Twice annually, the writers at FutureSox work together to produce a list of the top prospects in the White Sox system. The first part, 11-25 with details of those players, is here. This is the full Top 25, with player capsules for the top 10, as well as a list of players who just missed the cut.
NOTES ON ELIGIBILITY: We consider a “prospect” any player in the White Sox organization who has not yet achieved MLB Rookie status. This means players like Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien, even though they are currently in the minors, are not eligible.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The Sox system continues to improve. Increased spending on both the draft and international players, rebuilding of Latin American operations, favorable changes to draft bonus rules and a swing of the prospect trade balance sheet from net negative (trading away) to net positive (acquiring) have all helped. This past June, the White Sox spent the 2nd most of any MLB team on the amateur draft and went well into penalty territory to get Carlos Rodon signed. On the international side, they spent $750k or more on three different players during the July 2nd rush.
WHAT’S HAPPENED IN 6 MONTHS: Six of the top 25 players from the offseason list have graduated and are no longer eligible: Jose Abreu (1st), Erik Johnson (2nd), Marcus Semien (4th), Daniel Webb (11th), Jake Petricka (15th) and Eric Surkamp (25th). As noted above, the 2014 draft and signings period were completed as well as the international July 2nd signing period, adding a number of prospects to the organization.
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP [Previous Rank: Not Ranked, newly drafted]
- Drafted 1st Round (3rd overall) in 2014
The top prospect in the White Sox system is also the least surprising. Drafted 3rd overall this year and signed for $6.582M, NC State lefty Carlos Rodon is the strongest pitching prospect to enter the system since at least Chris Sale (and maybe a lot longer than that). In addition to a mid-90’s fastball, Rodon’s slider is a truly plus pitch and possibly the best single pitch in the entire draft class. He also features a change up that flashes plus potential and a curve. This 6’3″, 235-pound lefty is strong, physically mature and ultra-competitive. He’s 21 years old and had just two outings to tune up in the Arizona League before landing in Winston-Salem (Advanced A). Check out the video from Baseball America’s Josh Norris compiling two strikeouts in his 8/2 outing. Rodon shows up at No. 23 on MLB.com’s Top Prospects list, and No. 10 on Keith Law’s.
2. Tim Anderson, SS [Previous: 5, +3]
- Drafted 1st Round (17th overall) in 2013
The White Sox’ 1st round selection (17th overall) from last year’s draft moves up to the second slot on our list. Tim Anderson is still quite raw, but his athleticism, quick hands, power potential and foot speed are all stand-out tools that are just beginning to show results. Baseball Prospectus had Anderson ranked the 38th best prospect in baseball on their most recent list, and MLB.com shows him making their Top 100 as well. There are questions about whether he can stick at shortstop, but the hit tool and power projection look like the real deal, and his speed and arm strength mean he could potentially play well elsewhere. Before hitting the disabled list with a fractured right wrist, Anderson was posting a very solid .297/.323/.472 line as a 21-year-old in A+, though his 22.7% K/PA and just 2.3% BB/PA rates show he’s still got some development ahead of him. Once he returns from his injury, Anderson may play in the AFL or fall instructs to make up for the lost time.
3. Courtney Hawkins, OF [Previous: 6, +3]
- Drafted 1st Round (13th overall) in 2012
Courtney Hawkins was the top prospect in the Sox system and a top 100 prospect on some lists in his draft year, only to see his stock go into free fall during a disastrous 2013 campaign. Assigned to a level he clearly wasn’t ready for, Hawkins posted a .178/.249/.384 line and struck out in 37.6% of his plate appearances as the youngest player to open in the Carolina League (19). Repeating at Winston-Salem this year in need of a turnaround, this toolsy outfielder has made significant strides: at present he’s slashing .255/.338/.476, and has the K rate down to 26.2%. We did a video analysis of his approach in early 2013, late 2013 and early 2014, and you can see the improvements. Hawkins still struggles at times against good breaking stuff and has not yet returned to elite prospect status, but he’s also just 20 years old and has made large scale improvements. Still a couple years ahead of the age curve, Hawkins’ defense is solid or better on the corners and hopefully the Sox won’t rush the bat again.
4. Micah Johnson, 2B [Previous: 9, +5]
- Drafted 9th Round in 2012
The highest ranked prospect who was not a first round draft pick, Micah Johnson exploded onto the scene in 2013 posting a combined .312/.373/.451 line across A, A+ and AA (though the numbers dropped at each level). What really caught people’s attention though, was Johnson’s near-80 grade speed, and he led all of MiLB with 84 stolen bases (in 110 attempts). This year, the second baseman handled AA easily (.329/.414/.466 in 170 PA) before being promoted to AAA Charlotte, where he is carrying a .293/.337/.392 line. In addition to deadly speed, Johnson makes decent contact (13.6% K/PA this season), draws a few walks (8.4% BB/PA), and has some limited pop in his bat (5 HR). On the negative side, the power isn’t much, and more importantly he’s struggled defensively at second base. Some have suggested a position change for the 23-year-old, but that’s a gamble with his history of elbow issues and the unknown of how he handles the outfield.
5. Spencer Adams, RHP [Previous: Not Ranked, newly drafted]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2014
The 6’3″ high school right-hander may not have gotten the press that Rodon has, but he looks every bit a great pickup for the Sox at 44th overall. Ranked among the top 30 draft prospects by Baseball America (23) and MLB.com (27), Adams has a fastball that runs 92-96 with good movement, a slider that has plus potential, a curve and a change up. Physically, at 171 pounds and having split effort over three sports in high school, Adams may still add more strength and velocity. So far in AZL play, the 18-year-old has already stuck out a whopping 40 batters against just 2 walks in 28.2 innings. Jay Hashop of Seven Future Hit scouted him in person recently and said his slider was “damn good”, running mid to upper 80’s. Here’s Hashop’s video of Adams pitching in the AZL, though it happened to be his worst inning that game.
6. Francellis Montas, RHP [Previous: 20, +14]
- Signed in 2009 from Dominican Republic by BOS, acquired via trade in 2013
Acquired in the Peavy trade last year, Montas makes the biggest leap on our list despite being currently out of commission rehabbing from knee surgery. The potential was enticing despite so-so results coming into this year: a dancing mid-to-upper 90’s fastball that Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus described with a word not fit for print, a slider that had flashed plus, and a change-up. This year despite being a young-for-level 21 years old in Winston-Salem, Montas looked very good in 10 starts: 1.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 1.55 GO/AO rate. He’s learned to control the fastball and harness the slider into a consistently above average pitch. He just recently pitched his first simulated game in his rehab process, may see some action before full seasons end, and is a candidate for the AFL. Here’s a video from Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Stoltz of Montas striking out uber-power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo.
7. Matt Davidson, 3B [Previous: 3, -4]
- Drafted 1st Round Supplemental (35th overall) in 2009 by ARZ, acquired via trade in 2013
Acquired this past offseason in exchange for Addison Reed, Matt Davidson was seen as the likely third baseman of the future for the White Sox. But the former top 100 prospect has been a disappointment in AAA, where he’s spent most of the year hitting below the Mendoza line (currently .194) and striking out at a scary rate (30.7% K/PA). The power is still there, as he’s hit 18 HR in 105 games, and he does still draw walks at a good clip (9.6%). Defensively, scouting reports indicate improvement at third, though he’s never going to be a gold glove candidate. Few elite prospects have fallen off as badly, this close to the majors, as Davidson has. The good news is, he’s 23 so if he has to go to AAA again next year to figure it out he’d still be age-appropriate for the level. But he needs a dramatic turnaround in his contact work to have a chance to take over the hot corner in Chicago.
8. Tyler Danish, RHP [Previous: 8th, unchanged]
- Drafted 2nd Round in 2013
One of the hardest pitchers in the system to evaluate, Tyler Danish continues to climb the ladder and get lots of outs. After making it look easy with Kannapolis to start the year (0.71 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 25 K, 10 BB in 38 IP), the righty with the Peavy-like delivery struggled in his first three outings with the Dash (12 ER in 11.2 IP). But he’s been dominant in ten outings since then (1.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 49 K, 13 BB in 52.1 IP) while 3+ years young for level in the Carolina League. Danish throws a very heavy fastball in the 88-93 range with a change-up and slider that are both swing-and-miss quality. Josh Norris of Baseball America saw him twice recently and highlighted Danish in two posts and some rave review tweets. Some questions remain about his mechanics and ability to stick as a starter, and he may be slowed or shut down innings-wise late in the season as he builds up strength.
9. Carlos Sanchez, SS/2B [Previous: 12, +3]
- Signed in 2009 from Venezuela
After a breakout 2012, Sanchez was assigned to AAA Charlotte to open 2013 at just 20 years old, the youngest player in the International League and six years younger than the average player there. Not surprisingly he struggled, and the infielder put up just a .589 OPS. But now with a year under his belt, Sanchez has improved dramatically, posting a .300/.358/.423 line thus far and making a brief appearance in Chicago. His six home runs this year are twice what he had in his 5-year career prior. An excellent defender at second and competent at shortstop, Carlos also brings above average speed (16-19 SB this year) and can play 3B as well. Sanchez just turned 22, has a floor of a solid utility infielder and could be an average or better major league starter at the keystone.
10. Rangel Ravelo, 1B [Previous: 21, +11]
- Drafted 6th Round in 2010
In a system that leans towards aggressiveness and high strikeout rates, Ravelo is a breath of fresh air. Playing young-for-level in AA, he’s posting a strong .316/.396/.474 line with a career high 9 home runs in 107 games. Possessing likely the best strike zone control in the entire system, Ravelo has walked nearly as often as he struck out the past couple seasons and works long counts. There’s no denying the hit tool or batter’s eye, but as a 1B, the expectation is for power. The 22-year-old is on pace for about 12 long balls this season, triple his total from last year, but that’s still not a big number. Ravelo hits doubles at a prolific rate, and scouting reports indicate he can put on a show in BP power-wise. You can see here in another Stoltz video he’s capable of hitting the ball a long way. If the power ramps up further next year in AAA, he’ll have a strong case for a 1B/DH spot along side Jose Abreu in Chicago.
11. Trey Michalczewski, 3B [Previous: 19, +8]
12. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 17, +5]
13. Chris Beck, RHP [Previous: 7, -6]
14. Cleuluis Rondon, SS/2B [Previous: Not Ranked]
15. Jacob May, OF [Previous: 14, -1]
16. Jace Fry, LHP [Previous: Not Ranked, newly drafted]
17. Trayce Thompson, OF [Previous: 10, -7].
18. Kevan Smith, C [Previous: Not Ranked]
19. Andy Wilkins, 1B [Previous: 30*, +11]
20. Scott Snodgress, LHP [Previous: 16, -4]
21. Keon Barnum, 1B [Previous: 13, -8]
22. Adam Engel, OF [Previous: 22, No Change]
23. Tyler Saladino, INF [Previous: Not Ranked]
24. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: Not Ranked]
25. James Dykstra, RHP [Previous: Not Ranked]
OTHERS RECEIVING CONSIDERATION (in order of last-out): Chris Bassitt, Mike Recchia, Brett Austin, Jefferson Olacio, Jason Coats, Antonio Rodriguez, Jake Jarvis, Luis Martinez, Taylor Thompson, Andrew Mitchell, Kyle Hansen, Omar Narvaez, JB Wendelken, Andre Wheeler
GRADUATED: Jose Abreu (1), Erik Johnson (2), Marcus Semien (4), Daniel Webb (11), Jake Petricka (15), Eric Surkamp (25)
DROPPED FROM RANKINGS: Myles Jaye (23)
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