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2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote: Round 26

Caleb Frare makes it three straight southpaw wins. Now, who is the 26th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox
Key lefty: Frare’s 2018 work at Charlotte and Chicago set him up to be an important part of the 2019 White Sox pen.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We started this out trying to get as many names as possible on the ballot, but that only worked for about a dozen rounds before the results started to get a little wonky — no offense, Lincoln Henzman. So we’re back to the traditional five players out for each round, with combined 2018 stats to help you out in your decision-making process.

As we count down the SSS Prospect Vote, we’ll be counting up the overall list of Top 100 Prospects, with the SSS poll vote counting as a voice in the order of our official SSS Top 100.

Here’s how last year’s prospect vote wrangled out — all 42 picks, with an archive of every article in the 2018 series.

A final note: All copy below the poll, unless otherwise noted, comes from wsm’s Deep Dive series. Credit due. YOTH is just running the numbers.

Sound cool? Now, get voting!


Voting results for Round 25

It’s three straight southpaws winning our poll, this time Caleb Frare making short work of the field, with 52 of 157 votes (33.1%). As it was with Medeiros and Pilkington, this was Frare’s first time in our prospect vote.


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Winners


More information on our polling.

Poll

Who is the 26th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Spencer Adams
    (14 votes)
  • 9%
    Luis Curbelo
    (9 votes)
  • 36%
    Bernardo Flores
    (35 votes)
  • 24%
    Jordan Stephens
    (24 votes)
  • 15%
    Jonathan Stiever
    (15 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now

Spencer Adams

Right-handed starting pitcher
Age 22
2018 SSS poll ranking 13
2018 High Level Charlotte (AAA)
Overall 2018 stats 7-13 ▪️ 28 starts ▪️ 159 IP ▪️ 3.79 ERA ▪️ 95 K ▪️ 58 BB ▪️ 1.384 WHIP

Adams, a native of Cleveland, Ga., was the 15th-ranked prep prospect eligible for the 2014 MLB draft according to PerfectGame. It didn’t hurt that he posted a 0.72 ERA, .129 OBA, 13.89 K/9 for White County H.S. while possessing a 92-96 mph fastball, hard slider, and improving changeup. When he fell to the White Sox in the second round as the 44th overall pick, the White Sox happily selected him, in large part due to his high upside. Adams bypassed his verbal commitment with Georgia for a nearly $1.3 million bonus. He pitched for the AZL Sox that year, and posted an incredible 14.75 K/BB ratio.

From 2015-17, Adams moved up the system from Kannapolis to Birmingham, consistently allowing a .275-.281 OBA with few strikeouts, but limiting damage due to his exceptional control. Adams returned to Birmingham to begin 2018, but surprisingly struggled with a 4.59 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 68 2⁄3 innings — allowing 80 hits (.290 OBA) and 20 walks (2.62 BB/9) while striking out 53 hitters (6.95 K/9). After finally kicking it in gear in late May and early June, ceding just one run in his last 13 innings, Adams finally earned a long-awaited promotion to Charlotte.

Adams had a strange end to his season with the Knights. In 15 starts totaling 90 1⁄3 innings against AAA competition, he actually posted a credible 3.19 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. What’s particularly interesting is that he limited International League hitters to just 82 hits (a career-best .248 OBA) but walked 38 hitters (a career-worst 3.79 BB/9) compared to just 42 strikeouts (a career-worst 4.18 K.9). He also allowed more fly balls than grounders, usually a recipe for disaster for a control pitcher.

With more innings under his belt, Adams’ four-seam fastball peaks around 94 mph, while his two-seamer runs 88-92; he still features a slider, which is more set-up than put-away pitch. His changeup simply hasn’t improved as originally hoped — against lefties this year, he posted a .297 OBA and 1.73 WHIP; versus righties, he posted a .238 OBA and 1.07 WHIP.

Adams is still quite young, and hope remains that he can be something more than a long reliever. However, his inability to miss bats is a concern. His two biggest issues are putting hitters away and limiting damage against lefties. Adams ranked 26th among White Sox prospects according to MLB Pipeline’s 2018 rankings, but he has fallen due to such concerns. Adams will start the season in Charlotte’s rotation.


Luis Curbelo

Shortstop
Age 21
2018 SSS poll ranking 29
2018 High Level Kannapolis (A)
Overall 2018 stats 83 games ▪️ 3 HR ▪️ 31 RBI ▪️ .237/.282/.338 ▪️ 18 BB ▪️ 87 K

Curbelo began his high school career at the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, and after performing well on the summer showcase circuit, he moved to Cocoa (Fla.) High as a senior to increase his exposure. At the time of the 2016 MLB Draft, Curbelo was the 33rd-ranked prep prospect in the country, according to PerfectGame. As a result, when he fell to the sixth round, the White Sox pounced and paid him an over-slot bonus of $700,000.

In his first two years of professional ball, with the AZL White Sox and Great Falls, Curbelo slashed just .242/.322/.354 with a combined three homers, 16 RBIs, four stolen bases, 16 walks (7.92%) and 46 strikeouts (22.77%) over 178 at-bats. Unfortunately, he missed plenty of development time in 2017 when he tore his meniscus after just three games with Great Falls.

When winning a promotion to Kannapolis this year expectations were tempered, with Curbelo coming back from such a serious injury. For the year, he managed to slash .237/.282/.338 with 19 doubles, three homers, 31 RBIs, 18 walks (5.25%) and 87 strikeouts (25.36 K%) over 317 at-bats. Curbelo’s hitting, especially his high number of strikeouts, is certainly disconcerting. Considering he was 1.3 years younger than league average, and he had relatively little professional exposure previously, the struggles were not entirely surprising. Perhaps of more concern may be on defense, where Curbelo committed 14 errors in 57 games at short, while also erring 10 times in 20 games at the hot corner.

Curbelo still has the build to hit for more power as he learns to adapt in the minors. Defensively, he needs to keep his focus and keep in front of the ball while trying not to rush things. Offensively, he’ll need to maintain better plate discipline, which often comes with experience. There’s a possibility Curbelo will be promoted to Winston-Salem, in order to be the club’s third baseman until Jake Burger is ready to take the helm; after all, Curbelo is the 27th-ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline. Otherwise, he could be competing for playing time next year at shortstop/third base with Lenyn Sosa and Bryce Bush.


Bernardo Flores

Left-handed starting pitcher
Age 23
2018 SSS poll ranking 28
2018 High Level Birmingham (AA)
Overall 2018 stats 8-9 ▪️ 25 starts ▪️ 156 IP ▪️ 2.65 ERA ▪️ 105 K ▪️ 31 BB ▪️ 1.186 WHIP

Flores spent his first season with USC as a reliever, but he was the Trojans swingman during his sophomore and junior seasons. After a respectable sophomore season, he struggled mightily in his junior year by posting a 6.70 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 41 23 innings, allowing 50 hits and 16 walks while striking out 36. Despite the results, the White Sox did their due diligence and drafted him in the seventh round in 2016, signing him to a $200,000 bonus.

Flores finished 2016 with the AZL Sox and Great Falls, where he combined to post a nifty 3.46 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 65 innings, allowing 67 hits (.270 OBA) and just 12 walks (4.5%) while fanning 52 hitters (19.6%). In 2017, Flores pitched a combined 118 13 innings for both Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, allowing just 116 hits (.257 OBA) and 32 walks (6.5%) while striking out 103 hitters (20.8%).

In 2018 with Winston-Salem and Birmingham, Flores combined to produce a 2.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over a career-high 156 innings, ceding 154 hits (.261 OBA) and 31 walks (4.9%) while striking out 105 (16.5%).

Flores has been the model of consistency, despite the fact that his fastball velocity has dropped as a pro. His repertoire includes an above-average changeup that still needs some refinement (righties hit .285 against him this year), a tight curveball, and an effective cutter. Flores is more pitcher than thrower, and with his ability to minimize walks (1.99 BB/9) and keep the ball down (1.49 GO/AO) he may be the closest thing to Mark Buehrle that the White Sox have in its vaunted system.

Though Flores split his time (and results) evenly between Winston-Salem and Birmingham last year, expect a return to Birmingham due to a potential logjam in Charlotte to begin the year. With that said, he should be a candidate for early promotion when an opening arises.


Jordan Stephens

Right-handed starting pitcher
Age 26
2018 SSS poll ranking 18
2018 High Level Charlotte (AAA)
Overall 2018 stats 8-10 ▪️ 28 starts ▪️ 146 23 IP ▪️ 4.23 ERA ▪️ 139 K ▪️ 54 BB ▪️ 1.398 WHIP

Stephens, a native of Alvin, Texas, played college ball for the nearby Rice Owls. He was considered by many scouts at the time of his junior season to be a possible third-round pick. However, three starts into that season, Stephens was injured and required Tommy John surgery, missing the remainder of the season. Thus, Stephens returned to Rice for his senior season and pitched surprisingly well: 3.17 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 59 2⁄3 innings, allowing just 51 hits and 17 walks (2.56 BB/9) while striking out 75 (11.31 K/9). Due to his competitiveness and the results he posted during his four-year stint with Rice, Stephens was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB draft — ultimately receiving a signing bonus of $300,000.

Stephens’ results had been solid from 2015-17, moving through the White Sox system quite rapidly while striking out more than one batter per inning and maintaining solid peripheral numbers in the process. He missed the first two months of 2017 with forearm tendinitis but still pitched effectively, with a 3.14 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 91 2⁄3 innings, allowing 84 hits (.249 OBA) and 35 walks (3.44 BB/9) while striking out 83 (8.15 K/9).

In 2018, after a return to Birmingham for seven blistering starts, Stephens was promoted to Charlotte, where he struggled a bit. For the Knights in 21 starts (107 innings), Stephens posted a 4.71 ERA and 1.46 WHIP — allowing 114 hits (.271 OBA) and 42 walks (3.53 BB/9) while striking out 99 (8.33 K/9). Lefties hit .296 against his offerings at AAA, while righties hit just .242, and a similar differential occurred with Birmingham as well.

Stephens’ top pitch is an excellent, upper-70s curveball with good depth. While his fastball isn’t overpowering, the low-90s velocity is still effective because of the way he hides and locates it. He also has a cutter and changeup, which still need work due to his lack of results against lefties.

Because of issues Stephens has had staying healthy both in the college and professional levels, and due to his relatively small size and bulldog mentality, a switch to the bullpen may eventually be in order. At this moment, unless the White Sox acquire additional starters via trade or free agency, Stephens will be competing against the likes of Dylan Covey, Manny Banuelos, Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero in spring training for back-end spots in the rotation. The fact that the White Sox chose to add him to the 40-man roster this month, over the likes of both Adams and Guerrero, indicates he has the inside track on a rotation spot in 2019.


Jonathan Stiever

Right-handed starting pitcher
Age 21
2018 SSS poll ranking N/R
2018 High Level Great Falls (Rookie)
Overall 2018 stats 5-7 ▪️ 29 starts ▪️ 128 IP ▪️ 3.59 ERA ▪️ 136 K ▪️ 41 BB ▪️ 1.234 WHIP

After a great freshman season for the Indiana Hoosiers as a reliever, Stiever was converted to a starter for his sophomore and junior seasons. In his three years overall, he attained a 3.56 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 217 2⁄3 innings with a .264 OBA, 1.90 BB/9 and 7.61 K/9. His junior season was the best overall, as he worked 100 innings with a .250 OBA, 2.87 BB% and 8.70 K%. As a result of his success, Stiever was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB draft by the White Sox and received a $386,800 at-slot bonus.

Because Stiever had already attained a career high in innings with the Hoosiers, his innings were severely limited at Great Falls. In 13 starts totaling 28 frames, he maintained a 4.18 ERA and 1.14 WHIP despite working in a difficult pitching environment. In those 28 innings, Stiever ceded only 23 hits (.223 OBA) and walked just nine (2.89 BB/9) while striking out 39 (12.54 K/9). His fastball typically runs from the low 90s to 96 mph, but has good running and sinking action. Stiever has an upper-70s spike curveball which also features slider action, and an above-average changeup, which helped limit lefties to an OBA of .250. Stiever currenly ranks 29th among White Sox prospects according to MLB Pipeline, so expect him to begin next season with Kannapolis.