This is the 4th entry in our 2nd annual off-season article series here at FutureSox separate from our twice annual top 30 White Sox prospects list. We list the top five or ten minor leaguers in the White Sox’s system at each position on the field.
Similar to the editions on starting pitchers and middle infielders, this list ranks the top ten outfielders in the White Sox system. With the top 8 players on this list all included on the overall top 30 prospect list from mid-season 2019, this might be the strongest position group currently in the system.
1. Luis Robert-Ranked 1st overall, last level AAA
Luis Robert is one of the best prospects in the sport and should start the year in Chicago after agreeing to a contract extension with the White Sox earlier this month. The organization basically purchased “superstar insurance” according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
General Manager Rick Hahn had no doubts about the franchise’s commitment when asked about the deal on a January conference call. “It’s a scouting evaluation. It’s also the player development evaluation in terms of his approach and his commitment to the game and how that complements his toolset and how comfortable we are with his desire to be great, and his commitment to doing that”, said Hahn.
Baseball America published a gushing review of the outfielder in their top 30 update and other publications have echoed similar sentiments. He possesses elite speed, a double plus throwing arm and will remain in centerfield as a professional.
The 22-year-old hit 32 home runs and stole 30 bases while also hitting 11 triples across three minor league levels. Along with the 30 homers, the Cuban accumulated over 300 total bases as well. Robert posted a 155 wRC+ in the Double-A Southern League after amassing a ridiculous 305 wRC+ in High-A with the Winston-Salem Dash. He struck out at a 24.7% clip with Triple-A Charlotte but still posted a .396 wOBA with a wRC+ of 136.
2. Micker Adolfo-Ranked 11th overall, last level AA
The White Sox signed Micker Adolfo out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 and his $1.6 million bonus is still the largest that the club has given to a 16-year-old international amateur. Adolfo has been somewhat of a mixed bag as a prospect. He’s underachieved on the field and battled a bevy of injuries but he’s grown significantly since signing in multiple areas and still possesses a tantalizing base of raw talent.
The 6’4″ 255 pounder shows plus raw power to all fields and has showcased his plus, plus throwing arm in right field. Swing and miss is still very prevalent in the 23-year-old’s game however as he struggled in the Arizona Fall League and in 95 plate appearances with the Birmingham Barons last season.
He started 2019 on the recovery trail from Tommy John Surgery and he needed the elbow cleaned up once again in season. Adolfo did salvage some of his season by hitting .260/.362/.480 with lots of strikeouts and power in the Rookie level AZL to close out the year. His breakout season came in the Carolina League in 2018 with the Winston-Salem Dash in advanced A when he posted a 137 wRC+ with his power potential on full display.
Adolfo could return to Double-A Birmingham to join the Barons but spending the majority of his season in Triple-A with the Knights wouldn’t be a surprise. With only one minor league option remaining, he just needs to play consistently in 2020.
3. Luis Alexander Basabe-Ranked 12th overall, last level AA
The 23-year-old Venezuelan was signed by the Boston Red Sox way back in 2012 and was acquired in the Chris Sale trade of 2016. Basabe is a switch-hitting outfielder with defensive skills and an arm capable of handling all three spots. A broken hamate bone last spring derailed his 2019 season and other minor ailments kept his climb uphill.
The 6’0″ 160 pounder struggled with the Barons and posted a 95 wRC+ over 291 plate appearances. Basabe did walk at a 10% rate but continued to strike out too often. He had a breakout season in 2018, posting a 111 wRC+ in Double-A after posting a 146 wRc+ in High-A.
The athletic outfielder showed game power as well smacking 15 homers across both levels. With only 1 minor league option remaining, it’s likely that Basabe spends the majority of his season in Charlotte with Knights in Triple-A.
4. Luis Gonzalez-Ranked 14th overall, last level AA
Gonzalez was a 3rd round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of New Mexico and hit immediately upon entering the system. Luis is a left-handed hitter that can play all three outfield spots and projects to be an average defender in CF. In 2018, the 6’1″ 195 pounder posted a 146 wRC+ in Winston-Salem and a 141 wRC+ with Kannapolis.
His 14 homers contributed to a solid .190 ISO%. 2019 didn’t go as smoothly however. The 24-year-old struggled in 126 games with Birmingham last year. He was better in the second half and posted a decent walk rate but he finished with a 96 wRC+ and 9 home runs. Gonzalez isn’t on the 40-man roster and will likely go back to Double-A to begin 2020.
5. Blake Rutherford-Ranked 10th overall, last level AA
Rutherford entered 2016 as the highest rated prep position player in the draft class according to multiple publications. His bonus demands landed him with the New York Yankees at #18 overall and he was traded to the White Sox in July of 2017.
To date, Blake hasn’t lived up to his lofty prospect pedigree but he’s still just 22-years-old. The 6’2″ 210 pounder posted a 98 wRC+ in 480 plate appearances over 118 games with the Birmingham Barons in Double-A last year. Rutherford has a smooth left-handed swing and he’s capable of spraying the ball to all fields. He has the body and athletic ability to project for 20 home run power but his approach has significantly hampered those projections so far.
Across four minor league seasons, the former top-100 prospect has hit just 19 homers and generally hits the ball on the ground far too often. Rutherford’s average throwing arm projects him to an outfield corner and probably left field. In 2018, Blake posted a 120 wRC+ in Winston-Salem playing in the Carolina League.
His struggles in Birmingham last year included a 25% strikeout rate that was a big increase from his other stops. With a 40-man decision on the horizon, the organization sent Rutherford to the Arizona Fall League and he struggled against the toughest competition he’s faced.
The White Sox still decided to protect him on the 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. Rutherford should report back to Double-A Birmingham for the 2020 season but could start in Charlotte to enhance his prospect pedigree in the lively environment of the International League.
6. Bryce Bush-Ranked 21st overall, last level A-
Bush signed with the White Sox for $290K after being selected in the 33rd round of the 2018 draft. It’s uncommon for an organization to nab an actual prospect that late on day three of the draft but Bryce’s case was an interesting one.
He played in poor weather in Michigan for the majority of the spring during his draft year and the White Sox were the only team willing to take a chance at the appropriate price point. The 6’0″ 200 pound athlete immediately paid dividends for the franchise. In 52 plate appearances after signing, the right handed hitter batted .442/.538/.605 in the Low-Rookie level AZL with a 221 wRC+. He finished his first season in Great Falls of the Pioneer League.
The 20-year-old will likely report back to Low-A Kannapolis to start 2020 as he had a bit of a rough season last year. Bush battled injuries, had some vision issues and switched from third base to the outfield full time as well.
He posted an 86 wRC+ with the Intimidators and put on absolute power displays in batting practice frequently. Bush’s strikeout rate of 31% is too daunting but he also showed a walk rate of a promising 9%. He possesses plus raw power and is packed with loud offensive tools. Bush needs to improve to stay on the prospect radar but if he’s healthy, he could ascend to the top half of the organizational rankings in a hurry.
7. James Beard-Ranked 22nd overall, last level Lo-RK
Beard was selected in the 4th round of the 2019 draft out of a Mississippi high school. He was ranked as the 127th best prospect in the class according to MLB Pipeline. The 6’0″ 190 pound outfielder signed for $350K and was renowned as the fastest player in the draft class.
The 19-year-old possesses 80-grade speed and shows bat speed and hand strength which could lead to plus hitting ability in the future. Beard also has game changing ability on the bases and defensively in center field. He hits right handed and he also ran a 6.21 second 60 yard dash in the lead up to the 2019 Draft.
Beard was raw as a prep prospect and one of the biggest concerns was that he hadn’t faced quality pitching often. Some of that materialized in the AZL. In 31 games, Beard hit .213/.270/.307 with a 39.1% strikeout rate with two homers. James Beard could repeat the level and start back in the AZL or report to Advanced rookie level Great Falls in 2020.
8. Benyamin Bailey-Unranked, last level DSL
Ben Badler of Baseball America joined the FutureSox podcast back in December and offered some high praise for White Sox’s prospect Benyamin Bailey. Badler also recently wrote a summary of the top 20 prospects from the Dominican Summer League in which Bailey landed in the 9th spot overall.
The 6’4″ 225 pound outfielder hit .342/.503/.447 with a 173 wRC+ in the DSL as a 17-year-old in 2019. Benyamin walked at a rate of 22% and posted a .476 wOBA. Bailey was signed out of Panama City, Panama and given a bonus of $35K. Panamanians are notoriously well coached and understand the game because of an extensive youth program on display in the country.
Badler called Bailey a “physical specimen” and described him as being “lanky with long limbs and natural hitting ability with some pop”. Bailey has the chance to be a power and speed threat but he might always have some length to his swing because of how big and long he is. He currently possesses above average raw power despite only hitting 1 home run in the DSL.
Bailey compiled 33 strikeouts and 45 walks last year, leading the Dominican Summer League in on base percentage. Bailey projects as a corner outfielder and is an above average runner. His .955 OPS over the course of 55 games is definitely an eye opener and Bailey should be on the radar in 2020. Benyamin Bailey should make his stateside debut in 2020 and open the season in extended spring training on his way to the AZL White Sox for his first affiliated season.
9. Cabera Weaver-Unranked, last level Hi-RK
Cabera Weaver was drafted in the 7th round in 2018 out of South Gwinnett, Georgia. The 6’3″ 180 pounder play centerfield and bats and throws from the right side. After signing, Weaver posted a 112 wRC+ with a 10% walk rate and stellar defensive skills on display in the AZL.
His promotion to the Pioneer League to play for Advanced Rookie level Great Falls in 2019 was well earned. In 62 games with the Voyagers, the 20-year-old struggled with a line of .254/.317/.377 and staggering strikeout totals. The young outfielder is very skinny with top scale speed and athleticism however. He projects as a difference maker defensively and possesses lots of upside but more time in short season rookie ball will likely be required in this case.
10. Luis Mieses-Unranked, last level Hi-RK
Mieses was part of the international haul in 2016 in the same class as Luis Robert. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic and given a bonus of over $400K. He’s the 28th ranked prospect in the White Sox’s system according to MLBPipeline.
The 6’3″ 180 pounder moved to right field in 2019 after playing exclusively in center before that. Mieses is 19-years-old and hits and throw left handed. Luis has power potential, a nice left-handed stroke and he makes consistent contact on the baseball. He has the look of a prototypical right fielder. Luis Mieses also needs to refine his approach because he swings so often that he puts bad pitches in plays.
He has the potential to hit 25 homers on an annual basis. Equipped with a plus arm and athleticism, he’s also a below average runner. Mieses hit .241/.264/.359 with 4 homers for the Great Falls Voyagers in 2019. He’s likely to remain in short season ball again in 2020 and has plenty of time to improve.
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