Chicago White Sox Top 30 Prospects

1) Eloy Jimenez, OF

Age: 22

.355/.399/.597, 12 HR, 6% BB, 13% K, 0 SB (55 games - AAA)

Highest Level: AAA

Eloy Jimenez has one of the most structurally sound swings in the minor leagues. I am comfortable taking either side in a swing mechanics debate between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez—that’s how much I like this 22-year-old’s set up and swing plane. There’s a distinct hand path that Jimenez uses to distinguish himself from other hitters, which emerges in his load. He starts his hands low, with a closed-off upper body—almost as if he’s tucking his front shoulder into his body. His leg kick is deliberate, while his weight stays inside his back knee extremely well as he builds energy. When his leg kick reaches its peak, his hands start to drift up and back as his hips fire. At this moment in his swing, his separation is picture perfect, resulting in swings that look low effort, but produces exit velocities and contact harder than nearly any player. His posture is sound through his swing, allowing him to produce a very average batted-ball profile beefed up by line drives and limited issues lifting baseballs. I expect this to last into his early professional career given the structure of his swing. My hot take is that I don’t think he’ll have trouble with pitches up and in early on, an issue many taller hitters wrestle with early in their careers.

Statistically, Steamer agrees with the hype around Jimenez. They’re already projecting him as a 3-WAR outfielder with below-average defense and neutral baserunning. This is a 70-grade prospect to me with little in the way of disappointment to come based on what I and others see mechanically. The difference between Jimenez and Guerrero Jr. is the approach and OBP threat Vlady Jr. will be out of the gate. That’s not a knock on Jimenez in the slightest. He is beyond legit and I’m happy to expect future hardware from what will become the White Sox’s best hitter in short time.

ETA: 2019

2) Michael Kopech, RHP

Age: 22

14.1 IP, 5.02 ERA, 6.16 FIP, 22% K, 3% BB, .328 BAA (MLB)

Highest Level: MLB

In case it wasn’t apparent, the White Sox’s future is extremely bright. Kopech went under the knife with a UCL injury late last season after his long-awaited debut. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve seen pitchers with this level of pedigree bounce back in short time given Tommy John surgery’s success rate (Walker Buehler is a great example). The public saw a dynamic arm in Kopech’s 14 1/3 innings of work. His fastball spin rates sit up there with the best in baseball, with a devastating plus slider and exceptional albeit inconsistent feel for a changeup. Kopech has an easy bid for one of the most physically gifted pitchers in baseball as well. His lower half is beautifully engaged throughout his delivery, with one of the strongest lower bodies in baseball among pitchers. While Jimenez is great example of separation, Kopech is a great example of front leg activation. Pause him at peak back leg extension off the rubber and compare it to the point of release and look at the flexion on his front leg as the leg anchors his lower half as his trunk travels through the baseball. This is why you don’t skip leg day.

Kopech was extremely fastball heavy in his four starts, with the pitch his primary offering in every possible count. In an age where heavy secondary usage is becoming the norm, I am interested to see how he develops. One of the main underpinnings of the the increase in breaking ball usage is to use your best pitch, but rarely are we making note of the players who are relying on their fastballs more than ever. In Kopech’s case, his fastball elevated is so untouchable I have to imagine the offering is foremost in his mind in every count. If there’s a universe in which Kopech is able to push his slider to as comfortable an offering, with a changeup confidently used 15-20 percent of the time to left-handed hitters, we’re looking a perennial Cy Young contender and a youthful arm that’s poised to pitch at the top of the American League for years to come. Kopech is a 65-grade prospect with the ability to consistently push across 4 WAR per season. Combine Jimenez with Kopech and the South Side is looking at 9 WAR across two players. Rick Hahn’s rebuild will be considered one of the best of the decade in regards to elite prospect acquisition and development.

3) Luis Robert, OF

Age: 21

.244/.317/.309, 0 HR, 6% BB, 26% K, 8 SB (32 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Every time I analyze video of Robert, I go further back through old video wondering if there’s a version of Robert with louder mechanics and a wild swing that he tamed down. Each time I am disappointed. Robert has an oddly compact swing, so much so that I wonder if the pressure on him from player development is to get him off his front foot and building more energy in his back leg. I always thought the structure of Robert’s swing was similar to Yasiel Puig. This suggests the evolution of his swing might be similar as well (see this gif I made back in April 2018). Presently, Robert starts with his bat still on his shoulder—a change from his former days where his bat started more perpendicular to the ground as he tensed up into his load. His swing now is even simpler. It’s upper-body dependent, but he has the hand speed to catch up to pitches on the inner third leading to random feats of explosive power. His pop is largely projection at the moment, but it’s fun to dream on and my expectation it can get to 55/60 at peak is largely why I have him third on this list. The home run below from the Arizona Fall League is still etched in my memory…

Robert’s hit tool lags behind, likely settling somewhere around 40/45, but his 60-grade speed and ability to be an above-average defender round him into form. He is truly a five-tool prospect, but one with substantial risk and a variety of outcomes. While Jimenez and Kopech are a fantastic floor and upside combination, Robert opens up a wider range of outcomes, something a lot of players as we creep further into this list also possess.

My biggest gripe with Robert is that I can’t pronounce his name RO-ber. I think I’ll be able to get over it in due time. If you struggle like I do calling him Rah-bert (Ralph note: I struggle to say all Rs), the compromise is “Lou Bob.” Name aside, I have Robert graded out as a future 60-grade prospect.

ETA: 2020

4) Nick Madrigal, 2B

Age: 21

.306/.355/.347, 0 HR, 5% BB, 5% K, 6 SB (26 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve probably been higher than most on Madrigal coming out of the draft. For one, the pick made sense for the White Sox contention window. Madrigal has a lot of skills that will translate immediately to the major league level and his debut will line up with the White Sox contention window opening in 2020. He is a style of player that may never pop off the page statistically, but will produce a high floor of WAR given his contact-oriented approach, ability to avoid strikeouts, play a plus defensive second base and run well. The White Sox went Madrigal 4th overall, ranking him higher than Jonathan India, which might be the only pick in the 3-10 range from the 2018 MLB Draft I don’t have trouble taking over Madrigal. Kyler Murray and Jarred Kelenic might have more upside, but given the White Sox aggression on Harper and Machado, they’re not interested in a prospect that won’t impact a major league roster until 2022. The weird comparison I have on Madrgial is a stable Jeff McNeil. It may not sound enticing, but if you can pencil in a 2.5-3 WAR player two years removed from the draft, I’m happy to buy in

Mechanically is where I and many others have some issues with Madrigal. His swing is wacky, contorting his body in myriad directions. His hand path is long, with movement away from his body, towards his body and then back away as he slots his hands and wraps his bat before swinging. This is all timed with a big leg kick that isn’t nearly as stable structurally for balance as a player like Eloy Jimenez’s. The saving grace is above all Madrigal can consistently put bat on ball, with the potential for a .300 average at the major league level. I’m really interested to see if the White Sox player development is interested in slowly breaking down his mechanics and evolving his swing to a more standard load and leg kick with reduced barrel movement.

Despite the deficiencies mechanically I almost feel like Madrigal has become an underrated player on top 100 lists. I have him graded out as a 55 future value prospect with minimal risk.

ETA: 2020

5) Dylan Cease, RHP

Age: 21

52.1 IP, 1.72 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 39% K, 11% BB, .167 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Cease has some of the most insane hip-to-shoulder separation I have ever seen. I was tipped off to this by the folks on Top Velocity (YouTube page) and every time I watch video of the righty I pause it after his hips fire to confirm nothing has changed. It’s almost inhuman what he is able to do. Madrgial contorts his body in ways I’m not a fan of, but Cease’s kinetic chain is one to study. His front leg starts a little bit stiff as his momentum carries forward toward the plate, but it flexes come front-foot plant while his glove arm pulls back away from his momentum, almost setting his body into position for separation. His release appears out of a higher three-quarters arm slot, with substantial trunk tilt, but a fantastic linear path towards home plate allows his fastball to jump on hitters and routinely grades out as plus-plus. Cease’s main secondary pitch is a curveball that flashes plus and sits in the mid to high 70s. His changeup is below average with average projection, a key variable to determine whether he’ll start or relieve at the major league level.

There’s some command concerns with Cease that push some into projecting him as a reliever over a starter. I’m comfortable placing him fifth on this list because even if his future is in relief, he projects as a fantastic multi-inning option with two impact pitches. With the present-day use of the fourth and fifth starters spots in a rotation, the valuation of players with relief question marks should stabilize resulting in 50 future value pitchers that can bounce between roles.

At Double-A, Cease dominated. He posted a 39 percent strikeout rate after making what’s considered one of the tougher jumps in the minors—High-A to Double-A. I think there’s an outside chance Cease debuts this season before breaking camp in some capacity with the White Sox in 2020. I would love to see how his slider shape and fastball spin compare to some of the better pitchers in baseball. It’s only a matter of time before his role is solidified, but regardless of the outcome, I think he has the potential to impact a bullpen or rotation. I’m betting on the delivery and stuff here.

ETA: 2019/2020

6) Micker Adolfo, OF

Age: 22

.282/.369/.464, 11 HR, 10% BB, 27% K, 2 SB (79 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Adolfo is a variation of a power-first corner outfielder. The structure of his swing is oddly sound for a player with a strikeout rate above 25 percent in High-A. He starts his hands high with a wide base, quietly dropping them down as he separates into a quick waist-high leg kick. The result of his swing is slightly ground ball and line drive heavy, generating only 31 percent fly balls, about 5 percent below the major league average. I struggle with whether there is room for improvement on this matter due to his presumed understanding of the zone and ability to make contact—note his 10 percent walk rate. If the White Sox adjust him into more of a fly-ball hitter, does his approach suffer? Does the power bump with that adjustment push aside whatever strikeout boost may occur? These are standard questions for power-first corner outfielder with swing-and-miss issues on the verge of a jump from High-A to Double-A.

The big question mark that is going to confuse some ranks with Adolfo is his recent Tommy John surgery that raises question marks on what was an above-average arm in the outfielder for the White Sox. He mentioned in November that his arm was 30 percent healthy and his body 40 percent. This puts him on track to arrive at Spring Training with the ability to hit and run, but limits outfielder duties until his arm health is back to 100 percent. The pressure this injury puts on Adolfo from a development perspective is worrisome, but given my rank I’m more invested in the offensive floor than the knock his profile takes if his arm never bounces back to fully above average.

We’re looking at a higher floor 40-hit, 60-power bat with the potential for average fielding and baserunning that will deteriorate as he ages. I place the high-floor tag on Adolfo due to the structure of his swing proven power. The combination of floor and stable production is something that can play as an everyday regular and that has substantial value to an organization with four huge upside plays inside it’s top five prospects.

ETA: 2020/2021

7) Luis Alexander Basabe, OF

Age: 22

.251/.340/.349, 6 HR, 11% BB, 28% K, 9 SB (61 games - AA)

Highest Level: AA

Basabe is another outfielder in the White Sox system with everyday regular potential. He mixes more peripheral skills into a 50-grade future value profile, rising since the end of a 2017 season that caused many to question his upside. 2018 confirmed Basabe is an outfielder with the potential to play an average center field with plus legs and the chance for an average offensive profile. Take a deep breath when a 20-year-old has a poor campaign.

His set-up at the plate is simple—bat on shoulder, neutral lower half stance with a rock back into his back hip as he pulls his hands back into his load. There’s a little bit of late life on his barrel away from his load that causes his strikeout rate to kick up towards 28 percent and creates a little bit of length in an otherwise sound approach. I’m encouraged by his ability to the get the ball in the air at an above average rate and do so to all fields, which lifts concern about his high strikeout rate. In the end, Basabe is only 22 years old with a chance to impact the Double-A level. I think it’s possible he debuts in 2020, with a profile that is going to fly under the radar, but produces in center field.

I can’t say much about Basabe’s Futures Game home run off Hunter Green’s 103-mph fastball without confirmation they used Titleist baseballs (they probably were). That swing and ball flight flashed more power than many project, but the swing demonstrated Basabe’s ability to lift pitches in the lower third—even extremely hard ones. The angle he attacks balls with his subtle inside-out approach is important to raising his offensive baseline to tolerable for an everyday center fielder.

ETA: 2020

8) Dane Dunning, RHP

Age: 24

62 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 26% K, 9% BB, .242 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Dunning throws from the third-base side of the rubber with a lower three-quarters arm slot and an upright trunk. He doesn’t throw hard, but his release is deceptive enough to carve through right-handed hitters at nearly every level in the minor leagues. Of all the pitching prospects in the White Sox system, he’s been the most productive and consistent, taking High-A to Double-A jumps in stride and generating year-to-year improvement.

He mixes a fastball, curveball, and changeup. The latter flashes average at times, allowing the righty to survive against left-handed hitters. He’ll always have natural platoon splits, but how well he repeats his delivery shows present below-average command with future average potential—better than most with three pitches.

Comparing Dunning to Cease shows the strength and weakness of each pitcher. Dunning doesn’t have Cease’s stuff, but has a touch more command, which results in a higher floor and more stable projection. Cease’s stuff makes it ease to squint and see a number-two starter, but that guess comes with the expectation that he matches Dunnings present command. It’s a matter of floor versus upside, as are many comparisons. Cease’s athleticism and stuff makes for an impact arm as a multi-inning reliever, whereas I think Dunning will always land in the third or fourth starter conversation.

The evolution of how potential relief arms and starters are used in rotations if they aren’t clear top-half starters will dictate the future value of players like Dunning and Cease. I’m already eager to look back in 3-4 years and start criticizing my own thoughts.

ETA: 2019/2020

9) Blake Rutherford, OF

Age: 21

.293/.345/.436, 7 HR, 7% BB, 19% K, 15 SB (115 games - A+)

Highest Level: A

Rutherford is even younger than Basabe with some distinct characteristics that add him squarely into the White Sox plethora of outfield depth. There’s no plus tool with Rutherford, but everything has the chance to become average. My expectation is that there’s enough hope of a potential adjustment mechanically to push the former high school left-handed bat to above average hit and game power.

In my look at Winston-Salem earlier this season, Rutherford was the bat that impressed me the most (note: Robert and Madrigal were not on the team yet). There are far too many ground balls in his profile, but his feel for contact is fantastic for a player this young. It encourages any thoughts that he’s probably an offseason with Driveline away from making higher quality contact and shooting up on this list from an offensive standpoint. I see him as a future left fielder because the arms of Adolfo—pre TJ—and Jimenez are far better, but there’s enough spray contact versus left-handed arms to remove substantial worry about a platoon.

His tendency for ground-ball contact likely comes from how high he is slotting his hands in his load. Otherwise his swing is pretty upper-body heavy, using a relatively upright stance to slide step into extension and fire his hips. From my looks, it’s explosive enough to create gap power and expect 20-homer seasons given a change at some point in his presumed 2019 Double-A campaign.

ETA: 2020/2021

10) Luis Gonzalez, OF

Age: 23

.313/.376/.504, 6 HR, 9% BB, 16% K, 3 SB (62 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Gonzalez’s set-up reminds me of former journeyman David Murphy, who most recently played at the major league level in 2015. They both set up open, with bats flat on their shoulder. Gonzalez has more barrel movement and an added motion in his swing for what seems like timing purposes. Murphy simply closed off his upper body and swung, staying inside the ball really well for a left-handed hitter, as he posted a batted-ball distribution that veered toward center field more often than others. Gonzalez relies substantially more on pull-side gap power, launching 24 doubles in only 62 games with Winston-Salem. Despite his pull-side approach, Gonzalez hits left-handed pitchers better than right-handed arms in his near 900 career plate appearances.

Outside of his offensive profile—which has the ceiling of 55 hit and 45 power—Gonzalez has a lot of average tools across the board. He’s a passable runner and will probably end up in a corner spot despite some center field play in High-A. His arm is average as well. Gonzalez isn’t particularly exciting, but there’s a decent chance he finds a utility outfielder role at the major league level.

ETA: 2020

11) Alec Hansen, RHP

Age: 24

35.2 IP, 6.56 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 20% K, 24% BB, .231 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Hansen is one of the toughest players to rank on this list. He’s 6-foot-7, 235 pounds according to Fangraphs, with a loose arm and a slight hesitation that creates some extra hop on his pitches. The result is two present plus offerings—fastball, slider—with two workable pitches—slider, changeup—and command that will hopefully peak at 45. His delivery has a lot of moving parts and is inconsistent, but the resulting stuff is so good it creates somewhat of a balance. Those afraid of extremely volatile pitchers will shy away. Others who know the peripheral numbers arms like Tyler Glasnow and Alex Meyer put up will be interested—the latter is me.

Hansen appears to land on the ball of his foot during front-foot strike, which is a slight anomaly compared to the majority of pitchers. He extends and separates well, but halts his own momentum slightly with the lack of ability to get his trunk towards the plate. This leaves his front leg between a 90- and 120-degree angle for most of his delivery and limits the full activation of what looks like a strong lower body. I almost think there could be more velocity with Hansen, even if there is no need given the perceived velocity numbers he puts up based on his extension. Extremely tall pitchers like this are fascinating to watch and likely even harder to develop given the moving parts. If Hansen peaks at the age of 29 or 30, I wouldn’t be surprised. Here’s to hoping he can avoid injuries for the better part of his coming seasons.

The difficulty in ranking is his extremely poor showing in 2018 that knocks back down about 4-5 spots from where he sat prior to 2018. From a development standpoint, the outcomes are numerous. With pitchers like Cease and Dunning the road forks at some point, but the paths are somewhat clear. For Hansen, that same fork in the road has three subsequent forks, overlapping roads, and dense fog. The key unlocking a substantial amount of his upside is any reeling in of command. If this occurs, the floor is a two-pitch, impact reliever with the upside of a number-two starter. The risk alone is substantial for a player of this caliber and age, but I’m betting on Cease’s stuff and want to do the same with Hansen here.

ETA: 2020

12) Zack Collins, C

Age: 23

.234/.382/.404, 15 HR, 19% BB, 30% K, 5 SB (122 games - AA)

Highest Level: AA

Collins spent a full season in Double-A, catching 74 games of the 124 he played. The profile is confusing. His catching doesn’t grade out as average, forcing the White Sox to consider him an emergency-only option and stick him at first base or DH from the jump. This severely limits how high you can place him on lists like this, even if his patience is so uniquely good it makes him a stand-out option from an OBP perspective above a lot of potential alternatives in a first base-DH role with the White Sox.

Collins’ intangibles outshine the mechanical points in his swing. He starts simple, but employs a hand pump similar to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or another, more appropriate non-generational talent. This creates some excess movement that will limit his ability to make contact in parts of the zone. But the solace is his double-plus raw power and how unbelievably adept his is at understanding the zone and limiting his knocks to only contact issues. He can hit .210, walk 15 percent of the time at the major league level and hit 25-plus homers and that’s what I expect him to do early in his career. But is that enough to justify a full-time first base, designated hitter role? Probably not, but if his peak is slightly higher, I think it’s possible.

There is only offensive potential here with a stellar OBP floor. It’s devoid of upside for the most part and dampens my enthusiasm around Collins.

ETA: 2019

13) Zack Burdi, RHP

Age: 23

6.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 26% K, 15% BB, .217 BAA

Highest Level: AAA

Burdi appeared in seven August games after undergoing Tommy John surgery and recouped a few more with a short stint in the Arizona Fall League. He used to possess a 70/80 fastball, Tanner Scott style, with a plus slider and above-average changeup, a true oddity for a relief-only arm. The knock is Burdi’s delivery, which I presume many consider the main reason for his UCL troubles. He’s extremely upright, with little interest in sitting into his back leg or willingness to extend towards the plate. His follow-through is stiff, with a stiff front leg and max effort in his rotation as he torques his arm and upper body into a full sidearm motion. I hate to predict any pitcher having perpetual arm problems and I have little right/expertise to do so, but Burdi feels like a riskier version of Nathan Eovaldi from a mechanical perspective. I’m low on him because of the delivery, even if Burdi is an above-average reliever at the major league level next season.

In his AFL stint, his velocity was down from the upper-90s he consistently hit pre-surgery. Even with this velocity knock, he was able to miss bats given two true secondaries. I would expect him to creep back towards his upper-90s with a full offseason ahead, but I’m not going to adjust him down if he’s no longer 98-100 because of the surgery. This contributes to the anomaly that is Burdi’s profile even more. Invest at your own risk, I’ll take my chances on Hansen figuring things out in 2-3 years and producing a few dominant seasons over stable relief help with a big risk for injury.

ETA: 2019

14) Jake Burger, 3B

Age: 22

Didn’t play in 2018, torn achilles

Highest Level: A

Burger suffered a torn achilles (actually two) and missed all of the 2018 season. With a 12-month recovery timetable he projects to be on an affiliate by June 1, 2019. Burger was likely going to move quickly given his decent approach, bat control and age, but this injury pushes him back. Given his stocky frame the injury probably kills any hopes he would be only a below-average runner for the time being, pushing the expectation lower on the speed side and mobility at third base. All in all, it seems like the long-term expectation here is a variant of Zack Collins—immobile, probably destined for first base or designated hitter, with little value outside of his bat. Burger has a better hit tool than Collins, despite his lack of a Collins-like godly eye at the plate. Burger also has less power than Collins. I think Collins OBP floor makes it likely he’s the better long-term prospect, but Burger has a chance to make noise—if everything resets to as normal as possible after this injuries.

There’s a lot still unknown about Burger given the lack of a look in 2018, but before the injuries there was a nice offensive profile. After Burger, the future upside on this list takes a slight hit, so it’s logical to place the injured prospect at the back half of the average to slightly below-average prospects.

ETA: 2020/2021

15) Steele Walker, OF

Age: 22

.186/.246/.310, 3 HR, 6% BB, 23% K, 5 SB (31 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Walker would be a substantially more intriguing prospect if he had any above average peripheral tool. At the moment, he’s a decent runner and an average to below-average fielder with a passable arm. He played with Kyler Murray at Oklahoma, hitting for more and more pop as he aged into his junior season. This propelled him into the second round of the 2018 draft and earned him 31 games at Kannapolis.

The results, however, weren’t great for a 22-year-old college bat. Walker showed some pop in his small sample, but failed to get on base consistently, driving down hope for an average to plus hit tool to pair with his potential for future 55-60 game power. Walker uses a strong, two-handed follow through on his swings that draws some aesthetic comparisons to Brett Gardner. His batted ball profile is pull heavy, mimicking Luis Gonzalez. I think there’s a chance for a swing change allowing Walker to utilize his sneaky strong frame in a more power-advantageous way while pushing down his strikeouts. Walker’s engagement of his back leg is something I like a lot structurally. It results in a non-linear bat path that allows almost all of his raw power to translate in-game. Like a lot of other fringe everyday players on this list, there needs to be a balance struck between power, contact and approach. There isn’t enough of one impact tool to push his profile towards the extremes and hold down an impact role. Walker’s development is one I’m particularly intrigued by, despite the lack of much impact away from his bat. If he gets to an average hit tool, I think there’s a chance for an everyday outfield role.

ETA: 2021/2022

16) Konnor Pilkington, LHP

Age: 21

12 IP, 5.25 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 17% K, 8% BB, .286 BAA (Rookie Level AZL)

Highest Level: Rookie Level (Pioneer League)

Pilkington was the White Sox third-round pick from Mississippi State in 2018. He only threw a small sample of 14 innings between the Pioneer League and the AZL to mediocre results. His 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame is relatively deceptive, suggesting on the bump he should reach greater velocities than the 90 mph his fastball sits with decent life. His changeup sits in the low 80s, with decent separation off his low-velocity fastball and he mixes in a slower curveball. All of his pitches are likely to end up around average with no clear plus offering. This somewhat confuses his future value for me, as sequencing and possible fastball development hint at some ceiling.

As far as his mechanics, the main factor that jumps out is the lack of efficient use of his glove arm in his delivery. It dangles off the side of his body with little aide in the rotation of his upper body as he delivers a pitch. There are not obvious problems with his lower half, which would suggest there is more velocity that could be unlocked. The likely reason for his lack of average velocity is tied to his weak glove arm and the signal it creates that he isn’t an average separator, leaving little need for his glove arm to be active in his delivery if there isn’t much torque coming after his hips fire. There’s a chance for average command on top of three passable pitches, which is intriguing, but I think this is a reliever at best with a small chance to start if he can field three average pitches.

ETA: 2021/2022

17) Seby Zavala, C

Age: 25

.243/.267/.359, 2 HR, 3% BB, 23% K, 0 SB (48 games - AAA)

Highest Level: AAA

Hype exists around Zavala due to his strong 2017 where he started lifting the ball in the air to his pull side. The unfortunate part is that this trend of 21-homer seasons in 107 games did not continue in 2018. His fly-ball rate fell, his BABIP came back to earth and the result was a passable season, but one more representative of his future than the 2017 campaign that hyped him up.

Zavala’s stance starts with his hands nearly at his waist in a noticeable crouch. He uses a small thigh-high leg kick primarily for timing as his hands drift up into his load. His swing is pretty short and quick, allowing for a decent amount of contact that allowed his strikeout rate to coast around 20-25 percent in 2018 as opposed to inflating towards 30 percent. His defense is fringe average with an average throwing arm, meaning this isn’t the type of player that profiles in an everyday role. Regardless, there is room for Zavala to carve out a role at the major league level as a backup catcher with an average offensive profile.

ETA: 2019

18) Ryan Cordell, OF

Age: 25

.108/.125/.216, 1 HR, 0% BB, 38% K, 0 SB (19 games - MLB)

Highest Level: MLB

Cordell was traded to the White Sox from the Brewers for Anthony Swarzak just prior to the 2017 trade deadline. He debuted with the White Sox in 2018, running through their minor league system after breaking his clavicle in April of 2018 and missing just over two months. His profile is a utility outfielder, with the potential for 45 hit and 45 game power if he maxes out. He’s a plus runner, good fielder and possesses an above-average arm, which allows him to play a serviceable center field at the major league level.

His swing is short and compact, with a slight pull back of his hands as he loads with his bat wrapped and a small thigh-high leg kick. Steamer projects him for a 6 percent walk rate and a 28 percent strikeout rate at the major league level in 2018. Given he is 26, the projection system won’t be optimistic with him in future years unless there is a real breakout in 2018.

There is a debate that exists between a player like Cordell and Walker. From a grading standpoint they are similar players, with Cordell possessing better peripheral tools, but a lower offensive ceiling that limits his profile. I’m more likely to bet on Walker in a case like this and hope there is something soon to be tapped into offensively to vault his profile. Cordell will linger in a utility role given the reasons above.

19) Gavin Sheets, 1B

Age: 22

.293/.368/.407, 6 HR, 11% BB, 16% K, 1 SB (113 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Collins, Burger and now Sheets. This is the White Sox showing some big power, decent approach depth at the corners. I expect all three to end up at first base long term, with Burger having the greatest hope of landing at third given a healthy achilles. Sheets is already entrenched at first base with little hope he moves off the position. There is a chance he ends up an average to slightly below fielder—which is better than most—but his future relies heavily on offensive production.

His batted ball results from 2017 to 2018 trended towards more line drives and ground balls, away from the stable profile he showed with Kannapolis. But change was inevitable, especially as he approaches higher levels. The results overall, despite a drop in fly balls, are a blend of encouraging and discouraging. He batted .293 with a slightly inflated BABIP over 113 games at Winston-Salem. The issue was the low .114 ISO and 6 home runs, which will not play at first base with hitters like Collins and Burger competing with him for future playing time. More adjustment is inevitable for Sheets. The hope is he finds a mix of 20-25 home run power with a bearable average to beg some consideration for the strong side of a platoon role at first base or designated hitter.

ETA: 2020/2021

20) Kodi Medeiros, LHP

Age: 22

34.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 22% K, 15% BB, .244 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Medeiros found himself drafted in the first round of 2014 by the Milwaukee Brewers. He pitched two full season in High-A with the Brewers, showing clear peripheral improvement year over year, but when boosted to Double-A in 2018, he looked even better with more strikeouts and the lowest ERA over a good sample in his minor league career. After over 100 innings with the Brewers in Double-A, he found himself and another pitching prospect shipped to the White Sox for Joakim Soria.

I find it odd the Brewers were willing to ship Medeiros for a reliever after years of development, but given the Brewers advancements analytically, I sense some dislike of his advanced statistical numbers that sink down his profile. He made seven starts for the White Sox in 2018, with a walk rate that kicked up towards 15 percent. The Brewers were using him in a mixed role between the rotation and pen, but I think he’d benefit from some length to reel in his command. His delivery is slightly high effort, with a similar cross-body motion to Tyler Johnson, but slightly less athleticism and a less-than-ideal follow-through. Where his body ends up and the path it takes to get there is likely one of the reasons why he struggles with command. His good fastball-slider combination makes me think there’s a chance for a multi-inning relief profile with 9 K/9 and hopefully some control as he ages. I think Medeiros can prove to be a fruitful acquisition for the White Sox given a few more years. He still remains somewhat of a flier prospect on the back half of this top 30.

ETA: 2021

21) Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B

Age: 22

.273/.313/.391, 6 HR, 5% BB, 16% K, 4 SB (97 games - A+)

Highest Level: A+

Forbes is an interesting mixture of average tools and the potential for above average hit that places him higher on my list than others. I like the ability to fill in at shortstop and third base, even if the ultimate profile probably pushes towards second base due to the inability for his bat to meet the third-base standard. There might be a slight lack of pitch recognition that is limiting his ability to walk at an average rate, but his ability to make contact is better than expected and has consistently been this way in the minor leagues, with a nice jump when he repeated Winston-Salem in 2018.

His stance is a little bit unique, with low hands and a jerky wrap right before a small stride. Despite the length in his swing, he was able to push forward a tolerable strikeout rate that might kick up in due time. Despite question marks in some areas, I think Forbes can end up a 50 hit 45 power utility option with the ability to add a lot of versatility in the infield and play on the left side, something a lot of other prospects in this system lack.

ETA: 2020

22) Tyler Johnson, RHP

Age: 23

31 IP, 1.45 ERA, 1.58 FIP, 36% K, 5% BB, .170 BAA

Highest Level: A+

Johnson has made marked improvements in his control since he was drafted in the fifth round of MLB’s 2017 First-Year Player Draft. He walked around 15 percent of batters in a small, 25 2/3-inning sample in 2017, pushing his walks all the way back to 5 percent across 31 innings with Winston-Salem in 2018. While he remains a relief-only option with a plus fastball and slider that flashes plus, the results have been good enough to warrant a look beyond the simple shrug most relievers receive.

His mechanics are simple with a slight tendency to throw across his body and create added deception versus either handedness of hitter. He generally throws from the first base side of the rubber, but his front foot plants closer to the third base side, creating Alex Wood or Jake Arrieta aesthetics in his strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. His changeup is a work in progress, but the potential for two plus pitches with average control and good deception will present value to an organization.

ETA: 2020

23) Jameson Fisher, OF

Age: 25

.216/.321/.321, 6 HR, 12% BB, 31% K, 3 SB (97 games - AA)

Highest Level: AA

As many have reported, Fisher has continually made adjustments, pushing his profile from one of line drives to more power and seemingly back to line drives in 2018. The result has been substantial swing and miss at Double-A, but I still reserve some hope that Fisher can even things out and find an above average hit tool with 45 or 50 game power. This comes with substantial risk however, as the peripheral skills of Fisher’s aren’t good enough to project him out towards a starting corner outfielder role. He’s an average defender, slightly below average runner, with a below-average arm that leaves him as a strong side platoon left fielder with not much else in the way of upside. His set up, load and swing are aesthetically like Josh Donaldson, but the results have obviously been slightly different. He’s intriguing, but not enough to be aggressive in ranking.

ETA: 2020

24) Danny Mendick, 2B/SS

Age: 25

.247/.340/.395, 14 HR, 11% BB, 17% K, 20 SB (132 games - AA)

Highest Level: AA

Mendick is one of the first middle infield prospects to appear on this list, which speaks to the outfield depth in the White Sox system, but also the lack of future up-the-middle talent minus Madrigal. He and the White Sox 2018 first-rounder are similar in build and profile, but Mendick’s hit tool will probably max out around above average to plus, while Madrigal will likely end up plus-plus. They are both short, scrappy players who run and field their position around average, but the lack of the projection of power with Mendick really drops his profile in relation to other players on this list. The ultimate result is a utility infielder with a good enough bat-to-ball ability to hold down a starting role and put the ball in play for short periods of time. His swing is extremely compact, with little outside of a small stride and stiffer wrists and he slaps breaking pitches the other way and puts everything into balls on the inner-third to generate some tinge of well below average power.

ETA: 2020

25) A.J. Puckett, RHP

Age: 23

27.1 IP, 4.28 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 18% K, 4% BB, .318 BAA (A+ - 2017)

Highest Level: A+ (2017)

Puckett was traded from the Royals to the White Sox for Melky Cabrera in 2017. He didn’t pitch with an affiliated club in 2018 given elbow problems. GM Rick Hahn claimed there was no update on Puckett’s elbow in May 2018 and it’s been difficult to find an update since then apart from a throwing program the righty resumed in June 2018.

Before the injury, Puckett profiled as a back-end starter given the potential for above average command. He mixed a changeup that flashed above average and possessed 10-plus mph of velocity separation compared to his low 90s fastball. Overall, there is probably not much upside in this kind of profile given how the league has trended towards multi-inning relievers who have a higher chance for impacting a major league club in a versatile role. Puckett doesn’t have the strikeout upside to get excited about.

ETA: 2020

26) Jordan Stephens, RHP

Age: 26

107 IP, 4.71 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 21% K, 9% BB, .269 BAA (AAA)

Highest Level: AAA

If the White Sox can convert Stephens into a bullpen piece after drafting him in the fifth round of 2015’s draft, they’ve done a good job developing the Rice University product. He is a little bit undersized at 6-foot-1, but possesses advanced feel, mixing a fastball, slider and curveball with projectable average command. His changeup is more of a work in progress and given his age, might remain in that area unless enlightenment late in his career occurs with the pitch. There’s a nice blend of stuff, feel and control in this package, who was likely overlooked due to his size and the effort in his delivery. Stephens has the ability to start at the major league level maxing out as a back-end rotation piece at the best with a chance for some impact in a fluid bullpen role if needed.

ETA: 2019

27) Jimmy Lambert, RHP

Age: 24

25 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 30% K, 6% BB, .211 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Lambert earns a spot on my top 30 primarily due to his consistent results after a High-A to Double-A jump. He gave up a substantial amount of line drives which is concerning, but he was able to miss bats and command the zone better than most pitchers above him on the list who possess better projection.

His size and delivery are his limiting factors. He is only 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, a short-armed delivery that limits his velocity to the low 90s. He’s a little bit like a small Michael Wacha in this respect, even if the profile is more of a mystery due to the lack of plus stuff to play an impact bullpen role and projection to be a starter. The plus is his mix of three other pitches, all of which grade out as average to slightly below, with his changeup a key factor allowing him to retire left-handed hitters. Results are results and I can’t overlook this 24-year-old’s.

ETA: 2020

28) Bernardo Flores, LHP

Age: 23

78.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 15% K, 4% BB, .265 BAA (AA)

Highest Level: AA

Flores is a feel-based reliever with superb control and decent command. This touch extends to his secondaries—curveball and changeup—which both grade out better than his fastball. His delivery is athletic, he engages his lower half well and doesn’t have issues commanding his pitches to either side of the plate. If he had plus stuff or velocity, there is a good chance Flores would be top 20 or 15 on this list with a chance to start. Unfortunately, with the development of either unlikely, the White Sox still have a projectable major league reliever who can toss in a spot start and generate a large amount of ground balls to push through innings. Similar to Puckett, Flores doesn’t have strikeout upside to get excited about, but the combo of good secondaries means no debilitating platoon splits and a high floor.

ETA: 2020

29) Charlie Tilson, OF

Age: 26

.264/.331/.292, 0 HR, 8% BB, 17% K, 2 SB (41 games - A)

Highest Level: MLB

Tilson suffered a gruesome leg injury in August of 2016 causing him to miss all of the 2017 season. He returned in 2018, playing a handful of games for Triple-A and finally making his return to the White Sox for a small 41-game sample. He’s a 70 runner with 90th percentile sprint speed per Baseball Savant, a key indicator that he’s over his lower-body injury from a speed perspective. The issue is that the baseball skills have not returned in full. He graded out as a poor defender and struggled to produce any hint of power at the major league level. Hope still remains for a more representative return to form in due time. He’s already 26 as well, which suppresses most of his upside given the natural aging curve of players. I have him at 29 on this list for the reasons of speed, a serviceable center field glove and the ability to push towards a 55 hit tool—the latter of which is the second key element I want to see return to form before signing off on a full on-field and skill-based recovery.

30) Luis Curbelo, 2B/3B

Age: 21

.237/.282/.338, 3 HR, 5% BB, 25% K, 0 SB (83 games - A)

Highest Level: A

Curbelo had his first taste of full-season ball in 2018, playing 83 games for Kannapolis and sporting a variety of statistics that don’t inspire bullish projections. Given he is already 21, he becomes old for any level he has a chance of landing at. The reason he lands in my top 30 is first because there really isn’t much depth talent in this system of note. But in terms of reasoning Curbelo can control, his 6-foot-3 frame is solid, with a swing based around a bat wrap and long hand stretch that could be tinkered with to untap more power than he currently projects to produce. On top of that, he’s played a majority of his time at shortstop with passable defense, and has the arm to fill in at third base. My bet is he lands in Winston-Salem in 2019, playing a majority of his season there as the White Sox have a tendency to do with a lot of their younger talents with something to prove.

ETA: 2022

Lance Brozdowski