We continue our positional rankings with the top ten middle infielders in the system. The format of this article has changed since last season. This year we’ve combined both of the second base and shortstop positions into one grouping, middle infielders.
There are four prospects on this list that made our Midseason Top 30. Every organization wants strength up the middle, and the White Sox have an interesting group coming through the ranks that could help on the infield dirt in both the short and long term.
1. Nick Madrigal Ranked 5th, Last Level: AAA
Madrigal was the unanimous choice here for the top spot, and it was easy to see why. The former No. 4 pick started the year in Winston-Salem and ascended up to Charlotte by seasons end. Madrigal’s defensive prowess at second base has been a known commodity for years, and he did not disappoint in his first full professional season as he claimed the Gold Glove for all minor league second basemen. He’s also considered able to play shortstop with great hands and defensive actions, but average arm strength makes him better suited for manning second base as a primary position.
Offensively, the Oregon State product is known for two things: not striking out and making contact. The 22 year old struck out a mere 16 times in 2019 for a paltry 3.0 K% while ending the year with a .311/.377/.414 triple slash while swiping 43 of 62 bases.
Although Madrigal started the year with Winston-Salem, after his June 6th promotion to AA Birmingham, his offensive game took off as the second basemen would go on to bat .337/.399/.440 from that point on with a 3.2 K%. While questions remain about how much power Madrigal will show, his elite bat to ball skills, high baseball IQ, and defensive ability should have him spend most of the 2020 season playing in Chicago.
2. Yolbert Sanchez Ranked 17th, Last Level: DSL
Just as Madrigal was the unanimous choice for the top spot, Sanchez was the unanimous choice at the second slot on this list. Signed out of Cuba for a $2.5 million bonus, the 22 year old was the prize of the White Sox 2019 international class.
Sanchez is the highest rated shortstop in the White Sox system, and his calling card happens to be on the defensive side of the ball. He has good defensive instincts, possesses a strong arm, and some scouts believe that he could play shortstop in the major leagues right now.
At the dish, Sanchez is a contact-first bat with a line-drive approach. While facing off against younger competition in the Dominican Summer League, he batted .297/.386/.441 to go along with an 11.8 BB% and a 9.4 K% after shaking off some early season rust.
The 22 year old is thought to be an average hitter that may develop enough pop to keep pitchers honest as a lower third of the order bat. Sanchez will make his stateside debut this coming spring and could possibly be a fast mover through the system due to his defensive abilities.
3. Lenyn Sosa Ranked 28th, Last Level: A
Since signing with the White Sox, Sosa has been aggressively pushed by being one of the younger players at every affiliate he has been assigned to. Touted as having a strong arm and good field awareness, some scouts are now more convinced of his ability to stick at shortstop. He currently demonstrates good contact skills, barreling ability, bat speed and physical strength for such a young player.
After a solid 2018 season batting .293/.317/.406 playing shortstop for Great Falls, Sosa got his first taste of playing full season baseball in 2019 with Kannapolis. The Venezuelan product would finish his first full season assignment with a .251/.292./.371 triple slash accompanied by a 5.0 BB%, 19.0 K% and a 93 wRC+, but it was truly a tale of two halves with the bat for the 2016 international signing.
In the time leading up to the South Atlantic League All-Star break, struggles had set in for the 19 year old as he batted .229/.261/.351, saddled with a 3.3 BB%, 20.7 K%, and a 77 wRC+. Post All-Star break however, Sosa made adjustments and his offensive game turned around for the better. From June 20th until the end of the season on September 2, Sosa would go on to bat .276/.326/.393, partnered with an improved 6.9 BB%, 17.3 K%, and a 110 wRC+.
The strong second half demonstrated that Sosa made some necessary adjustments and wasn’t overmatched by the competition. Areas of improvement on the offensive spectrum could be had in plate discipline and batted ball elevation. The adjustments made in 2019 are certainly something to build upon as the 2020 season approaches.
4. Jose Rodriguez Ranked 30th, Last Level: AZL
After a solid 2018 season that had the young shortstop bat .291/.318/.401 in the DSL, the young shortstop made his stateside debut in 2019 and did not disappoint. Being around 2 years younger than every pitcher in the AZL, Rodriguez showed progress with the bat. His ISO improved from .110 to .213 and his GO/AO improved from 1.19 to .61 in 2019.
After only homering twice in the DSL in 2018, the 18 year old would go on to knock nine home runs out for the AZL squad in 2019. Rodriguez would go on to finish the season with a .293/.328/.505 triple slash with seven doubles, three triples, a 4.5 BB%, and a below league average 22.5 K%.
His swing is said to be smooth and compact that generates lots of line drives. Defensively, he mostly manned shortstop for the AZL White Sox, while also logging some time at second base. He possesses a strong arm and has good footwork, but sometimes makes errant throws from the shortstop position. With his strong AZL season, he was able to get a spot in our Midseason Top 30 and may be suited to make his full season debut in 2020.
5. Danny Mendick Unranked, Last Level: MLB
A late round success story, Mendick officially climbed all the way up the ladder and made his Major League debut in 2019 after slashing .279/.368/.444 for the Charlotte Knights. He has shown a solid ability to draw walks in the minor leagues, as his BB% has increased from 10.2 to 10.8 and up to 11.8 this past season while having a K% of 14.2, 17.0, and 17.2 respectively.
The 2015 22nd Rd pick isn’t going to wow you with any one tool, but does boast extreme dependability and versatility. Profiling as a Utility player, he’s logged numerous appearances at second, third, shortstop, and left field for AAA Charlotte, in addition to playing second, third, and shortstop in his brief time with the White Sox. Mendick does have decent pop, swatting 17 HRs for Charlotte and two with the big club in 2019. He also hit 14 HR the prior year for the Birmingham Barons at the cavernous Regions Field.
At the moment, the UMass-Lowell product figures to be in the mix for an Opening Day role with the White Sox. Whether it’s more of a utility role or as the opening day starter at second base remains to be seen. If a signing of a second baseman/backup infielder occurs, Mendick may end up in Charlotte and be the first man up if an injury on the infield occurs.
6. Lency Delgado Unranked, Last Level: RK
The 2018 4th Round pick made his Great Falls debut this year with some mixed results. While the batting average was at a respectable .274, Delgado sported a .325 OBP with a 6.0 BB% and didn’t hit for much power at all. He ended the year with a .377 SLG with 14 doubles, one triple, and two home runs.
One definite area of improvement would be command of the zone, as the 20 year old had an alarming 37.5 K% in the Pioneer League. Coming out of the draft, Delgado was touted as having a plus arm and solid raw power potential with a short, low effort swing. As it was noted above, the power hasn’t translated to games just yet, but that can come with further growth and maturation.
Defensively, he has twitchy actions and balanced footwork, and was thought to be an advanced defender coming out of the draft in 2018. Delgado mostly played shortstop for Great Falls, but did also log some appearances at third base as well. The young shortstop may still be a bit raw as a player, but does have a high ceiling if he’s able to tap into his 6’3”/215 frame.
7. Laz Rivera Unranked, Last Level: AA
The 2019 season proved to be a tough one for the 24 year old shortstop. After slashing a combined .314/.361/.481 with 13 home runs, 30 doubles, and 4 triples between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in 2018, Rivera’s numbers plummeted at Birmingham in 2019. The 28th round pick hit .248/.287/.318 with 2 home runs, 22 doubles, and one triple.
His aggressive nature at the plate continued in Birmingham, as he had a 3.7 BB% paired with a 17.8 K%, which happened to be his highest BB% at any full season affiliate. Coming out of the 2017 draft, the projections on Rivera had him pegged as an offensive-minded utility type player, so if he can regain any of the success he found in 2018, that projection could get back on track. As it stands now, Rivera seems destined to repeat in Birmingham for 2020.
8. Amado Nunez Unranked, Last Level: A
Similar to Rivera, 2019 wasn’t very kind to 2014 international signing. After breaking out in 2018 to the tune of .357/.394/.568 paired with a 5.8 BB% and a 27.4 K% for the championship Great Falls squad, Nunez scuffled mightily in 2019 with Kannapolis. He slashed .206/.256/.326 with a 5.8 BB% and a poor 32.3 K%.
Nunez was shifted over to second base from shortstop after the 2017 season because of errors, but he actually spent a fair amount of time playing first base this year for Kannapolis in addition to second base. When you factor in the recent positional shifts and only one standout season with the bat in his five total minor league seasons, progression with the bat is necessary going into his age 22 season if he wants to hold on to his prospect status.
9. Elijah Tatis Unranked, Last Level: DSL
The White Sox have a good relationship with the Tatis family, and they were able to ink the then 17 year old as a part of their 2019 international class. The 5’11”/155 infielder spent about equal time between second base and shortstop for the DSL squad this season.
Tatis is still raw as a baseball player, as he played more soccer than baseball while growing up, but he impressed the White Sox brass with his ability to handle shortstop. The industry belief is that Tatis has the tools to stick at shortstop due to solid glovework, a strong arm, good footwork and awareness in the field.
He’s said to have a good eye for the zone, with a swing that is simple, repeatable, and the ball jumps off his bat. The power part of Tatis’ game hasn’t developed yet, but he’s a very young and raw player. In just 90 plate appearances with the DSL squad, Tatis slashed .187/.300/.213 with a 14.4 BB% and a 17.8 K%.
The now 18 year old Tatis is said to be more similar to his father rather than his brother as a baseball player, so expecting a meteoric rise through the White Sox system may not be a fair expectation for the youngster, but he’s a player to monitor nonetheless.
10. Kelvin Maldonado Unranked, Last Level: RK
The 2018 11th round draft pick made his Great Falls debut this season, and while his offensive numbers improved from the previous year in the AZL, the bat still needs some refinement. The 19 year old was going up against pitchers that were about 2 years older than himself and slashed .253/.288/.310 with a 3.7 BB% and a 22.8 K%.
Similar to a couple of the prospects mentioned above, the power has yet to come for the infielder. Maldonado has yet to hit a home run as a professional since signing on with the White Sox. The tools that will carry Maldonado’s game until his bat catches up are his defense and speed. He possesses above average speed (ran a 6.54 60 yard dash during his draft year), and he moves very well while in the field. Since signing with the White Sox, he has been spending time shuffling between second base and shortstop, but has played more shortstop as a pro. He’s a smooth defender with a quick release that makes accurate throws which is complemented by a strong arm.
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