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|1. Yoan Moncada, 2B|
|Born: 05/27/95||Age: 22||Bats: B||Top CALs: Mark Wiik, Ian Happ, Shedric Long, Sean Coyle, Trevor Story|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: After hovering in this weird quasi-competitive, quasi-constant rebuild mode since, well, it seems like decades, the White Sox decided to finally pull the trigger and pushed their collective chips to the center of the table in early December 6, 2016 – a day that certainly will be remembered for a long, long time. White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn shipped off Chris Sale, one of the storied franchise’s most dominant starting pitchers, for a package of four prospects headlined by the Cuban-born infielder. Moncada, who was acquired along with flame-thrower Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz, upped the ante after a dominant, offensively-complete showing in the Sally in 2015.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound budding superstar ripped through the Carolina League, hitting .307/.427/.496 with 25 doubles, three triples, four homeruns, 36 stolen bases (in 44 attempts) while topping the league average production mark by 56%. Then he continued his assault on all spherical orbs when he was pushed up to the Eastern League where he slugged .277/.379/.531 with six doubles, three triples, 11 homeruns, and nine more stolen bases.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Moncada is a bit large for second base. And just for some added context: there have been just 17 players since the turn of the 20th century to stand at least 6-foot-2 tall and appear in at least 162 games at second base in their career – Bobby Grich, Ben Zobrist, and Neil Walker being the best of the bunch. So it remains to be seen whether Moncada is the heir apparent to Dustin Pedroia’s vaunted throne. He’s a budding All-Star, potentially even a future MVP candidate.”
One year later and the same thing can be said: he’s damn good. And big. In fact, the Red Sox had him play a bit of third base during his tenure with Portland and during his eight-game stint in Boston. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the White Sox slide him back up to the keystone position where his bat could put up MVP-caliber offensive numbers.
Oh, yeah, the Red Sox will reportedly pay the entire $31.2 million left on Moncada’s hefty deal.
Ceiling: 5.5- to 6.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|2. Lucas Giolito, RHP|
|Born: 07/14/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Eduardo Sanchez, Jake Thompson, Tyler Skaggs, Randall Delgado, Jonathon Niese|
|Height: 6-6||Weight: 225||Throws: R|
Background: Roughly a day after making the one of the biggest trades in team history – not to be confused with the team’s infamous “White Flag” selloff on July 31, 1997 – Sox GM Rick Hahn doubled-down on the club’s rebuilding efforts and shipped off cost-controlled and highly underrated center fielder Adam Eaton for a package of three prospects highlighted by Giolito. The former 2012 first round pick, who was acquired along with Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning, was famously in the running to become the first prep right-hander to be taken with the opening pick in a draft, but elbow concerns – and subsequent Tommy John surgery – pushed him down many teams’ draft boards. But after being limited to a couple dozen innings early in his career, Giolito rocketed through the Nationals’ system as he spent a year in the Sally in 2014, half seasons in the Carolina and Eastern Leagues the following year before making it to Washington in late June last season.
Giolito continued to a be dominant force against underequipped minor league sticks as he posted a 116-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 115.1 innings last season. For his minor league career he’s averaging nearly 10 strikeouts and just 3.0 walks per nine innings.
Projection: Easily one of the top young arms in the game, here’s what I wrote about the former Nationals top prospect in last year’s book:
“Whatever awe inspiring adjective you could hurl towards a budding ace can – and should – be said about the 6-foot-6, 255-pound hurler. His swing-and-miss potential outranks any minor league hurler, starter or reliever. He’s shown a tremendous ability to limit free passes – despite being a bigger pitcher. Oh, and then there’s his groundball rate, which tends to hover around 50%. Simply put, everything Lucas Giolito does is for his benefit. He’s a true, genuine legitimate ace-in-waiting.”
I think there’s really no need to expound upon what I wrote in last year’s book, but I do want to bring up a couple interesting points about Giolito:
- During his debut in DC last season, his fastball topped out at a smidgeon over 97 mph – easily putting the pitch in the plus to plus-plus range. But consider this: the difference between recently acquired right-hander Michael Kopech’s peak velocity last season, a reported 105 mph, and Giolito’s high is the same difference between Giolito and Bartolo Colon’s heater, which was tied for the 13th slowest average fastball velocity among starters. Unreal.
- The White Sox’s rotation is going to be scary good with Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, and Michael Kopech – all of whom have incredibly high ceilings.
Last year I assigned a 6.5-win ceiling on the overpowering right-hander and, despite the little hiccup at the big league level, he’s done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion heading into 2017.
Ceiling: 5.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|3. Michael Kopech, RHP|
|Born: 04/30/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Tyler Wilson, Luke Jackson, Benino Pruneda, Trevor May, Trevor Cahill|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: For a season in which started out on such a sour note – the former first round pick and recently acquired top prospect got popped and subsequently suspended for Oxilofrine, a banned stimulant – Kopech sure as hell ended it on an extraordinary high. After sitting out the first 50 games of the year, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander made a quick tune-up start in the New York-Penn League before setting his Terminator-like vision on the Carolina League. What’s left? A whole lot of broken dreams, splintered bats, and teams that ignored him for 32 picks in the 2014 draft. In 11 starts with Salem, Kopech tossed 52.0 innings, struck out a ridiculous 82 hitters, walked 29, and posted a 2.25 ERA with a 2.60 FIP.
For his young career, he’s averaged 11.5 punch outs and 4.6 walks per nine innings. Kopech was also part of the mega-Chris Sale deal with Boston in early December.
Projection: Let’s just get to it:
- Ignoring his terrible implosion in his final game of the year (0.2 IP, 6 ER, 5 BB, 1 K), this is what Kopech’s numbers look like in High Class A: 51.1 IP, 81 K, 24 BB, and a laughable 1.23 ERA.
- In a five-start stretch from August 2nd the 24th, he posted one of the most absurd lines I’ve ever seen – at any level: 29.0 IP, 49 K, 9 BB, and just 3 ER.
- He struck out 40% – 40% – of the total hitters he faced last season. The next closet in the Carolina League: 31.1% by Matt Cooper (White Sox).
Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:
“Equipped with a power-pitcher’s arsenal, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander can sling it with the best ‘em. And unlike so many other teenagers blessed with an above-average- to plus-fastball, Kopech actually knew where it was going the majority of the time. Look for him to have a big, big year in 2016.”
Now that’s how you have a big year. He’s on the short, short list for best pitching prospect in baseball. If he can keep the control under…well…control, the sky’s the absolute limit. Bar. None. Bonafide ace. Oh, yeah, there’s reports that he unleashed a 105 mph heater during the summer. So, yeah, that’s fast…
Ceiling: 5.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|4. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP|
|Born: 01/04/94||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: James Parr, Garrett Olson, Johnny Barbato, Josh Lindblom, Thomas Palica|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 185||Throws: R|
Background: There aren’t too many players in the minors – particularly right-handed starters – that would headline a trade package over Lopez, which says something about the Sox’s return for Adam Eaton: it was bountiful. Lopez, who cracked my list for Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2016, was running neck-and-neck with Lucas Giolito to see which promising arm would make their respective big league debut first. Giolito won, barely – by only a couple weeks. Lopez, a wiry 6-foot, 185-pound right-hander blessed with an electric arm out the Dominican Republic, made stops at three different levels in his dominant 2016 season, going from the Eastern League to Triple-A to the big leagues. He would throw a 109.1 combined minor league innings last year, posting an absurd 126-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 3.21 ERA. And only slowing slightly upon his call-up to DC; he would make 11 appearances, six of which were starts, throwing 44 innings with 42 punch outs, and 22 walks. Overall, for his career, Lopez has fanned 24.2% and walked 7.6% of the hitters he faced in the minors.
Projection: I’ve been a huge fan of Lopez’s for a while now, writing the following in my book two years ago:
“With just 99.1 innings under his belt, Lopez could turn out to be anything from a potential front-of-the-rotation arm to a dominant backend reliever to a forgotten minor leaguer. But any time a 20-year-old posts that kind of line in a level – or levels – were the competition is slightly older, it’s definitely promising. Oh, yeah, he’s sporting a groundball rate north of 56%. Lopez is definitely, definitely, definitely one worth watching – closely.”
And I followed that up with this in last year’s book:
“Needless to say, I’m convinced at this point. Among all hurlers with at least 90 innings in the Carolina League last season, Lopez’s strikeout percentage, 23.3%, finished as the third highest mark; his strikeout-to-walk percentage, 16.3%, finished as the fourth best, and his 2.95 FIP was the sixth lowest. His groundball rate regressed some last season, but it still finished at an above-average 43.7%.
There is some risk involved given his relatively low career innings total, but he might peak as a #2/#3-type arm.”
So how does Lopez’s 2016 numbers stack up against the competition? Pretty damn well. Consider the following:
- His strikeout percentage in Class AA last season, 30.4%, paced the Eastern League – by nearly four full percentage points. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, 22.8%, also paced the league by nearly four full percentage points as well.
- His strikeout percentage narrowly edged out Twins top prospect Stephen Gonsalves for tops in any Class AA league.
- Despite a string of 33.0 innings in the International League in which he fanned only 26 hitters, Lopez’s strikeout percentage still ranked 18th among all MiLB with at least 100 innings last season.
He doesn’t have the ceiling of a Lucas GIolito, but Lopez is certainly one step closer to becoming a very, very good second option.
Ceiling: 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|5. Zack Collins, C|
|Born: 02/06/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Derek Norris, Yasmani Grandal, Jake Lowery, Chun-Hsiu Chen, Ryan Ortiz|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 220||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: For the first time since the modern draft was instituted back in 1965 the first four catchers off the board last draft – Collins, Matt Thaiss, Will Smith, and Chris Okey – were all collegiate prospects. Fun Fact Part II: The first 23 catchers taken in the 1967 draft were all prep players. Anyway, Collins was a three-year force in the heart of the University of Miami’s lineup. The lefty-swinging backstop batted an impressive .298/.427/.556 with 14 doubles, three triples, and 11 homeruns as a true freshman. He followed that up with an even better showing during his sophomore campaign, slugging .302/.445/.587 with 14 doubles, five triples, 15 homeruns, and seven stolen bases. And then, of course, he raised the bar even further during his final year with the Hurricanes: in 62 games, Collins bashed to the tune of .363/.544/.668 with 10 doubles and 16 homeruns.
The White Sox grabbed the offensive-minded backstop with the tenth overall selection last June. After a brief three-game stint in the Arizona Summer League, Collins was pushed straight up to the Carolina League where he topped the league average mark by 51% en route to slugging .258/.418/.467 with seven doubles and six dingers in 36 games.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote before the draft last season:
“Here’s the best part of Collins’ string of offensive dominance: Since his first day on campus he’s displayed an impeccable feel for the strike zone. Through his first 174 games, he’s sporting a career 158-to-144 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
And just how special has Collins been in 2016?
Well, consider the following: Between 2011 and 2015 no catcher at the Division I level has posted an OBP north of .550, and only one catcher – Long Island-Brooklyn’s Tyler Jones – has finished a season with an OBP above .510.
Collins is the cream of the crop when it comes to collegiate catching. He does everything exceptionally well: he’s been dominant – and continued to improve – during each of his seasons with Miami; he hits for average and power, and possesses an incredible eye at the plate.
Depending upon his defense and ability to handle fellow southpaws – the data is unavailable to me now – Collins has the makings of an above-average, perhaps even borderline All-Star.”
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|6. Carson Fulmer, RHP|
|Born: 12/13/93||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Ricky Romero, Andrew Faulkner, Jay Johnson, Jeremy Bleich, Casey Crosby|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Since the institution of the modern draft in 1965 the White Sox have owned a top 8 draft pick 16 separate instances; of those 16 times, the club has selected a collegiate player seven times. Fun Fact Part II: Now of those seven times, they’ve hit absolute homeruns with four players: Frank Thomas, Alex Fernandez, Carlos Rodon, and “Black Jack” McDowell. Fulmer, for what it’s worth, was the club’s most recent Top 8 selection after a stellar three-year career at Pitcher U. – a.k.a. Vanderbilt University. In 271 innings for the Commodores the man known as “Filthy” Fulmer punched out 313 and walked 116 – or an average of 10.4 strikeouts and 3.85 walks per nine innings.
And after a brief – albeit highly successful – debut mostly spent in the Carolina League two years ago, Fulmer opened up the 2016 season with 17 starts with Birmingham in the Southern League in which he threw 87.0 innings with 90 punch outs and a problematic 51 walks en route to tallying a 4.76 ERA and a 4.16 FIP. From there he got the call up to Chicago when he worked exclusively out of the bullpen – with mediocre results. He posted a 10-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with 11 earned runs. The front office then bumped him down to the International League four final starts.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the hard-throwing right-hander prior to the 2015 draft:
“Vanderbilt University has certainly churned out plenty of high-caliber big league pitching prospects throughout over the last decade-plus: David Price, Sonny Gray, Mike Minor, Tyler Beede, Jeremy Sowers, Jensen Lewis, Kevin Ziomek, Drew VerHagen, Casey Weathers, and Grayson Garvin.
And the club’s current ace has the potential to slide right up next to Sonny Gray as a potential top-of-the-rotation caliber arm – if he continues to take positive strides with his control/command.
hile Fulmer’s walk rates have been trending in the right direction – it’s improved from 4.27 BB/9 to 4.05 BB/9 to a career best 3.59 BB/9 in 2015 – it’s still no better than slightly below average. And another leap forward certainly wouldn’t be unheard of either. Gray averaged 3.79 BB/9 over his final 234.2 collegiate innings. Over his last 168.2 innings, Fulmer’s averaged 3.84 BB/9.
In terms of ceiling, Fulmer looks like a potential 3.0- to 3.5-win starting pitcher, though that comes with the risk of not being able to corral his power arsenal. If not, he’s a dominant, shutdown backend reliever with the ability to move quickly.”
Well, the control definitely didn’t take a step forward – which probably isn’t helped by his rapid ascension through the minor leagues.
He did average “just” 3.7 walks per nine innings over his final seven starts in the Southern League. If he can keep it in that area, Fulmer won’t have a problem finding a spot in the middle of rotation. But I am going to down grade him a bit due to concerns about the control.
One final note: In a June 16, 2015 piece for Beyond the Box Score I listed five players that were most likely be the first person from the 2015 draft to make it to the big leagues. Carson Fulmer, who made the aforementioned list, was the first one to make The Show.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|7. Luis Alexander Basabe, CF|
|Born: 08/26/96||Age: 20||Bats: B||Top CALs: Dylan Cozens, Nomar Mazara, Luis Liberato, Joe Benson, Delbis Arcila|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 160||Throws: R|
Background: Not to be confused with his twin brother Luis Alejandro Basabe, who was traded as part of the package that brought submariner Brad Ziegler to Beantown, Luis Alexander Basabe, who was the third best prospect in the Chris Sale deal, was one of just three prospects to slug 10+ homeruns and swipe 25 bags in the South Atlantic League last season. The other two: Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins and the Yankees’ Hoy Jun Park. What separates Basabe is his age: he was the only teenager to accomplish the feat. In fact, he was the only teen to go 10/20 in either Low Class A and the last time it was accomplished was in 2014 by former Red Sox top prospect Manuel Margot. Overall, Basabe batted a solid .258/.325/.447 with 24 doubles, eight triples, 12 homeruns, and 25 stolen bases (in 30 attempts) while topping the league average by 20%.
Projection: Admittedly left off of last year’s Top 20 for Boston, unfortunately, Basabe offered up an incredibly promising toolkit of above-average speed, developing power, and a solid-average eye at the plate. His strikeout rate, 25.7%, is a bit concerning but nothing out of the norm for a teen bat getting continuing to play against far older competition. The switch-hitting outfielder could be a 25/25 threat as he matures.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|8. Spencer Adams, RHP|
|Born: 04/13/96||Age: 21||Bats: R||Top CALs: Matt Harrison, Jake Ruckle, Blake Beaven, Zeke Spruill, Eduardo Rodriguez|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 171||Throws: R|
Background: One of my favorite Sox prospects since being taken in the 2014 draft, I previously ranked the former second round pick as the club’s #1 and #3 MiLB’er over the past two seasons. After getting a five-game stint in High Class A to cap off a successful 2015 season, the Sox sent the young right-hander back to Winston-Salem for 18 starts to begin 2016. Adams would throw 107.2 innings with the Dash, fanning 15.9% and walking just 4.5% of the hitters he faced en route to posting a solid 3.69 FIP. Chicago would push the then-20-year-old up to Birmingham for another nine starts: 55.1 IP, 26 K, 10 BB, and a 3.45 FIP. Overall, he would finish the year with a career best 163.0 innings while averaging 5.5 strikeouts and just 1.7 walks per nine innings.
Projection: I was pretty high on the young right-hander, writing the following in last year’s book:
“Well, the control/command proved to be a repeatable above-average skill [clearly] and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see his strikeout rates starts to creep upward as he gets older. In terms of teenage arms, he’s a solid bet to develop into a mid-rotation caliber arm, perhaps even peaking as a decent #2 for a couple years.”
The strikeout ability didn’t creep up – at all. In fact, it declined to a career low 5.5 punch outs per nine innings. On the other hand, thanks to a late birthday, he’s still only heading into his age-21 season. Plus, consider the following: among all minor league arms with at least 150 innings last season, Adams’ walk percentage was 14th best. At worst, assuming his strikeout rate hovers around his 2015 showing, I’d suspect Adams to develop into a nice little #4/#5-type arm.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|9. Alec Hansen, RHP|
|Born: 10/10/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Danny Dopico, Brian Pearl, Steven Ames, Thomas Szapucki, Jonathan Ortiz|
|Height: 6-7||Weight: 235||Throws: R|
Background: Very few collegiate arms could match Hansen’s pure swing-and-miss ability over his three years with Oklahoma – he punched out 185 hitters in just 145 innings of work. But it was his dominance during junior campaign that turned quite a few heads: he sat down 75 hitters on strikes in just over 51 innings of work, or just a smidge over 13 punch outs per nine innings. But it was his lack of pounding the zone during his junior season – he walked 39 or an average of 6.79 BB/9 – that caused the talented 6-foot-7 behemoth to stumble into the second round where the Sox were waiting with open arms. And just like that, Hansen entered pro ball and threw the most impressive 54-inning stretch of – probably – his entire life. Hansen posted an absurd 81-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a spectacular 1.32 ERA between the Arizona Summer, Pioneer, and South Atlantic Leagues.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote for the big right-hander prior to the draft last season:
“Hansen clearly has the talent and subsequent build to tempt teams in the early part of round one, but he’s never walked fewer than 4.83 hitters per nine innings at any point in his career. But he is a pretty rare breed: between 2011 and 2015 no Division I pitcher has thrown more than 50 innings while average at least 13 punch outs and 6.5 walks per nine innings.
Hansen’s days as a starting pitcher are numbered, likely by the weeks. But he could be an interesting gamble in round three as a potential late-inning reliever if a team thinks it can teach him to throw more strikes.”
According to reports by the Daily Herald’s Scot Gregor, the White Sox’s director of player development Nick Capra stated that the organization made “a couple mechanical changes, small issues he had coming in.”
If the control is, in fact, a repeatable skill Hansen could be the steal of the draft. I originally pegged him as a 1.5-win player. But I’ll cautiously upgrade that to a 2.0- to 2.5-win player with a high risk. He’s definitely someone to watch in 2017.
Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
|10. Zack Burdi, RHP|
|Born: 03/09/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 205||Throws: R|
Background: I don’t know if it’s purely a genetic thing or if the Burdi brothers were grown in a freak experiment, but Zack, along with older brother Nick, developed into two of the hardest throwers college baseball has seen in quite some time. And like his older brother, Zach was a premier relief prospect during his time with the Louisville Cardinals. The younger Burdi spent his three-year tenure with the university working out of the bullpen, throwing just 69.2 career innings with plenty of strikeouts (83) and surprising control for a flame-thrower; he averaged a smidgeon over three free passes every nine innings. Chicago grabbed the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander with their second first round selection last June, 26th overall. That’s exactly 20 picks earlier than brother Nick heard his name called by the Twins in 2014, by the way.
And just like we’ve seen with other polished, hard-throwing Chicago White Sox draft selections in recent years, the front office aggressively challenged Burdi by pushing him from rookie ball all the way up to Class AAA last season during his debut. Overall, he would make stops at four different levels, posting a 51-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38.0 innings.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about him prior to the draft last June:
“Not quite the track record that Nick’s resume had coming into the draft, Zack, nonetheless, has a similar skillset: throw hard, throw it harder, and blow it past ‘em. He reportedly runs his fastball upwards of triple-digits, but he combines that with a surprising ability to limit walks.
The lone knock on him thus far has been his propensity to surrender the long ball; he’s given up four homeruns in his last 56.1 innings, not an absurd amount by any stretch of the means, but for a hurler with a plus-plus fastball it’s a little concerning.
Burdi is a solid bet to go in round two and develop into a late-end relief specialist.”
Yeah, he could conceivably be pitching in Chicago at some point in 2017. In fact, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: 2017
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com