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Chicago White Sox

The White Sox window opened in 2020 making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.  While they were bounced in the first round, the talent is real and good.  What is also encouraging is that there is still talent in their minor league system.  Andrew Vaughn and Michael Kopech should not only provide depth in 2021 but both could be major contributors.  Assuming Kopech is healthy, he could fall behind Lucas Giolito in the rotation to start the season.  Garrett Crochet and Zack Burdi both could be future closers and Nick Madrigal led the league in hitting while he was up.

Sure, the system gets thin after the first 7 or 8 players, but so many of the players have already been promoted that the lack of depth is warranted and expected.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Andrew Vaughn
  • Biggest Mover: Garrett Crochet
  • Emerging Prospect: None

1. Andrew Vaughn (1B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 1B
  • Tools Summary:  Plus hit tool with good power.  At 5-foot-10, there is concern about how much power he will eventually have.

If you like your first baseman to look like Albert Pujols, Andrew Vaughn is not your guy.  While he’s listed at 6-feet, he’s likely a couple of inches shorter than that.  But he can hit.  He hit in college and his first foray into professional ball, he hit.  He has a compact swing and just doesn’t expand the strike zone.  However, the swing is built more for contact and while there is good bat speed, he doesn’t get the kind of bat speed you like to see in players of his size.  In other words, there is an open issue for me as to how much eventual over-the-fence power he will have.  It might be more doubles-power. If you add it all up, the ceiling is a .300/.400/.450 first baseman with 15 to 20 home runs. 

2. Michael Kopech (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling:  Fantasy Ace
  • Tools Summary:  It’s been a long time since he last pitched

Michael Kopech elected to sit out the 2020 season and that has left a huge uncertainty with him entering the 2021 season.  He had Tommy John Reconstructive Surgery in August of 2018 and hasn’t pitched competitively since then.  Will he be “all the way” back?  Will there be control problems?  We don’t know.  Assuming he picks up where he left off, he has the athleticism and arsenal to be a number one starter in the Major Leagues.  When he last pitched in the Big Leagues, his fastball averaged 95.4 MPH with a high spin rate with a promising curve and slider.  The changeup still needs work.

3. Nick Madrigal (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 2B
  • Tools Summary:  Elite contact, plus speed, but no power makes him a difficult player to evaluate.

We have been clear with our analysis of Nick Madrigal.  He makes elite contact, is a plus runner but has no power.  He could easily hit .300 but with a sub-400 SLG.  In 109 plate appearances in 2020, he proved our point.  He slashed .340/.376/.369 with two stolen bases and no home runs.  The profiles will put him at the top of the lineup, and he should score 100+ runs annually.  It should be noted that he had shoulder surgery after the season and might be on a delayed schedule entering the 2021 season.

4. Garrett Crochet (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Closer
  • Tools Summary:  He has two double-plus pitches in his fastball and slider.  The White Sox might just throw him in the bullpen to let him do what he did in his Major League debut – shove it

Garrett Crochet was a surprise call-up for the White Sox in September after being selected eleventh in the 2020 MLB Draft three months earlier.  In five games, he showed an 80-grade fastball that sat 100+ MPH with a high spin rate and slider that can miss bats.  It was nasty stuff from the left side and left everyone excited about the potential.  The White Sox drafted him as a starter but based on what we saw over the summer, he could easily fall into a high-leverage role in 2021 if the White Sox use him in the bullpen.  It should be noted that he was left off the post-season roster with a flexor strain which many times is a prelude to TJ Surgery.

5. Dane Dunning (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary:  He made his Major League debut in 2020 and showed solid results.  The stuff points to number four starter

After spending the entire 2019 season rehabbing from TJ Surgery, Dane Dunning made his Major League debut in mid-August and looked very good.  He showed four quality pitches but nothing flashed plus.  His fastball sat 91 to 93 with a low spin rate and all of his secondary pitches were just average.  He does have some funk in his delivery and that helps keep hitters off-balance but in looking at StatCast, I see a ceiling of a number four starter.

6. Jonathan Stiever (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary:  Athletic pitcher that went from High-A to the Major Leagues

Jonathan Stiever was selected in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft and had a nice season in 2019.  We projected him to make the Majors in 2021 but the White Sox decided to bring him up last September to start two games. While the results were poor, he showed an athletic delivery with a solid arsenal.  StatCast outlined a four-pitch mix with a fastball that sat 92 to 94 MPH with nice spin and a slider that also flashed plus.  The change-up and curve are still developing.  Stiever likely starts 2021 back in the minors but the ceiling is a solid number four starter.

7. Zack Burdi (RHP)

Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Closer

Tools Summary:  Injuries have slowed his progression, but he still has elite stuff and could still become a Closer in the Major Leagues

Zack Burdi was drafted in the first round in 2016 and was immediately labeled as the closer of the future.  Injuries, including TJ Surgery, have slowed his progression but he finally made his Major League debut in August last season.  He pitched better than his 11.05 ERA would indicate with a fastball averaging 98 MPH and a plus slider.  Both have great spin rates and point to potential high strikeout rates.  Assuming he’s over his injuries, which is a big IF, I still think he’ll close games in the Major Leagues.  Guys who throw in the upper nineties with movement don’t come around that often.

8. Matt Thompson (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary:  Raw athletic talent with excellent size and arm strength. 

At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Matt Thompson is the type of young pitcher teams like to acquire.  He’s athletic, projectable, and is already showing plenty of arm strength.  He also shows the ability to spin a breaking pitch.  He’s a project for sure and one that could take four or more years for him to hit the upper minors, not to mention the Major Leagues.  However, if it all comes together, he could be a mid-rotation starter or even more.

9. Jared Kelley (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary:  Raw athletic talent with excellent size and arm strength. 

Jared Kelley was the White Sox second-round pick last June.  He’s a big kid with a big fastball that is very raw.  His fastball can already touch the upper nineties, but control was lacking in high school.  He did get time in the Fall Instructional League where the White Sox wanted to work on his mechanics and off-speed pitches.

10. Luis Gonzalez (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary:  He’s not an impact player but has good speed with a little pop and makes good contact.  There could be something there.

Luis Gonzalez got a brief call-up in August in 2020 but only receive three plate appearances.  While he’s now 25, there still could be some hidden tools lurking. He’s athletic with good speed and can play all three outfield positions.  There is enough bat speed for him to project 10 to 12 home runs as well.  If he stays with the White Sox, he’s likely a fourth outfielder, but if a trade occurs, he could develop into a full-time regular on a non-championship team.

11. Micker Adolfo (OF/DH)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary:  Big and strong with tremendous raw power.  Injuries have hampered his progression, but he still has Jorge Soler type of upside.

Despite a lot of injuries since he was signed in 2013, there is still hope that Micker Adolfo will eventually launch his 80-grade power on the Major Leagues.  While the production has never totally surfaced, he has the size (6-foot-4 and 250 pounds), bat speed, and raw strength to hit a ball out of any ballpark.  Contact has always been a problem, but he will work a walk.  However, success will be difficult if his contact rate continues with a 3 handle.  The upside continues to be in the mold of Jorge Soler or Miguel Sano.

12. Andrew Dalquist (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary:  Athletic pitcher with a chance to be a mid-rotation starter

The White Sox went well over slot to grab Andrew Dalquist in the third round in 2019.  At 6-foot-1, Dalquist doesn’t have the size you want to see in a top of the rotation starter, but he has solid present stuff with the ability to throw strikes.  If it all comes together, Dalquist ceiling is a mid-rotation starter with plenty of strikeouts.  Given his size, he could be homer-prone which will drive his ERA higher this his arsenal and peripherals might suggest.

13. Gavin Sheets (1B)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 1B
  • Tools Summary:  On-base skills but at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he hasn’t shown much power yet.

Drafted in the second round in 2017 by the White Sox, Gavin Sheets, son of former big leaguer Larry Sheets has shown solid on-base skills but has demonstrated little power.  As a 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman, that has made little sense. Like his father, he’s a 30-grade runner, so speed will not be part of the equation.  I don’t see him fitting into the White Sox plans long-term and believe he will be a candidate for a trade.

14. Blake Rutherford (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF
  • Tools Summary:  Has never lived up to his draft hype.  He has a little speed and pop but needs to cut down on his strikeouts to have an impact at the highest level.

Drafted 18th overall by the Yankees in the 2016 MLB Draft, Blake Rutherford has not torn up the minor leagues.  In parts of five years, he’s hit .282 with a .339 OBP and a .403 SLG.  I do believe Rutherford will be a Big Leaguer, but I don’t see that happening in Chicago.  There will be a little speed (10 to 12 stolen bases) and could also hit double-digit home runs.  However, he needs to cut down on his strikeouts and show more plate patience.   Until then, he’s a marginal add in a dynasty league.  That said, I’m not giving up on him as I still love the athleticism and I’m still holding out hope that he’ll be a late bloomer.

15. Jake Burger (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B
  • Tools Summary:  He hasn’t played in three years, but he was well thought of when the White Sox drafted him with the 11th overall pick in the 2017 Draft

Jake Burger was taken 11th overall in the 2017 Draft but two torn Achilles and something called a global pandemic has slowed his progression.  He hit in college and showed promise in his first year in professional ball.  Conditioning has always been a concern and you worry what the downtime might have caused.  At one point he was a talent and I wanted to remind people of the potential.  The ceiling is a Top 15 3B/1B with 20 plus home run pop who can hit.

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