Baseball America broke the seal on Monday by posting its top 10 White Sox prospects, and there's a definite change in complexion toward the bottom of the list:
- Tim Anderson
- Carson Fulmer
- Spencer Adams
- Trey Michalczewski
- Jacob May
- Tyler Danish
- Adam Engel
- Jordan Guerrero
- Courtney Hawkins
- Corey Zangari
One of the key changes is absolutely welcome. Carlos Rodon, last year's No. 1 prospect, is already in the White Sox rotation, while the pitcher selected before him, Tyler Kolek, tops the Miami Marlins' top 10 list. Which one would you rather have?
Down the list, though, the Sox shed some certainty by dealing three prospects who would've been in the top 10:
It's not certainty in terms of MLB success, but MLB tools. We know Montas' power arm will play in the bullpen, if nothing else. Thompson's power/defense combo gave him the making of a typical bench outfielder before his sensational MLB debut hinted at more, and Johnson built together a working offensive game when he could stay on the field. They all had warts that threatened to short-circuit their careers -- delivery repeatability, hit tool, defense -- but they were close enough that one could understand how they'd make their meal money in Chicago.
Now, six of the top 10 players have yet to reach Double-A, although we can knock that down to 50 percent after accounting for Fulmer, who could've been placed on a faster track if the Sox absolutely needed to. He has two power pitches, so he's already established a bullpen floor.
The other five require some projecting and hope that nice stories turn into nice prospects, whether it's for the originally envisioned roles or as useful reserves. Matt Eddy provided a road map for a few of them in his detailed write-ups:
Adams: Lost velocity in the transition to full-season ball, and he'll "make leg work and nutrition his offseason priorities in an effort to gain a tick or two," as both his fastball and slider need a little more power.
Michalczewski: Could stand to generate more power, since his frame offers the potential for some switch-hitting pop. (He was on track to do so early, but a back injury seemed to throw him off his game.)
Engel: Needs to "understand his swing," which can be slow to the ball due to a hitch and length.
Zangari: Already started addressing strike-zone issues, but even accounting for high-school rawness, his defense needs major work.
Guerrero: Requires the least maintenance of the bunch right now, as he just needs to take his A-ball game to Double-A. Eddy says he's better-equipped to accomplish this ("The White Sox say that Guerrero grew up in 2015 and began to take instruction").
And along with these guys, you have probable Double-A repeaters in Danish and Hawkins, both of whom have experienced reality checks that cast doubt on their first-day pedigree.
Basically, compared to last season, there's simply more work to do across the board. With Thompson out of the mix, the Sox are left to hope that May and/or Engel step up to provide outfield reinforcement. With Johnson off the board, it's on Carlos Sanchez and Tyler Saladino to get a player out of the old Charlotte infield logjam. The void left by Montas is the most difficult to fill -- maybe Fulmer first, Jordan Stephens later?
It's a less comfortable situation, and so you'll probably see the Sox drop down to the bottom third in farm system rankings after climbing to the middle of the pack last year. The good news? Time is on most of these guys' sides, and it should be fun to watch.
Speaking of work to do, Micker Adolfo is on the comeback trail from an injury-marred 2015, which was capped by a surgery to repair his fibula and ankle after a bad slide at home plate.
Hearing "a crack," as Adolfo described the play, is never a good thing. But he already has started throwing, has been lifting weights for a few months and is currently hitting off of a tee in the Dominican Republic.
"They have a good plan and we are sticking to it," Adolfo said. "I'm pretty young. I still have time. I just have to work hard and try not to let this be [an excuse]. This happened already, you know? Forget about this and just move forward."
He was No. 6 on Baseball America's list last year, so he could add some heft to the top 10 list if he can ever get his career started in earnest.