170 pounds. In addition to playing baseball in high school, Adams also played basketball, show above-average athleticism and chops on the court. Mind you, we are not talking Taijuan Walker highlights, but he had a decent cross-over dribble and above-average vertical leaping ability.
I know this is a baseball site, but anytime you can see a baseball player, particularly a pitcher play another sport, it’s noteworthy. Athleticism in pitching is critical for success and Adams has it. He also has room to grow and should be able to add velocity to his 92-93 MPH fastball as he matures. While his secondary pitches, primarily a slider and change-up are raw, he flashes enough quality to given them both above-average to plus future potential.
He had little problems in his professional debut in the Arizona League, striking out 59 while walking a paltry four in 41.2 innings. His delivery still needs some tweaking as he pitches from a slightly-low three-quarters delivery. The arm angle is inconsistent and sometimes he’s able to get on top of his pitches and others, he’s dropping down too much. The White Sox will likely start to clean this up in the Fall Instructional League and move Adams to a more classic three quarters delivery in order to allow him to get better plane on his pitches.
Fantasy Impact: Adams is really young and while it’s hard to draft him in a Dynasty League with less than 300 players, he’s got all the raw tools to be a solid mid-rotation starter. However, if he cleans up his delivery, adds a tick on his fastball, and his secondary pitches improve, the ceiling will rise. Of course, you can say this about most pitchers, but few have the natural athleticism of Adams. Therefore, if you’re betting on a breakout/sleeper prospect, Adams could be your guy.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 225||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
After Matt Davidson was traded from Arizona to Chicago for Addison Reed, I believed the White Sox had found their third baseman of the future. Sure, the 69% contact rate worried me, but he did walk at a 10% rate and with some BABIP help, I believed he would hit .240-.250 with 20 home runs. That’s not a first division starter but a solid regular. However, the “BABIP giveth and the BABIP taketh away”. In 2014, Davidson batted an anemic .199, which was the result of a .257 BABIP, nearly 100 points lower than in 2013. The result: a batting average that hovered around the Mendoza Line all year and a sub-300 OBP; both of which will keep you in Triple-A. For me, he’s still a .240 to .250 hitter capable of slugging 20 to 25 home runs. That’s a solid-regular major league performer.
Fantasy Impact: In most Dynasty Leagues, you can pick Davidson up off the waiver wire or trade for him quite easily. The question is…do you? I’m still bullish that he’ll hit 20 home runs and that could come in 2015. It’s a risky bet but he’s dirt cheap, so why not?
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: Reliever|
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
The stat line of Tyler Danish looks really good. In 129.2 innings across Low and High-A as a 19-year-old, Danish posted a 2.08 ERA with a 103K/33BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, he did it with a fastball that sits 87-89 MPH, a Frisbee slider that is just nasty; all thrown from a low three-quarters delivery. While he’s getting outs and pitching well, the delivery is that of a reliever. If you’re in a fantasy league, that might be ok as his stuff is hard to square and the White Sox could use him as a closer down the road.
Fantasy Impact: Dynasty League owners will see the 2.08 ERA and jump on the Tyler Danish bandwagon. I don’t see it and while there’s a chance he could develop into a closer, I’m fishing somewhere else.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 225||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft, Chris Beck still has the pedigree of a high draft pick, but his stock has been steadily declining. When drafted, he was seen as a high strikeout pitcher who mixed a low 90’s fastball with a plus slider. As a professional, the velocity has taken a step back and the slider has taken even a larger step back. He’s now become a pitch to contact pitcher, striking out 4.40 batters per nine in 116 Double-A innings, and slightly more after his promotion to Triple-A. Perhaps there’s an injury. Perhaps Don Cooper can help him rediscover his slider. If not, he’s a back-of-rotation starter, if that.
Fantasy Impact: The pedigree is there but the arsenal suggest you should pass on him in a Dynasty League.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
Micker Adolfo is repeating as our emerging prospect and for good reason. He signed as a 16-year-old in September of 2013, making his way to the states this year to post a slash line of .217/.281/.378 in the AZL. The scouting report continues to be bullish with plus-plus raw power and an approach that is allowing him to hang in against pitchers much older. He does have a long swing and is trying to jerk everything, but remember, he’s still a baby. He should not be owned yet in most Dynasty Leagues, but he’s a prospect to monitor.