2018 Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects

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Josh Norris: Hello, Chicago! Let's start the new year by chatting about some White Sox.

    Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these guys are worthy of making BA's top 100 list?

Josh Norris: We're having Top 100 meetings this week, but I'd bet the top six or so on this list would figure in there. Definitely the first four.

    Grant (NYC): What were Luis Basabe's biggest shortcomings last year, and how optimistic are you he can overcome them?

Josh Norris: I'd say his biggest issue was the with the knee that required surgery toward the end of the year. From talking to people around the org, it might have been bothering him longer than it let on as well. Beyond that, he needs to refine his hit tool and plate discipline to unlock his potential.

    Paul (Chicago, IL): Did newly acquired Thyago Vierra make a case for your list? Between him and Burdi, who are you higher on and why?

Josh Norris: For the Top 10, no, but he's among the Top 30. Ultimately Burdi's ceiling is higher, as a multi-inning relief ace type of guy. The caveat with Burdi is that he's pitched on back-to-back days just once in his pro career, and he got blasted on the second day of that stint. If he's going to be a closer, he'll have to do that at some point.

    Carson Fulmer (At the gym): Which role will suit me best in the coming years, Josh?

Josh Norris: There's still a chance for you as a starter, but ultimately I think your role is in the bullpen. He needs to make strides with the consistency of his offspeed stuff as well as working to keep his delivery in sync on a consistent basis.

    Dave (St. Louis, MO): Does Casey Gillaspie have a part to play at either 1B/DH in Chicago, or is he likely to be trade bait? Will he be in the Handbook?

Josh Norris: He is not among the Top 30, no. Frankly, he was one of the more perplexing deals at this year's deadline. Prior to the trade, he was one of the more universally panned prospects I spoke with scouts about, so it was interesting to see him included in a trade. If the White Sox saw something that could be unlocked with change of scenery (he was firmly behind Jake Bauers in Tampa Bay), more power to them.

    J.P. (Springfield, IL): Even though Moncada, Giolito and Lopez have graduated, does this system get your vote as being in the top 5? Top 3?

Josh Norris: Top 5, yes, but for my money the top three are—in no order, the Padres the Braves and the Yankees. The White Sox's top 10 or so is up there with those guys, but the other three systems I mentioned are much deeper.

    Frank (Indianapolis IN): I'm one of perhaps several who is a bit surprised Hansen ranked above Robert on your list. Granted, Hansen has dominated at a higher level, but isn't Robert's overall ceiling considered to be much higher?

Josh Norris: Robert's ceiling is much higher, yes, but Hansen's success at high Class A gave him the nod. It's not a big gap, and I had Robert at No. 3 in the first iteration of this list.

    Grant (NYC): If you could choose only between Birmingham and Winston-Salem, which team would you pick as THE one to see in April, assuming your predictions are correct?

Josh Norris: Winston-Salem is about 80 minutes from my office (and there are a couple of Carolina League cities even closer), so this is easy. I already saw all the guys who will be at Birmingham this year, and am stoked to see what the Dash have to offer this year: Cease, Robert, Rutherford, Basabe, Sheets, Burger, Adolfo etc (plus Omar Vizquel as the manager!) will be tremendous fun. I should see that group A TON this year.

    Rick (Lake in the Hills, IL): How confident are you Rutherford can be the guy he was prior to being drafted?

Josh Norris: I adored Rutherford when I saw him prior to the trade (probably because he hit roughly .700 while I watched him) but the question with him is always going to be: Will he hit enough to profile in a corner? At the beginning of last season, one of his stated goals was to put on enough good weight to add the requisite power, and that will continue to be a point of emphasis this year. He should get a boost from playing in Winston-Salem, too.

    Mac (Chicago): Is this a case of scouting Alec Hansen’s stat line? Seems he was old for the league in low A and high A. A college players stats in the low minors could be very deceiving.

Josh Norris: It is not. As a general rule, Baseball America does not scout stat lines. These lists are put together over months of calls, analysis, (in many cases) in-person looks and with the help of scouts and executives in the industry. His stats don't hurt him, but his tremendous stuff and potential are what led him to rank so highly.

    Stan (Chicago): Do you think Zach Burdi can make it to Chicago in 2018?

Josh Norris: Obviously, this depends on how the rehab from Tommy John surgery goes and how his stuff comes back from the injury. If all goes well and he shows the same or similar stuff, I would think there's a slight chance. It might not be worth the risk if the team is out of it by that time, though.

    Steve (Chicago): Any sleepers in the 20-30 range to watch for in 2018?

Josh Norris: Looking at my Big Board of Magnets, I like Ian Hamilton, who was very vanilla as a starter for Washington State but has become a different animal out of the bullpen, where his fastball is up to 99 and his slider is in the mid-90s. With Burdi, Vieira and Hamilton, the White Sox could have the makings of a lockdown bullpen soon.

    AJ (Orange County): Thanks for the chat. Who is your 2018 breakout prospect that could make it to the top 10?

Josh Norris: I could see a guy like Luis Gonzalez or Micker Adolfo making it into the Top 10 (though it will be difficult without some graduations or trades) Adolfo showed signs of realizing his potential this year with Kannapolis before an injury late, and Gonzalez opened eyes in his first taste of pro ball.

    Josh (Chicago): Seby Zavala was a little old for Low-A/High-A last year at 23/24, but he produced a .282/.353/.499 line good for .851 OPS (21 homers). He continued to hit well in the AFL. Has he become a legitimate catching prospect, and what does his defensive game look like?

Josh Norris: He is on the Top 30 because it's hard to ignore a catcher with 20-plus homers. His defense is passable too, which makes him worth keeping an eye on.

Josh Norris: Sorry for the delay. Having a fun discussion in the office.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the pitchers moving to full season Kannapolis from the short season teams, who are your favorites?

Josh Norris: I like the Louisville guys, Kade McClure and Lincoln Henzman, as dudes who could put up great first full seasons in pro ball.

    ZP (New York): It seems Blake Rutherford's stock fell a little after a down year last year. Where do you stand on him going into this year? Does his future value depend on if he can develop power?

Josh Norris: Yes, it absolutely does. It was clear from the jump in New York that his arm and range was likely to limit him to a corner outfield spot, so the power will need to come. As mentioned earlier, he'll get a big boost from Winston-Salem's friendly park, so his power on the road will be something to monitor.

    Peter C. (The southside): I’m struggling with having optimism for Jake Burger. Everything I read tells me Billy Butler/Craig (Pitt system). Please, talk me off the ledge.

Josh Norris: First of all, Billy Butler was a 10-year major leaguer, so you could do worse. But part of what sets Burger apart is his makeup. The word "captain" came up frequently when discussing him, and he'll work very hard to make himself better at third base. He decided to spend the entire offseason in Arizona working at the White Sox's complex to achieve that goal.

    Peter C. (The Southside): Bernardo Flores has a big arm. What’s his ceiling?

Josh Norris: I'd dispute him having a big arm. His velocity took a step back this year and he sat in the high-80s, low-90s with his fastball. If he can regain that velo and develop a putaway pitch, then he has the ceiling of a back-end guy.

    Justin (Tucson, AZ): Am I crazy to think the Padres system has just as much high ceiling quality and quantity as the Chisox?

Josh Norris: You are not. I would say it has more depth (and just added the sneaky good Edward Olivares), and guys like Tatis, Urias, Gore, Espinoza have big-time upside to make it one of the very best systems in baseball.

    AJ (Orange county): What’s your favorite comps for Eloy Jimenez and Kopech?

Josh Norris: I generally don't do comps, but Eloy did get comped to "Superman" and "a mutant" so that seems pretty favorable. I know that he put on one of the three best BPs I saw last year (the other being Ronald Acuña with Gwinnett and Vlad Jr with Dunedin). Every so often I like to put on that BP reel and just laugh at how great it was.

    Southside Cliffy (Chicago): Hello! Gavin Sheets at nine? With a Lucas Duda comp? I've got to put Adolfo or Burdi there. Please explain, thank you.

Josh Norris: I like Burdi, but there are issues there. Obviously, the Tommy John surgery complicates things, but he still needs to iron out fastball command and keep his delivery together before I can say he's a slam-dunk back-end bullpen guy. MLB hitters will hit triple-digit fastballs if they're not well located. As for Adolfo, he can jump into the Top 10 if he continues to trend upward like he did last year. This was, after all, his first season out of five as a pro with an OPS of better than .700. He needs to refine his pitch recognition and better ID pitches to drive, rather than trying to jerk everything out of the yard. Sheets' case will be interesting this year. He was worn down in pro ball after a long season at Wake Forest, obviously with the weight of the draft on him as well. He's going to be a bat-first guy, but he's at least an average defender at first base too.

Josh Norris: Should add, too, in re: Sheets, that he should be helped this year not only by Winston-Salem's cozy park, but also that it is just minutes away from where he played his college ball at Wake Forest.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Kannapolis had a pretty impressive outfield most of last season with Jameson Fisher, Joel Booker, and Micker Adolfo. I'm betting all three make the Handook profiles of the top 30 Chisox prospects. Agreed?

Josh Norris: No they do not.

    Derek (Scotland): How close (or not close) was Basabe to being in the top 10?

Josh Norris: He's in the Top 20 but not close to being in the Top 10. The knee issues, plus the serious issues at the plate (could be related) meant he really didn't sniff the Top 10. He would be a huge bounceback candidate in my eyes.

    Derek (Scotland): Which Sox player not in the Top 10 has the best chance to be a regular on the 2020 team?

Josh Norris: Probably Zack Burdi out of the bullpen.

    White Sox (Chicago): Who are the top couple LatAm prospects in the system that were signed by the White Sox not named Adolfo?

Josh Norris: Luis Robert (who ranked No. 4) and Thyago Vieira (Brazil) who was acquired this offseason. Lenyn Sosa and Tito Polo can also be found in the Top 30.

    Gerald (Joliet, IL): Any hope left for Courtney Hawkins or Keon Barnum?

Josh Norris: It's not looking good.

    Maxwell (Springfield, IL): What direction do you see the White Sox going with the 4th pick in the Draft? I don’t see a real area of weakness in the system. Could they go with Jake Burger’s teammate at Missouri State, Jeremy Eiermann?

Josh Norris: One rule of thumb when thinking about the draft is that you don't arrange your board based on your system's area of need. You always need everything. Pick the best player available. If he blossoms but is blocked in your organization, you can always trade him for something awesome. That said, Eiermann might be a little bit of a stretch based but not crazy based on, like you said, the White Sox getting lots of looks at him while bearing down on Burger. Other names to think about include Nander De Sedas, Kumar Rocker, Brice Turang, Nolan Gorman, Nick Madrigal.

    Dan (Philly Burbs): Would Cease have been number 1 for the Cubs if still in their org?

Josh Norris: I believe he would have, yes.

    JohnnyG (Chicago): Where would Fernando Tatis Jr. slot into this top ten list? How could the WSox FO have missed so horribly on him?

Josh Norris: Either No. 1 or No. 2. I'm not sure too many people saw him blowing up quite like this, honestly. Great eye by the Padres officials.

    Eric (Evergreen Park, IL): With not having faced strong talent last year in the DSL, has Luis Robert gone down or does he have essentially the same outlook?

Josh Norris: Essentially the same outlook.

    Tony (L.A.): What are the specific issues that Kopech needs to work to 1) break through to the big leagues and 2) achieve his #1 starter potential once he is there?

Josh Norris: He needs to develop better command inside the zone, work on keeping his delivery consistent, further refine his changeup, and continue to work on not overthrowing. Part of the reason they gave Kopech a two-seamer was to help him learn that he could be effective without throwing every pitch with max-effort.

    Jonny Sox (Chicago): Seems like Yankees sold high on Rutherford, and Sox took the bait. Didn't hit for average or power, and not a standout on defense. Thoughts?

Josh Norris: I do both of these systems for the Handbook, and I'll say this about the Yankees: They do an incredibly thorough job of evaluating their own talent. Between analytics and the number of eyes they get on their own guys throughout the year, they almost always know what they have. That said, I expect a better year out of Rutherford in 2018. But, as I've mentioned before, his future is going to hinge on his power potential.

    Byron (Seattle): Will Kopech be as good as Sale?

Josh Norris: I'm going to say no, simply because there are very, very few pitchers in the major leagues who are as good or better than Chris Sale.

    Joey (Chicago): If Ian Clarkin stays healthy, will he become an elite prospect? Whats your expectation on Blake Rutherford? Do you think Collins will stick behind the plate? Why are Zeby Zevalla and Tito Polo so underrated?

Josh Norris: 1) No. If he stays healthy, which he hasn't done throughout the course of his career, 2) I expect him to turn around, but I'm very interested to see his power output 3) It's not a slam dunk for Collins, but he'll work his tail off and he made strides back there last year 4) Seby because he's old for his level, Polo because he doesn't have a real standout tool

    JB (Dallas): Where would you rank this farm system?

Josh Norris: In the Top 5 but not in the Top 3

    Weber (Hickory Hills, IL): If you could only keep one of them who would you want to keep? Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen or Dylan Cease

Josh Norris: On potential, I like Hansen best, but I like Dunning's likelihood to reach his ceiling more, if that makes sense.

    AA (FL): Please wax poetic about Eloy Jimenez.

Josh Norris: I already did, but I will again. Let's talk more about his batting practice this year. At Carolina, he pulled balls into the forest in right field over a Green Monster-type of wall, then put balls over the batting eye in center field, then put balls over the ribbon board to the opposite field. When he gets to Charlotte, look out, because he's going to knock out a window in one of the stadium's surrounding buildings.

    Peter C. (The southside): What seems to be the plan with Lincoln Henzman? He excelled in the bullpen, but may have started stuff.

Josh Norris: From what I know, yes, they plan on starting Henzman next year.

Josh Norris: That's all for today guys, thanks for the chat. Stay warm and happy new year.