Chicago White Sox

Original Published Date: October 25, 2016

white-soxThe White Sox system had been on the rise over the past several years but promotions and some questionable trades have put the system back in the bottom half of the league.

In fact, there are no clear cut Top 100 prospects in the system.  If you believe Carson Fulmer will stay a starter, then the quality of the arm should put him somewhere in the back half.  However, we see him as a closer and therefore, he just misses.  If you believe Zach Collins stays behind the plate, then yes.  However, we don’t think he stays behind the plate, so assuming he moves to first base, his value takes a hit.  However, there should be enough power for him to be a 20 to 25 home run threat so there’s still a chance his sneaks into the back half of our Top 100.

While Collins and Fulmer rank number one and two in the system, Spencer Adams and Alec Hanson might have the highest upside.  Adams continues to impress as he moves through the minors and Hanson has been dominate after the White Sox drafted him in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.  If he can gain any level of control, he could be an interesting impact arm in the major leagues.  Finally, Zack Burdi is moving quickly through the system and could challenge for save opportunities in the majors as soon as 2017.

Zack Collins (C)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder

Zack Collins and Nick Senzel were arguably the two best college bats in the 2016 MLB Draft.  The Reds snagged Senzel with the second overall pick while the White Sox picked up Collins with the tenth pick and signed him to a $3.8 million dollar signing bonus.  After a week in the AZL, the White Sox assigned him to the Carolina League where he slashed .258/.418/.467 with six home runs in 36 games.  He also walked an impressive 33 times but also posted a 25.5% strikeout rate.

While it was a small sample size, his professional debut echoed his college stat line where he posted a 1.212 OPS in his junior year.  In 190 at-bats, he walked an impressive 78 times but also struck out 53 times for a 73% contact rate.  If you’re thinking this sounds like a “three true outcome” player, you are thinking along the same line that I am.

Scouting Report: Collins carrying tool is plus raw power with an excellent idea of the strike zone.  He has 25 plus home run future potential but his swing can get long and will likely always be suspect to swing and miss.  He’s a below average runner, so speed will not be part of his game.  The White Sox drafted him as a catcher but given his size and lack of premium athleticism, he’ll likely move to first base.

Historically the White Sox move their prospect quickly through the system and I see the same thing happening with Collins.  I do expect him to start back in High-A with a good chance to see Double-A by the second half.  That should put him on track to see the majors in 2018 or 2019.

Fantasy Impact:  Collins is a must add in a Dynasty League Points format provided strikeouts are not a negative category.   The ceiling is a .230/.330/.450 player with 25 home runs.  That should also play in leagues where OBP instead of batting average is a category.

Carson Fulmer (RHP)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Closer

A year after being selected number eight overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Carson Fulmer made his major league debut in the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox.  It didn’t go particularly well as he walked seven in 11.2 innings of work and was sent back to the minors with an 8.49 ERA.

Even though it was a small sample size, his walk rate was similar to what he had done in 17 Double-A starts prior to the call-up.   Of course it did come with over a strike out an inning but it does point to the work left for Fulmer before he can call Chicago his permanent home.

The big question is whether Fulmer will be a starter or a bullpen arm.  His debut this season was more “need” base as the White Sox believed at the time that they still had a chance to see the post season.  However, both the stuff and delivery might point to a role in relief as oppose to that in the starting rotation.

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?  Last year we thought it would be in the starting rotation but we are now leaning towards the bullpen.  That said, the stuff could make him a lock down closer in the future.

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.

Alec Hansen (RHP)

Highest Level: Short-Season, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with extreme risk

The White Sox decided to roll the dice when they selected Alec Hansen in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.  The hard throwing 6-foot-7 right-hander can really bring it, but at times, he completely loses the plate.  In his three seasons with the Sooners, he walked nearly six per nine, including 6.79 per nine in his draft year.  However, the upside is indeed impressive as Hansen struck out 11.48 per nine in his 39 games in college.

The good news is that Hansen has gotten off to a strong start as a professional.  In 12 starts across the AZL, Pioneer, and Sally League, he posted a microscopic 1.32 ERA, striking out over 13 per nine while keeping his walks in check (3.29 BB/9).  Granted, a pitcher of his stature should be able to handle short-season ball but the White Sox have a history of developing pitchers.  Next year will be a pivotal year as the White Sox have worked with him during the Fall Instructional League to adjust his delivery.

Scouting Report: Hansen scouting report can be summed-up as follows: great size, plus stuff but with 30-grade 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: Assuming I can get him in the third or fourth round in a Dynasty League rookie draft, Alec Hansen will be on a lot of my teams.  The upside is huge and while he might turn out to be Alex Meyers (now of the Angels), sometimes you have to swing for the fences in adding an arm like his.

Zack Burdi (RHP)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Elite Closer

I get constantly asked…”Who are some minor league pitchers that will be closers?”  Usually my response involves a lot of babbling because closers are usually built and not born.  In other words, they are failed starters that become closers.  However, every once in a while, a premium college arm is drafted that is targeted as a closer on draft day.  That’s what the White Sox did in the first round in the 2016 MLB Draft when they selected Louisville closer Zack Burdi.

In his junior year, Burdi posted impressive numbers.  In 27 games, he struck out 49 while walking nine.  He also saved 11 games.  He continued his impressive strikeout rate in his professional debut striking out 51 in 26 games.  Unfortunately, he also maintained his below average control, walking 4.6 per nine.  That clearly didn’t deter the White Sox as they promoted him through four levels, finishing his 2016 debut in Charlotte.

Scouting Report: Burdi has an 80-grade fastball that can reach triple-digits.  It sits 96 to 98 MPH with a lot of late movement.  He complements his heater with a hard slider that grades out as an average pitch with a chance to be more.

His pitching mechanics are pretty simple and it’s surprising that he doesn’t have better control.  There’s very little wind-up, just a step back and throw 100 MPH.  He does get extra torque by starting his delivery in a twisted fashion; almost pointing his lead foot back at second base.  This closed setup could prove difficult to pitching inside to glove-side batters.  However, it’s working and if it gets him to the big leagues, those are things that can be addressed there.

Fantasy Impact:  In general I do not rank bullpen arms high in a system because you just don’t know if they will truly become closers.  The White Sox drafted Burdi as their future closer and I think he will be just that.  If you need a closer, then you should draft him in the third round of your rookie draft next spring.

Adam Engel (OF)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: 5th Outfielder or streaming SB guy

Few prospect watchers had heard of Adam Engel until the speedy outfielder won the MVP award in last year’s Arizona Fall League.  He had a solid campaign, slashing .403/.523/.642 with 10 steals in 19 games.  When I saw him in the first week, I noticed the bat speed and plus foot speed, but didn’t really see a first division player and kind of wrote him off.  It begs the question, “Will the AFL be his outlier season or the start of a breakout?”

Scouting Report:  Based on his performance in 2016, the 2015 AFL is likely an outlier but perhaps a look at what he could become.  First, his carrying tool is double-plus speed that has allowed him to steal bases in bunches in the minors.  He does have good bat speed, but the stroke lacks loft so the power is more likely gap-to-gap than over-the-fence power.

Holding Engel back is his hit-tool.  He has good strike zone awareness, but can chase pitches that either produce swing and misses or weak contact.  What made him successful in the AFL was making good contact and walking more than his struck out.  In 86 plate appearance, he walked 16 times with 11 strikeouts.  Granted, a .464 BABIP helped but his ability to control the strike zone was the difference-maker.

Fantasy Impact: If Adam Engel were to get full-time at-bats, he could have fantasy impact with his stolen base potential.  However, unless his hit-tool takes a step-up, he’s likely more of a fourth outfielder than a regular fantasy contributor.

Spencer Adams (RHP)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP

When Spencer Adams was drafted in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft, the White Sox believed they were drafting a potential power pitcher whose physical projection and athleticism could allow him one day to pitch at the top of the rotation.  They were encouraged after he “shoved it” in the Arizona League as an 18-year-old, striking out 12.74 per nine while walking four in 41.2 innings.  Since then, Spencer’s stuff has backed up and he’s become a command and control pitcher.

In 163 innings across High and Double-A last season, he struck out 100 while walking 31.  Plus he gave up well over a hit an inning.  While you want pitchers to throw strikes, unless you can provide some deception or have the ability to throw it by the batter, you are going to get hit.

Scouting Report: I’m not sure what happened with Adams.  I too thought the stuff would step up as he matured and filled out but it hasn’t.  He still has room to fill out, so perhaps his stuff will still take a step up as he matures.  The silver lining is that Adams can control his stuff with ease.  He just doesn’t walk anybody.  He also has good command of all of his pitches and as he gains more experience, that command could turn plus.

While control and command can be separators, a right-handed pitcher needs to sit 92 to 93 at a minimum to make it work.  The Astros’ Joe Musgrove is a great example of what Adams could develop into if his stuff can jump a grade.

Fantasy Impact:  In checking all four of the Dynasty Leagues in which I play, Spencer Adams is owned in all of them.  Heck, I’m the owner in one of those leagues.  While you never want to give up on athletic pitchers, unless we see an uptick in velocity, it might be time to move on.

Jacob May (OF)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire OF

I grew up in Maryland and was a huge Orioles fan.  I remember putting my transistor radio under my pillow, so I could listen to Chuck Thompson call the games while my parents would look into my room to check if I was sleeping.  I also remember Mr. Thompson making home run calls for their first baseman, Lee May (who replaced Boog Powell) in the mid-70’s.  I was twelve.  Much to my dismay (no pun intended), I’m writing about Jacob May, Lee May’s GRANDSON.  Are you kidding me?  How is that possible?

Scouting Report:  Unlike his slugging grandfather, May is a toolsy outfielder that relies on contact and speed.  He stole 37 bases in 2015 and another 19 in 82 games last season in Charlotte.  He’s also a plus defender who makes excellent reads and is able to use his speed to the fullest.  The problem is he lacks power and is an extremely aggressive hitter.  His OBP was a poor .292 in those same 82 games.

At the moment, he’s profiling more as a fourth or fifth outfielder on a major league team as opposed to a regular contributor.  He also turns 25 next January, so perhaps that will be his ultimate ceiling.

Fantasy Impact: Billy Burns comes to mind when I think of Jacob May.  Burns is ultimately a fourth outfielder but has had success in stretches.  If May can improve his approach, he too could have success in stretches if not more.

Trey Michalczewski (3B)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Trey Michalczewski has been taking the development process one level at a time.  Nothing in his stat line stands out as he’s posted a .708 OPS in 438 games in the minors.  Last season was no exception.  In 134 games, he batted .226, posted an .314 OBP with a 27% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate.  He did have a few more home runs so it looks like his power is starting to emerge.

Scouting Notes:  A switch hitter, Michalczewski has a nice swing, showing plus bat speed but currently with more doubles-power than over-the-fence power.  He has added some loft to his swing and that combined with his strength and bat speed should allow him to produce at least above-average future power (20 to 22 home runs).  The approach is also solid with a good understanding of the strike zone.   He is a little more confident from his natural right-side but there is concern on whether he will make enough contact to get to his power.

Defensively, Michalczewski is adequate at third base with a strong arm but needs to improve his footwork.  Speed is not part of his game, but he’s also not a clogger with a chance to see a handful of stolen bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  Michalczewski should be considered in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 players.  The swing is solid with a chance to hit 20 home runs and stay at third base.  The upside is a $13 to $15 player with some upside.  That’s not a star but a serviceable option at third base or corner infielder in a deep fantasy league.

Jordan Stephens (RHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire SP

Jordan Stephens had a nice season in the Carolina League where he posted a 3.45 ERA in 27 starts.  He also had a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio while striking out a batter an inning.  He is an older prospect, turning 24-years-old in September.

He got a late start to his professional career after having Tommy John Surgery in his junior year at Rice University.  The White Sox have not taken it lightly with him, pushing his innings limit to 141 in 2016.  What was curious is they didn’t push him to Double-A.  This is definitely very un-White Sox like.

Scouting Notes: At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Stephens is on the small size for a modern day starting pitcher.  He has a good fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH, bumping 95.  His best secondary pitch is a curve ball that can miss bats when he throws it for strikes.  He’s worked hard on his change-up and the results are starting to show.  Net, net…it’s a nice three pitch mix that plays up because he can throw all of his pitches for strikes.

Before he developed his change-up, Stephens seemed headed to the bullpen but now he has a chance to stay in the rotation with a ceiling of a number five starting pitcher.

Fantasy Impact:  While Stephens is likely a major league starter, there’s not enough upside to roster him in a Dynasty League.

Jameson Fisher (OF)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire SP

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Jameson Fisher showed some intriguing skills at Southeastern Louisiana.  Over his three year college career, he posted an impressive 1.004 OPS with 14 home runs and 32 stolen bases. He continued hitting when he started his professional career.  In 50 games in the Pioneer League, he slashed .342/.436/.487 with four home runs and 13 stolen bases.

Scouting Report: There’s a lot to like with Jameson Fisher and it starts with his bat.  He makes hard contact and has the ability to control the strike zone.   He’s a grinder up at the plate, frustrating pitchers by working deep counts.  He has average power with the ability to post a low .400s slugging but his swing is not very leveraged, so 12 to 15 home runs annually feels like a good baseline.  He also has average speed with good base running skills and should be good for 15 to 20 stolen bases over the course of a full season.

Defensively, Fisher was a catcher in college but moved to first base after missing his junior year with a torn labrum in his shoulder.  Once he was drafted, the White Sox moved him to the outfield as they believed his athleticism would enable him to be an effective corner outfielder.

Fantasy Impact:  Fisher is someone to monitor in a Dynasty League.  His hit tool is very advanced and therefore could move through the minor leagues quickly.  However, he’ll start the 2017 season as a 23-year-old and has yet to play in a full season affiliate.  If it all comes together, he could see Chicago in the second half of 2018 with a chance to be a number five outfielder in a deep (15 team) fantasy league.

2017 Emerging Prospect

Luis Ledo (RHP)

Luis Ledo dominated the AZL, posting a 1.19 ERA over nine starts before being promoted to the Pioneer League.  He didn’t fare as well upon the promotion, but only started three games.  He has good stuff with a fastball that will bump 94 to 95 MPH with an improving curve and change-up.  He has size at 6-foot-4 and still has room to grow.  He’ll also turn 22 next May and has yet to pitch past short season ball.  He’s a guy to monitor in all Dynasty Leagues.


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