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Well look at us, we have the Braves, and now the White Sox systems done and it’s only December 3rd. I guess it’s all down hill from here, no? We’ve covered the top two systems, and the World Series ended just about a month ago. Damn, I’m going to have to hustle to make the rest of this series entertaining. Perhaps I should write in all caps all the time. Then again that might be difficult to read after awhile. Instead I’ll go about my business of bringing you my thoughts on as many minor league players as I can stomach. As for the White Sox they are the only team with three players in my top 20 prospects (Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Luis Robert). However, the really interesting slant to that narrative is, none of them were in the system this time last year. No team, not the Braves nor the Padres, has done so much to restock their system. Not only do they have some close to the majors talent on both sides of the ball, they also have good depth, with no shortage of power-hitting. I went 17 deep today, but probably could have gone 25-30 if I wasn’t so lazy. The White Sox graduated Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito last year, with some players like Carson Fulmer just slipping under their limits. It’s an understatement to say the youth movement is on in the South Side. A looming Jose Abreu trade may fetch even more talent to a system already bursting at the seams. But for that news we wait and see. It’s the 2018 Chicago White Sox Top Prospects.

 

1) Eloy Jimenez, OF | Level: AA | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .312/.379/.568, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 1 SB

The number three overall prospect in the first edition of my 2018 Top 50, Eloy is the classic righthanded slugger. With a big leg kick and a quick powerful swing, Jimenez is destined to star in the middle of a big league lineup. He brings 70 grade power, with a 60 grade hit tool, and all the makings of a potential superstar. After coming over in the Jose Quintana trade the White Sox were aggressive with Jimenez, promoting the 20 year old to AA in mid-August. In 18 games with Birmingham, he slashed .353/.397/.559 with 3 homers, showing he belonged despite being one of the youngest players in AA. The off-season hasn’t slowed down Jimenez either, as he mashed during a 19 game appearance in the Dominican Winter League. He slashed .368/.443/.676, with 4 homers, 5 doubles, and a couple of triples, driving in 21 runs in the process. Eloy is one of the elite talents in dynasty baseball, and a player I would be holding in all formats for the years to come. There’s an outside shot that Jimenez makes his debut next summer for the Chi-Sox, but more than likely it will be a September callup or early 2019 time frame. ETA: 2019

2) Michael Kopech, RHP | Level: AAA | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: 9-8, 134.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 172 Ks, 65 Bb

The other guy in the big Chris Sale deal ain’t no slouch. Kopech is in my opinion the top “fantasy baseball” pitching prospect in the game. What I mean by that is, on say a mainstream list (see: BA, BP, BABP, Fangraphs, etc.) they’ll focus more on the risk vs. upside balance. Me, I’m going upside, as you always should with pitching prospects in fantasy. Kopech has the potential to lead MLB in strikeouts one day, with his plus plus triple digit fastball that runs in on righties, a plus slider that flashes plus plus at times, and an improving changeup. Kopech has all world stuff, and adjusted his mechanics early in the second half, getting more straight on with the plate, and cutting his walk rate by 60%+ (6 Bb/9 dropped to 2.7). He spent a majority of his season in the Southern League, leading the circuit in batting average against (.183), and ranking second in SwStr% (12.2%). He was promoted to AAA at the end of August for 3 starts and preformed well. Kopech should begin the season in AAA Charlotte, likely to see 15+ starts before getting the call sometime next summer, though a September 1st callup isn’t out of the question. With playoff contention likely not in the picture for the next few seasons, the White Sox really don’t have any compelling reason to aggressively push the arrival dates of their top talents. ETA: 2018

3) Luis Robert, OF | Level: Rk | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .310/.491/.536, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 12 SB

The last of the record-setting signing bonus Cubans, Robert joined the White Sox in May for a hefty $26 Million price tag. The athletic outfielder is a righthanded hitter with lightening quick bat speed, plus plus wheels, on base ability, and plus power. Sound familiar? Yes, he’s not all that different from former #1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada. Despite being just 20 years old Robert has a track record of success, hitting .401/.526/.687 in the Cuban Seire Nacional as an 18 year old. There’s certainly some swing and miss concerns, as he carried a 20% K rate in the Dominican Summer League, though to be fair his walk rate was 19% with the above slashline, so I’m not too scared off. Overall Robert is an exciting power/speed prospect with a sky-high ceiling, and some volatility as well. I ranked him as the top overall pick in any Otani-less First year player drafts, and 19th overall in my Top 100 Prospects. ETA: 2020

4) Alec Hansen, RHP | Level: AA | Age: 23 | 2017 Stats: 11-8, 141.1 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 191 Ks, 51 Bb

Hansen is proof that a bad final year of college might tank your draft stock, but isn’t indicative of future struggles. The 22 year old righthander led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts this year, and jumped across three levels of full season ball. He didn’t slow down against better competition either, ending his year in AA Birmingham striking out 82 batters in 58.1 innings. Hansen has top of the rotation upside. ETA: 2019

5) Zack Collins, C | | Level: AA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .224/.370/.445, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

Collins is easy to break down; power, on base, strikeouts. He’s the definition of a three outcome hitter, walking at an elite rate, but struggling to hit above .240. There’s 25-30 homer seasons in his bat, and he should get a huge boost in leagues that use OBP in place of average. Collins has done well to hone his catching skills and looks likely to stick behind the plate for now. ETA: 2019

6) Dylan Cease, RHP | Level: A | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: 1-10, 93.1 IP, 3.28 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 126 K, 44 Bb

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for those of us that own Cease in dynasty leagues. He’s always flashed front of the rotation stuff and potential, but has been oft-injured. At one point not too long ago, I thought he had one of the highest upsides in the minors. But the laundry list of injuries, and some serious mechanics concerns, leave it a better than 50/50 shot he ends up in the pen. His pure stuff is as good as any one, mixing a nasty high 90’s fastball with sink, a hammer curve, and a fringy change. The command and control are inconsistent, and at times downright bad. Despite missing time with an ankle injury, Cease stayed mostly healthy avoiding any arm related flare ups. ETA: 2019

7) Blake Rutherford, OF | Level: A | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .260/.326/.348, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 10 SB

Not too long in the past Rutherford looked like the top prep talent in the 2016 Draft. Three summers later, and Rutherford’s fallen in the first round to the Yanks, made his full season debut, and been traded. It’s easy to look at Rutherford’s underwhelming slashline and dismiss him as another highly touted prep bust, but there’s an elite hitter still here. With good bat speed, a plus approach, a discerning eye, and raw power that should blossom into game power. Rutherford is still very much a player with huge upside. His swing is more geared to line drive contact at the moment, but he should be able to launch-angle his way to plus power. His overall slashline was crushed by a bad August where he slashed .205/.287/.244. Prior to that he hit .283/.342/.388, once again a poor power showing, but still decent numbers for a player in his full-season debut. At the moment Rutherford has some foot speed, but it should disappear after his body fills out. Not a bad buy low in dynasty league’s this off-season. ETA: 2021

8) Dane Dunning, RHP | Level: A+ | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: 8-8, 144 IP, 2.94 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 168 Ks, 38 Bb

One of the players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade, Dunning had a really strong first full professional season and he did it somewhat under the radar. While researching this post I started to fall in love with Dunning a bit. Why? Because he combines two of the top qualities I look for in a pitcher, the ability to miss bats (12% SwStr%), and a 50%+ groundball rate. His arsenal is led by a low 90’s sinker, that he throws effectively to both righthanders and lefthanders, driving his elite 54.5% GB%. His best secondary offering is his 12-6 curveball, that I’ve seen described as a slider as well, and toward the end of the year was getting above average to plus grades. His changeup is a work in progress, which isn’t shocking for a converted college reliever. ETA: 2019

9) Jake Burger, 3B | Level: A | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .263/.336/.412, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB

The 11th overall pick in this year’s draft was one of the more established college hitters from the 2017 class. He’s a bad bodied third baseman, unlikely to stick at the hot corner due to issues with his throwing accuracy. Meaning his future lies across the diamond at first base where his bat will really have to play. He hit for some power in his professional debut, handling an aggressive assignment to Kannapolis of the Sally League after 4 rookie ball games. The reports from evaluators who scouted him in instructs raved about his loud contact and advanced hitting ability. The White Sox have him working on tapping into more of his raw power, as he spent time working on his swing in the Fall. ETA: 2019

10) Carson Fulmer, RHP | Level: AAA | Age: 23 | 2017 Stats: 7-9, 126 IP, 5.79 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 96 Ks, 65 Bb

Coming out of Vanderbilt few starters in the 2015 draft had the pedigree of Fulmer, but with the pedigree came well documented pitfalls. Those of which have come to define his career. When he was drafted 8th overall many foresaw the lack of size, high effort delivery, and spotty control as major red flags. The White Sox saw the converted closer that led the nation’s foremost MLB player factory to their first College World Series. I still believe Fulmer can be an effective reliever, and could foresee a back end of the White Sox pen consisting of Fulmer, Burdi, and Viera. Should have some role on the major league club out of camp. ETA: 2018

11) Micker Adolfo, OF | Level: A | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .264/.331/.453, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB

Talk about a renaissance, huh? Perhaps it was the waves of new talent entering the system that woke Adolfo up, perhaps it was just coincidental timing. Either way Adolfo is very much back on the prospect radar following 2017. Signed for $1.6 million back in 2013, the outfielder’s game is led by two skills, plus raw power and a fire-hose of an arm. He fits the corner outfielder profile to a tee, but needs to curb his free swinging ways. In fact Adolfo has been so strikeout prone in his career, that his 31% K% was far and a way the best strikeout rate he’s posted at any level since rookie ball in 2015. Some what buried in a good system, Adolfo has the ability to one day be a cheap source of power as a potential second division regular. ETA: 2020

12) Ryan Cordell, OF/1B/3B | Level: AAA | Age: 25 | 2017 Stats: .284/.349/.506, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB

Cordell has been jettisoned the past two trade deadlines, but hopefully 2018 is the year the versatile outfielder gets his shot at the bigs. Cordell pairs above average power with above average speed, and contact skills. A back injury ended his season in 2017, but he has the ability to be a sleeper in mixed leagues with his skillset, and an opportunity in Chicago. ETA: 2018

13) Casey Gillaspie, 1B | Level: AAA | Age: 24 | 2017 Stats: .223/.297/.373, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 1 SB

At one time Gillaspie was a favorite under the radar prospect of mine, but the former college star has failed to live up to the expectations of yours truly, and his draft stock. Coming into 2017 I thought he had a real shot to see some time in Tampa, but he performed poorly and found himself shipped out for Dan Jennings. His power improved during his time in Charlotte, but he still made too much poor contact in the form of popups and groundballs. Despite his warts there’s still much to like, first Gillaspie is a switch-hitter, has good pitch recognition skills, a plus plate approach, and above average power. Maybe 2017 was just a rough year, either way I would look for Gillaspie to rebound enough to see some time on the South Side this year. ETA: 2018

14) Gavin Sheets, 1B | Level: A | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .279/.365/.397, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB

Son of former major leaguer Larry Sheets, Gavin is a big power hitter just like his father. After a stellar junior year at Wake Forrest, that saw Sheets slash .322/.429/.634 with 20 homers, he entered the draft and went 49th overall to the White Sox. He’s a first base only hitter, so the bat has to play in order for Sheets to make it. Having watched a bit of Sheets video from college, and his short professional career, I can say I doubt he ever consistently hits for a high average. His uppercut swing will lead to some homers, but a lot of weak popups, so .280 is about as high as I ever see him hitting. The .266 he hit in Kannapolis is about right for a career projection. A 25 homer, .260 hitter at first base or DH is still valuable. Sheets isn’t a player Id take in the top 30 of a first year player draft, but he’s around 50 for me. ETA: 2019

15) Zack Burdi, RHP | Level: AAA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: 0-4, 33.1 IP, 4.05 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 51 Ks, 17 Bb

A potential future relief ace with a blazing fastball and some wildness. He underwent Tommy John surgery in late July, and will be on the shelf for all of 2018. If he returns to form in 2019 and beyond, he has the potential to be a high end closer missing tons of bats, pumping high octane fastballs, with a pair of above average secondaries in his changeup and slider. ETA: 2019

16) Spencer Adams, RHP | Level: AA | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: 7-15, 152.2 IP, 4.42 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 113 Ks, 40 Bb

A righthander with an above average slider, and plus control Adams has a shot to see some innings at the MLB level this year. Doesn’t miss a ton of bats, so he’s not all that exciting for fantasy, but could be a solid back end of the rotation type. ETA: 2018

17) Luis Alexander Basabe, OF | Level: A+ | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .221/.320/.320, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 17 SB

The final player acquired alongside Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech in the Chris Sale deal. Unlike Moncada and Kopech, Basabe’s time in the pale hose organization has been far less productive. He still possesses plus speed, and a quick bat, that at times manifests itself in raw power, but Basabe’s extreme pull profile really drives down his batting average. He doesn’t have the best bat to ball skills, but he’s toolsy, and he has an above average approach. A high A debut from a 20 year old with a 11.3% walk rate, and a 75% success rate on the basepaths is nothing to scream at. Basabe should look to improve the quality of his contact, in a likely second tour of duty in the Carolina League. ETA: 2020

Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus

   
  1. Guest says:
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    Honestly asking, is misuse of the word penultimate an accident or part of an ongoing joke? I can never tell on this site…

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Guest: Where did you see penultimate?

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Guest: I’m just not very smart. Haha

          • Guest says:
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            @Ralph Lifshitz:

            Yeah, I wasn’t trying to be that guy, I mostly was curious if this was an inside joke since this site is full of them.

            • Ralph Lifshitz

              Ralph Lifshitz says:
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              @Guest: Haha oh I know, I’m usually good for a couple of typos of misused terms a post haha.

  2. Miketron says:
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    Any residual interest in Charlie Tilson? Everyone saw him a sleeper last year.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Miketron: I had him 21, but honestly my last 6 were, Evan Skoug, Jordan Stephens , Thyago Viera, Charlie Tilson , A.J. Puckett, Jordan Guerrero, and Ian Clarkin. I had enough and threw in the towel after Basabe.

      If Tilson can stay healthy he has the speed to be mixed league relevant. Don’t see a massive breakout, but he’s SAGNOF.

  3. Dave_W says:
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    What do you think about Reynaldo Lopez? Is he a part of the rotation from this point forward and what can we expect?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Dave_W: I’m not a big fan, good breaking ball, fastball is hard but hittable. I think he’s a back end of the rotation type. I haven’t been a fan since his days in Washington. I think his stock is heavily built on the radar gun reads.

  4. Rich says:
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    I read somewhere that Kopech dialed his fastball down a bit later in the year and that’s when the walks went down. He’s more high 90’s now, instead of triple digits. Still getting the swings and misses because it has that late bite to it. I’m usually cautious with pitching prospects because of the risk and he certainly has his share. But the size, stuff, and work ethic are all there. Barring injury, it’s really difficult not seeing him becoming a fantasy ace almost immediately. Would you take him over Ohtani?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Rich: It was mechanical not just dialing down velocity. Otherwise he would have done that awhile ago. Later in the year a velocity decrease could be a bunch of things. He tweaked his mechanics heading into the Futures Game and stopped falling forward at the end of his delivery.

      He’ll probably take a little bit to settle. Ohtani is a clear #1 for me. I’d rank him over Acuna in a top 100.

      • Rich says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: I hadn’t heard about that particular mechanical tweak, makes sense. What s your opinion on Giolito? Not sure how to value him at this point. He seemed to figure some things out towards the end last season.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Rich: I’m avoiding Giolito this year. His ERA is the product of a crazy low BABIP and insane strand rate. I think he eventually ends up in the pen.

  5. El Famous Burrito says:
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    Do you feel that the guys who throw extremely hard like Kopech can stand up to a whole MLB season?

    Obviously, if you’ve had him on the farm this whole time, the payoff is great even if he misses some time, but would you pay the price to trade for them now?

    Like, you might get that season of 300+ strikeouts, but you could also get saddled with a lost season from a guy you paid a lot to get.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @El Famous Burrito: It’s a risk, I will say he’s had relatively good health to this point. He’s very serious about his body and conditioning. Guy is the Hulk. His mechanics are sound. It’s tough for me to knock him because Thor got hurt. It’s a chance with any pitcher or pitching prospect. I will say I think he could be dominant at the MLB level now.

  6. Anon Gonzalez says:
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    Just curious when you’re going to do 100-200 for the top prospects.

    Excellent work on these BTW.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Anon Gonzalez: Thanks, I’m probably going to hold off until I do the pre-season Top 100. So late February.

  7. Anodyne says:
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    Thanks for this write up, Ralph! I was wondering what you’d say about Hansen and Gillaspie in particular. Thanks for your insights.

    Dynasty question for you: do you prefer Michael Taylor or Keon Broxton in dynasties?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Anodyne: No problem glad to help.

      I’m going Michael Taylor, I think he’s just a better player.

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