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Those With Glass Ceilings Should Not Throw Baseballs Too Much Or They Will Inevitably Get Hurt: Ranking The White Sox Top Prospects

Now that we have arrived at the MLB All-Star Break, it’s about as good a time as ever to review the list of the White Sox’ top prospects, because outside of the obvious candidates at the major league level, it’s not like there is too much more to get excited about with this team. So AJ and I took a stab at ranking our own personal top-15 prospects, drawing our line at 15 because getting there is hard enough and trying to get beyond it is splitting hairs, especially given all the long-term injuries in the Sox’ system.

Our lists matched up in some places but varied a lot in others, so we will divide this up into tiers and just have our individual rankings and justifications attached, along with MLB Pipeline’s ranking for the players for a bit more context. Please remember that neither of us are scouts but also might be the smartest Sox Writers you know. Also the Pipeline rankings are gonna change a lot soon but we are doing this now. Thanks.

The Cream of the Crop

Luis Robert, OF

Ranks: Adam – 1; AJ – 1; Pipleine – 1 (5 in MLB)

Adam: I have thought for a while that Robert, along with Yoan Moncada, has the highest ceiling in the entire system, even higher than Eloy’s. Robert basically grades with 60’s across the board and probably has 70 grade speed. He’s gonna be a great hitter and an excellent defensive center fielder that might find his way into MVP conversations in the future if it all goes according to plan.

AJ: This one pretty much sets itself as Robert continues to own every level he’s sent to now that he’s healthy. The only things holding him back from making the September callups is his health and Service Time Manipulations.

The Elite Arms

Michael Kopech, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 2; AJ – 3; Pipeline – 2 (16 in MLB)

Adam: Kopech is probably close to as good as any pitching prospect in baseball on pure talent, and the only real questions about him are how he will bounce back from Tommy John surgery and, to a lesser extent, how much his control issues will hold him back. If he gets back on his trajectory from before the surgery, this is a future ace.

AJ: Elbow or now, we’ve seen what he can do. The only question is which category he falls in: Successful Tommy John or Not.

Dylan Cease, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 3; AJ – 2; Pipeline – 3 (18 in MLB)

Adam: Everything I said about Kopech might just apply to Cease, minus the TJ and with a bit more concern about the control. If his change flashes as good moving forward as it did last week, the control will matter less.

AJ: We saw Wednesday what that nasty curveball can do when it’s thrown at the bottom of the zone. Once he starts locating his fastball, his off speed stuff will make him something else.

The Future Big Leaguers Who Could Be More

Nick Madrigal, 2B

Ranks: Adam – 5; AJ – 4; Pipeline – 4 (39 in MLB)

Adam: I liked the Madrigal pick in 2018, but in some ways it lacked imagination. There’s little doubt about his bat and glove, and he’s practically a lock to be a big league regular, but if he can’t hit for power there are legitimate questions about this ceiling. If he does hit for power, he could be a star.

AJ: The kid can flat out hit (though not for much power), and his eye for pitches is Joey Votto-esque. Seems like he plays plus defense at 2B, which pretty much sets the Sox infield in stone for the foreseeable future. I’d expect him to compete for a job next year.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B

Ranks: Adam – 4; AJ – 7; Pipeline – N/A

Adam: Pipeline hasn’t ranked him on the Sox top 30 yet because they haven’t added the 2019 draftees to the league and team rankings. But Vaughn can mash, and might be something of an Eloy clone in the bigs. If he can play plus defense, this guy is another potential star. At the very least he should be a good or very good player.

AJ: I wasn’t super excited about Vaughn being picked up in the first round by the Sox, but by any measure he was the best player available at the time and that’s my strategy for every draft ever. Vaughn can hit for power, has a good feel for the zone and plays average D at 1B. He profiles out to a Konerko type player, and I’m OK with that. Worst case scenario is he’s moved in a Reverse Quintana for controllable pitching assets later (Hello Marcus Stroman!)

Dane Dunning, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 7; AJ – 6; Pipeline – 5

Adam: Doesn’t have the lively stuff of Cease and Kopech, but every pitch is solid or plus and his plus command should make him a lock as a starter in the bigs, with the only real question being how high his ceiling is. Shares the TJ recovery concerns, though.

AJ: Another elbow casualty. Dunning was mowing people down in 2018 before the elbow strain, and was looking like he’d be in Charlotte by the end of the year with a possible September call up. Now we’ll have to wait till Spring Training next year to see if he’s still got it. The tools are all there, however.

Zack Collins, C/1B/DH

Ranks: Adam – 8; AJ – 5; Pipeline – 11

Adam: I have a lot of concerns about Collins, mostly about his defense and K-Rate, which are pretty big concerns for me. But the elite plate approach feel for the strike zone, along with his power, will keep him an MLB lineup for years, I think.

AJ: Another player with an excellent eye for the strike zone. Pity Renteria would rather play Palka than give him time in the field. There’s still questions as to where he plays in the field, but we will never know until he gets consistent playing time.

Steele Walker, OF

Ranks: Adam – 6; AJ – 9; Pipeline – 10

Adam: Walker strikes me as an MLB regular all day. He can almost definitely play center field but hopefully won’t have to, and a a move to left will benefit him well. He has a plus hit tool with average power and has performed well against Low-A and High-A pitching this year. He’s the non-top-tier guy I’m most excited about, as my ranking makes obvious.

AJ: Walker has been destroying the ball lately, and plays a solid corner OF spot. Walker should be in AA by the end of the year, and start the season in AAA if he keeps hitting at this pace.

Other Guys That Made Both Lists

Micker Adolfo, OF

Ranks: Adam – 11; AJ – 8; Pipeline – 7

Adam: If Adolfo could’ve stayed healthy these past few years, he could’ve been a top prospect in baseball and in the bigs already. He has huge pop and a cannon of an arm to match, which will play in right field if his fielding stays solid. He just needs to stay healthy and his ceiling could be sky high, but with the health issues there are too many questions here raised by so much missed time.

AJ: Man I like this guy, but his elbow is made of paper mache and elmer’s glue. We haven’t really seen him at full strength, but I feel like when we do it’ll be Robert-like.

Luis Gonzalez

Ranks: Adam – 9; AJ – 12;  Pipeline – 9

Adam: While he’s struggled a ton in AA this year, that’s a hard league to hit in, especially with Regents Park in Birmingham as your home field. He’s only a year removed from murdering both levels of A-ball, though, so there is still reason for optimism here. I imagine he will make his MLB debut for a team other than the White Sox, though.

AJ: Another Sox prospect having difficulty putting the ball in play down in Birmingham. I like what little Ive seen of him so far, especially the 4 triples this year. I feel like this time next year he will be hovering around #5.

Luis Alexander Basabe, OF

Ranks: Adam – 10; AJ – 11; Pipeline – 6

Adam: Another guy with a high ceiling being dragged down by injuries. Similar to Adolfo, if he’d stayed healthy he might be in the bigs. Instead he’s been hurt, and then struggled at AA this year. Still could project as a solid RF in the future though, especially with a solid profile at the plate as a switch-hitter.

AJ: Is constantly hurt, and hit so shitty to start he got demoted to A ball from Birmingham. All the shiny tools are there to be a solid CF for the Sox but he needs to hit. The trip to Kannapolis woke him up, but he promptly got hurt again.

Konnor Pilkington, LHP

Ranks: Adam – 12; AJ – 14; Pipeline – 19

Adam: Similar profile to Dunning but the stuff is not as good. The control is not a concern, meaning if the stuff can play up he is back-end starter. At worst, he’s a fine bullpen buy or decent trade chip.

AJ: Every time I see his name I think of one half of The Ascension tag team in WWE. He’s moved pretty quickly through the lower levels, but probably tops out at “5th Starter, 7th inning” kinda guy.

Blake Rutherford, OF

Ranks: Adam – 13; AJ – 10; Pipeline – 8

Adam: I have a feeling that Pipeline ranking is going to keep with the trend and plummet again at the next update. He’s come on a bit more recently, but the power that some projected in the past hasn’t been there, and he can’t play center field. An outfielder who can’t play center and can’t hit for power is something of a bad outfielder. Another guy I think debuts for another MLB club.

AJ: Rutherford has rebounded from a disatrous start to the season and gotten himself to a respectable .262/.298/.371. That being said, the Sox have seemingly hundreds of OF who can OBPS their way to a sub .700 so the power is going to need to show up soon.

Made One List But Not The Other

Gavin Sheets, 1B

Ranks: Adam – 14; AJ – N/A; Pipeline – 17

Adam: I did not like this draft pick at all, and for a few years it just kept looking awful. He’s a 1B-only guy who hadn’t mashed when the one thing 1B-only guys need to do is mash. The bat is finally catching up, though, and he actually has finally been mashing the past few months. He’s another guy I think gets traded, specially now that he’s blocked by Vaughn. Getting him to AAA with the golf balls soon to boost his trade value could be wise.

AJ: Another 1B only Sox prospect, Sheets has decent pop but hadn’t shown it until this season.  Solid D at first, but hasn’t done anything to dissuade the Sox from taking Vaughn this year.

Alec Hansen, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 15; AJ – N/A; Pipeline – 14

Adam: Hansen went from potential top pick, to plummeting down the draft boards, to pitching like a top prospect, to getting hurt and then struggling (something of a theme, no?). I still have some hopes he can be effective in the bigs, maybe as a bullpen guy at the very least. And maybe some other team still likes the ceiling enough to take him in return for a piece the Sox will eventually need.

AJ: I didn’t choose Hansen for my top 15 as his control seemed to dive off a cliff.  If he can gain some semblance of it back, the stuff he possesses would max him out as a high leverage reliever in the Josh Hader vein.

Zack Burdi, RHP

Ranks: Adam – N/A; AJ – 13; Pipeline – 15

Adam: He was a first rounder because the Sox thought he’d be quick to the majors as a reliever, but then he got hurt and wasn’t quick to the majors. I can’t keep him in my top 15 due to injuries, but he could still be a future closer.

AJ: Plus fastball with control issues and Tommy John surgery. It’s like they’re all following a script. The initial reports of Burdi’s velocity demise may be unfounded, but his control issues persist.

Jake Burger, 3B/1B

Ranks: Adam – N/A; AJ – 15; Pipeline – 12

Adam: Too many injuries. At this point I just think of him as the guy the Sox got after missing on Jo Adell by ONE PICK!!! AJ says it better than I could, anyway.

AJ: Missing and presumed dead.

Guys Not On Our Lists That You Should Watch For

Danny Mendick is an intriguing guy to me. He’s something of a non-prospect and doesn’t show up on many lists, but all he’s done since being a 22nd round pick in 2015 is hit at every level he’s been to and consistently rise through the system. He also can play all over the infield. If the Sox non-tender Yolmer this winter, which I can see happening, Mendick is an intriguing potential replacement.

Bryce Bush is a 3B/OF who made noise after being picked in the 33rd round last year and then dominating rookie ball. He has struggled in Low-A this year and also battled injuries, but has had flashes of brilliance as well and is still just 19 playing at a full season affiliate, so there is hope yet. RHP’s Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist were taken in the 2nd and 3rd rounds this year and have high ceilings, though they won’t pitch for affiliates this year. James Beard is an OF they grabbed the 4th round this year who can flat out fly and has a progressing bat, and has drawn Andrew McCutchen comparisons because his swing is similar and he has the hair to match. Bush is currently on Pipeline’s top 30 list for the Sox, and the other three should all be on the list once they update it in the coming weeks.

Getting real deep (and way off any top prospect lists), in the Arizona Rookie League, SS Jose Rodriguez has a .283/.306/.633 slash line, OF DJ Gladney has a .324/.366/.620 line, and 3B Bryan Ramos has a .375/.463/.625 of his own. Gladney is a former Sox ACE guy drafted out of Illiana Christian in the 16th round this year, while Rodriguez and Ramos are both former international signings. They’re all far away from the bigs but all could potentially be on this list in the future.

Our Lists, TL;DR’d

1Luis RobertLuis Robert
2Michael KopechDylan Cease
3Dylan CeaseMichael Kopech
4Andrew VaughnNick Madrigal
5Nick MadrigalZack Collins
6Steele WalkerDane Dunning
7Dane DunningAndrew Vaughn
8Zack CollinsMicker Adolfo
9Luis GonzalezSteele Walker
10Luis Alexander BasabeBlake Rutherford
11Micker AdolfoLuis Alexander Basabe
12Konnor PilkingtonLuis Gonzalez
13Blake RutherfordZack Burdi
14Gavin SheetsKonnor Pilkington
15Alec HensenJake Burger

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