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2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote: Round 25

Konnor Pilkington rounds out our second dozen prospects, winning a tough, three-way battle. Now, who is the 25th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

KP duty: Pilkington becomes the fourth 2018 draft pick to crack the list.
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 24

After Kodi Medeiros became the first lefty starter to crack the list, Konnor Pilkington followed that right up by becoming the second. It was a pretty fierce, three-way battle among Pilkington, Jordan Stephens and Caleb Frare, but the 2018 draftee won out, with 53 of 152 votes (34.9%). As it was with Medeiros, it’s Pilkington’s first time in our prospect vote.


2019 South Side Sox Prospect Vote Winners


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

More information on our polling.

Poll

Who is the 25th-best prospect in the White Sox system?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Luis Curbelo
    (13 votes)
  • 22%
    Bernardo Flores
    (35 votes)
  • 33%
    Caleb Frare
    (52 votes)
  • 24%
    Jordan Stephens
    (38 votes)
  • 12%
    Jonathan Stiever
    (19 votes)
157 votes total Vote Now

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.


Caleb Frare

Left-handed relief pitcher
Age 25
2018 SSS poll ranking N/R
2018 High Level Chicago White Sox
Overall 2018 stats 5-2 ▪️ 54 games ▪️ 5 saves ▪️ 63 IP ▪️ 1.29 ERA ▪️ 86 K ▪️ 26 BB ▪️ 1.016 WHIP

As a senior for Custer County H.S. in Miles City, Mont., Frare displayed an upper-80s fastball with an sweeping 2-8 curveball — and a changeup that needed work. When the New York Yankees drafted him in the 11th round in 2012, Frare decided to bypass his commitment to the University of Utah, thanks in part to a $100,000 signing bonus.

After a solid campaign with the Yankees rookie league squad, Frare underwent Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. After a good start for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs in 2015, Frare was promoted to the High-A team in Tampa, where he struggled in seven outings (5.59 ERA, 2.07 WHIP). The following year, Frare returned to Tampa, where he dominated with an ERA of 0.92 and WHIP of 1.14, while allowing just 33 hits and 23 walks in 49 innings of relief work.

While Frare’s control was mediocre to that point in his career, it really tailed off in 2017 for Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Frare struck 78 hitters in 62 2⁄3 combined innings, for a nifty 28.6 K%; however, he walked 52, for an atrocious 19.0 BB%. Despite having a 1.60 WHIP in 2017, his combined ERA was surprisingly low at 4.02 (which likely was the result of a solid bullpen, helping to bail him out).

The 2018 season was an entirely different story. In 43 2⁄3 innings for Trenton, Frare enjoyed a 0.62 ERA/0.92 WHIP/33.7 K% by striking out 57 hitters while only allowing 25 hits and 15 walks. This earned him a promotion earlier to Triple-A, where he pitched in just one game before, on July 29, the White Sox acquired Frare for $1.5 million in international pool money; the Yankees traded him primarily due to concerns about their 40-man roster.

From July 29 to August 31, Frare compiled an impressive 0.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 11 games spanning 12 2⁄3 innings, as he allowed five hits (.119 OBA) and seven walks (13.7%) while striking out 19 (37.3%). Frare earned his promotion to the White Sox in September — posting a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in seven innings (11 games), as he relinquished six hits (.231 OBA) and four walks (12.9%) while fanning nine (29.0%).

Frare’s fastball now runs in the low-mid 90s, with tons of movement. Combined with a wipeout slider, he’s certainly got the goods to work in high-leverage situations. Frare also has a sweeping 2-8 curveball with a short break, and a change that he doesn’t throw often. He doesn’t appear to be a LOOGY either, as hitters from both sides of the plate fared poorly against him this year. In fact, those even splits have been consistent throughout his minor league career.

The White Sox also have Jace Fry, Aaron Bummer, and Manny Bañuelos as southpaw options entering the year. Nevertheless, there’s a strong possibility that Frare will begin 2019 on the Opening Day roster — especially if he throws strikes in spring training.


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.