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Top 10 White Sox Prospects for 2017: Midseason Update

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Wow

Moncada
Moncada
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

First, the caveat: I didn't put a great deal of thought into this. I spend a lot of time on the offseason list. On this, I spent about fifteen minutes thinking about it. Then I had to think a little more after the Quintana trade. Then even more after last night's trade. I'd call this a high-precision, decent-accuracy list.

Offseason ranking, if any, in parentheses. Position is current and not necessarily projected major league position. If you want more detailed scouting reports, you can find some of them in the offseason list.

1. 2B Yoan Moncada (1)

There really isn't any place for the top prospect in baseball to go except (i) down or (ii) the majors. He's handily avoided the former but the White Sox didn't let him reach the latter. Until today. A legit five tool player, there isn't much question about the actualization of that potential outside of the hit tool. That is the most important tool, however. But if that never advances to even average, the power, defense and speed give him a reasonable floor of major league regular.

2. LF Eloy Jimenez (NR)

I saw Jimenez incidental to watching Winston-Salem games while he was still a Cub and he's a pretty impressive player, as would be expected of someone ranked among the top 5 or 10 prospects in baseball.  He's a 20-year-old hitting well in High-A and is likely to be in AA in a few weeks. He does what I want to see in power hitters: walks a lot (11.3%), limits strikeouts to a reasonable rate (19.5%) and smacks the shit out of the ball (.204 ISO). His defense is average in LF and he's not going to steal bases -- though he's probably not as bad as he's looked this season, considering he's struggled with both a hamstring injury and an injury to his throwing shoulder -- but the carrying skill will always be power from the right side, and he's already showing that it translates to games.

3. OF Luis Robert (NR)

My midseason rankings, as noted, are always advertised as "decent-accurary". Robert adds a whole 'nother level to that. Maybe he should be below Lopez. Maybe anywhere in between. It's near impossible to find video from the DSL and, even if I saw that, he's a far more advanced player than is typical in that league. I really hate relying almost solely on others for a ranking but the consensus seems to be that he's a potentially elite prospect who certainly belongs in the top 30 or so prospects in baseball. Until he plays in a league more appropriate for his experience and skill level, though, that's going to remain an untested assumption.

4. RHP Michael Kopech (4)

There's still a lot of throwing going on with him and not enough pitching. The walk rate remains scary. He frequently falls behind hitters as his command is still not where it needs to be. His changeup is pretty non-existent. But we are talking about a guy with about 240 pro innings, who is 21 and is in AA. The fastball obviously is a potential double-plus pitch and there's certainly the potential for a plus slider. If he can improve his command a bit and develop at least a show-me change, he can be a frontline starter.

5. RHP Alec Hansen (5)

I've really liked what I've seen from him all season and he's made a smooth transition to High-A. He's continued to refine his mechanics and is doing what the White Sox stress: "staying tall". Previously, I'd liked his slider over his curve but the latter has been consistently better in 2017 and I wouldn't be surprised to see him largely drop the former from his arsenal. Paired with his above average fastball, he's got two good pitches but he needs a lot of work on his changeup. He commands it well enough to largely befuddle A ballers but I suspect the upper minors will be a different story. Even without any further refinement to his repertoire this season, getting through a full pro season and consistently pitching about 6 innings will be a big development win.

6. OF Blake Rutherford (NR)

This is another decent accuracy on the list guy since, you know, he's barely been in the organization for twelve hours at this point. People always seem to be talking about his pretty swing from the left-side and they're not wrong. The hit tool seems pretty advanced for a high school draftee with 434 pro plate appearances. Those same people talk about how there's above average game power in his future but that certainly isn't the case now. Watching him move around on the basepaths and in the field, it's clear why people think he's destined for left field. Overall, my early impression is that his prospect reputation with people is well-supported. He's a long way off still, though.

7. RHP Lucas Giolito (2)

There's a lot to unpack about his season and there isn't the space to do it here. Suffice to say, the results this season have been bad. Pure stuff-wise, he looks better than what I saw of him last season, mostly because his fastball is up a tick or two. On the other hand, when he gets hit, he's been getting hit hard. And when he's getting hit hard, it usually means his delivery is off and that usually means his fastball command is off. And when his fastball command is off, his whole repertoire plays down. He'll show that elite starter everyone expected him to be for a few innings at a time but really has only put it all together in a start twice. To me, he's a guy that needs reps and I don't think the majors are where he should be getting them until September.

8. RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3)

Falling to 8th looks like a steep drop suggesting something has gone wrong but that isn't really the case here. For me, his stock has remained steady while Kopech and Hansen have improved theirs. Lopez has been the most ready pitcher for months now and really deserves to get a chance. Before the season, he needed to work on repeating his delivery and that's still the thing that gets him in trouble. When he's right, he looks like a guy with mid-rotation potential; when he's not, he looks like a guy who belongs in relief. Obviously, that's only going to be clear once he's experienced the stresses of a major league rotation.

9. RHP Dylan Cease (NR)

I'm still not that familiar with Cease but, generally, he has a pretty typical profile for a pitcher ranked towards the end of top 100 lists. He's got a fast fastball and a good secondary pitch -- in his case a curve -- that both grade out as potential plus or double-plus pitches. He lacks a third offering at the moment but is working on a change. His command is still pretty loose and, even if it improves, he looks like a mid-rotation guy rather than top tier starter. His profile suggests a solid fallback as a high(er) leverage reliever if the change and his command don't ever get there. For the Cubs' Low-A affiliate, the 21-year-old made 13 starts, thrown 51.2 innings, walked 12.2% and struck out 34.7%. That represents a career high in innings, as he was a high school pick in 2014 who had Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft. His will likely be a long development curve.

10.  RHP Dane Dunning (NR)

I don't have a great point of reference for how he was last season but he seems to have ticked the boxes this season one would expect. He's gotten his innings up, he's striking out hitters at a high rate and he's kept the walks under control. When his delivery gets out of whack, his command gets a little loose, but I do wonder if that cause of that is fatigue, either within innings or in a longer outing.

*****

Most of you know that I eschew numeric lists in favor of groupings, which I think more accurately display the difference, or lack of difference, in value amongst players. If someone wants to re-order my numeric rankings while remaining within the same player grouping, I'm not going to argue with them. So here's that.

  • Group 1: Moncada
  • Group 2: Jimenez
  • Group 3: Robert, Kopech, Hansen, Rutherford, Giolito
  • Group 4: Lopez, Cease
  • Group 5: Dunning
I want to point out in particular that Group 3 is extremely tight. I've had ties on my lists before and I was really tempted to do that with guys in this group. And the addition of Rutherford didn't help in sorting that all out.

*****
The players dropping out:

This is unusual (and somewhat unexpected) but no players from the offseason list graduated to the majors (yet).

Carson Fulmer (6): He hasn't pitched past the 5th inning in almost two months and his mechanics are still not right. I didn't project him as a starter in the offseason but thought he should be developed that way. That's still the case, at least for 2017, but any hopes for starting in the majors are almost gone.

Zack Collins (7): You can read a more detailed analysis of his offense here but the short story is the bat is not good enough.

Zack Burdi (8): Was on the list until Tommy John surgery was confirmed but would've been knocked off anyway by Rutherford. He'd done a good job of reducing the walks while keeping his strikeouts steady. I guess we'll see what he looks like when he comes back, which isn't projected to be until 2019, though a return late next season (or in the Arizona Fall League) wouldn't be out of the question.

Spencer Adams (9): Was on my draft list prior to the Quintana trade, got knocked off, then Burdi's injury put him back in and then Rutherford knocked him off again. He certainly has less pure stuff than a lot of guys in the system but he's built like a starter, repeats his mechanics well, has four pitches, elicits grounders and doesn't walk hitters. That mix means he's got a pitch to contact profile that he should be able to replicate at the higher levels in the back of a rotation. Really should be in Charlotte.

Luis Alexander Basabe (10): He's looked better of late but there hasn't yet been the step forward many expected him to make this year. He's 20 so he can afford to be brought along slowly.