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2024 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 84: Duke Ellis

While 2023 was a wash, there’s still time for this fleet outfielder to make an impact

Duke Ellis
Center Fielder
180 pounds
Age: 26
2022 High Level Birmingham (AA)
Age relative to high level +1.4 years
SSS rank among all center fielders in the system 6
Overall 2023 stats 16 games ⚾️ 0 HR ⚾️ 4 RBI ⚾️ .157/.318/.216 ⚾️ 3-of-4 (75.0%) SB ⚾️ 12 BB ⚾️ 21 K

Duke’s father, Robert, was a White Sox third-round selection from Panola College (Carthage, Tex.) in the third round of the 1990 MLB draft. Robert, a pitcher who was traded in 1996 to the Angels for catcher Pat Borders, ended up pitching parts of four years for four different major league squads before hanging up his cleats in 2005.

Fast forward to 2017, when Duke played for his dad’s alma mater Panola in 2017 and slashed .415/.491/.615 with 21 stolen bases in 53 games. After refusing to sign with the San Diego Padres upon being selected in the 20th round that year, Duke spent his remaining three years playing center field for the University of Texas Longhorns. Despite not wielding a powerful bat, Ellis still made his presence felt during his senior year as he slashed .302/.441/.377 with seven stolen bases during a 2020 season cut short by the pandemic. Oh, and he finished his collegiate career with 32 consecutive stolen bases without getting caught!

Because the 2020 draft went only five rounds, Ellis went unselected but opted to sign a minor-league deal with the White Sox. Before he even played a game, he was ranked the organization’s best defensive outfielder thanks to his stellar, highlight-reel plays while in college.

Due to the pandemic, Ellis didn’t partake in any minor league action in 2020. He was given an aggressive assignment with Winston-Salem to begin professional ball in 2021, however, and struggled offensively as a result. In 73 games totaling 290 at-bats, Ellis slashed just .200/.274/.277 with eight doubles, four homers, 18 RBIs, 23 walks (7.9%), 77 strikeouts (26.6%), 23-of-27 stolen bases and a 55 wRC+. While he played against competition typically the same age as he, his opponents’ experience in minor league play may have made a difference.

The 2022 season sang a different tune, however, as Ellis established himself as an offensive weapon while mostly repeating Winston-Salem; overall, he slashed .275/.363/.397, with steals in 57-of-66 attempts. The new rules skewed to help base runners allowed Ellis to run wild, with a stellar 86.4% success rate; Billy Hamilton might not be the perfect comp, but it’s something to meditate on.

The good news for Ellis? His 2023 spring training started out with a bang:

But the bad news is that after February, the year was a wash. Save for a brief return to action for three games at the end of May, the speedster only saw action in April last year; while his injury details were not made known, given just four steal attempts in 16 games, he had leg or core troubles.

Ellis’ Baseball Cube player ratings
Speed 89 (-4 from last year)
Durability 70 (-15)
Runs 49 (-11)
Hitting 47 (-11)
Contact 35 (-6)
Power 29 (-4)
XBH 25 (0)
RBIs 12 (-1)
Team Winning Percentage .494

On paper, despite advancing age Ellis can still be a weapon at the Triple-A or MLB levels. Without knowing the nature or severity of his injury, it’s hard to project him for 2024. Fully healthy, Ellis should start again in Birmingham, and if he can get rolling as he did in 2022 a move to Charlotte is not out of the question.

2024 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

84. Duke Ellis, CF
85. Mathias LaCombe, RHRP
86. Godwin Bennett, RF
87. Rikuu Nishida, LF
88. Caden Connor, LF
89. Zach Franklin, RHRP
90. Jeremy González, LHSP
91. Jerry Burke, RHRP
92. Frankeli Arias, LHSP
93. Mikey Kane, 3B
94. Carlton Perkins, RHSP
95. Tyler Neslony, LF
96. Drew Dalquist, RHSP
97. Jason Matthews, SS
98. Jonathan Stiever, RHSP
99. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
100. Daniel González, LHRP

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