“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization.
Welcome to another year of Deep Dive, where we analyze the past, present and future for each position in the White Sox organization. Each position is broken into five parts:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Arizona)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
- Free agent options
For position players, third base is arguably the strongest in the system, with the possible exception of shortstop. With three players ranked in the organization’s Top 10 per MLB Pipeline, and another in the Top 30, the hot corner is definitely well-covered.
Below are those players who primarily played third base and finished the year in Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.
Ages below are as of April 1, 2022
Other positions played: 2B
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 29
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 26
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 73
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 83
Born in Puerto Rico, Curbelo moved to Florida for his senior year of high school. Before coming to Florida, however, he played for the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, whose most famous alumnus is Carlos Correa. At the time of the 2016 draft, Baseball America said of Curbelo that he “is a physical infielder with promising power potential. He has plenty of strength and produces good bat speed, enabling him to drive the ball out of the park. He has a balanced swing and does a good job of getting to his power. Curbelo is a below-average runner, limiting his range up the middle. He has good hands and a strong arm, giving him a good chance to settle at third base as a professional.”
The Sox drafted him in the sixth round that year, prying him from his verbal commitment with the University of Miami with a $700,000 bonus — more than $413,000 richer than his slot value. As an 18-year-old, Curbelo struggled in his first taste of professional ball with the AZL squad in 2016 when he slashed just .226/.303/.323 with two homers in 45 games.
After a terrific three-game start in 2017 with Great Falls, Curbelo tore his miniscus and missed a year of development time. He struggled a bit with Kannapolis the following year, which wasn’t a huge surprise as he was about 16 months younger on average than his competitors. For the year in 83 games spanning 317 at-bats, Curbelo slashed .237/.282/.338 with 19 doubles, two triples, three homers, 31 RBIs, 18 walks (5.2%) and 87 strikeouts (25.4%).
In Curbelo’s 2019 return to Kannapolis, he hit rock-bottom by slashing just .169/.216/.287 in 64 games with 11 doubles, five homers, 30 RBIs, 13 walks (5.1%) and 105 strikeouts (41.0%). As a result, Curbelo was demoted to Great Falls, where he bounced back in his 56 games to slash .262/.294/.266 with nine doubles, six triples, eight homers, 24 RBIs, 11 walks (4.7%) and 76 strikeouts (32.3%).
While many of Curbelo’s peripherals this year were similar to his career averages, after missing the 2020 season due to the pandemic he took a step up in the power department in his first taste of High-A ball. In 109 games for Winston-Salem, Curbelo slashed .223/.290/.464 with 27 doubles, two triples, 22 homers, 66 RBIs, 34 walks (7.7%) and 152 strikeouts (34.4%). In contrast with many of the organization’s players, Curbelo’s fly ball rate (50.0%) nearly doubled his ground ball rate (28.5%). His competition was basically the same age as he, so this season is representative of what to expect going forward. He is who is at this point — a low-average hitter who doesn’t walk much, strikes out a lot, but hits plenty of homers. Curbelo will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but it seems likelier that he’ll be promoted to Birmingham for 2022 instead.
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Other positions played: 2B
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 33
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 21
Labeled as a power-hitting third baseman by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Ramos received a $300,000 signing bonus from the White Sox during last year’s International Signing Day. The native Cuban skipped past the DSL and instead played the full 2019 season with the AZL White Sox. As a 17-year-old, Ramos was 2.4 years younger than league average but certainly held his own. In 51 games for the AZL Sox spanning 188 at-bats, he slashed .277/.353/.415 with 10 doubles, two triples, four homers, 26 RBIs, three stolen bases, 19 walks (8.7%) and 44 strikeouts (20.2%). Despite his youth, Ramos’ walk and strikeout totals were quite respectable and showed some polish. Unfortunately, he lost a year’s development time due to the pandemic.
This year, Ramos picked up where he left off. With Kannapolis, facing competition more than two years older, Ramos slashed .244/.344/.415 with 23 doubles, six triples, 13 homers, 64 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 51 walks (10.1%), 110 strikeouts (21.8%) and a 109 wRC+. Even though his season was 64 games longer than 2019, he seemed to actually get stronger as evidenced by a .286/.385/.576 line. Looking at his defensive numbers, Ramos’ range plays better at second base than it does at the hot corner, but his arm continues to play well at third.
MLB Pipeline ranks Ramos ninth among all prospects in the Sox farm system: “Ramos stands out most for his raw power from the right side of the plate, with his combination of strength and bat speed giving him the potential for 20 or more homers per season. He also shows some feel for hitting and using the entire field, though he’ll need to upgrade his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He runs well for his size but projects to have below-average speed once he’s physically mature.” His arm grades highest among his tools at 55; hitting and power are graded at 45, while running and hitting are graded at 40. Considering he’s been playing over two years longer than his competition to date, it’s hard not to get excited about his results. Expect Ramos to continue splitting time next year at both second and third for Winston-Salem.
Other positions played: 1B
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 29
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 24
Gladney, a native of Matteson, played varsity ball with Illiana Christian Academy (Lansing, Ill.). As a product of the White Sox ACE program, Gladney caught the attention of White Sox scout J.J. Lally at the Area Code Games in 2018, as he told South Side Sox: “My initial thoughts were that he showed excellent bat speed but was a raw talent.” The White Sox gladly selected Gladney in the 16th round in 2019, and after eschewing his verbal commitment to Eastern Kentucky University by accepting an over-slot $225,000 bonus, Gladney immediately began paying dividends.
Though the third-sacker struggled making contact in 2019 with the AZL White Sox, he still slashed a solid .264/.309/.428 in 50 games with five doubles, two triples, eight homers, 25 RBIs, one stolen base, 10 walks (4.5%) and 82 strikeouts (37.2%). Unfortunately, Gladney missed an important year of development time in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Perhaps better suited to play this year with Great Falls, that option was sadly removed due to minor league contraction. Thus, Gladney spent his 2021 season with Kannapolis instead. Against stiffer competition more than two years older, he seemed to take a step back at the dish this year. In 71 games with the Cannon Ballers totaling 294 at-bats, he slashed .191/.293/.324 with 11 doubles, seven homers, 28 RBIs, 31 walks (10.5%) and 124 strikeouts (42.2%). As evidenced by his increased walk and strikeout rates, he saw more pitches per appearance this year, which can only aid his development in the long run. This is vital, as his pitch-recognition skills are still in their nascent stages.
Gladney ranks 28th among all Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, and his highest-ranking tools are arm (55) and power (50). His fielding and running tools follow are rated 45, while his hitting tool is predictably his lowest (50). Despite his arm, his range factor was off-the-charts this year at first base, which may eventually be his defensive home.
Expect Gladney to return to Kannapolis for 2022, where he’ll still be playing against competition younger than he.
Other positions played: 2B, SS
Shortstop was by far the deepest, and best, offensive position the DSL White Sox had in 2018, thus the White Sox were almost forced to play some of these guys at positions where the team’s depth was thin. Back then, Polanco was a middle infielder, hitting .274/.314/.371 in 197 at-bats with one homer, 16 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 10 walks (4.8%) and 33 strikeouts (15.7%). Defensively, he spent 56% of his time at short, with the remainder at second base, making 17 errors in his 55 games on the field.
Polanco enjoyed a similar year with the AZL Sox in 2019, as he slashed .290/.313/.369 in 40 games with seven doubles, a homer, 11 stolen bases, five walks (2.7%), 35 strikeouts (19.1%) and 84 wRC+. Of course, he lost a year of development last year due to the pandemic.
Polanco struggled a little bit this year with the average, but all the other peripherals took a step in the right direction for Kannapolis in 2021. In 78 games for the Cannon Ballers totaling 308 at-bats, he slashed .256/.298/.393 with 19 doubles, four triples, five homers, 15 walks (4.5%), 74 strikeouts (22.3%) and a wRC+ of 86. This was by far his longest season to date, and it showed as the year progressed. In August and September, Polanco hit just .198 and .239 respectively. Of course, Polanco’s a bit on the smaller side, so conditioning will be key if he wants to establish success over a long season. With his size, he profiles better as a second baseman/middle infielder, but his best defensive work came at the hot corner this year.
Polanco likely will begin at Winston-Salem next year, but to advance further, he may need to establish more patience at the plate.