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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Zack Collins, c|
|2. Zack Burdi, rhp|
|3. Carson Fulmer, rhp|
|4. Spencer Adams, rhp|
|5. Alec Hansen, rhp|
|6. Jordan Stephens, rhp|
|7. Trey Michalczewski,
|8. Jameson Fisher, of|
|9. Alex Call, of|
|10. Jake Peter, 2b/of|
The White Sox entered 2016 with some optimism. They were returning a veteran pitching staff with an excellent 1-2 punch of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. They acquired slugging third baseman Todd Frazier and brought in veterans such as catcher Alex Avila and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. They expected contributions from young cornerstone players like Carlos Rodon and Adam Eaton.
In the beginning of the season, that optimism seemed plausible. Chicago got off to a 24-12 start and appeared to be a contender in the American League Central. But things soured quickly, with a harsh slump in late May.
The team bought low on righthander James Shields in early June, but Shields' struggles only worsened when he got to Chicago. The White Sox got little production from Avila, Rollins or Austin Jackson, and before long they had settled into mediocrity. As postseason aspirations slipped away, the clubhouse atmosphere deteriorated, culminating in a bizarre incident when ace Chris Sale cut up his uniform in protest of a throwback jersey that made him uncomfortable.
Ultimately, the White Sox had a run-of-the-mill rotation, with the back end failing to produce reliable results to support Sale and Quintana. Chicago's offense produced home run power, with Frazier smashing 40 home runs, but the team got on base at a below-average rate and failed to capitalize on many of those home runs.
On the bright side, the White Sox got solid production from shortstop and No. 1 prospect Tim Anderson, who reached the majors and hit .283/.306/.432 in 99 games. He will still need to improve his approach at the plate to get on base more often, but he had a productive rookie season and appears to factor significantly in the organization's future.
Rodon was inconsistent, but he was also brilliant in flashes and closed out the season with double-digit strikeouts in back-to-back starts.
The farm system got a much-needed face lift in June, when the White Sox drafted catcher Zack Collins and righthander Zack Burdi in the first round. Both are likely to advance through the system quickly and could impact the major league roster sooner rather than later.
Going forward, Chicago faces significant obstacles. The White Sox have not made the playoffs since 2008 and have finished 16 or more games out of first in five of the last six seasons. They have a farm system that lacks depth and few young, cost-controlled players at the big league level. It's hard to spell out a path to near-term success competing in a division that has had four of the past five AL pennant winners.
The White Sox could be better positioned to compete if Collins and Burdi live up to expectations, and one of their starting-pitcher prospects proves able to start in Chicago soon. But the organization may be able to position itself better for the future by trading away big league talent, rebuilding the farm system and planning for long-term value.
1. Zack Collins, c |
Born: Feb. 6, 1995. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Miami, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Jose Ortega.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Collins was well-known as an amateur. A prolific high school hitter, he played for USA Baseball throughout his prep days and had significant draft interest as a high school senior. He slid to the late rounds of the draft, however, due to his Miami commitment and doubts about his ability to remain behind the plate. When Collins made it to campus, he had an immediate impact offensively. He was the 2014 college Freshman of the Year after batting .298 and swatting 11 home runs in a down year for offense in college baseball. His hot hitting never cooled off. In his draft year, Collins batted .363/.544/.668 and drew 78 walks, the most of any Division I player since Anthony Rendon walked 80 times in 2011. Collins focused on improving as a receiver as his junior year approached, encouraging the White Sox enough to make him the 10th overall pick in 2016. Collins had a solid pro debut at high Class A Winston-Salem, putting himself on the fast track to Chicago.
Scouting Report: While Collins' calling card will always be his offense, his defensive progress was exceptional in his junior year, and he particularly encouraged evaluators with his soft hands. He shows the ability to set a low target and keep his glove hand still, and he's shown the aptitude to understand umpires' strike zones and adjust his framing technique in response. Collins has shown the ability to get underneath the ball down and far to his glove side as well as the ability to get his thumb under the ball when he has to extend his glove across his body for pitches towards the righthanded batter's box. His footwork is what holds him back from being an average defender. Collins has a thick, muscle-filled lower half and isn't nimble. His extra-large frame allows him to stay in front of the ball well, even if he can't make acrobatic scoops when pitchers miss their spots. Collins has an average arm with solid accuracy. Regardless of what kind of defensive player he ends up being, Collins' offense will play. He has a rare combination of strength and bat speed, giving him plus power. In his pro debut, he showed the ability to drive the ball out to left-center field or turn on mistake pitches on the inner half, though he will occasionally collapse on his back side early and roll over high fastballs. Collins has a patient approach at the plate, with elite strike-zone awareness and an uncanny idea of which pitches he can do damage with. He has a rhythmic swing, with a bat tip forward as he loads his hands. Collins' wrist movement gives his bat path extra length, but he's on time more often than not.
The Future: As with any first-year professional, Collins has yet to be consistently challenged by pitchers who boast both command and stuff, so his performance in 2017 will be telling of his ultimate offensive ceiling. He will look to continue refining his defense as he progresses to the upper minors. He likely will advance to Double-A Birmingham in 2017, and could be on the fast track to the majors as the team's needed answer at catcher.
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