In my offseason rankings I aggressively placed young talents performing at an advanced level, but took a bit more of a wait-and-see approach with some of the more heralded names. While events since then have certainly thrown much of that list into chaos (which is good!), the only regret I really have is not including Yolbert Sánchez at the back end instead of Drew Dalquist: As I feared, Sánchez has continued to establish a floor of at least a serviceable utility infielder while Dalquist has struggled to put together multiple non-disaster starts.
So, without further ado, here’s where I stand with roughly half of the season in the books. These are just my opinions, and I’ve been plenty wrong about plenty of prospects in the past (re: Jake Burger). Note that I have not included the most recent draft class, but my expectation is that by the end of the season that Top 2 picks Noah Schultz and Peyton Pallette will both be firmly in the Top 10, though the organization’s Top 5 is pretty firmly ensconced for the immediate future.
Note: All stats are as of July 18.
- Colson Montgomery (previous rank: 4) Before the White Sox picked Montgomery at 23rd overall in 2021, I was crossing my fingers that Kansas State product Jordan Wicks would fall to them before being nabbed by the Cubs No. 22. While Wicks has done well for himself and advanced to Double-A, Montgomery has blown away all expectations and made me forget Wicks entirely. What makes Montgomery so unique is not just his physical tools (6´4´´ shortstops don’t exactly grow on trees), but his professional maturity, as his plate approach is arguably the best in the system (as attested to by his 50-game on-base streak in June and July) and something this organization has been sorely lacking over the years. I said earlier that if he could add about 50 points to his ISO, he was an MLB overall Top 100 list candidate. While the power has not quite improved to that degree, his entire triple slash has, and he’s not only now firmly in the Top 100 but knocking on the Top 50. Montgomery still needs some work at shortstop, where his range is somewhat limited, but his reactions are very good, and at a minimum he can be a plus third baseman. This kid is a stud, and well on pace to become a first division regular with multiple All-Star selections.
- Norge Vera (2) The sample size is still frustratingly small, but despite injuries and lost development time Vera still looks like a potential frontline starter. His delivery is one of the most effortless I’ve ever seen for a guy who can pump triple digits, and though he’s still ironing out his control (11 walks in 17 innings) his pure stuff is next to untouchable in Low-A (nine hits allowed, 25 strikeouts). His last two starts he’s exceeded three innings, and while he remains on a strict pitch count expect by the end of the season for him to be getting past four innings and going to 75-80 pitches per start. Whether the White Sox advance him to High-A before the end of the season is less important than just ensuring he gets work in, but on pure stuff alone he probably belongs in Double-A right now. Ace potential is there, but the secondary pitches need to advance to pair with the elite fastball.
- Lenyn Sosa (NR) Wow, nobody saw this breakout coming, but man, was it ever welcome. A long-term project when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2016, Sosa’s crawl through the minors was fraught with struggles, but he’d shown the ability to make adjustments at each level he advanced to, and didn’t stall out anywhere. Given his lost development time in 2020, Sosa’s ability to keep grinding his way upwards is all the more impressive. Still, what he’s shown this year is a cut above, as he was crushing the ball in Birmingham, a notorious pitchers’ haven, to the tune of a .933 OPS. His success there prompted a double promotion, skipping Triple-A and jumping to MLB which, while questionable in its execution, was very much earned. Sosa is still finding his footing in Charlotte, but his history suggests he will figure things out there soon enough. Though shortstop is spoken for in the near-term, Sosa could be the answer at second base this team needs for 2023 and beyond.
- Oscar Colás (NR) The White Sox’s sole representative at the MLB Futures Game, Colás has not had the meteoric rise through the system that over-optimistic fans may have hoped for, but he has shown everything he needed to put himself seriously in the conversation for a 2023 call-up. The lefty-lefty Cuban-by-way-of-Japan star prospect has displayed good bat-to-ball skills (19.8% K rate), reasonable plate discipline (8.1% BB rate), and raw power potential that he is still harnessing but is nonetheless functional in games (.164 ISO). Perhaps the most surprising part of the OC’s debut is that he has played almost entirely in center field, and not looked completely out of place doing so; even in Birmingham, he has pushed Yoelqui Céspedes to right field and continued to roam center. Not a plus runner by any stretch of the imagination, Colás shows good instincts in the outfield that play up his range a bit, and the arm is also a plus. Approaching his 24th birthday, Colás could soon solve several lingering roster issues as he ascends the system (right field, lefty power bat). Probably not a perennial All-Star, but Colás has the makings of a solid outfielder, though I’m sure some would argue I’m selling him short even with that.
- Cristian Mena (NR) While former Top 10 stalwarts and prep stars Drew Dalquist and Matthew Thompson struggle to find their footing in High-A in their age-21 seasons, 19-year-old Mena has had little trouble adapting. The Dominican signing rolled his way through Kannapolis with a surprisingly dominant performance for such a young pitcher, which slingshotted him past the Thompson and Dalquist, as well as the stalled Jared Kelley in these rankings. Mena has added a tick or two to his fastball, which seems mostly average, but he mixes in an excellent curveball and is improving his changeup. Keep a close eye on his peripherals in Winston-Salem, as more advanced hitters will get a chance to square him up. If his Kannapolis numbers can hold up in High-A, we could see Mena at the back end of the White Sox rotation by late 2024, and possibly higher in the pecking order if his stuff ticks up further as he fills out.
- Wilfred Veras (6) Though he hasn’t exactly lit Kannapolis on fire, I’m still a believer in Veras. It may seem odd to rank him so highly given he hasn’t really separated himself from other Low-A sluggers in the system like Wes Kath and DJ Gladney, but he is the youngest of the three, strikes out a bit less than them (though still a bit much), and is less physically maxed-out than them. The biggest risk in Veras’ profile is the likelihood he is relegated to first base/DH only, though personally, the same could be said of Kath (Gladney has some corner outfield potential). That said, if Veras eschews a bit of mobility for the sake of maxing out his power as he grows, this is a 30-40 homer threat who isn’t yet 20 years old. He’s still making adjustments, and had a four-game home run streak last month and seven in 11 games (though he went cold shortly thereafter). Veras waxes hot and cold as he continues to find his footing, but he’s still producing a .181 ISO and 103 wRC+, and a lot more is coming. Time is on his side.
- Bryan Ramos (8) The 20-year-old Ramos came screaming out of the gate in 2022, posting a ridiculous 1.102 OPS in April and looking like the year’s breakout candidate. Unfortunately, an ice-cold May (.586 OPS) put the brakes on that optimism rather emphatically. Regardless, Ramos recovered nicely and has managed to post average-ish batting stats as he continues to harness his prodigious offensive potential. Despite the May slump, this is still a very young player posting excellent peripherals in High-A, with an impressive 16.7% K rate and 9.6% BB rate to go along with a very good .192 ISO. As with the aforementioned Veras, there is some risk that Ramos winds up at first base, though his odds to stick at the hot corner still seem reasonable. I do believe that, as with Gladney, there is some corner outfield potential worth investigating, though I don’t know that Ramos would be any less a liability out there. Still, it looks like the bat will play, and I expect a big second half from Ramos, one that may land him in Birmingham before the season is over given the incumbents (DJ Burt and JJ Muno) are older prospects, and Burt may be due for a promotion given his on-base skills and speed. Ramos is a power-hitting corner infielder with 30-homer potential.
- José Rodríguez (1) It hasn’t been a good year for my former No. 1 prospect, but I wouldn’t call it a lost one either, with circumstance playing a part in some of his struggles. After a wildly-successful 2021 where he advanced two levels, Rodríguez has stalled out in Birmingham. After struggling to keep his OPS better than .600 for the first two months of the season, Popeye kicked things into gear in June, posting a .299 batting average and improving upon that in July (thus far) with a remarkable .385/.420/.539 triple slash. Even his July numbers are tempered by a significant drop in ISO, though Birmingham’s Regions Field probably does more to suppress home runs for a guy with fringe power like Rodríguez. That said, having only one home run on the season is not a good look, but if he can continue to be a high-tempo middle infielder who can slash doubles and triples (Rodríguez currently leads the Southern League with six triples) into the gaps and create chaos on the bases (a new personal best 30-for-36 in stolen bases), he can be an impact player. Rodríguez still draws very few walks (5.4% BB rate), but the bat-to-ball skills are among the best around (12.8% K rate) and there is still enough raw power there to provide 10-15 homers a season. The defense is still iffy at shortstop, but he has spent some time at second base, where he seems a lot more stable defensively. He’s even made a few appearances at DH, and can probably cover all three outfield positions in a pinch, but Rodríguez’s future is most likely as a utility infielder who provides contact off the bench and can be a steady hand in case a starter gets hurt. Depending on the level of need, I could see him getting some years in as an average or better starter — similar to Josh Harrison’s career.
- Davis Martin (NR) Alongside Lenyn Sosa in the Where Did This Come From file, The Dart saw an uptick in his stuff that took him from fringe sixth or seventh starter to a potential back of the rotation option. The biggest difference has been the improvement of Martin’s slider, both in terms of command and bite, as it has given him a wipeout pitch to pair with a fastball that is rather unremarkable. He’s also been able to mix in an improved changeup as well as a curveball, though Uncle Charlie lags a bit behind and may be little more than a show-me pitch. The biggest knock on Martin is that he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher who is prone to giving up home runs; certainly not the best profile for GuRaFi. Thankfully, he’s generating more swing-and-miss than ever before, and his walk rate has improved to better than average levels as well. At a minimum, Martin represents the sort of development that this system needs to see more of; a former 14th round pick who has legitimately entered the team’s depth charts after a steady rise through the ranks. Martin peaks as a back-end starter, but with his current role as a sixth or seventh starter he’s well qualified.
- Terrell Tatum (NR) Last season I had Tatum listed among my prospects of note solely because of his plate discipline. The North Carolina product posted one of the weirder lines in the Arizona Complex League, with a sky-high 31.1% K rate paired with an even more absurd 23.3% BB rate. A four-game cup of coffee in Winston-Salem reinforced these extremes as part of his profile, which he carried into his first full professional season. After posting a .528 OBP in Kannapolis, Tatum was quickly promoted to Winston-Salem, where his peripherals normalized a bit but were still pretty good. Despite some time on the shelf with an injury, Tatum is posting a very respectable .255/.371/.418 slash line (118 wRC+) in High-A, with an increase in power offsetting the drop in his walk rate, which went from beyond elite to a more normal level of elite. Sixteen stolen bases in 20 tries rounds out Tatum’s all-around profile, and he provides capable defense at all three outfield positions. The biggest red flags for Tatum are sample size (only 46 games in affiliated ball so far) and strikeout rate (close to 30%), but if he keeps taking free passes more than 15% of the time it will paper over those flaws, especially if his ISO continues to improve. One of the more intriguing prospects in the system, especially since he is so unlike the typical free-swinging hitters the White Sox have typically developed. Could be a prototypical leadoff hitter if he maintains his current rate stats.
Edit: Tatum just got hit with a suspension for a failed drug test (seems he didn’t get an exemption for his Adderall prescription), so just assume he’ll fall off the list with the entry of the latest draft class anyhow.
Off the List
Yoelqui Céspedes (3) Céspedes still has arguably the highest ceiling of anybody in the system, including Montgomery, but he hasn’t done enough to overcome the red flags I alluded to when I ranked him third in the offseason. The power/speed combo is still there, and he has a good shot at a 20/20 season, but he still is overaggressive at the plate, striking out out more than the rest of his profile can support. He hasn’t been overwhelmed at Birmingham, but he hasn’t dominated either (108 wRC+), which is why he hasn’t been promoted to Triple-A despite a lack of impact outfielders in Charlotte. However, with a whopping 1.014 OPS in July that includes a vastly improved walk rate, Céspedes’ time may be coming. The makings of a cannon-armed star center fielder who can hit for average and power are still here, but he needs to continue to iron out the kinks in his approach, because even mere average MLB pitchers will exploit his aggressiveness at the plate. At a minimum, Céspedes is a good defensive fourth outfielder who can provide a threat off the bench, if not necessarily on an everyday basis.
Jake Burger (5a) The joy of watching Burger launching bombs on the South Side feels cathartic after years of looking like injuries would derail his career, but though he’s graduating from prospect status, his MLB career thus far shows the areas he needs to shore up if he expects to be a full-time player. Burger provides plenty of power, enough to justify his high strikeout rate (31.6%, far above what it was in the minors), but not enough to justify his fielding, which is piss-poor at third base. Still, he has shown flashes of being capable at the hot corner, and if the glove and bat both continue to develop in the majors, he could have a viable career ahead of him — though with Yoán Moncada ahead of him on the depth chart, a wealth of infield talent in the high minors, and ongoing injury struggles, it may not be on the South Side.
Micker Adolfo (5b) When the White Sox were able to sneak Adolfo through waivers at the 11th hour of the spring, I was surprised no team took a flyer on him just to see if they could unlock the 70-80 grade raw power. Instead, Adolfo got a chance to repeat a level in Triple-A, and despite a .356 BABIP he has truly disappointed in his sophomore effort there. The K rate, already bad, spiked to more than 35%, the walk rate returned to unacceptably low levels, and the game power cratered as well. With right field wide open for the taking, Adolfo instead took a giant leap back. He still has the potential to be a Jorge Soler-type hitter, but the approach just hasn’t advanced at all to make that a reality.
Matthew Thompson (7) I’m still a believer in Thompson, and he’s doing well enough in High-A for a 21-year-old pitcher, but the results are still uninspiring. On the plus side, he’s already hit a career high in innings pitched, is keeping the ball on the ground a bit more, and he’s lowered his walk rate to roughly league average. On the downside, he doesn’t generate enough strikeouts and, despite the improved GB rate, is giving up home runs at a much higher rate. Thompson is still a project, but will probably benefit from repeating High-A next season and using 2022 as a springboard to pump up his innings load for what is hopefully a nice step forward in 2023. There’s still a back-end starter here, with relief potential.
Jared Kelley (9) Kelley’s respectable 3.64 ERA this season doesn’t paper over what’s looking to be another poor season, even if it is a step in the right direction. Allowing a .254 BABIP is just unsustainable with a 45% ground ball rate, especially when the peripherals (18.1% K rate, 13.2% BB rate) don’t support it. Kelley has increased his workload (averaging just more than three innings per start) and the plus changeup is still there, but the polish and command have not materialized as hoped. And even when Kelley mixes in some promising starts, the positives are mostly superficial. Even his latest four-game stretch looks promising (2.12 ERA in 17 innings), but a closer look shows only nine strikeouts against nine walks and an extremely lucky .204 BABIP. A 20-year-old struggling to find his footing in affiliated ball shouldn’t be surprising, but it’s pretty disappointing for this heavily-hyped, over-slot second round pick. Kelley has relief potential if it comes to that, but his command has to improve one way or another if he’s going to amount to anything.
Drew Dalquist (10) I was unenthusiastic about Dalquist last season, and even lamented then that I probably shouldn’t have included him in my Top 10. Why the White Sox saw fit to advance him a level despite his struggles is beyond me, and predictably, he is generating even fewer strikeouts than before and his luck on suppressing home runs ran out and then some. Dalquist is on pace to top 100 innings, which isn’t nothing, but the stuff has not advanced, and the command is not where it needs to be in the absence of a better arsenal. Hopefully Dalquist can find another gear after a few years, like Martin or Jonathan Stiever before him. Barring that, Dalquist looks like he’s closing in on his ceiling far earlier than anticipated.
In the Conversation
Sean Burke: The big-bodied Maryland product might not be as dominant as he seemed in Winston-Salem, but probably isn’t as bad as he’s looked in Birmingham. Burke has a solid fastball/slider combo with a workable curveball, but his changeup and command still have a long way to go. Mid-rotation potential who can fall back on being an impact arm in the bullpen if he can’t develop the changeup further.
Luis Mieses: The 22-year-old Dominican has improved his peripherals by not selling out for power as much. Added right field depth in an organization starved for outfield help is always welcome, though Mieses may need three years to really enter the conversation, barring a physical transformation of some sort. I like the approach and bat-to-ball skills, along with what I believe to be plus raw power: 25 homer/.800+ OPS potential.
Wes Kath: I was not high on Kath last year and was, near as I can tell, about the only person who left him outside of the White Sox Top 10, and I continue to be this season. The plate discipline is admirable, but he strikes out nearly a third of the time and has not displayed the sort of expected power. He’s recovered from early struggles to hover around league average at the plate, but his defense has been far worse than advertised at third base, where he’s tied for second in fielding errors committed in the Carolina League. Kath still has potential to be a contributing corner infielder, but the swing has to be heavily reworked.
Yolbert Sánchez: The big money Cuban signing was always assumed to be a glove-first prospect, but when he started posting impressive offensive stats in Birmingham it was impossible not to take notice, especially given the typical difficulty prospects face hitting there. Unfortunately, Sánchez’s aggressive approach and lack of game power have been somewhat exposed in Charlotte, where despite much friendlier conditions for hitters he’s posted a disappointing .049 ISO and a 74 wRC+. However, his .267 average and .320 OBP seem both useful and sustainable as a potential bench option, especially since the glove is arguably the best in the system. I still see him peaking as a utility infielder.
Carlos Pérez: Approaching 26 years old, Perez was always respected for his glove behind the plate, but the bat always lagged behind; not atypical for catchers, but hardly noteworthy. Then, last season, his ISO ticked way up and suddenly made him a prospect of interest, with that trend continuing into this season. On pace for 20 homers while striking out well short of 10% of the time, Pérez gives the team a legit option at backstop behind the suddenly relevant Seby Zavala, and has a shot at supplanting Reese McGuire on the depth charts before long.
Kohl Simas: What’s weird about Simas is that he generates a lot of strikeouts without an overpowering fastball. Outstanding command allows Simas to dominate beyond what his arsenal would suggest, and at 22 years old he needs to be tested at a higher level than Low-A to see if he can carry that crafty success against more advanced competition. Historically this is not the type of pitcher that has big success in the majors, but those who can make it work usually wind up being pretty good indeed.
Erick Heráandez: The big Dominican signing made a great initial impression by thumping to the tune of a 1.019 OPS in his first nine games in the DSL, but has cooled considerably since then, posting a .408 OPS in July and still wanting for his first home run. An athletic center field prospect with the potential to grow into considerable power, he’s a long-term project with big upside.
Don’t Forget About ...
Tanner McDougal: The 2021 fifth round pick signed a over-slot deal to pry him away from college, only to almost immediately undergo TJS after beginning his professional career. A 6´5´´ righty with room to fill out, he’s less notable for his power than his spin rates, which were at the top of the charts in his draft class and give him the potential for several plus offerings even if his velocity never ticks up.
Romy González: Suffering a bit of high school reunion hangover, González has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, failing to duplicate the wild success he had in 2021. It’s doubly unfortunate, given he was the incumbent I had pegged to replace Leury García in the White Sox lineup. That potential is still there, but this super-sub trajectory has definitely hit a bump in the road for the time being.
See You Soon ...
Hunter Schryver: A seventh round pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017, Schryver is likely the next lefty option to get the call to the South Side, with Tanner Banks the only active lefty on the 26-man roster and Anderson Severino and Bennett Sousa having faceplanted spectacularly. Like Simas, Schryver is not known for having overpowering stuff, but what he does have plays up because of an atypical delivery angle that unbalances hitters.
Don’t Sleep On ...
DJ Gladney: Just turned 21, Gladney has a promising power profile somewhat undermined by a high strikeout rate and poor fielding. That .219 ISO is tantalizing, though, and he has the athleticism to convert to corner outfield if need be. His profile is similar to Micker Adolfo, though with more time on the clock and no serious injury woes to date.
Duke Ellis: Originally drafted in the 20th round in 2017 by the Padres, Ellis went unsigned and opted to attend Panola College, where he wasn’t exactly a star but displayed excellent on-base skills and speed. Undrafted in 2021, he signed a minor-league deal with the White Sox, who have been rewarded with a .300/.384/.437 slash line along with 37 stolen bases in 44 attempts. At 24 he’s a bit old for High-A, but for an undrafted free agent Ellis is basically found money at this point, with tools that suggest the league may have missed something here.
Evan Skoug: The former Libertyville H.S. product was far and away the highest ranked player remaining on the board when the White Sox took him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. Since then, he’s failed to even bat .200 in a season before this year, where he’s posted a .221/.350/.419 triple slash in Birmingham, respectable numbers for a catcher. Always considered a bat-first catcher, the power is finally starting to materialize, and though he’s still not a great backstop, he has cut down on passed balls considerably.
The New Kids on the Block
Despite taking a prep pitcher in the first round for the first time in two decades, the White Sox went heavy on college pitching in this draft, with five of their first seven picks going that route. Noah Schultz is a huge gamble: Big upside, with very real risk of being a complete bust. Peyton Pallette, on the other hand, could be a coup in the second round if his return from TJS is successful (I’d probably rank him higher than Schultz initially because he’s a far safer bet to stick as a starter). My guess is that the four collegiate pitchers who followed will be moved as quickly through the system as possible, as the upper minors is in dire need of more arms.
The State of the System
First, the bad news: The White Sox almost assuredly remain a bottom-five system, and more likely bottom-three. Yes, it has moved on from being dead last, but the present value in the farm is still quite low compared to their peers. The White Sox are still lacking in depth for unique, impact talent, especially in the high minors, and some of their highest-ceiling players have stalled or completely fallen off the table. Help at the major league level is badly needed, but probably a year or two away in terms of internal solutions.
Now for the good news: The needle is absolutely pointing up, and the latest trends suggest that will continue to be the case even if the team doesn’t add a Top 20 pick any time soon. While the high minors is lacking in high impact talent, the promotion and continued improvement of Sosa is a nice step forward, and possibly a harbinger of things to come. Seeing players with high upsides like Montgomery, Vera, and Colas bring results matching their talent is a huge positive, and we’re now seeing more advancement from fringe guys like Veras, Tatum, Ramos, and Martin, which points to measurable improvements in the organization’s developmental approach.
The White Sox now have one player on the cusp of the MLB Top 50 (Montgomery) and at least one other knocking on the Top 100 (Colás). If Norge Vera can build up more of a workload and Lenyn Sosa can rake in Charlotte like he did in Birmingham, they should be positioned similarly to Colás in Top 100 conversations. It’s not a great position to be in, but there’s a lot more value here than there was at the beginning of the season, and that could make a very real difference if this team tries to add at the trade deadline — never mind the future health of the franchise.
The one thing that we do need to see more of is winning. The White Sox system continues to have individual success stories, but the teams continue to post losing records. While individual affiliate records don’t mean much in isolation, the trend has been ongoing and is a part of why quality minor league depth continues to be elusive for the organization. They need to start establishing a winning culture at the lower levels and have that mentality carry to the top.
Darren Black’s Midseason Top 12
- Colson Montgomery
- José Rodríguez
- Oscar Colás
- Bryan Ramos
- Norge Vera
- Lenyn Sosa
- Romy González
- Noah Schultz
- Sean Burke
- Jimmy Lambert
- Yoelqui Céspedes
- Kohl Simas
Joe Resis’ Midseason Top 10
- Colson Montgomery
- Lenyn Sosa
- Oscar Colás
- Norge Vera
- José Rodríguez
- Cristian Mena
- Bryan Ramos
- Yoelqui Céspedes
- Noah Schultz
- Wilfred Veras
Brett Ballantini’s Midseason Top 13
- Norge Vera
- Oscar Colás
- Colson Montgomery
- Lenyn Sosa
- Loidell Chapelli Jr.
- Bryan Ramos
- Cristian Mena
- Carlos Pérez
- Kohl Simas
- Yoelqui Céspedes
- José Rodríguez
- Yolbert Sánchez
- Luis Mieses