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White Sox land five in MLB’s Top 50

White Sox place six players overall in the Top 80; Eloy, Kopech and Cease are all Top 25

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners
Dueling aces: Both Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease (above) took steps forward on MLB’s Top 100. Cease will be active in 2019 and looks to leapfrog his fellow fireballer.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus released their lists of preseason Top 100 prospects (their lists remain in this feature, below, and the average ranks now cover all three Top 100s).

On Saturday, it was MLB Pipeline’s turn (latest 2018 ranks in parenthesis):
3. Eloy Jiménez, OF (same as last year)
18. Michael Kopech, RHP (up one spot from No. 19)
21. Dylan Cease, RHP (up four spots from No. 25)
40. Luis Robert, OF (up four spots from No. 44)
47. Nick Madrigal, 2B (up two spots from No. 49)
80. Dane Dunning, RHP (down 21 spots from No. 59)

Five players in the Top 50!

MLB Pipeline keeps its last updated list for the year as its “season” ranking, so the 2018 ranks are not from a full year ago. However, seeing the lifts and drops is still instructive.

Four of the top five White Sox prospects moved up. Eloy has nowhere to go, really. Kopech got a bump in spite of his TJS. Cease took a predictable step forward from No. 25. Robert continues to march upward and is poised for a major jump in 2019. Madrigal’s gain was modest.

Dunning took a huge ding from MLB, which seems odd given the conservative moves above him on the list, and the fact that Kopech and Robert seemed not to be penalized for injury. And Rutherford, listed at No. 77 last time out, fell completely out of the Top 100. For what? Taking a couple of weeks off after the season? Sheesh.

Right below is a reprint of the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus lists, for continuity and thoroughness’ sake. Feel free to skip to the bottom, to see the new average rankings of the prospects.

A big question posed in Monday’s BA exclusive to South Side Sox (letting us know that five Chicago White Sox prospects had landed in its Top 100) was whether all five would crack the Top 50.

Not quite. Would you settle for Top 76? Likewise, would you be OK with six White Sox in BP’s Top 76?

First, let’s take a look at Baseball America’s list (2018 ranks in parenthesis):
3. Eloy Jiménez, OF (up one spot from No. 4)
21. Michael Kopech, RHP (down 10 spots from No. 11)
38. Dylan Cease, RHP (not ranked)
43. Nick Madrigal, 2B (not ranked)
76. Luis Robert, OF (down 18 spots from No. 58)

In a move that was harsh but anticipated after Monday’s news, RHP Dane Dunning, ranked No. 82 in last year’s list, fell out of BA’s Top 100.

Want some even brighter news? BP nearly had four White Sox in their Top 25! Here’s Baseball Prospectus’ list (2018 ranks in parenthesis):
4. Eloy Jiménez, OF (up two spots from No. 6)
15. Nick Madrigal, 2B (not ranked)
24. Michael Kopech, RHP (down seven spots, from No. 17)
26. Dylan Cease, RHP (not ranked)
45. Luis Robert, OF (up 10 spots from No. 55)
76. Dane Dunning, OF (up 13 spots from No. 89)

Six Top 100 picks is swell, but consider that a year ago, the White Sox placed eight: Yep, Alec Hansen (No. 40 in 2018), Jake Burger (No. 84) and Blake Rutherford (No. 90) all fell out of BP’s Top 100.

Average Rankings

Here’s a look at the average ranking among the three Top 100 lists published so far (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB Pipeline):

Eloy Jiménez (average rank, 3.3): Only MLB kept Eloy stuck at No. 3 — but then, only MLB had Eloy ranked at No. 3 at the end of last year.

Michael Kopech (21): Kopech didn’t get knocked too hard for a mixed MLB debut or his TJS injury/rehab that will keep him out for 2019. Instead, both lists, while applying some caution to Kopech given the severity of his injury, preferred to place fair weight on his outstanding Triple-A season. Kudos to MLB for actually moving Kopech up one spot.

Dylan Cease (28.3): The march to the Top 10 continues for Cease, who took mega-leaps on the BA and BP lists, and a still-healthy, four-spot jump with MLB, who already had the righthander ranked in their Top 25. Given that Rick Hahn basically put Cease on the Kopech track for 2019 (Triple-A, and a call-up after the All-Star break), it makes sense that Cease is nipping at Kopech’s tail in the prospect rankings as well.

Nick Madrigal (35): BP’s Madrigal love is actually shocking. No. 15 places him impossibly, like 2019 call-up, high. Wow. MLB and BA both ranking him in the 40s seems a bit more realistic.

Luis Robert (53.7): The most fascinating contrast of all lands with Robert. BA chose, not completely unfairly, to ding Robert for basically missing all of 2018’s regular season. Meanwhile, BP must have been agog at Robert’s AFL work this fall, moving him up 10 spots in spite of his All-Absentia 2018 season. MLB also nudged Robert up, four spots from their latest 2018 rankings.

Dane Dunning (88): This isn’t really fair, because BA didn’t even rank Dunning in their Top 100. But between BP and MLB, Dunning is still considered a Top 100 player. Somebody at BP really digs the cream of the White Sox crop. While BA used Dunning’s late elbow issues to drag him off of their list (ignoring a season nearly as inspiring as Cease’s), BP not only kept Dunning in its Top 100, but bumped him up 13 spots. MLB sort of split the difference, ranking him high as of their last 2018 rankings (No. 59) but then somewhat inexplicably dropping him 21 spots this time out.