The 2015 Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1. Carlos Rodon, LHP

Born: 12/10/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-3   Weight: 234   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 A+ 9.7 1.86 1.97 14.0 35.7% 4.7 11.9% 0.00 75.0%
2014 21 AAA 12.0 3.00 2.61 13.5 34.0% 6.0 15.1% 0.00 77.8%

Background: The lefty’s accomplishments read like James Joyce’s novel Ulysses – lengthy. After a record setting freshman campaign at N.C. State – one in which he fanned 135, walked 41, and posted a miniscule 1.57 ERA – Rodon was named the Freshman Pitcher of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, ACC Pitcher of the Year, ACC Freshman of the Year, member of the All-ACC Team, a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, and National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Louisville Slugger. Rodon followed that up with an even better season in 2013, including striking out 184 – a number surpassed by only Jerad Weaver, Trevor Bauer, Tim Lincecum, Stephen Strasburg, and David Price since the start of 2003. Of course, that led to even more recognition: USA Baseball Player of the Year, Louisville Slugger Second Team All American, Third Team All American by Baseball America, and a member of the All-ACC first team. And with the expectations as the assumed first pick in the draft swirling about as he entered his junior season the 6-foot-3 lefty went out and dominated again, though not at his previous levels: 117 strikeouts, 31 walks, and just two homeruns surrendered in 98.2 innings. He was also a two-time member of USA National Collegiate Team (36 innings and 42 punch outs).

Projection: With regards to the organization, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. After the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw landed squarely in their laps with the 13th pick in the 2010 draft (Chris Sale), the franchise had the fortune of landing Rodon, who was long assumed to be the top pick in the draft, after he slipped past the Astros and Marlins.

Prior to the draft I wrote,

“It’s a bit concerting – though not enough to force him out of the top spot as college baseball’s best prospect – that his production has declined from his phenomenal sophomore season, a fact that isn’t aided by some questionable handling by N.C. State’s coaching staff including his 134-pitch, 7.2-inning performance against Duke on April 11.”

I continued,

“Rodon’s a high ceiling/high floor-type of prospect, who, barring any injury, should carve out a long, successful career alternating between spurts of dominance and enduring success. He’s a legitimate #1/#2-type arm. Think along the lines of David Price.”

Ceiling:  5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

2. Francellis Montas, RHP

Born: 03/21/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-2   Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Andrew Bellatti, Johnny Cueto, Jose Ortegano, Brooks Pounders, Jose Guzman
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2011 18 R 12.7 4.26 4.25 8.5 21.1% 8.5 21.1% 0.00 65.0%
2012 19 R 40.7 3.98 2.52 9.1 24.7% 2.7 7.2% 0.00 55.1%
2013 20 A 111.0 5.43 3.91 10.3 25.7% 4.1 10.1% 0.89 60.7%
2014 21 A+ 62.0 1.60 2.90 8.1 23.1% 2.0 5.8% 0.29 77.3%

Background: I was incredibly high on Montas heading into the season, naming him among the Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2014 and followed that up by naming him as the franchise’s fifth overall prospect. And sans a bizarre experience with knee injuries – the right-hander succumbed to a meniscus injury in his left knee in Spring Training and was slowed by another meniscus injury in his right knee later in the season – Montas lived up to the lofty expectations. In 10 starts with the Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, the Dominican-born hurler fanned 56, walked 14, and posted a 2.90 FIP.

Projection: In last year’s book I compared Montas to the much more recognizable Lance McCullers and noted that the White Sox’s young right-hander has “quite a bit of upside.” The knee injuries added some level of complexity to the analysis, but the gifted right-hander has now fanned over 24% of the batters he’s faced in his young career. He’s not on the level of some of the game’s top pitching prospects, but Montas still looks like a good bet to develop into a #3-type arm.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2016/Early 2017

 

 

3. Spencer Adams, RHP

Born: 04/13/96 Age: 19 Height: 6-3   Weight: 171   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 41.2 3.67 N/A 12.7 33.0% 0.9 2.2% 0.90 N/A

Background: Fun fact: when the White Sox picked the prep right-hander in the second round last June he became the second Spencer Adams to play professional baseball. The other Spencer Adams played briefly for the Pirates, Senators, Yankees, and Browns in the mid- to late-1920s. Chicago’s Spencer Adams tossed 41.2 innings in the Arizona Summer League during his debut last summer, striking out 59 and walking just four en route to tallying a 1.90 FIP.

Projection: Adams was as dominant as a high school pitcher entering rookie ball in a long, long time. There’s some very intriguing swing-and-miss potential, and if the control/command proves to be an above-average skill then the 6-foot-3 right-hander could be the latest member of the farm to fly through the minors.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

4. Tim Anderson, SS 

Born: 06/23/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-1   Weight: 180   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Heiker Menses, Junior Lake, Chris Owings, Alan Schoenberger, Orlando Calixte
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 301 .277 .348 .363 .711 .086 7.6% 25.9% 109
2014 21 A+ 300 .297 .323 .472 .795 .175 2.3% 22.7% 120
2014 21 AA 45 .364 .364 .500 .864 .136 0.0% 20.0% 143

Background: The franchise has never been bashful about aggressively promoting prospects through the minor leagues. After all, how many teams would have called up a newly-drafted Chris Sale to the majors after just 1.1 innings in the minors or for that matter move a 19-year-old Courtney Hawkins straight into High Class A? Probably not many. So it wasn’t a shock that the club had the former JuCo star begin in the Sally two years ago. And, again, it’s not all that shocking to see them push Anderson to the Carolina League after he was merely OK during that debut. Last season’s totals, though, were markedly better in some regards – he flashed more pop and cut down his strikeouts – but quite inferior in other areas (like his barely there 2.3% walk rate). He finished the year with a combined line of .301/.327/.481 in an injury-shortened season (fractured wrist).

Projection: Talk about jumping all over the place – Anderson was pretty much a polar opposite player during his first and second years in the pros. Initially, he was a speed-first, no pop, average walk rate guy. And then he followed that up as a power-minded shortstop that stopped running and walking. The reality is probably somewhere in between: enough walks to help buoy a sagging OBP, 15-HR power, and 15- to 20-stolen base potential. The defense has been absolutely atrocious at this point – 53 errors in his first 145 games. Anderson’s a potential solid league average regular, maybe a tick better if he can improve his defense.

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

5. Tyler Danish, RHP

Born: 09/12/94 Age: 20 Height: 6-0   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Casey Meisner, Jacob Turner, Matt Lollis, Carlos Vazquez, Zach McAllister
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 26.0 1.38 2.82 7.6 22.7% 1.7 5.2% 0.35 75.3%
2014 19 A 38.0 0.71 3.06 5.9 17.1% 2.4 6.9% 0.00 79.0%
2014 19 A+ 91.7 2.65 3.69 7.7 20.6% 2.3 6.1% 0.69 75.8%

Background: Further proof that the organization marches to its own beat – and against the usual pattern of minor league promotion. Danish, the club’s second round pick out of Durant High School two years ago, had two impressive 30-ish-inning stints in pro ball before he was deemed ready for the Carolina League. And, wouldn’t you know it? The then-19-year-old right-hander handled the promotion like a fish in water. In 18 starts with Winston-Salem Danish fanned 78, walked 23, and posted a solid 3.69 FIP. For his career, he owns a 1.92 ERA in 159.2 innings. Take that for what it’s worth.

Projection: One of those sleeper-type prospects that pops up in the major leagues without anyone really noticing. Danish isn’t overpowering; in fact, he’s sort of the opposite – pitchability over power. The Zach McAllister and Jacob Turner comparisons suggested by CAL push him into back-of-the-rotation territory. In my writings for ESPN Network site Its Pronounced Lajaway, I’ve trumpeted McAllister for a long time, so here’s hoping Danish reaches his potential (I’m still waiting on the Tribe’s starter, by the way).

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

6.  Trey Michalczewski, 3B

Born: 02/27/95  Age: 20   Height: 6-3   Weight: 210   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Alex Liddi, Kevin Ahrens, Steven Souza Jr., Matt West, Karexon Sanchez
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 222 .236 .324 .328 .653 .092 10.4% 25.2% 94
2014 19 A 495 .273 .348 .433 .781 .160 9.1% 28.3% 117
2014 19 A+ 84 .194 .293 .222 .515 .028 10.7% 25.0% 55

Background: Signed for a hefty $500,000 in the seventh round in 2013, Michalczewski had a nice little debut in the Sally last season, where he hit .273/.348/.433 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 10 homeruns, and six stolen bases en route to topping the league average by 17%. And the switch-hitting third baseman handled both left- and right-handers equally well (.283/.350/.402 and .255/.337/.403, respectively).

Projection: Michalczewski started out far better then he would finish: he batted .291/.372/.461 through his first 78 games and finished the season out with a .225/.298/.329 mark including his clunker with Winston-Salem. CAL links him to a bunch of minor league lifers and one promising prospect (Souza), but given his age and the fact that he looked like he tired down the stretch there could be some additional wriggle room.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2019

 

 

7.  Jeffrey Wendelken, RHP

Born: 03/24/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-0   Weight: 235   B/T: R/R                                                         
Top CALs: Casey Sadler, Nick Barnese, Jose Urena, Trevor Bell, Albert Vargas
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 19 R 21.3 1.27 1.23 11.8 35.4% 1.3 3.8% 0.00 78.6%
2013 20 A 69.7 3.23 3.48 8.0 21.0% 2.7 7.1% 0.52 77.3%
2014 21 A+ 145.7 5.25 3.87 8.0 19.9% 2.0 5.1% 0.93 57.6%

Background: The White Sox’s front office was lambasted for dealing away veteran right-hander Jake Peavy for a bunch of perceived spare parts (i.e. lower level prospects) at the trade deadline two years ago. Well, Montas has blossomed into a legitimate big league pitching prospect – one that I called well before it happened – and Wendelken quietly put together some strong peripherals as a 21-year-old in High Class A last season. Spending the entire year with Winston-Salem, the stout right-hander struck out 128 and walked 33 in 145.2 innings. He also outpitched his 5.25 ERA by nearly 1.5 runs.

Projection: Wendelken, a former 13th round pick by Boston in 2012, suffered from quite a bit of bad luck last season – a .355 BABIP and a 57.6% strand rate chief among them. He is definitely not a lock to even sniff the big leagues, but there’s some potential value here. Fringy starting pitcher/middle reliever.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

8.  Micah Johnson, 2B

Born: 12/18/90  Age: 24   Height: 6-0   Weight: 190   B/T: L/R                                                        
Top CALs: Kevin Russo, Nate Samson, Colt Sedbrook, Jemile Weeks, Jose Garcia
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 22 A 351 .342 .422 .530 .952 .188 11.4% 19.1% 172
2013 22 A+ 228 .275 .309 .360 .670 .085 4.4% 11.8% 86
2014 23 AA 170 .329 .414 .466 .880 .137 12.4% 15.9% 151
2014 23 AAA 302 .275 .314 .370 .684 .095 5.3% 13.9% 87

Background: Johnson was poised to become a fourth round pick, potentially even higher, entering his junior year at Indiana. And then the wheels fell off; the lefty swinging middle infielder posted a paltry .225/.303/.387 triple-slash line in a shortened year for the Hoosiers. Chicago took a gamble and grabbed him in the ninth round and signed him for $127,60. Johnson had a decent debut, hitting .273/.375/.391 in rookie ball, but exploded with Kannapolis the next year (.342/.422/.530 with 34 extra-base hits and 61 stolen bases in 77 games). Since then it’s been a lot of ups-and-downs for Johnson, though mostly downs. Splitting his time between the Southern and International Leagues, he hit .294/.351/.403 – though the overwhelming majority of that was buoyed by his 170-plate appearance stint with Birmingham.

Projection: Johnson’s bat is on the fringe of big league usefulness. He walks and runs well, and on occasion he’ll flash gap power. The problem is that guys like this are a dime-a-dozen, and only a tiny fraction squeak out big league careers.

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

9.  Carlos Sanchez, 2B/SS

Born: 06/29/92  Age: 23   Height: 5-11   Weight: 195   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Cristhian Adames, Alcides Escobar, Marcus Lemon, Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Sellers
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 20 A+ 416 .315 .374 .395 .769 .079 7.5% 15.4% 117
2012 20 AA 133 .370 .424 .462 .886 .092 7.5% 16.5% 153
2013 21 AAA 479 .241 .293 .296 .589 .056 6.1% 15.9% 64
2014 22 AAA 494 .293 .349 .412 .761 .119 7.3% 17.0% 111

Background: The slap-hitting middle infielder ran into some power during his repeat in the International League last season, setting a career high in homeruns with 7, which happens to be six more than his previous high, and slugging percentage (.412). Chicago called him up to the big leagues for a quick spot-start in the middle of July before demoting him back down to Charlotte. He would eventually get recalled in late August and finished out the year by hitting .263/.283/.316 in 27 games with the White Sox.

Projection:  It’s always alarming when CAL links a player to a pair of glove-first big league shortstops. Alcides Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria own career wRC+ totals of 76 and 68, respectively. Sanchez has a history of solid walk rates, good speed, a decent bat, and no power.

Ceiling:  1.0-win player

Risk:  Low

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

10.  Nolan Sanburn, RHP

Born: 07/21/91  Age: 23   Height: 6-0   Weight: 175   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Aaron Blair, David Berner, Eddie Butler, Michael Lee, Jose De La Cruz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A- 18.7 3.86 3.65 9.2 22.9% 2.9 7.2% 0.96 72.5%
2013 21 A 26.0 1.38 3.34 6.9 19.8% 3.1 8.9% 0.35 89.4%
2014 22 A+ 71.3 3.28 3.93 9.2 23.8% 3.2 8.1% 0.76 78.7%

Background: I was incredibly high on the right-hander heading into the year – more so than probably anyone else. I listed the former second round pick out of the University of Arkansas as Oakland’s second overall prospect. But to be fair – and honest – it was completely predicated on the (incorrect) assumption that Sanburn would be transitioned into a fulltime starting pitcher. He wasn’t, but Oakland did give Sanburn a ton of multiple-inning relief appearances – perhaps paving the way for a heavier workload in the future. Sanburn fanned 73, walked 25, and posted a 3.93 FIP in 71.1 innings of work.

Projection: There’s still a tremendous amount of potential in Sanburn’s right arm, whether it’s as a mid-rotation caliber starting pitcher or a dominant backend reliever. He’s had some injury problems in the past, so that only adds to the complexity. I like him a lot though.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2016/Early 2017

 

 

**All statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 

 

 

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.