Let’s face the truth. 2016 was a tough year to be a White Sox fan. The pre-season LaRoche nonsense, Chris Sale destroying throwback uniforms in a bizarre clubhouse incident, the team falling apart after a red hot start to the season, and the season ended with the ‘loveable losers’ who play in the dilapidated stadium on the wrong side of town breaking a multi-faceted championship curse in spectacular fashion. To quote Hawk Harrelson, “dadgummit.”
Rick Hahn has taken control and pushed the White Sox into a full rebuild. The South Siders traded their top-2 2016 performers by WAR (Chris Sale and Adam Eaton), and have been talking to several clubs about moving their #3 performer (Jose Quintana). As a result, the Pale Hose prospect system has improved drastically, adding the #1 overall prospect in baseball (Yoan Moncada) and arguably the top pitching prospect as well (Lucas Giolito).
Having said that, here is my version of the South Side’s Top 50 prospects for 2017. Feel free to comments and let me know what you think.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
1. Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B
Age: 21 (DOB 05/27/1995)
The diamond in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada heads into 2017 as a near-consensus #1 overall prospect in baseball. Young Cuban should fit in well in the White Sox clubhouse, as it looks like the White Sox will keep around fellow Cuban and former teammate Jose Abreu. The Mike Trout comparisons are probably too optimistic, but he boasts power (.254 ISO at AA-Portland), patience (13% walk rate at AA), speed (45 steals in 57 attempts in 2016) and enough defense to stick at 2B. His propensity to strike-out is concerning, as evidenced by 12 Ks in 20 MLB at-bats during his brief sip of coffee for Boston last fall. But if he can improve on the contact rate, he’s a middle of the order hitter that can play the middle infield, and could be a perennial all-star.
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 07/14/1994)
The key piece to the Adam Eaton trade, Giolito is rated by some as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He’s a big, strong righty (6-6, 240) with as much upside as anyone. He tallied a 9.7 K/9 rate with a stellar 4.0 K/BB rate at AAA Syracuse last season. However, he struggled with a 6.82 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in a 21 inning stint with the Nationals. There are grumblings that his spin rate isn’t good enough to make it as an ace. (See http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/the-case-for-trading-lucas-giolito/) However, he’s easily the top White Sox pitching prospect in ages.
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 01/04/1994)
Another pitching prospect included in the Adam Eaton trade, Reynaldo Lopez could wind up being just as good as Lucas Giolito. Unlike Giolito, his movement is outstanding. Watch his 11 Ks vs. the Braves here:
He’s got a ton of arm strength, a routinely mid-90s fastball with an easy delivery, a plus curveball, and a changeup that could become a plus pitch. Went 5-3 in his MLB debut last season, and should be starting games on the South Side very soon.
4. Zack Collins, C
Age: 21 (DOB 02/06/1995)
The White Sox 1st round selection this summer was a polished college hitter with a questionable glove. Sounds like they are taking notes from Theo and the north siders (Kyle Schwarber, Cubs 2014 1st rounder). He’s now the 2nd best hitting prospect in the system. He’s been working extensively this offseason to try and become an everyday catcher. But even if he doesn’t stick behind the plate, any AL team can use a 1B/DH type who can get on base (.549 OBP for University of Miami in 2016) and displays power to all fields.
5. Michael Kopech, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 04/30/1996)
Came over with Yoan Moncada as part of the Chris Sale trade. He’s a tall righty who can light up the radar gun (here’s him hitting 110 (!) mph in a workout this offseason:
So he’s got tons of upside, but he’s also very risky. First, he was suspended for using the PED oxilofrine in the summer of 2015. Second, he doesn’t offer much outside of ‘throw hard and hope for the best’ at this point. If he can clean up his secondary offerings with the help of Don Cooper, he can turn into a front line starter. Or, he could wind up being another hard throwing reliever. Time will tell.
6. Carson Fulmer, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 12/13/1993)
A borderline Tier 2/Tier 3 prospect, but I’m including him here because I think he has a very good shot at being a major league contributor for the White Sox. He’s got a strange, max effort delivery and had control problems at each stop in 2016. He debuted in the bullpen last season and that might be where he winds up permanently. But he’s got a great fastball, a plus curve, and a developing changeup. I’m still holding out hope that Coop can develop him into a starter, where he could fit in very well as a #3 or #4 in the Sox future rotation.
7. Alec Hansen, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/10/1994)
Another big (6-7, 235) right-hander with a big time fastball and nasty slider. Had a breakout 2016, posting huge K/9 rates in college at Oklahoma which carried over to his pro debut. His command is an issue. Still, a really smart second round pick by the White Sox front office with #2 starter upside. He was listed as a potential top overall pick heading into the 2016 season.
8. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 08/26/1996)
Not to be confused with his twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe of the D’Backs organization, this switch-hitting Venezuelan outfielder was added to the Chris Sale trade when the Red Sox wouldn’t include Rafael Devers as part of the package. This is another high upside prospect for the White Sox, with enough athleticism to be a 20 HR/20 SB threat if he continues to mature. Still young (only 20), he’s got great range and a great arm, and could be a standout CF.
9. Dane Dunning, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 12/20/1994)
2016 first round pick of the Washington Nationals was included as part of the Adam Eaton trade. His ceiling isn’t as high as Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez, but Dunning is a polished looking starter with a very good shot at pitching in the Show. Dunning has outstanding control, posting an absurd 7.3 K/BB rate for the University of Florida in 2016. Works low in the zone and throws strikes, generating plenty of ground balls. Easy to picture him as a future #3 starter.
10. Zack Burdi, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 03/09/1995)
Local kid (Downers Grove South, IL) was the White Sox second first round selection in 2016. Profiles as a future closer who might see time in the White Sox bullpen as early as this summer. He throws really hard, and can hit triple digits with his fastball. He’s also got a plus slider that can generate strikeouts. He’s also raw, and can be downright wild at times. However if he can harness his pitches he has the potential to be the White Sox closer of the future.
11. Trey Michalczewski, 3B
Age: 21 (DOB 02/27/1995)
Switch-hitting third baseman was a nice find in the 7th round of the 2013 draft by the Pale Hose. He’s got good size and power (6-3, 210). He’s also a patient hitter, routinely posting a walk-rate over 10%. He’s also got above-average power. Still hasn’t made enough contact and put everything together. Defense at 3B is also an issue, as he might lack the range to stick there in the big leagues. But he’s young for his level and has the potential to improve.
12. Spencer Adams, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 04/13/1996)
Adams held his own as a 20-year old at AA Birmingham last season. He finished the year with a 3.92 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 55 IP. He’s a ground ball specialist who pitches to contact. Needs to develop his changeup as a third pitch. Doesn’t throw really hard (low-90s), and it is troublesome to see his K/9 rate plunge to 4.2/9 when he hit AA. But he’s still really young for his level and has the athletic ability to improve (was also a basketball star in high school).
13. Micker Adolfo, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 09/11/1996)
A young Dominican that fits the “toolsy outfielder” profile that was so favored by the Kenny Williams front office. He is tall (6-3) and oozing with tools, but he also slashed .219/.261/.340 at A-level Kannapolis. He’s got a big arm that would make him a prototypical right fielder. However, if he can’t hit he will wind up as just another athletic project languishing in the White Sox farm system.
14. Jordan Stephens, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 09/12/1992)
Stephens dropped to the 5th round in 2015 because he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. However, he had an outstanding 2016, leading the Carolina League in strikeouts with 155 Ks in 141 IP for High-A Winston-Salem. Throws a nice four-pitch mix which is lead by a good sinking fastball. He can generate strikeouts, but he also knows how to pitch as evidenced by his 3.2 K/BB rate. He’s one to watch out for as he projects to be a future #3 or #4 starter if he continues to develop.
15. Jhoandro Alfaro, C
Age: 19 (DOB 11/04/1997)
Colombian backstop is an advanced prospect for his young age. He’s a switch-hitter with good skills behind the plate, meaning he should advance levels quickly as his career progresses. Posted a strong 85% contact rate combined with an excellent 13% walk rate in Rookie ball last season. There’s a lot to like, but it is unlikely that he will make the big club until 2020 at the earliest.
16. Bernardo Flores, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 08/23/1995)
Flores was a great find by the White Sox, who drafted him out of the University of Southern California in the 7th round in 2016. He’s got a nice four-pitch mix and he knows how to use it to fool hitters. He’s also got good movement on his cut fastball. He transitioned well to rookie ball out of college last season. He’s got a shot at reaching the majors as a mid-rotation starter if he continues to develop.
17. Corey Zangari, 1B/DH
Age: 19 (DOB 05/07/1997)
He’s very young, but Zangari has a lot of power potential which pushes him up the list of White Sox prospects. He struggled to make contact after being pushed to A-level Kannapolis last season, finishing with an abysmal .166 BA in 223 at-bats. He’s got very poor defensive skills as well, which will limit him to 1B/DH duties. But when he’s on, he can mash, with power to all fields. If he can harness his 6-4, 240 frame and raw power, he’s got the potential to make it to the Show.
18. Adam Engel, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 12/09/1991)
Commence with the toolsy outfielders. The White Sox system is full of them, and while several are likely to see time in the majors, few are likely to make a huge impact. Engel is a nice prospect because of his ability to use his plus speed once he gets on base. In 2015 he stole 65 bags for High-A Winston-Salem. Engel is a very good defender as well, with enough range to play CF and enough arm strength to play the corners. However, he will never hit for much power or average, and as he ages it looks increasingly likely that he winds up as a 4th-OF type.
19. Charlie Tilson, OF
Age: 24 (DOB 12/02/1992)
Another toolsy OF, Tilson is a local product (New Trier HS, IL). Similar to Engel, he brings plenty of speed to go with some on-base skills and a very good glove. Doesn’t hit for much power, but a 85% contact rate at AAA Memphis last season bodes well for future batting average potential. He’s got a shot at seeing some extended playing time in the majors this summer.
20. Jacob May, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 01/23/1992)
Look at that, another toolsy athletic OF prospect! Kenny Williams loved these types of players, but I can’t think of one that came through the White Sox system and made a dent at the big league level. May probably has more raw speed than Engel or Tilson, but it he still hasn’t flashed the same high SB numbers. Low OBP hampers those numbers because, as we all know, you can’t steal first base. He’s got great range in CF but a weak arm. Little-to-no power profile caps his upside.
21. Michael Ynoa, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 09/24/1991)
Flame throwing Dominican made his debut as a middle-reliever last season, which is where he’s likely to stay. He’s a flame-thrower with a nice slider, but he’s got control issues which really inhibit his upside.
22. Amado Nunez, IF
Age: 19 (DOB 10/10/1997)
Lanky infield prospect from the Dominican Republic. He’s not great at anything yet, but he’s got some power potential and could also hit for average if he continues to develop. His defense isn’t good enough to play shortstop in the bigs, leaving him with the upside of a super-utility player with the ability to hit for some average and power.
23. Jake Peter, IF
Age: 23 (DOB 04/05/1993)
Another super-utility type of prospect. Played his college ball at Creighton. Peter played every infield position, LF, and RF last season. He’s got the ability to get on base, as he posted a .380 OBP at AA Birmingham last season. Steals (and speed?) tapered off in 2016, limiting his value.
24. Brian Clark, LHP
Age: 23 (DOB 04/27/1993)
Big (6-3, 225) lefty reliever who flashed good K/9 (8.0) at AA last season, but couldn’t carry it over to AAA Charlotte (6.0). He’s likely going to wind up being a LOOGY if he makes it to the bigs, but his slider has potential to turn him into something more. Still young.
25. Chris Beck, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 09/04/1990)
His age puts him close to that “failed prospect” range. Beck had a couple of poor stints with the big club in 2015 and 2016. His season at AAA Charlotte wasn’t much better (4.22 ERA, 1.54 WHIP). He probably winds up as a long reliever, but he’s got three average pitches and might wind up with a back end rotation spot if he can figure it out.
26. Juan Minaya, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 09/18/1990)
Throws hard (93-97 fastball) and has a solid slider, but he’s also 26 and has yet to prove anything. He’s showed the ability to strike out batters at AAA, but those skills haven’t translated to the Show. Back end bullpen filler for now.
27. Connor Walsh, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 10/18/1992)
Relief-pitching prospect with a good fastball/curveball combo. He’s flashed a high K/9 rate at every level he’s pitched. He’s also good at limiting homeruns. Had issues with his control when he hit AA Birmingham last season, but keep your eyes on him for a future bullpen role.
28. Alex Call, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 09/27/1994)
2016 third round pick by the Pale Hose. Posted nice .358/.426/.667 slash line at Ball State last season. He’s got a strong arm but probably not enough range to make it as a CF. As opposed to the usual Kenny Williams “toolsy” OF prospect, this is a Rick Hahn “grindy” OF prospect.
29. Luis Curbelo, 2B/SS
Age: 19 (DOB 11/10/1997)
Tall (6-3), skinny middle infield prospect from Puerto Rico. White Sox 6th round pick in 2016. He’s got some power potential but needs to fill out his frame to realize it going forward. He could wind up being an average everyday player if he develops.
30. Jameson Fisher, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 12/18/1993)
2016 4th round pick out of SE Louisiana University. Fisher has a nice swing and displayed great patience in Rookie ball last season, leading to a 13% walk rate. He has the potential to hit for high average if he can maintain those skills as he moves up the levels. Which is good, as he doesn’t have plus power, speed, or glove to make it to the majors any other way.
31. Jordan Guerrero, LHP
Age: 22 (05/31/1994)
Lefty mixes fastball, slider, and changeup in starting role. Had the dubious distinction of leading the Southern League in walks last season. But he also flashed a 7.1 K/9 rate, holding out hope that he could develop into a back-end starter.
32. Luis Martinez, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 01/29/1995)
Tall (6-6) Venezuelan is an intriguing prospect. Showed a 9.3 K/9 rate in 137 IP at A-level Kannapolis last season. He’s got upside, but he needs to develop a third pitch to make it as a starter.
33. Victor Diaz, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 05/24/1994)
Dominican pitching prospect that came over from Boston in the Chris Sale deal. His fastball can touch 100 mph, but he’s a very raw prospect. Taking the “throw hard and pray” route to the majors at this point.
Editor’s note: Here is a more detailed look at Victor Diaz on our site.
34. Johan Cruz, SS
Age: 21 (DOB 10/08/1995)
He’s got a solid glove but might not have the range to stick at SS. His arm is good enough though. He is young enough to continue to develop power, but it seems like a long shot that he will make the majors at this point.
35. Matt Davidson, 3B
Age: 25 (DOB 03/26/1991)
Once upon a time he was a big-time power hitting prospect. However, he just strikes out too much. Last year’s AAA contact rate creeping up to 70% provides some hope. He might get a chance in the bigs thanks to the south side rebuilding project. Fingers are crossed that he still pans out, but Davidson feels like a prospect flop at this point in his career.
36. Courtney Hawkins, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 11/12/1993)
A Ken Williams toolsy OF flop. Had a brutal .203/.253/.349 slash line while repeating AA Birmingham last season. Projectable power has stalled out. But hey, he looks like a big time athlete when he puts that uniform on.
37. Nicky Delmonico, 1B/3B
Age: 24 (DOB 07/12/1992)
Corner infield prospect who saw time at 1B/3B/RF last season. Power is his best tool, and he slugged an impressive .676 at AA Birmingham last season. Has deficient speed and glove, meaning his bat will have to work out for him to make it in the majors. Life of organized crime in his future if baseball doesn’t work out, based solely on his name.
38. Dylan Covey, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 08/14/1991)
The White Sox snagged Covey from Oakland in this year’s Rule 5 draft. He’s got a ton of potential to become a starter, and has a four pitch arsenal that might take him there, but the clock is really ticking at this point.
39. Thaddius Lowry, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/04/1994)
Tall (6-4) righty from Texas. Has a three-pitch mix and isn’t afraid to pitch to contact. Also shows good control, limiting walks. However, he lacks the stuff to get strikeouts. His upside is a back-end starter, which basically tells you all you need to know.
40. Zach Thompson, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 10/23/1993)
Another right-handed Texan, Thompson was excellent at Class A Kannapolis (2.62 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), but got knocked around at High-A Winston-Salem (5.65 ERA, 1.49 WHIP). He’s got bad mechanics and a below-average changeup, which might explain it. But Thompson is big enough (6-7, 230) and can throw hard enough to develop into something more.
41. Danny Hayes, 1B
Age: 26 (DOB 09/21/1990)
Posted a nice .489 slugging percentage at AAA Charlotte last season. He’s got power upside, but he’s also 26 and a likely a career AAA player at this point.
42. Yosmer Solorzano, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 02/11/1997)
Young Venezuelan right-hander relies on pitching instinct more than eye-popping velocity or movement. As such, his upside is a that of a back-end starter. Did post a 9-3 record in Rookie ball last season.
43. Aaron Schnurbusch, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 01/21/1994)
2016’s 28th round (!) draft pick was a nice find by Rick Hahn’s crew. He’s big (6-5, 235), can hit for some power, can run well, and totes a decent glove. Posted a 1.013 OPS in 238 Pioneer League at-bats in 2016. Nice find that could lead somewhere.
44. Omar Narvaez, C
Age: 24 (DOB 02/10/1992)
Narvaez has good defensive intangibles behind the plate, but his arm strength is lacking. He’s good at making contact, and hits to all fields, but he has little to no pop. His upside is likely a backup catcher role if he ever makes the big leagues.
45. Robin Leyer, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 03/13/1993)
Dominican righty with good velocity on his fastball that can touch 96 mph. Made it to AA Birmingham last season despite very poor control, where he proceeded to post a 5.79 ERA out of the bullpen. Potential bullpen role in his future if he develops a secondary offering.
46. Louie Lechich, LHP
Age: 25 (DOB 11/19/1991)
25 year-old converted OF. He’s very athletic and has an above average change-up, but at this point the Sox can’t expect much from Lechich.
47. Matt Cooper, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 09/30/1991)
Interesting prospect because he developed additional velocity once he made it to AA Birmingham last season, where he posted a 3.07 ERA and 1.02 WHIP working out of the bullpen. A future bullpen role on the south side is not totally out of the question.
48. Keon Barnum, 1B
Age: 24 (DOB 01/16/1993)
Once projected to be a big-league power hitter, Barnum still hasn’t been able to figure it out past A-ball. Hit a dismal .194 for AA-Birmingham last season
49. Keenyn Walker, OF
Age: 26 (DOB 08/12/1990)
He was once a high-rising prospect in the Pale Hose system. Used his athleticism and on-base skills to steal 21 bags at AA-Birmingham in 2016. However, at 26 his time is running out.
50. Aaron Bummer, LHP
Age: 23 (DOB 09/21/1993)
Lefty starter who played his college ball for Nebraska. He’s got good size and a mid-90s fastball. He got a non-roster spring training invite this season, so we will get a chance to see if he’s got enough talent to develop into a back-end starter.
Wishful alternate #50. Jared Mitchell, OF (not actually with White Sox anymore)
Age: 28 (DOB 10/13/1988)
In 2009, an outfield prospect who looked more like a football player than an baseball player dropped to the late 1st round. He developed into a perennial MVP candidate centerfielder with the best power/speed profile in the majors. I’m describing Mike Trout of course, who the White Sox did not pick. Instead, they chose OF Jared Mitchell, two picks ahead of Mike Trout. Mitchell lands on the top of the heap of Kenny Williams swing-and-misses on “toolsy” players as GM. Rick Hahn seems more focused on finding potential baseball players than potential athletes so far. Let’s hope it holds up, because the White Sox farm system was in sorry shape prior to the rebuild this offseason which has restocked us with some prospects.