2017 Chicago White Sox Top 10 Prospects

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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 | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Feb. 6, 1995. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Miami, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Jose Ortega.

Batting: 60.
Power: 60.
Speed: 30.
Defense: 45.
Arm: 50.
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.

White Sox (R) .091 .091 .091 11 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 7 0
Winston-Salem (HiA) .258 .418 .467 120 24 31 7 0 6 18 33 39 0

2. Zack Burdi, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: March 9, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Louisville, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Phil Gulley.

Background: Burdi comes from a family of exceptional arm strength. His oldest brother was a Division I quarterback, while his older brother Nick is a hard-throwing prospect in the Twins organization. Nick and Zack are thought to be the only pair of brothers to have thrown 100 mph.

Scouting Report: Burdi throws really, really hard. His top-of-the-scale fastball is mesmerizing, routinely checking in at 96-100 mph and touching 102. He throws from a lower three-quarters arm slot and works from the third-base side of the rubber, giving him elite deception and allowing him to generate late sinking action on his fastball and changeup, an offering that flashes plus potential. Burdi’s plus-plus slider has frisbee-like bend to it, with plus depth and excellent upper-80s velocity. He’s still ironing out some inconsistencies in his delivery. Burdi can leave his fastball up in the zone, and his slider can sometimes back up when he throws it to his arm side.

The Future: Burdi could quickly earn a spot in the White Sox bullpen, with a chance to develop into a contributor in 2017. He projects as a closer or set-up man.

AZL White Sox (R) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 .250
Winston-Salem (Hi A) 0 0 5.40 4 0 0 5 6 1 0 4 .316
Birmingham (AA) 0 0 3.94 12 0 0 16 7 2 9 24 .132
Charlotte (AAA) 1 0 2.25 9 0 1 16 0 0 11 22 .161

3. Carson Fulmer, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Dec. 13, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Phil Gulley.

Background: Fulmer was a three-year contributor at Vanderbilt, blossoming into the ace of the staff in 2015. He consistently dominated competition that spring. In his first full pro season, he struggled early but earned a month-long cameo in the White Sox bullpen.

Scouting Report: Fulmer’s long-term role remains undefined, but late-season adjustments may allow him to make it as a starter. His plus fastball sat at 92-93 mph and touched as high as 95 out of the big league bullpen. His above-average curveball showed more consistent top-to-bottom shape, but it lacked the power spin that it showed in college. Fulmer showed an improved, potentially above-average changeup in 2016, and he was able to throw it for strikes to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. He also throws an average short cutter. He struggled to control his pitches for most of the season. Fulmer toned down his exaggerated leg kick out front, keeping his lower leg back along with his knee and hip. This adjustment had him staying more balanced over the rubber and repeating his release point better.

The Future: Fulmer projects as a No. 3 starter if his late-season progress holds—and a late-inning reliever if it doesn’t. He’s likely ticketed to start 2017 at Triple-A Charlotte.

Birmingham (AA) 4 9 4.76 17 17 0 87 82 7 51 90 .248
Charlotte (AAA) 2 1 4.94 4 4 0 16 14 1 5 14 .233
White Sox (MLB) 0 2 8.49 8 0 0 11.2 12 2 7 10 .273

4. Spencer Adams, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: April 13, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 171. Drafted: HS—Cleveland, Ga., 2014 (2nd round). Signed by: Kevin Burrell.

Background: Adams was a standout prep multi-sport athlete who also starred as a basketball player. Ranked 23rd in the 2014 BA 500, he slid to the second round and the White Sox selected him with the 44th overall pick.

Scouting Report: Adams got his fastball up to 96 mph in high school and was seen as projectable, but his velocity has settled in at 88-93 as a pro. As Adams continues to add strength to his wide-shouldered, 6-foot-3 frame, the White Sox are hopeful that he can eventually pitch with the plus velocity he showed with longer rest as an amateur. He’s shown a heavy reliance on his above-average slider, which shows sharp, two-plane break and late bite. His slider was more consistent in 2016, though it’s break will sometimes get wide and long. Adams throws his average changeup with fastball arm speed and generates enough late tumbling action for the pitch to induce poor contact and ground balls. He is an excellent athlete and repeats his mechanics exceptionally well for a pitcher of his age.

The Future: Adams has the stuff and pitchability to comfortably project as a No. 4 starter, with the ceiling of a No. 3 if he can add a tick more velocity. He’s likely to start 2017 at Double-A Birmingham, where he will again be one of the youngest players at the level.

Winston-Salem (Hi A) 8 7 4.01 18 18 1 107.2 120 7 21 74 .275
Birmingham (AA) 2 5 3.90 9 9 0 55.1 59 2 10 26 .274

5. Alec Hansen, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Oct. 10, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 235. Drafted: Oklahoma, 2016 (2nd round). Signed by: Clay Overcash.

Background: Hansen was on the path to being a significant prospect out of high school, but he missed time with arm trouble during his senior year and slipped in the draft. At Oklahoma, Hansen entered his junior year as a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick, but he pitched poorly enough to lose spot in the weekend rotation for a spell.

Scouting Report: Hansen has exceptional size and arm strength. His fastball has reached 98 mph and regularly works at 91-95. He generates plus life on his fastball, which shows late finish as it enters the zone. Hansen throws a slider and a curveball, both of which flash plus potential but don’t consistently play as plus. His slider is a more usable weapon, with hard 10-to-4 snap and low- to mid-80s velocity, while his curveball shows longer 11-to-5 break. He has also flashed a plus changeup, though it typically plays closer to average. While Hansen’s stuff can all flash plus, he’ll need to continue making progress timing his delivery and repeating his mechanics because he has a tendency to rush off his back ankle.

The Future: Hansen likely will start 2017 at low Class A Kannapolis. He will have to significantly refine his delivery and command to reach his front-line starter ceiling.

AZL White Sox (R) 0 0 0.00 3 3 0 7 1 0 4 11 .048
Great Falls (R) 2 0 1.23 7 7 0 37 12 3 12 59 .102
Kannapolis (Lo A) 0 1 2.45 2 2 0 11 11 0 4 11 .262

6. Jordan Stephens, rhp

Born: Sept. 12, 1992. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Rice, 2015 (5th round). Signed by: Chris Walker.

Background: Stephens served as a rotation stalwart at Rice as a sophomore in 2013, then needed Tommy John surgery early in his junior year. He returned to form as a redshirt junior, and the White Sox selected him in the fifth round in 2015.

Scouting Report: Stephens has a compact arm action and hides the ball well. He stays balanced over the rubber and coils his front hip with some Asian-style hesitation and gather, giving him deception and allowing the ball to jump on hitters. He typically pitches with average fastball velocity at 91-93 mph, but his velocity will vary by dipping as low as 88 at worst and then running up to 95 on the high end. Stephens has fastball command to both sides of the plate, and he can purposefully elevate to locate his heater above hitters’ hands for chase swings. His upper-70s above-average curveball is his best offspeed pitch, consistently showing tight spin and deep three-quarters break. He throws a near-average slider in the low 80s that shows short, horizontal sweeping action and a below-average changeup that needs continued refinement.

The Future: Stephens will progress to Double-A Birmingham in 2017, where he’ll need to continue refining his control and make progress with his changeup. Some evaluators believe he could settle in as a No. 4 starter, while others see him as a quality two-pitch reliever.

Winston-Salem (Hi A) 7 10 3.45 27 27 0 141 129 12 48 155 .243

7. Trey Michalczewski, 3b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Feb. 27, 1995. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Jenks, Okla., 2013 (7th round). Signed by: Clay Overcash.

Background: Michalczewski wasn’t a regular on the amateur showcase circuit and didn’t have as much exposure to high level competition as some of his peers. He was still valued enough to receive an over-slot bonus of $500,000 as a seventh round pick in 2013. He tailed off in the second half of 2016, hitting .216/.301/.337 after the all-star break.

Scouting Report: Michalczewski looks the part, with a lean, athletic build that features a moderately high waist and wide shoulders. He has the footwork and above-average arm strength necessary to be an average defensive third baseman, though some evaluators see him profiling as a corner utility player. He has a loose swing with long levers and swooping motion that prevents his bat from staying in the zone for a long time, but that mechanism also allows him to loft the ball when he’s on time. He projects as a fringe-average hitter with average power potential. Upon his jump to Double-A Birmingham, he struggled to execute an approach, often selecting poor pitches to swing at and putting himself into negative counts. He has plus raw power from both sides of the plate, though he has yet to really tap into it.

The Future: Michalczewski will repeat Double-A in 2017, and he will still be one of the younger players at the level at age 22. He has a chance to develop into an average regular if he can improve his contact rate and continue to settle in defensively.

Birmingham (AA) .226 .314 .363 487 62 110 24 5 11 59 56 153 4

8. Jameson Fisher, of

Born: Dec. 18, 1993. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Southeastern Louisiana, 2016 (4th round). Signed by: Warren Hughes.

Background: Fisher has long intrigued scouts with his impressive offensive upside. He was a third-team All-American catcher in 2012 after batting .554 as a high school senior. He caught for most of his amateur career, but a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2015, and upon his return he played mostly first base as a redshirt junior in 2016. He finished the season with the second highest batting average in Division I baseball (.424) and led all of D-I with a .558 on-base percentage. He finished in the top 10 in the Pioneer League with his .342 average in his pro debut.

Scouting Report: Fisher’s best tool is his natural hitting ability. He projects to be a plus hitter with a knack for putting barrel on ball and hitting hard line drives. In his pro debut, Fisher showed the ability to drive the ball from foul pole to foul pole. He has a loose, athletic swing and mature strike-zone awareness. Fisher’s arm strength has recovered and is near average, and he’s an average runner and a graceful athlete. He doesn’t have a firm defensive home at present, but the White Sox have tried him at third base and in the outfield, and he has a chance to develop into an adequate defensive player whose offense carries him.

The Future: Fisher will advance to low Class A in Kannapolis as he continues to adjust to the pro game and gains repetitions against quality competition.

Great Falls (R) .342 .436 .487 187 39 64 13 1 4 25 27 43 13

9. Alex Call, of

Born: Sept. 27, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Ball State, 2016 (3rd round). Signed by: Garrett Guest.

Background: Call was a three-year starter at Ball State and began to blossom as a junior in 2016 as he grew into his man strength. He smacked 13 home runs and posted an isolated slugging percentage over .300 in his draft year.

Scouting Report: While Call doesn’t have a bona fide plus tool, he doesn’t have any minuses either, and he is universally praised for his work ethic and baseball instincts. He has above-average arm strength and he’s an above-average runner, giving him the tools to play any outfield spot, though he doesn’t project to be an everyday center fielder. Call has a fluid swing, with loose wrists that allow him to cover the plate well. He has a deep back-elbow swoop that can sometimes prevent him from generating tight backspin, and he cuts up on the ball, but he consistently makes solid contact and has always hit for a high average on balls in play. He has hit everywhere he’s gone and projects as an average hitter, though his power production (he has near-average power potential) is a newer development.

The Future: Call is likely to start 2017 back at low Class A Kannapolis. His polished skill set could allow him to move quickly, but if his offensive production continues to work at the highest level, his bat could separate him.

Great Falls (R) .308 .444 .439 107 19 33 3 1 3 17 19 18 4
Kannapolis (Lo A) .308 .361 .449 185 23 57 17 0 3 18 15 40 10

10. Jake Peter, 2b/of

Born: April 5, 1993. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Creighton, 2014 (7th round). Signed by: J.J. Lally.

Background: Peter was a two-way prospect at Creighton, serving as the closer for part of his sophomore year. A seventh-round pick in 2014, Peter has emerged as the organization’s top position prospect from that draft class. Advancing to Double-A Birmingham in 2016, he held his own and earned a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte. Now he’s knocking on the door of the big leagues.

Scouting Report: None of Peter’s tools is exceptional, but he has excellent defensive value with a good internal clock, fielding instincts and arm strength that plays as above-average or plus at second base or on the outfield corners. Peter’s range isn’t quite good enough for him to profile as a shortstop, but he could fill in at the position. He has a fluid, contact-oriented swing, and he has consistently put the ball in play as he climbs the ladder. Peter has doubles power and can hit the ball where it’s pitched. He has below-average power and can be overmatched against elite velocity, but he makes up for his lack of explosiveness with quality strike zone awareness and solid pitch recognition. Peter has below-average speed.

The Future: Peter figures to return to Triple-A to start the 2017 season, though he could certainly earn time as a utility player with the major league team.

Birmingham (AA) .304 .378 .407 253 27 77 14 0 4 29 31 52 5
Charlotte (AAA) .259 .317 .342 228 30 59 13 0 2 24 17 44 3

Last Year’s White Sox Top 10 Prospects

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