Ryan Cordell is turning 26 on March 31, and that’s usually not the kind of thing you like to hear about one of your prospects. Not only has he never played in the major leagues, but he also got his first taste of Triple-A in 2017. But Cordell isn’t your average advanced-age prospect; he’s shown enough skill on the field to gradually work his way through the minors, and now he’s knocking on the door as the White Sox get ready for Spring Training.
In fact, Rick Hahn has repeatedly mentioned Cordell as a player that Sox fans shouldn’t sleep on. During the White Sox Talk seminar at SoxFest, he said that three other teams have expressed interest in the outfielder, despite him landing outside Baseball Prospectus’s top 20 White Sox prospects (FutureSox put him right at number 20). The hype coming from within the organization speaks to something intriguing about what he brings to the table.
Cordell is a 6’4”, 205-pound outfielder who’s not particularly bad at anything, although he’s not excellent at anything either. He has 60-grade speed (per John Sickels and Eric Longenhagen), with average outfield defense and arm that make him competent in center. He’s also got above-average raw power, though he’s still working on improving his pitch recognition. His size and particular bag of tools say Alex Rios Lite to me, and he’s even lowered his hands since being drafted.
Still, college players picked in the 11th round out of small schools tend to be more project than finished product. Cordell has risen through the ranks gradually, continuing to make adjustments and figure out each level along the way. He mashed his way from A-ball to Advanced-A in 2014, and then he was in Double-A Frisco by mid-2015.
Cordell opened 2016 as the Texas League Player of the Month for April, and continued to carry an .800 OPS into August before being shelved with a knee injury for the rest of the year. Nonetheless, come September, Milwaukee chose him as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Jonathan Lucroy to Arlington. The Brewers assigned him to Triple-A to start 2017, and he slashed .284/.349/.506 (albeit at elevation) before hitting the DL again with back issues. He came to the White Sox on July 25, having again been traded while injured, this time for Anthony Swarzak.
Cordell will probably make his major league debut with the Sox in 2018. Injuries have held him back a bit the last couple of years, but scouts seem to regard him as a well-rounded player and although he’s been a bit older than his competition, he’s performed well at each stop so far. He’s regarded as an “ideal fourth outfielder” with the potential for more and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He’ll be one of the more interesting players to watch in Glendale to see what kind of role he can carve out on a White Sox team full of opportunities.