Twice annually, the writers at FutureSox work together to produce a list of the top prospects in the White Sox system. We use a voting system among the staff, then argue about specific players and rankings, until we come to a final list. The list is then released in two parts.
This is the full list – the top 30 prospects in the White Sox system at present, with capsules for the top 15 players, plus a list of players who were considered but just missed the top 30. Capsules for players ranked 16th through 30th can be found in our teaser article that went up on Tuesday.
NOTE ON ELIGIBILITY: We consider a “prospect” any player in the White Sox organization who has not yet achieved MLB Rookie status.
HOW WE EVALUATE PROSPECTS: You can read this primer to get an idea of how we go about the sticky, subjective business of ranking prospects. Our writers saw every stateside affiliate live for multiple games in the past year, in addition to the back fields at Spring Training, fall instructs and the AFL.
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: First, just one player from our last list has left the system: Tim Anderson, who has “graduated” to major league rookie status. Second, since our last list, the 2016 draft has occurred and injected much-needed talent. You’ll see lots of 2016 draftees on the list. Finally, you’ll see a lot more already in-system prospects in this segment have fallen than risen – this is mostly due to those new draftees, but also in some cases some disappointing performances from many prospects that jumped to the middle of the system on our last list. They jumped to the middle because the team had traded away many mid-ranked prospects last offseason. So in part, this is a correction of sorts.
Going into the draft, the system would fall into the bottom tier when compared to other MLB teams in terms of prospect talent, especially if the focus is likely impact talent. But having 3 of the first 49 picks and grabbing a couple over-slot signings certainly helps a lot, and with everyone of significance other than Anderson still in the system, the overall depth of talent is probably on par with the end of last season. Take note of the number of Latin American prospects on this list too – the farm is healthier as we finally are seeing the resurrected LatAm pipeline starting to pay dividends.
For the record, the vote for the #1 prospect was very close among our writers.
FOR MORE DETAILS: If you click on the bolded player’s name, you’ll be taken to that player’s prospect profile, where you can find deeper details, links to videos and other content.
1. Zack Collins, C [NEW]
- Drafted 1st round (10th overall) in 2016
Our new number one is also new to the system, and he’s already moving fast. Collins was selected 10th overall in the draft, and brings two qualities to the system which have been sorely lacking – talent at the catching position, and indications of a disciplined plate approach. Collins finished his junior year at Miami with the second highest OBP in all of Division I (.544), though some question whether or not he will stick at catcher. For now, the White Sox seem convinced he will, and have indicated he will stay behind the plate, at least for now. After a brief tune-up in the AZL, Collins went straight to Advanced-A Winston-Salem, and there he’s already showing an ability to get on base and significant power to all fields. As a catcher, don’t expect him to arrive in Chicago very soon, with 2018 being on the early end if he’s sticking as a backstop.
2. Carson Fulmer, RHP [Previous: 2nd, no change]
- Drafted 1st round (8th overall) in 2015
2016 has been quite a ride for Fulmer, who stays in the second slot in our rankings. Coming into the season, if we assumed Tim Anderson was going to graduate off the list, we probably would have further assumed Fulmer would easily take the top slot. But the top pitching prospect in the system struggled mightily to open his AA campaign in Birmingham as he attempted to on-board a series of mechanical changes, and the strike zone eluded him with regularity. He then dialed back some (but not all) the changes, seemed to get dialed in, and was then promoted to the bullpen in Chicago. As we’ve seen with the Sox, Fulmer’s stuff is nasty, but command is a major concern. There’s some debate on whether he’s a reliever or starter long-term, but if he’s going to improve his command, he’s most benefited by getting starting innings in 2017 in AAA or the majors. The consensus among our writers is that he’s still got a very good shot at being a starter in 2017, but time will tell.
3. Spencer Adams, RHP [Previous: 3rd, no change]
- Drafted 2nd round in 2014
Spencer Adams has spent his first two full pro seasons pitching young for level, and is now the youngest pitcher in the entire Southern League (AA) at just over 20 years-old. Despite his youth, Adams has already undergone significant transformation as a pitcher, and he is not the same hurler he was in 2014 when he was drafted in the 2nd round. Adams’ main pitch is now his 2-seam sinker (runs upper 80’s), followed by a 4-seamer in the low 90’s, a very good mid-80’s slider and a rarely used change-up. Adams has put on some muscle but is still pretty slender, and as he settles further into his now more north-south delivery, he could see his 4-seam velocity get closer to the 92-96 he was throwing out of high school. Patience is called for here, though the club seems determined to challenge him.
4. Zack Burdi, RHP [NEW]
- Drafted 1st round supplemental (27th overall) in 2016
Burdi throws hard – real hard. When we saw his High-A debut in Winston-Salem, his fastball was running typically 97 to 101 mph, and he hit 102 once. It’s not a straight arrow either, there’s significant (and variable) movement. His slider is his main secondary pitch – that one runs upper 80’s to around 90, showing big 2-plane movement at times but hanging at others. There is also a change-up in his repertoire. Command is the key for this pitcher who slings it from an almost sidearm angle, especially on the secondary pitches. He’s already gone to AA and is missing bats there, making some think he could be in Chicago this season. While he doesn’t need to be a surgeon with that kind of heat and movement, his command is probably too loose to work consistently in the majors at this point and he needs some refinement. For this year and probably going forward, Burdi is a reliever, though it’s not impossible he could become a starter later.
5. Alec Hansen, RHP [NEW]
- Drafted 2nd round in 2016
Going into the spring at Oklahoma, Hansen was seen as a likely top five overall pick and even a 1-1 candidate by some. But the 6’7″ righty seemed to lose his grasp on control, badly enough he was “demoted” to the Sooners’ bullpen during the season. White Sox front office staff indicated they saw some very fixable issues, and were excited to get Hansen in the 2nd round. So far in his pro career, it appears the club may have been right, evidenced by his stats so far across both rookie affiliates (as of 7/26): 15.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 25 K. Hansen’s college reports discussed a fastball that ran mid-90’s and touched 99 with running life, to go with a slider, curve and change, all of which have had reports of at least average characteristics. If all goes well, Hansen could even see a full season club this season.
6. Trey Michalczewski, 3B [Previous: 4th, -2]
- Drafted 7th round in 2013
Much like Mr. Adams, Michalczewski has consistently been among the youngest players in his league at every stop. Not surprisingly, his results have yet to stand out as he battles to keep up with older competition. This year as a 21-year old in AA with the Barons, Trey’s average is down in the .230’s so far and he’s striking out in roughly a quarter of his plate appearances, though his walk rate looks good (near 10%) and his 7 home runs with half his games in a power-suppressing home park are good signs. The switch-hitter shows excellent bat speed, above average foot speed, and 60-grade raw power. Defensively he’s got a hitchy throwing motion, but plenty of arm strength and improving glove work at the hot corner. Tools-wise, Michalczewski is still a very intriguing prospect. A starting MLB 3B ceiling is still in play, though he’d probably benefit from repeating the level in 2017 to get his feet more solidly under him.
7. Luis Curbelo, SS [NEW]
- Drafted 6th round in 2016
Curbelo was the team’s only 2016 draftee to get a significantly over-slot bonus, and his $700,000 bonus was more in line with a 3rd round pick than the $286,700 designated for this slot. The Florida prep product was ranked as high as in the 49th overall (Keith Law) on some boards before the draft and seen as a tough sign with a Miami commitment. Scouting reports prior to June highlighted impressive bat speed, soft hands and plenty of arm for the left side of the infield, though also some indications he was likely to move to 3rd eventually due to his frame and lack of premium speed. So far in the AZL, the 18-year old hasn’t hit much yet, but is walking at a good clip and has shown some power. He’s been playing a mix of second base and shortstop thus far. Local reports from the desert are positive on his defensive work so far. The numbers shouldn’t be read into too much at this point.
8. Jordan Stephens, RHP [Previous: 16th, +8]
- Drafted 5th round in 2015
Stephens represents one of only a couple big risers on our list from the last iteration in January. As a 5th round pick last year in a season coming off Tommy John surgery, Stephens did well but it was still unclear what he’d turn out to be. Here in 2016, not only has he been healthy, he’s actually throwing a little harder than he was prior to the injury. The Texan who hails from the same hometown as Nolan Ryan has also added a 2-seamer to his repertoire, and the results have been positive. Stephens has been striking out more than a batter per inning while throwing strikes and keeping hitters at bay, despite skipping Kannapolis and riding his first full pro season. The 4-seamer is now typically 91-94, and his curveball has become a true out pitch thanks to some delivery tweaks. Look for Jordan to be a pretty fast mover in the system, and could see AA before this year is out.
9. Micker Adolfo, OF [Previous: 10th, +1]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2013 ($1.6M)
Adolfo remains around the same place on our list, though he’s now approaching a point where performance needs to start matching promise. Tools-wise, Adolfo still shows 60 or even 70-grade raw power, a cannon arm, and premium athletic actions. But he’s also still quite raw in plate approach, pitch recognition and outfield defense. Despite this being his third pro season, Micker has only logged 110 pro games and not more than 47 in any one season. This is partly due to spending 2014 and 2015 in short season rookie leagues, but also because he’s missed time due to an array of injuries (multiple hamstring strains, a broken leg on a slide into home, and most recently a fractured hook of hamate bone from swing stress). So far this season in Kannapolis as a still quite young-for-level 19-year old, Adolfo is struggling with the Mendoza line and striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. he needs reps, and to show improvement in the transition of those athletic tools into baseball skills.
10. Adam Engel, OF [Previous: 8th, -2]
- Drafted 19th round in 2013
Few prospects in the system are as enigmatic, or have as wide a range of future projections among our writers, as Engel. Some qualities are no-doubters: he’s got legitimately double-plus speed, shows good instincts in center field, and his strong frame suggests untapped raw power potential. But beyond that it gets fuzzy. At the plate he’s streaky and gets caught up in over-analysis repeatedly. This is in evidence in 2016, as he opened in Birmingham with meek results, was briefly demoted back to High-A, then returned and went on a two month tear in AA after he seemed to find the right rhythm with the bat (he’s since been promoted to AAA). Engel does draw walks, but the primary questions are around whether or not his plate approach will mature enough to make solid contact consistently, and if his physical strength can result in hitting the ball with some authority. Facing experienced pitchers in the International League will be a good test.
11. Jameson Fisher, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 4th round in 2016
Continuing a theme started with the Collins signing, Fisher represents a concerted effort by the White Sox front office to draft position players with refined plate approaches. Fisher led all of Division I baseball in OBP in 2016 (.558), and was second in average (.424) while playing his 3rd year at Southeastern Louisiana. Fisher had been a catcher, but after missing a year to Tommy John surgery, he was moved to first base. The White Sox in turn have decided to try him in the outfield as a pro. The down side on Fisher would include a lack of notable speed, as well as the obvious questions about his future position on the field. But his smooth left-handed swing, patient approach and experience bashing D-I baseballs show the possibility that Jameson could hit his way up the system one way or another. He’s with Great Falls right now and it’s perhaps worth noting that, despite not being known for his speed, he’s already stolen ten bases in twelve attempts (in addition to hitting well across the board).
12. Jordan Guerrero, LHP [Previous: 6th, -6]
- Drafted 15th round in 2012
When we wrote up Guerrero after his breakout 2015, we noted the risk that he could take a step back in 2016 due to a combination of likely moving to AA, and the fact that his innings load had gone from 25 to 78 to 149 in the past three seasons. It’s unclear if those are the sole reasons, but Guerrero has struggled so far with Birmingham, and not so much with getting hit harder as much as uncharacteristic lack of command and control. Guerrero works from a 4-seam fastball that runs typically 89 to 92, a plus change-up in the low 80’s and a developing curveball that shows above average potential. That package is delicate as it is, and this is a 22-year old with only a single true full season as a starter in the minors prior to 2016. While there isn’t a lot of room for error, if he can build up endurance and come back a little stronger in 2017 (ideally at the same level) with his fastball, the off-speed pitches will play and he could be a back end starter in the majors.
13. Amado Nunez, SS [Previous: Unranked]
- Signed from Dominican Republic in 2014 ($900k)
Nunez makes the biggest jump on our list, going from the outer fringe of “others receiving consideration” in January all the way to 13th. Being signed for one of the highest bonuses the team has ever paid to a J2 player, Nunez has broken out both in performance and due to scouting looks. Numbers-wise, as an 18-year old who skipped the DSL, this Dominican product has been slicing up the AZL this season hitting well over .300 and showing some early power. But more importantly, reports on his hitting approach have been strong, talking about quick hands and bat speed and serious pop. There are questions about whether or not he sticks at shortstop, but he’s got plenty of arm for the left side of the infield and has shown some very slick plays (along with serious growing pains too). Approach is still very aggressive and the swing is loose (in both the good and bad senses), but for his age and experience, he’s looking very good.
14. Jason Coats, OF [Previous: 18th, +4]
- Drafted 29th round in 2012
If Coats had stayed on the major league roster for three more days, he’d have “graduated” and become ineligible for this list. But alas, the Avisail Garcia “experiment” continues unabated and Coats got just 29 plate appearances in about 40 days on the active roster. Performance-wise, Coats started his pro career late but moved quickly in the last couple years, culminating in a .966 OPS in 43 AAA games to open 2016 before being promoted to Chicago. Tools-wise, Jason is an interesting study in an unusual scenario – he’s got no plus tools, but he’s around (in some cases a little above) average in hit, power, arm, glove and speed categories. The only obvious dent in the nearly flat talent vs zone curve is a lack of walks (due to deep-count impatience), but he’s got enough of an upward blip in power and defense to theoretically offset it. Look for Jason to get more looks as a 4th outfield, in Chicago or elsewhere.
15. Alex Call, OF [NEW]
- Drafted 3rd round in 2016
Along with Collins and Fisher, Call makes the trifecta of 2016 draftee position players taken in part due to their relatively advanced hitting approach. Some saw his selection as a bit of a reach in the 3rd round, but he certainly performed at Ball State. In his junior year this spring, Call posted a .358/.443/.667 line with 13 bombs, and few strikeouts. His tendency towards good contact and finding ways to get on base has continued as a pro, as he so far has a .312/.429/.461 line in his first 25 games across rookie ball (Great Falls, Pioneer) and Class A (Kannapolis, South Atlantic) with nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (25). Projections don’t generally show him with a lot of power going forward, but he does have some speed and the team is playing him primarily in center field.
16. Jacob May, OF [Previous: 7th, -9]
17. Corey Zangari, 1B [Previous: 12th, -5]
18. Tyler Danish, RHP [Previous: 5th, -13]
19. Jake Peter, INF [Previous: 17th, -2]
20. Brian Clark, LHP [Previous: 13th, -7]
21. Yosmer Solorzano, RHP [Previous: 19th, -2]
22. Johan Cruz, SS [Previous: 15th, -7]
23. Courtney Hawkins, OF [Previous: 9th, -14]
24. Seby Zavala, C [Previous: 21st, -3]
25. Matt Cooper, RHP [Previous: 29th, +4]
26. Eddy Alvarez, SS [Previous: 14th, -12]
27. Michael Ynoa, RHP [Previous: Unranked]
28. Ian Hamilton, RHP [NEW]
29. Zach Thompson, RHP [Previous: Unranked]
30. Carlos Perez, C [Previous: 24th, -6]
OTHERS RECEIVING CONSIDERATION (in order of last out): Danny Hayes, Nick Delmonico, Thad Lowry, Peter Tago, Maiker Feliz, Mike Hickman, Bradley Goldberg, Omar Narvaez, Chris Beck, Max Dutto, Blake Hickman, Jhoandro Alfaro, Jimmy Lambert, Mason Robbins
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