Chicago White Sox

Understandably, the White Sox minor league system is not what it use to be.  Nobody cares though as their Major League roster is filled with players that I’ve written about over the last five years.  But, the system is down with few impact stars on the horizon.  Yoelqui Cespedes, Yoenis little brother is the top prospect and while he’s tooled up, there is no guarantee that he’ll be an impact player.  Colson Montgomery, their 2021 first-round draft pick is a nice prospect, but he needs to add power to his 6-foot-4 frame.  Will he?  One thing is for sure, the White Sox know how to develop players, particularly positional players.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Yoelqui Cespedes
  • Biggest Mover: Romy Gonzalez and Jose Rodriguez
  • Emerging Prospect: Norge Vera

1. Yoelqui Cespedes (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Plus bat speed should translate into plus future power.  The approach is very aggressive with a lot of swing and miss

Because of the number of graduations in the White Sox organization, Yoelqui Cespedes finds himself at the top of the White Sox prospect list.  He’s the younger brother of Yoenis and signed for $2 million in January.  After some time at the Complex, the White Sox had him split his season between High and Double-A.  Overall, he held his own slashing .285/.350/.463.  However, he struck out 28% of the time and walked 16 times in total.  Now, some of that is just rust, but he’s also just an aggressive hitter who will strike out too much and rarely walk.  Despite being 5-foot-9, he has plenty of bat speed, runs well and of course, he has the name.  For owners of Cespedes, know your parameters and the risk that accompanies it.

2. Colson Montgomery (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B or Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Big kid at 6-foot-4 and will likely need to move off shortstop.  A simple swing that should work, but he’ll need to add leverage to tap into his power

Montgomery was the White Sox first-round pick last June (pick #22).  He’s athletic, 6-foot-4 with long levers.  His swing though is direct to the ball but he’ll naturally have holes in his swing.  The swing is also flat and he’ll need to add loft to his swing to tap into some power.  I always rate athletic kids very high and Montgomery wins on those marks.  He has a long way to go, but the ceiling is a power-hitting corner infielder or outfielder who should be able to hit enough to be a full-time regular.

3. Norge Vera (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Premium arsenal with a double-plus fastball and secondary pitches that are better than advertised

The White Sox signed Cuban émigré Norge Vera last spring and assigned the 21-year-old to the DSL where he pitched extremely well.  In 15.2 innings, he didn’t give up a run, striking out 27 and walking 4.  Candidly, he should have.  He’s 21 and pitched at a high level in Cuba.  Nonetheless, he flashed his upper 90s fastball and secondary pitches that were more advanced than what was reported during the courting process.  He’ll likely start 2022 in Low-A and could move quickly.

4. Jake Burger (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Corner Infielder
  • Tools Summary: After an absence of four years, he played very well showing solid power.  He even got some time with the Major League club

Jake Burger was drafted in 2017 but injury precluded him from performing until 2020 when the pandemic hit. He finally got a chance to get back on the field this season and the White Sox aggressively assigned him to Triple-A where he played well.  In 75 games, he slashed .279/.328/.524 with 17 home runs.  He even got some time at the big club where he didn’t look out of place.  It’s hard to determine exactly what we have as he’s likely still knocking the rust off.  But, there is potentially plus power with contact skills to be a full-time regular.  I don’t see a star but with all he’s been through, it’s just good to see him playing and playing well.

5. Romy Gonzalez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: Fantasy-friendly skills with plus power and solid speed.  He just needs to find playing time on a crowded Major League roster

Gonzalez was one of the few players to go 20-20 in the minor leagues. Actually, he went 23-22.  He did most of his damage in Double-A, spent a week in Triple-A, and then got the call to the Major Leagues.  He didn’t do much in his brief stint, but he’s got enough skills to be a Major Leaguer.  He is already 25 and I have no idea where he plays in Chicago, but there is plus power and solid speed.  He does strike out too much and that could limit him to a utility player, but there are fantasy-friendly skills

6. Jose Rodriguez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: Speed-power combination and rarely strikes out.  He also rarely walks but it might not matter as the profile could still work

The White Sox minor league system is down…and that’s to be expected as so many of their young players have made the Major Leagues and are contributing in a meaningful way.  But for me, it’s a slog writing about them.  But, here’s a nugget of optimism – Jose Rodriguez.  I’m not saying he’s the next Tatis Jr., but he had a nice season where he slashed .303/.342/.475 in 107 games across Low and High-A.  He hit 14 home runs and stole 30 bases.  Want more…he rarely strikes out.  Now, he also swings at everything, rarely walking.  But, it might not matter because the profile could work.  If he becomes more patient, even better.

7. Matthew Thompson (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: He didn’t have a great season in his first taste of full-season affiliate ball.  He wasn’t able to throw strikes and hitters got a good look and hit him hard

When researching the White Sox list last year, I received several positive reviews on Matt Thompson.  Therefore, I was expecting him to take off in his assignment to Low-A.  He didn’t.  In 19 starts, he pitched to a 5.90 ERA striking out nearly 10 per nine but also walking nearly five per nine.  He also gave up 80 hits.  He has a plus fastball, a curveball that will also flash plus, but everything is playing down because of his inability to throw strikes.  I wouldn’t give up on him by any stretch, just know the parameters and know that there is a lot of work remaining.

8. Wes Kath (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B with risk
  • Tools Summary: Simply swing and his 42:8 strikeout to walk ratio in Rookie Ball says he’s raw with a lot of development in front of him

Wes Kath was the White Sox second-round pick last June.  He’s a big kid at 6-foot-3 and 200 plus pounds with the potential for plus power.  In looking at him on video, the swing looks simple and direct to the ball but he struck out 42 times against 8 walks in 115 plate appearance in his professional debut.  He was an older high school draftee as he’s already 19.  With his raw approach, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the White Sox have proven effective in developing talented hitters who have a similar profile to Kath.

9. Jared Kelley (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: He had a difficult season in Low-A where he walked nearly as many hitters as he struck out.  He also had a shoulder injury late in the season

Like Matt Thompson, Jared Kelley also struggled for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers in Low-A East.  In 10 starts, he pitched to a 6.86 ERA striking out nearly 11 per nine but walking nearly as many batters.   To make matters worse, his season ended early when he developed a shoulder impingement in August.  He has the big fastball that he can run up to the mid to upper 90s but had trouble spinning a curveball.  He has the starter size and the delivery is simple, although he doesn’t use his lower half well, he might work better in the bullpen.  For now, we will put a number four ceiling on him.

10. Andrew Dalquist (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 70 SP with risk
  • Tools Summary: He had a difficult season in Low-A where he walked over five per nine

I lived in Charlotte for several years and would attend Kannapolis games frequently.  I have since moved and one benefit was not seeing the awful pitching staff the Cannon Ballers were throwing out in 2021.  Many of their top pitching arms were assigned there and many struggled to throw strikes.  Andrew Dalquist was one.  In 23 starts, he pitched to a 4.99 ERA but walked over six per nine.   All of the pitchers have good stuff and can miss bats, but the lack of control is a real problem.  Dalquist has a good fastball, can spin a good curveball, but can’t repeat his delivery.  Given his size, the upside is a little less than some of the others in that rotation.

11. Jonathan Stiever (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 70 SP
  • Tools Summary: Average arsenal but does throw strikes

Stiever spent most of 2021 in Triple-A but did pitch in relief in a Major League game in April.  In looking at Statcast data, none of his pitches stand out as plus.  His fastball sits 92 to 93 MPH with average spin and a slider and change-up that also look like average pitches.  With his arsenal, hitters get a good look and his hits per nine are high as is his home run rate.  He does throw strikes and that will help limit the damage.  His ceiling is a back-of-the-rotation pitcher.

12. Sean Burke (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Reliever
  • Tools Summary: Premium fastball but with delivery concerns that might force a move to the bullpen

Burke was the third-round pick by the White Sox last June and has looked good in his limited time in professional ball.  He has a big fastball but at 6-foot-6, he has trouble throwing consistent strikes.  The White Sox will develop him as a starter but if he can’t get achieve at least 50-grade control, a move to the bullpen might be in order.

13. Micker Adolfo (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Extra Bat
  • Tools Summary: Huge raw power but with a poor approach and significant swing and miss in his game

I’ve been writing about Micker Adolfo for years.  I’m not surprised that his baseball reference link now says he’s 25.  The scouting report is one you see far too often.  Huge raw power but with significant swing and miss.  His approach is also very aggressive and therefore, he rarely walks.  There was hope back in 2018 that his approach was improving, but since then, it’s been back to a mid-30s strikeout rate and this year, single-digit walks per nine.  He’s likely an extra bat, but he could pull an Aristides Aquino and mash for six weeks and win people a fantasy league. However, at this juncture, I don’t see him having long-term success.

14. Blake Rutherford (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Extra Bat
  • Tools Summary: As he’s progressed through the system, the strikeout rate has gone up and the power has not developed.  He’ll make the big leagues at some point, but I don’t see anything more than a fourth outfielder on a Major League team or an extra bat on a fantasy team

I was high on Rutherford when the Yankees selected him the first-round back in 2016.  It looked like he was going to be able to hit for average with some pressure on his on-base percentage.  However, once he got to the upper minors, he started striking out too much.  He has some power, more doubles than over-the-fence, and can steal the odd base, but from a fantasy standpoint, I’m afraid he’s waiver wire material.

15. Oscar Colas (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Int’s Player expected to sign ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Unknown
  • Tools Summary: Tooled up Cuban player with elite bat speed who can also throw in the mid-90s from the bump.  He’s already 22 but is still very raw despite spending time in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan

Colas has been rumored to sign with the White Sox for a couple of years.  It might finally happen in January of 2022.  He’s a talented player who played both in Cuba and Japan before defecting.  He’s a physical athlete with elite bat speed that should be able to hit for power.  At least early in his career, he should also be able to steal plenty of bases.  The approach is raw even though he spent a couple of years playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (Majors and Minors).  But, he will provide the White Sox with a much-needed boost in their system in both upside and athleticism.  Oh yeah, if he doesn’t work out as a positional player, he also can throw 95 on the left side from the bump.