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2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote: Round 32

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Amado Nuñez breaks the starting pitcher spell, winning our No. 31 spot. Now, who is the 32nd-best prospect in the White Sox system?

Batting back: After eight straight starting pitcher wins, Amado Nuñez gets the hitters back on the Prospect Vote board.
Great Falls Voyagers

Continuing forward, by utter and popular demand, it’s the South Side Sox Prospect Vote! (Not to worry, those murdered by the tediousness of, you know, spending some time thinking about second-tier prospects vs. hand-wringing over another 100 losses for the big club, the vote stops at 50. Take a deep breath ...)

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 31

In a modest turnout, Amado Nuñez prevailed in relatively tight voting, winning 28 of 91 (30.8%) votes. A year ago, Nuñez was even more of a prospect sleeper, finishing No. 41 in our polling.


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Winners


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Top Second Basemen

More information on our polling.


Poll

Who is the 32nd-best prospect in the White Sox system?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Ryan Burr
    (77 votes)
  • 11%
    Luis Curbelo
    (13 votes)
  • 13%
    Ti’quan Forbes
    (15 votes)
  • 5%
    Jordan Guerrero
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    A.J. Puckett
    (4 votes)
115 votes total Vote Now

Ryan Burr

Right-handed relief pitcher
Age 24
2018 SSS poll ranking N/R
2018 High Level Chicago White Sox
Overall 2018 stats 4-3 ▪️ 45 games ▪️ 2 saves ▪️ 60 23 IP ▪️ 3.26 ERA ▪️ 57 K ▪️ 31 BB ▪️ 1.269 WHIP

On Aug. 11, 2017, the White Sox traded international signing bonus pool money to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Burr, a former fifth round pick. At that time, Burr was rolling, rolling, rolling along with the Visalia Rawhide, the D-Backs A+ team. Since the trade, Burr has advanced rapidly, from Winston-Salem to Chicago, with a stop in-between at Birmingham and Charlotte in 2018.

Burr is the all-time saves leader for Arizona State, and posted a 2.91 ERA with 14 saves as he fanned 74 batters in 46 innings during his senior season. In his first two years of professional ball (with the D-Backs rookie squads and Kane County), Burr combined for a 2.05 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.9 BB% and 29.4 K%. For three teams in 2017 (including Winston-Salem), Burr combined for a 1.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 10.0 BB% and 33.8 K%.

Burr’s numbers in 2018 with Birmingham and Charlotte were impressive as well, even after factoring his rough month of May, combining for a 2.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 12.0 BB% and 24.5 K%. From June 1 to August 22 (when he was promoted to the White Sox), however, Burr iced hitters to the tune of just two earned runs, 16 hits and 10 walks, while striking out 37, over 30 2⁄3 innings. Burr was much more hittable after his promotion to the White Sox, as he posted a 7.45 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in eight games totaling 9 2⁄3 innings, in which he allowed 12 hits, three homers, six walks and six strikeouts.

Burr’s repertoire includes a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 97 mph; he also features an above-average slider. A changeup is Burr’s third pitch, but he doesn’t throw it often; since he held lefties in AA to the same average as righties, this doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue for him presently.

Burr was likely ticketed to Charlotte because of the Alex Colomé and Kelvin Herrera acquisitions. But after a poor spring from Juan Minaya that sees him already reassigned to Charlotte, combined with a nice spring (at least through mid-March), Burr now seems more and more of a lock to break north with the White Sox. If Burr did start 2019 as a Knight, he should be among the first pitchers called up when a reliever goes down due to injuries or ineffectiveness.


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.


Ti’quan Forbes

Third Baseman
Age 22
2018 SSS poll ranking N/R
2018 High Level Winston-Salem (A+)
Overall 2018 stats 119 games ▪️ 6 HR ▪️ 51 RBI ▪️ .273/.313/.391 ▪️ 4 SB ▪️ 9 CS ▪️ 21 BB ▪️ 74 K

Forbes hit .427 during his senior season in high school and verbally committed to the University of Mississippi as a 6´3´´, 175-pound senior from Columbia, Miss. However, a $1.2 million signing bonus was too much to resist after being picked by the Texas Rangers in the second round of the 2014 MLB draft.

Forbes, who hasn’t added much weight since his varsity days, struggled during his stint in the Rangers system (2014-17). Encompassing 1,305 at-bats (which concluded at A+ Down East), he combined to hit .246/.303/.330 with 15 home runs, 124 RBI, 23 stolen bases, 87 walks (6.1%) and 337 strikeouts (23.6%). Due to these disappointing results, Forbes was traded to the White Sox on Aug. 31, 2017 for Miguel Gonzalez.

In his first full season with Winston-Salem, many of Forbes’s peripherals improved. His slash line, while still unspectacular, improved to .273/.313/.391 while hitting six homers, knocking home 51 runs, 21 doubles and six triples (all but the OBP and homers were career bests). He also struck out just 74 times, which also gave him a career best 16.34 K%. However, Forbes only walked 21 times last year (4.6%) so he still needs work at accepting the free pass.

While considered to have above-average speed, Forbes proved vastly ineffective swiping bases, as he was successful in only four of 13 tries in 2018. Finally, his 1.77 GO/AO rate indicates Forbes hits the ball into the ground far too many times for someone of his power. On the plus side, Forbes was 1.4 years younger than the Carolina League average in 2018.

Defensively, Forbes spent 69% of his time at the hot corner, 23.4% at second, and 7.6% at short (he also played one inning at first). He committed 21 errors altogether, but is considered a respectable glove man, with slightly above-average range.

Forbes should begin 2019 at hitter-unfriendly Birmingham. This will be a huge year for him, because while there are no real hot corner prospects ahead of him in Charlotte, there are a couple behind him with significantly more power potential (Jake Burger and Bryce Bush). Certainly, Forbes’s lack of overall game power would diminish his role in the majors if he should ever get there.


Jordan Guerrero

Left-handed starting pitcher
Age 24
2018 SSS poll ranking 21
2018 High Level Charlotte (AAA)
Overall 2018 stats 10-8 ▪️ 26 games (25 starts) ▪️ 130 13 IP ▪️ 4.76 ERA ▪️ 120 K ▪️ 47 BB ▪️ 1.496 WHIP

Guerrero, a native of Oxnard, Calif., was drafted in the 15th round by the White Sox as a lanky, 165-pound southpaw from Moorpark High School. His first two years were spent with rookie league Bristol, where he combined for a 3.93 ERA and 1.46 WHIP by allowing 41 hits (.301 OBA) and nine walks (6.2 BB%), while striking out 21 (14.5 K%) Appalachian League hitters over just 34 innings of work.

The spotlight started shining on Guerrero after a stellar 2014 with Kannapolis, in which he pitched in 27 games (nine starts) encompassing 78 innings. He enjoyed a 3.46 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, allowing 81 hits (.266 OBA) and 27 walks (8.0 BB%) while striking out 80 (23.8 K%).

He began the 2015 season as the No. 28 White Sox prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended to No. 9 in midseason rankings during a successful campaign with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, where Guerrero combined for 3.08 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 149 innings while allowing just 124 hits (.230 OBA) and 31 walks (5.3 BB%) and striking out 148 (25.1 K%).

Although Guerrero began the 2016 season as the White Sox’s No. 6 prospect, the wheels started falling off that year with Birmingham. Normally the possessor of terrific control, Guerrero walked more hitters (73) in 136 innings than he did in his previous three years (252 1⁄3 innings) combined. His walk rate increased to 12.2%, his punchout rate decreased to 18.1%, and his OBA increased to .260. As a result, his ERA and WHIP rose drastically, to 4.83 and 1.51.

Due to a combination of his 2016 slump and the acquisition of several elite prospects, Guerrero dropped to No. 21 in the organization’s MLB Pipeline rankings. He returned to Birmingham in 2017 with numbers that basically split his 2015 and 2016 results. Guerrero pitched his way to a 4.18 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 146 1⁄3 innings while allowing 150 hits (.270 OBA) and 43 walks (7.0 BB%), striking out 136 (22.1 K%). Despite the improvements, Guerrero fell off many prospect lists (including MLB Pipeline) and was left unprotected from last year’s Rule 5 draft, to the disgruntlement of Guerrero and many White Sox fans. However, he went unclaimed.

The White Sox surprised many by leaving Guerrero, Spencer Adams, and Jordan Stephens in Birmingham to begin 2018. While Stephens excelled to start the year and was promoted relatively quickly, Adams and Guerrero both struggled out of the gate. Prior to his promotion on June 29, Guerrero suffered through a rather unsightly season, with a 6.06 ERA and 1.58 ERA over 65 1⁄3 innings, allowing 84 hits (.315 OBA) and 19 walks (6.5 BB%) while striking out 58 (19.8 K%) Southern League hitters. A light switch seemed to turn on for Guerrero upon his promotion to Charlotte, as he pitched quite effectively despite working in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark. In 65 innings for the Knights, Guerrero’s ERA and WHIP fell to 3.46 and 1.42 by allowing just 64 hits (.251 OBA) and 28 walks (9.8 BB%) and inducing opponents to whiff 62 times (21.8 K%).

Guerrero, who is 24 and now hits the mound at 195 pounds, has a fastball that can run up to 94 mph according to FanGraphs, but typically clocks in the lower 90s. His changeup is considered by most scouts to be his best pitch — some sites, like FanGraphs, grade it a 60. Guerrero gets in trouble sometimes by living exclusively with the change, which typically works best as a secondary pitch if there’s a big enough disparity between it and the fastball. A third pitch for Guerrero is a curveball, which is average at best, but has hittable slurvy action at its worst. Guerrero’s fourth pitch is a slider, which he’s deployed much more during the past couple of years. Over the course of his career, righties have only hit Guerrero slightly better than lefties; however, while his change works well against righties, Guerrero doesn’t have a consistent out pitch against lefties, as his slider and curve are still works in progress.

Guerrero will begin the season in Charlotte’s starting rotation.


Amado Nuñez

Second Baseman
Age 21
2018 SSS poll ranking 41
2018 High Level Great Falls (Rookie)
Overall 2018 stats 60 games ▪️ 6 HR ▪️ 52 RBI ▪️ .357/.394/.568 ▪️ 15 BB ▪️ 71 K

It seems like Nuñez has been in the White Sox organization for a long time, though he is just 20. He signed for $900,000 from the Dominican Republic as the headliner of a 2014 international signing class that also included Jhoandro Alfaro, Ricky Mota and Felix Mercedes. At the time of his signing, MiLB.com rated his tools as follows: Hit 55, Power 55, Run 55, Arm 50, Field 50. Signed initially as a shortstop, Nuñez has played all four infield positions in the White Sox organization, with 2018 primarily spent at second.

Nuñez had an injury-riddled 2015, struggling with the AZL White Sox to the tune of .145/.207/.158. He appeared to turn things around in 2016 with a slash line of .287/.320/.370, while swiping a career-high nine bases. However, he struggled badly in 2017 upon being promoted to Great Falls, as he hit just .183/.247/.246 in the higher altitude. On the positive side, Nuñez did lower his strikeout percentage to a career-best 18.9, while increasing his walk percentage to another best, 7.79.

This year, upon returning to the Voyagers, Nuñez was in a different stratosphere. He hit .357/.394/.568, with 21 doubles, six homers, 52 RBIs, 15 walks and 71 strikeouts — easily eclipsing his career numbers in every significant stat. His walk and strikeouts surprisingly declined (5.8% and 27.4% respectively), but Nuñez has got plenty of time to improve.

Nuñez is not a significant stolen base threat (14 in his four-year career), but the biggest concern with him has clearly been his defense. In just fewer than 170 career games in the minors, he’s committed 74 errors. In 2018 alone, Nuñez suffered 17 miscues in 46 games at second base and three mishaps in just eight games at first; similar error rates have transpired during his time at the hot corner and shortstop earlier in his career. If Nuñez can keep errors to a minimum while continuing to rake, he may have quite a future with the White Sox. Otherwise, his ceiling will be as an offensive-minded utility infielder. Nuñez should be a no-brainer to begin 2019 with Kannapolis.


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.