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2021 South Side Sox Top Prospect 99: Joel Booker

The speedster booked his way to Charlotte with a hot start — then tripped badly for the rest of the year

MiLB: JUL 04 Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Birmingham Barons Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Joel Booker
Left Fielder
190 pounds
Age: 27
SSS rank among all left fielders in the system: 5
South Side Sox 2019 Top Prospect Ranking: 57
South Side Hit Pen 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 75

After spending his first two collegiate seasons at Indian Hills (Iowa) JC, Joel Booker played his final two years with the University of Iowa. As a senior for the Hawkeyes, he slashed .370/.421/.532 in 56 games with 19 doubles, two triples, five homers, 37 RBIs, and 23-for-25 stolen bases.

The results were good enough for the speedster to be selected in the 22nd round of the 2016 draft. He immediately paid dividends, as he slashed an impressive .312/.403/.404 in 65 combined games with the AZL Sox and Great Falls with 16 doubles, one triple, two homers, 31 RBIs, 41-of-43 stolen bases, 27 walks (8.9%) and 49 strikeouts (16.2%).

The 2017 season saw Booker split his time with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, combining to slash .274/.329/.349 in 123 games with 17 doubles, two triples, five homers, 44 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 27 walks (5.1%) and 107 strikeouts (20.2%). And it was in 2018 when Booker began seeing his name on a few prospect lists, as he earned the Carolina League’s All-Star Game MVP while concluding the season with Birmingham. Although he did struggle a bit with the Barons, he still finished the year with a combined 26 stolen bases and a career-high 44 walks.

After beginning the 2019 season well with Birmingham (.351/.400/.446 and eight stolen bases in 20 April games), Booker was promoted to Charlotte. However, he had difficulty hitting there, slashing just .203/.276/.304 in 26 games. After his demotion to Birmingham on June 21, Booker continued his struggles by hitting just .222 for the remainder of the year. In a combined 102 games with both teams, he slashed .245/.308/.322 with 13 doubles, one triple, four homers, 36 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 24 walks (6.2%) and 89 strikeouts (22.8%).

It was a disappointing year for Booker, as thanks to the struggles of most of the Birmingham outfielders in 2019, he had an opportunity to make a case for himself as at least a potential reserve outfielder for the White Sox. It’s a coin flip whether Booker will start 2021 with Charlotte or Birmingham.