For White Sox fans who can't help but look into the future, there's some good news and some bad news.
Starting with the former, ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked the White Sox farm system the 12th-best in baseball:
They've added four players within the top-120 range of prospects in the past 24 months, via the draft and one trade, and they didn't give up any of those premium guys to add Jeff Samardzija this offseason. Although the system still isn't deep in average prospects, it is in the best shape it has been since I started ranking organizations seven years ago.
While creeping into the top 40th percentile usually isn't worth bragging about, it's indeed the highest they've been ranked since Law's first rankings, which came onto the scene around the same time as the Dave Wilder scandal. Law ranked the Sox 27th last year, albeit with an encouraging word ("The ranking doesn't reflect it yet, but this system is headed in the right direction"). Most of the previous years weren't even that kind:
- 2013: 28th
- 2012: 30th ("and they're not particularly close to No. 29, either")
- 2011: 28th
- 2010: 30th
- 2009: 23rd
- 2008: 30th
The Sox appeared to get a boost in Law's overall rankings by landing two of his top-100 prospects in the 2014 draft -- first-round pick Carlos Rodon (No. 12), and second-round pick Spencer Adams (No. 94). The latter is the surprise, with Law noting that Adams already has command of three pitches:
Adams throws three pitches and has above-average present command, throwing all three offerings for quality strikes, including a fastball that reaches 95 and an above-average breaking ball with good depth.
Adams is very athletic and has a lot of physical projection remaining, having barely begun growing into his shoulders. He could sit mid-90s with two plus secondary pitches when it's all said and done.
Tim Anderson gave the Sox a third prospect in the mix between the pitchers at No. 67, saying Anderson "really should stay [at shortstop]."
Barring inconsistent criteria, it seems as though Rodon-Anderson-Adams will headline his top-10 list of White Sox prospects, which comes out today.
UPDATE (10:31 a.m.): Indeed.
Top 10 prospects
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Tim Anderson, SS
3. Spencer Adams, RHP
4. Francelis Montas, RHP
5. Micah Johnson, 2B
6. Matt Davidson, 3B
7. Trey Michalczewski, 3B
8. Tyler Danish, RHP
9. Micker Adolfo, OF
10. Courtney Hawkins, OF
On the other hand, PECOTA wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the Sox. Despite the numerous upgrades we've witnessed this winter, Baseball Prospectus' projection system handed the Sox a 78-84 record in its first run.
The White Sox used to smirk at PECOTA, as it routinely underestimated the Sox due in large part to a sterling run of health. The last two years have voided that license, with the Sox falling short of even underwhelming projections:
A 78-win projection for Jon Heyman's biggest winner of the winter is the proverbial poop in the tuba, and Grant Brisbee outlined the ways the Sox can beat it ...
That's the best part about projections, though. You can cherry pick the ones you don't trust and remove them from your own mental calculus. Samardzija having the worst full season of his career? I'll take the over. If Noesi really is that bad, he'll be replaced in short order, possibly by golden-armed prospect, Carlos Rodon. Slap the books out of PECOTA's hands and push it into its locker, dammit. Get mad, White Sox fans!
... but the Sox themselves will probably bite their tongues for the time being.
That said, there's plenty of room for silver-lining mining. More important than the actual record is the projected distance between the teams in the AL Central, and it turns out PECOTA doesn't particularly care for any of them:
PECOTA projected a 13-game divide between the Sox and Tigers before the season last year, so to narrow that gap to four over the course of one winter -- without really touching that aforementioned improving farm system -- signals a considerable amount of progress.
Now, the Kansas City projection? That's one's worth scorn, derision and maybe a little concern.