Someone wins the off-season every winter. The baseball calendar invites us to imagine how a power bat like Edwin Encarnacion and a high OBP catcher like Yasmani Grandal will impact a lineup. It’s math we can do more easily than we can measure the addition of a great left tackle to a football team. We can plug Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez into Chicago’s rotation and add up their wins above replacement. It’s all very earnest and joyful and helps us push through the expanding darkness. 

Course, someone wins summer in football, too, but it feels very different. Football has no WAR, ironically enough, and while I think that’s at least as flawed a statistic as batting average, WAR is currently treated with reverence due to the shorthand evaluative powers it grants the baseball world. 

While it’s efficacy can be debated, WAR dominates our world, and there can be no doubt the White Sox have gone to WAR this winter. The people are singing songs of freedom and glory—not just for these winter wins but also for the prospect waterfall coming this Spring. 

And who doesn’t love to see a slow-cooked recipe come together, especially during the holiday season?

 

1. OF Luis Robert | 22 | AAA | Early 2020

Lou Bob is his own tier. He’s the best rookie. A lot of people—all the humans I’ve heard discuss the matter so far—are predicting early struggles. I’m not sure what they mean as every context is different, but Steamer has him slashing .273/.318/.494 with 22 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 117 games. If you’re here often, you might be thinking I’ve never cited Steamer, and I haven’t. Whole concept’s not especially my jam. But they’re conservative on prospects, and they think Robert is Starling Marte on a rate basis. Not Starling-lite. Diesel. A 2nd rounder masquerading as an 8th because people fear the unknown. 

 

2. 1B Andrew Vaughn | 22 | A+ | Mid 2021

Something of a forgotten man in the early discussions around 2020 first-year-player drafts, Andrew Vaughn will make some people very happy to see him still available on their turn. First base is a position in flux. Depending on your source, you might detect a tremor of panic around the first base scarcity situation. I think it’s partly seasonal like everything, but I think it’s even more an outcome of the path first baseman walk to become an every day player combined with the declining cost of corner-only players. Every prospect with the potential to avoid that label works hard to do so, making the position something of a run-off collector–an island of misfit toys. Few would have predicted long-buried Christian Walker to lock down that job heading into 2020, but that was a fairly bankable possibility given his history of good production despite having almost no prospect profile. I’m struggling to articulate my thoughts here except to say I don’t want to put a premium on first base prospects just because it currently seems shallow at the major league level. 

 

3. 2B Nick Madrigal | 23 | AAA | Early 2020

4. RHP Michael Kopech | 24 | MLB | Early 2020

I’m not super confident Nick Madrigal is on the express train to a starting job because there’s more second base options on the market than there are center fielders. Still, he should get a chance early, make a lot of contact when he does, and steal a lot of bases if he’s making enough impact on contact to reach. 

I almost put Michael Kopech in his own tier below because this is a fantasy-focused list, and Madrigal steals bases while Kopech is a young pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. I changed my mind because his stuff was top-of-the-scale before injury, and he might come back throwing 100 with relative ease. Might even have some idea where it’s going. I’m betting he continues that pre-injury trend of trading velocity for command and comes back strong. Can’t pay retail in this instance, but If you can buy at a discount, he’s somebody you’re going to want.

 

5. RHP Jonathan Stiever | 22 | A+ | Late 2020

6. OF James Beard | 19 | R | 2024

Like Veruca Salt before me, I could not fight the Stiever. I wanted to put him below Beard because I love the speed like an eighth grader who can’t remember life before his adderall prescription, but Jonathan Stiever was too dominant at high-A to spend long in AA if he’s good there. As a pitch mix guy with solid command, he has the feel of an under-the-radar type people don’t start banging the drum about until he’s getting outs in the majors. 

The James Beard Awards are given annually to humans who excel in their field. 

Mostly for food and entertainment.

James Beard the White Sock has won none of these awards with his name on it, but he was widely regarded as the fastest man in the 2019 draft class. The Sox picked him in the 4th round hoping his athleticism would translate to the batters’ box with time and coaching. If so, Beard could be a category-winning stolen base threat. 

 

7. OF Micker Adolfo | 23 | AA | Mid 2021

8. RHP Andrew Dalquist | 19 | R | 2022

9. RHP Dane Dunning | 25 | AA | Mid 2020

10. RHP Matthew Thompson | 19 | R | 2023

Injuries have been the story of Micker Adolfo’s last couple years, but he also made some key gains in his plate skills during a 79-game stretch at high A in 2018, unlocking some of his double-plus raw power in games. He’s gotten a little lost in the shuffle and might be available in most dynasty leagues. Feels like a solid sleeper prospect to me.

Andrew Dalquist looks like a fast mover to me as a five-pitch high schooler who enjoyed a velocity bump in his senior year and landed a $2 million bonus: a first-round price that puts his talent into clearer context than his 3rd round draft slot.

I’m interested to see how the club handles the return of Dane Dunning. Before a recent rash of injuries, Chicago had enjoyed the best pitching health in baseball, so I’m especially curious how they handle a high-octane potential ace in Kopech and a mid-rotation command type in Dunning. Both could help a lot in 2020. 

The 45th overall pick in this June’s draft, Matthew Thompson signed for an over-slot $2.1 million in his own right and features explosive heat with inviting upside and athleticism. 

Thanks for reading! 

Meet me in Cleveland on Wednesday?

 
  1. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Hey Itch, good writeup..Pale hose are gonna be an interesting team the next few years, maybe go deep in the payoffs.

    Question for you, in a 10 team 6 x 6 roto dynasty, obp and QS are extra cats, would you trade Spencer Howard and Aaron Civale for Alex Bohm? We roster 60 players each with unlimited minors spots.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Malicious Phenoms!

      I’d hold Howard and Civale. Pretty optimistic on both of them and not real crazy about Bohm in part bc he’ll struggle to hang at third base and is blocked at first.

      • Malicious Phenoms says:
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        Thanks Itch..I like Bohms bat, but if he is defensively challenged and without a DH, no where to play him.

        Looks like another bad first round pick by the Phils, Mickey Moniak, anyone..lol

        • Malicious Phenoms says:
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          Have another one for you, I trade McCullers, Civale and Justin Turner for Mike Clevinger.. Thoughts? Oh and no need to type out the whole name, just call me MP, like everybody else..

          • Malicious Phenoms says:
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            Also do you like either of these SP’s going forward, Daulton Jefferies, Alex Faedo.. thanks!!

            • The Itch

              The Itch says:
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              I like Jefferies and could see myself moving that much for Clevinger.

              If I was going for the win and had 3B and CI covered, I’d probably see if I could get another little piece and go for it.

  2. batflix says:
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    “Whole concept’s not especially my jam”

    what does this mean exactly?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Batflix!

      Great question!

      One shorthand way to discuss this huge topic involves Derek Carty’s projections “math” spitting out Tyler Saladino as a statistical comparison to Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 2019 season.

      In short, I’m reticent to embrace the measurement-and-prediction, past-is-prologue math that dominates baseball conversation. Humans change. Whenever a baseball human changes, people battle the math to dismiss the skill growth. Regression will stop Max Muncy. Just wait.

      And for prospects a great deal of the math is irrelevant. Not all of it, but context is everything, and there’s so many MiLB contexts that it’s difficult to pin down what it all means.

      wRC+ is pretty great. So is age-to-level. But it’s still fluid and wonky and requires a fine-tooth comb along with eyes on the humans.

      Anyway, I just prefer to watch and think. I don’t disregard numbers by any means, but projections are kind of a thought prison, and I’m just extremely leery to grant them anywhere near the power they currently wield in conversations about baseball playing humans. And I think Steamer gets waaayyy to much pub. It’s just one of many systems.

  3. goodfold2 says:
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    what you think about barreto, owner is trying to trade him for some mix of prospect not named trammell/adell/kirilloff and pick not as high as 1.22. is on a great contract of .4 till end of 22. only negative on the contract is he cannot be put in minors anymore even if he is in real life. is starting on the early depthcharts now.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      the prospects i have in total are these (v.reyes probably called up to start year)
      C: okey (CIN)
      CI (we start 2 CI, 2 MI, 3 OF, 1 C, 1 util for hitters): vientos, w.craig, e.rios (LAD), d.ellis (ARI), denton (STL), lavalley (CIN), padlo (TB), kubitza (ATL)
      MI: paredes, w.perez (DET), a.tejada (TEX), k.smith (TOR), a.rondon (TB)
      OF: adell, kirilloff, trammell, victor to the 2nd mesa, t.ornelas, p.gonzalez (TEX), v.garcia (STL), g.whitley (TB), c.brannen (BOS), v.reyes (DET, probably promote him soon as he is getting steals and likely starts), cozens, dj davis (TOR), tocci (ex PHI/TEX)
      SP: w.crowe, c.rodriguez (LAA), c.hernandez (KC), m.sauer (NYY), kilome, diplan (BAL, ex MIL), a.smith (SD, probably bullpen as i can’t even find him in lists anymore)
      RP: j.guzman (probably bullpen), staumont

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, goodfold!

      If you’ve got an MLB roster crunch, you’re probably better off letting this opportunity pass.

      If not, Barreto seems like a decent use of a Spring spot if you can get him cheap enough.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        the opposite of MLB roster crunch, before the draft (prospect elig only) and unrestricted FA (done after draft for about 6 weeks in feb-early march or earlier) my only players total in active slots are:
        C (1)
        CI (2): mcneil (MI/OF)
        MI (2): dannys antana (CI/OF)
        OF (3) demeritte, e.rosario, fisher
        util v.reyes (if called up he has to stay up but he has speed and is batting 9th for DET on early depthcharts)
        SP (want 5-6): rey lopez, yarbrough, sale (if i match his bid, if it gets too long or too much money i’d get back a supplemental 1st and 2nd rounder, giving me 10 picks this draft, most ever for me, albeit none of them are higher than 22nd in any given round)
        RP (can fit 6): b.martin, sherfy (sherfy can barely be minored if he’s sent down again), v.alcantara (not good and no team, is in IR slot and can be cut later)

        i’ll be trying to win one of lindor/torenado/rendon in bidding and maybe one of chapman, hendricks, w.smith for RP. there are other top end SP available (degrom, kershaw) but i’d only be bidding on them with intention of the bid not counting unless i didn’t match sale. degrom will simply cost too much i’m sure. so i got space at MI for barreto. i don’t know what you mean by “spring spot”. i do know that opp already has nearly a full roster both active spots and budget, and isn’t planning on starting barreto so he’s trying to move him for picks and/or prospects.

  4. Dong Show says:
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    Love this system as I’ve had a ton of their stock (that I have ended up trading away) and want your honest opinion on one the hardest dynasty trades I’ve had to make but think it was worth it going for a Ship next year.

    I’m was lacking two aces. I was able to get one (Bieber) for a relatively cheap swap in flipping Bauer and Blackmon for Bieber and Fried.

    However I had a chance to get Stras and in a three team swap I had to give up Robert and Nola to net me Stras and Brantley to make up for Blackmon loss (the third team swapped Robert and Gore)

    Hated mortgaging a big piece of OF future but I’m pretty set next year and in future with a team of

    Grandal
    Alonso
    Gleyber
    Javy
    JRam
    Acuna
    Bryant
    Brantley
    (UTL) Soler

    Bench

    Bell
    Villar
    Donaldson
    Andrus
    Puig (may be on my Inactive list)

    SP
    Stras
    Bieber
    Darvish
    Gray
    Paddack
    Wheeler
    Lynn
    Ray
    Fried

    Prospects/IA roster
    Trammel
    Witt Jr
    Brujan
    Bart

    Do you think this was a smart use of flipping Robert and going for it? I feel pretty good about it and have pick 1.4 in our Free agent draft where I’m targeting one of Alek Thomas, Bohm, Tork, Pena (Who would you take from this group)

    Keep up the great work Itch, I’m fully locked into next year and can’t wait for the season

    • Dong Show says:
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      Should note Thomas is likely being taken 1.1, so what rank of order would you put on those prospects. Even add Corbin Carroll, Noveli Marte into that list as others I like). Thanks Itch and sorry this is such a long post, normally don’t like lengthy “look at my team” post but wanted a true evaluation of it from someone not named me lol

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        Thanks, Dong Show!

        And no worries on the length. Both are fun questions to kick around!

        There are plenty of cases where I think it makes sense to move Robert. Obviously something we’d love to avoid, but the moves we can make are the moves we can make, and if Lou Bob was your best path to pitching, I think it was smart and gutsy to take it.

        As for the list, I’d go Carroll, Marte, Pena, Thomas, Bohm, Tork.

        I could see Tork anywhere from before Pena to last, if you’re okay to burn the spot all year.

        • Dong Show says:
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          You’re the best Itch! Thanks for the response and I hope you have a great New Year!

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Itch is the best!

            • The Itch

              The Itch says:
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              Thanks!!

              I’m blushing through my keyboard . . .

              • Dong Show says:
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                He’s not wrong

  5. goodfold2 says:
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    i’m in the STL team list and see b.ball ATL mentioned as a monster, where others in that vein are pretty high up in top 150 list. ball i’m guessing would be in it now, where abouts, near stott/p.martinez CUBS (133-143) or so? i’m getting through the lists, over halfway through all of them now.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Yeah that sounds about right. Probably prefer Ball to either guy when on the clock.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        what you mean by “spring spot” above, i don’t get the term.

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Just a roster spot in Spring, sorry.

          Was thinking he’s the type of player you can cut in June if it’s not working out for him.

          • goodfold2 says:
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            yeah that’s possible but his contract is min for years at that price. if cut he def be WW’d by somebody else.

  6. Parcero says:
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    Is Yolbert Sanchez just a big nothing who’s never gonna play at the MLB level? What’s the read on him?

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