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2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote: Round 28

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Jordan Stephens breaks the southpaws’ streak, easily winning the No. 27 spot. Now, who is the 28th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

26th man: Based on standing at the end of last season, Stephens is the most likely spot-start call-up from Charlotte this season.
Kim Contreras (@Cu_As)/South Side Sox

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 27

Jordan Stephens, the last of the “original” players on the ballot, won with a convincing 60 of 143 (42%) votes. Stephens slipped significantly from last year’s finish, when he placed 18th.


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Winners


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Top Right-Handed Starting Pitchers


More information on our polling.

Poll

Who is the 28th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Spencer Adams
    (34 votes)
  • 11%
    Luis Curbelo
    (20 votes)
  • 51%
    Lincoln Henzman
    (93 votes)
  • 3%
    A.J. Puckett
    (6 votes)
  • 15%
    Jonathan Stiever
    (27 votes)
180 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.


Lincoln Henzman

Right-handed starting pitcher
Age 23
2018 SSS poll ranking 23
2018 High Level Winston-Salem (A+)
Overall 2018 stats 6-4 ▪️ 27 games (22 starts) ▪️ 1 CG ▪️ 1 SHO ▪️ 102 IP ▪️ 2.35 ERA ▪️ 80 K ▪️ 18 BB ▪️ 1.118 WHIP

With the exception of two starts in his freshman season, Henzman was exclusively a reliever for the Louisville Cardinals. His best season was as a junior, when he pitched in 27 games (saving 16) totaling 37 2⁄3 innings with a terrific 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP — allowing just 22 hits (.169 OBA) and 10 walks (2.39 BB/9), striking out 37 (8.84 K/9). With those results, the White Sox drafted Henzman in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB draft, with the intention of converting him into a starter.

After receiving a signing bonus of $450,000, Henzman pitched for the AZL Sox and Great Falls. In 11 combined outings (seven starts), he maintained a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 28 innings, allowing 27 hits (.262 OBA) and nine walks (2.89 BB/9) while striking out 17 (5.46 K/9). Henzman went deeper into games in 2018 for Kannapolis, starting 13 and pitching 72 2⁄3 innings, with better-than-expected results. For the Intimidators, Henzman posted a 2.23 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and allowed just 68 hits (.241 OBA) and eight walks (0.99 BB/9) while striking out 60 hitters (7.43 K/9). He was promoted to Winston-Salem on June 21, but was held to pitch counts as Henzman had already far exceeded his career high in innings. In 14 outings totaling 34 2⁄3 innings for the Dash, he posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, ceding 34 hits (.256 OBA) and 10 walks (2.60 BB/9) while striking out 20 (5.19 K/9). It appears the White Sox made the right move in moving him to the rotation, as his walk and strikeout rates were far better when he was pitching more innings per game.

Henzman features a heavy sinking fastball that runs anywhere from 90-95 mph, and has produced an incredible 2.05 GO/AO rate in his first two seasons in the Sox organization. He throws an upper-80s cutter, while also throwing an above-average changeup which limited lefties to a .245 OBA, bettering his .249 OBA against righties. While Henzman has good stuff, he’s more about command and control, and is now ranked 30th among White Sox prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Expect Henzman to return to Winston-Salem to begin next year, with an opportunity for promotion to Birmingham later in the year.


A.J. Puckett
Right-handed starting pitcher
Age 23
2018 SSS poll ranking 20
2017 High Level Winston-Salem (A)
Overall 2017 stats 10-7 ▪️ 25 starts ▪️ 135 23 IP ▪️ 4.44 ERA ▪️ 119 K ▪️ 51 BB ▪️ 1.423 WHIP

Puckett is an interesting story. He was a promising two-sport athlete in high school before a car accident left him in a medically-induced coma for two weeks to slow his blood loss. After that accident, he made a a full recovery and went to Pepperdine, where he was the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year in 2016 after fashioning the third-longest scoreless streak (45 2⁄3 innings) in NCAA Division I history. All Puckett did in his junior season was pitch 99 innings over 14 starts, posting an incredible 1.27 ERA and 0.92 WHIP; he allowed just 65 hits and 26 walks (2.36 BB/9) while fanning 95 batters (8.61 K/9). As a result of his efforts, the Kansas City Royals selected him in the second round of the 2016 MLB draft, signing him to a $1.2 million bonus.

For the AZL Royals and Lexington (Royals A-affiliate) immediately after the draft, Puckett held his own in 13 starts, with a combined 3.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and respectable .231 OBA and 2.30 BB/9, but his strikeouts were down (6.90 K/9). For the Royals A+ team (Wilmington) in 2017, he posted a 3.90 ERA and 1.41 WHIP through July 30 before being traded to the White Sox for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Puckett struggled a bit at hitter-friendly Winston-Salem in his five starts, as he posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 27 1⁄3 innings. In those innings, Puckett surrendered 35 hits (.327 OBA) and five walks (1.65 BB/9) while striking out 21 (6.91 K/9).

Puckett began 2018 season as the 23rd-ranked prospect in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, and was slated to move up to Double-A Birmingham. However, due to an ailing elbow, Puckett missed the entire season (just like Andre Davis, the other player acquired in the Cabrera deal).

Puckett, like fellow prospect Spencer Adams, is more about pitchability than power. His best assets are his tumbling changeup, a legitimate plus pitch, and his advanced command. His fastball usually ranges from 90-94 mph with some run and sink, and his curveball can be an average third offering at times, but lacks consistency. As of now, expect Puckett to be a part of Birmingham’s rotation, but because little information has been made available regarding his injury, it’s unknown if Puckett will actually begin the season in April.


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.