2021 Chicago White Sox Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
The White Sox’s farm system is on the fallow side right now, but for all the right reasons. The team is bursting with the recent fruits of its minor leagues, including Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, Garrett Crochet and Andrew Vaughn. That group hasn’t been healthy all at once often, but each has contributed to the team’s run of success in the American League Central.
The team enters the deadline atop the division and is looking to buy the final pieces it hopes will vault it to the American League pennant. To do so, it’ll have to be creative with a farm system headed by two of its most recent draft picks, a pair of its most recent Cuban signees (including its representative in the 2021 Futures Game) and a pair of corner infielders whose stock has risen over the past year.
That last duo includes former first-rounder Jake Burger, whose rise to the big leagues after two torn Achilles tendons—among other injuries—stands among the most remarkable stories in all the minor leagues.
At the deadline, Chicago added parts for its playoff run. Twice they dealt with their crosstown rival cubs. First, sending lefty Bailey Horn for reliever Ryan Tepera, then acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel for controllable big leaguers Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer. They also added second baseman Cesar Hernandez from Cleveland for lefty Konnor Pilkington.
The White Sox have been on the rise over the past few seasons. Now, it’s time to see if they can take the next step and get back to the World Series for the first time since 2005.
Top 10 Prospects
1. Colson Montgomery, SS
Age: 19. Team: N/A
NEW Montgomery was the White Sox’s first-round pick in the 2021 draft, out of high school in Indiana. He drew raves for a smooth lefthanded swing which scouts believe one day could produce an average hit tool and plus power. Athleticism and quick reaction time make up for a lack of pure foot speed. He’ll be given every chance to stick at shortstop but has the arm to play third base if necessary.
2. Yoelqui Cespedes, OF
Age: 23. Team: High-A Winston-Salem
Cespedes follows stars like Jose Abreu and Luis Robert and fellow prospects Bryan Ramos, Yolbert Sanchez and Norge Vera in the line of Cubans in the White Sox’s system. He’s older than most first-year pros and had his start delayed by a visa issue, but still made it in time to be one of the team’s representatives at this year’s Futures Game. There have been some issues with swing and miss, but the organization believes those will come down as he kicks off the rust from the time away from the game. He has a chance to stick in center field.
3. Wes Kath, 3B
Age: 19. Team: N/A
NEW Kath was the White Sox’s second-round pick in the 2021 draft, and like their first-round pick, Colson Montgomery, could fit on the left side of the diamond in a few years. His swing has a flat plane which could help him produce at least an average hit tool as he moves up the ladder. The gap-to-gap doubles power he shows now could mature into plus pop as his body and game develop. His plus arm should allow him to stick at third base.
4. Norge Vera, RHP
Age: 21. Team: N/A
Vera was signed out of Cuba in late February but had the start to his season in the Dominican Summer League delayed by a minor injury. When he gets on the mound, he’s likely to show why the White Sox spent $1.5 million to sign him. He’s peaked at 98 mph in side sessions, and the White Sox have been encouraged by his clean delivery and athletic frame.
5. Andrew Dalquist, RHP
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Kannapolis
The White Sox’s trio of high-upside pitching prospects at Low-A Kannapolis has not performed as expected. Of that group, Dalquist, at least, has not spent time on the injured list. His fastball has bumped into the mid 90s lately as well, a positive sign for a pitcher who needs to gain strength to maintain that velocity and help him repeat his delivery. His command has not been good this year and needs to come forth if he is to achieve his ceiling.
6. Jared Kelley, RHP
Age: 19. Team: Low-A Kannapolis
The White Sox’s second-round pick in 2020 had thrown just 15.2 innings this season through July 28 because of tightness in his forearm which shelved him for about five weeks. His fastball is still in the mid 90s with flecks of 98-99 mph, and his slider has made significant strides since its amateur incarnation. His changeup, which was his best pitch in high school, has been inconsistent as a pro. Kelley will also need to work hard to keep himself in shape.
7. Matthew Thompson, RHP
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Kannapolis
The third of the system’s group of high school righthanders, Thompson missed about a month with a strained hip flexor. When healthy, Thompson shows flashes of the pitcher the White Sox coveted in the draft. Other times, he struggles to repeat his delivery and misses his target by large amounts. The White Sox still believe in Thompson’s stuff, but are now searching for ways to help him achieve consistency. Part of that quest may involve streamlining his delivery.
8. Gavin Sheets, 1B
Age: 25. Team: White Sox
What a difference a bit of athleticism can make. Sheets used not being invited to the team’s alternate training site in 2020 as motivation to work his tail off and prove himself once he was back in front of team officials. The result was a player who could capably play the outfield in addition to first base, which opened up an avenue for him to make his big league debut. He’s shown some of his signature pop when he’s gotten to play, and could settle into a role as a lightning-in-a-bottle type off the bench.
9. Jake Burger, 3B
Age: 25. Team: Triple-A Charlotte
When the White Sox drafted Burger in the first round in 2017, team officials raved about his makeup. He needed every bit of it to overcome a pair of torn Achilles tendons that cost him the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He got back on the field in indy ball after the minor league season was canceled in 2020, then impressed the team enough to earn a spot at Triple-A to open 2021. He was among the team’s best hitters in the early going, then earned a trip to Chicago for his major league debut. He’s likely a backup infielder who can provide offense in a pinch at either infield corner.
10. Jose Rodriguez, SS
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Kannpolis
On a team that largely underperformed in the first half of the season, Rodriguez stuck out. Rodriguez was a part of the White Sox’s 2018 international class, and this year has shown the chops to stick at shortstop—albeit with some areas to clean up—and bat-to-ball skills to fit in at the top or bottom of a lineup.
11. Sean Burke, RHP
NEW Drafted in the third round out of Maryland in 2021, Burke is a tall, athletic righthander who also played basketball in high school. He had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and only pitched 22.2 innings during the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign. This season, Burke showed a low-90s fastball that peaked at 98 mph with excellent metrics when utilized up in the zone. He complements the fastball with a downer curveball in the mid 70s, a mid-80s slider and a fourth-pitch changeup.
12. Jimmy Lambert, RHP
13. Jonathan Stiever, RHP
14. Bryan Ramos, 3B
15. Yolbert Sanchez, 2B
16. Lenyn Sosa, SS
NEW Sosa was signed out of Venezuela in 2017 and has slowly shown improvement as he’s moved up the ladder. Scouts see a player who can stick at shortstop despite average range. He makes up for it with quick hands and an excellent internal clock. His offensive skills are contact-oriented and best suited for the bottom of a lineup.
17. Romy Gonzalez, SS
NEW Gonzalez has been one of the system’s bright spots in 2021. He began trying shortstop during the 2019 instructional league, but then didn’t get to take it into games because of the canceled 2020 minor league season. External scouts see a potentially average shortstop with big-time bat speed generated with strong hands. His 15 homers through July 28 were tied for the second most in the system.
18. Micker Adolfo, OF
19. Luis Gonzalez, OF
20. Blake Rutherford, OF
21. Jason Bilous, RHP
NEW The White Sox’s 13th-rounder in 2018 out of Coastal Carolina, Bilous has been one of the team’s better performers in 2021. He’s been affected by a blister intermittently, but at his best shows a fastball that averages around 93 mph. He pairs it with a potentially plus slider, average curveball and fringy changeup.
22. Tanner McDougal, RHP
NEW McDougal, the White Sox’s fifth-rounder in the 2021 draft, is a tall, projectable righthander out of high school in Arizona. The White Sox paid him $850,000—two and a half times the recommended slot value—to break his commitment to Oregon. He boasts a loose arm which has already generated a fastball that’s touched 96 mph, and a slider evaluators project to be plus. He still needs to develop feel for both his changeup and overall control of his arsenal.
23. Cristian Mena, RHP
NEW Mena was signed out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2019 international class and subsequently had his first crack at a pro debut scuttled by the pandemic. He skipped over the Dominican Summer League to debut stateside this year and has intermittently impressed evaluators with a solid frame, low-90s fastball and feel to spin the ball. He tends to get a little cross-body in his delivery, which affects his consistency, but the White Sox are intrigued by what they’ve seen.
24. McKinley Moore, RHP
NEW Moore is an arm-strength guy all the way, and he can ramp his fastball up to 99 mph. He was the White Sox’s 14th-rounder out of Arkansas-Little Rock in 2019 and dominated at Low-A Kannapolis before a promotion to High-A. He needs to polish his control and command to get the best out of his stuff.
25. Jefferson Mendoza, C
NEW Signed out of Venezuela in 2017, Mendoza was lauded as an amateur for a polished blend of skills behind the plate and the potential for average power as he grew and developed. The time off during the pandemic shutdown hurt, but Mendoza has started strong in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
26. Wilber Sanchez, SS
NEW Signed out of Venezuela in 2019, Sanchez got a taste of pro ball in 2019 in the Dominican Summer League and has started out well in his first test in the states. Evaluators internally speak highly of his bat-to-ball skills and ability to stick at shortstop in the long run.
27. Misael Gonzalez, OF
NEW Gonzalez was the White Sox’s 12th-rounder in 2019, out of high school in Puerto Rico. Internal evaluators praise his athleticism and budding power, as well as his chances to stick in center field. Externally, scouts peg Gonzalez among the best of Chicago’s group in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League.
28. Luke Shilling, RHP
NEW Shilling was one of the more intriguing arms in the White Sox's system this season, boasting a fastball up to 98 mph with a pair of swing-and-miss breaking balls. He tore his ulnar collateral ligament, however, and is out for the season.
29. Zack Burdi, RHP
NEW Burdi has long teased with his potential, but injuries have derailed his progress. He made his big league debut in 2020 and reached the big leagues again in 2021. He’s still averaging 97 mph with his fastball and shows flashes of an above-average slider, but he needs to work on staying within himself and not trying to overdo it on every pitch.
30. Caleb Freeman, RHP
NEW Touted as having some of the best stuff in the system among relievers, Freeman worked on sharpening his control and command before a recent bump to Double-A. He works with a 93-97 mph fastball with excellent vertical break, and has plenty of feel to spin a mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball.
Colson Montgomery Is Ready To Put In The Work
Chicago's first-round pick knows he has to work to remain athletic and precise to stay at shortstop. There are fewer questions about the former three-sport star's bat.
SS Jose Rodriguez stuck out early as a bright spot on a Low-A Kannapolis club which opened the season with a dreadful stretch of games. Rodriguez is a surefire shortstop, albeit with some remaining polish to apply on his throws, and has the offensive skills to hit toward the top of a lineup.
Infielder Romy Gonzalez has moved around the diamond a lot during his career, including time in the outfield and at DH at Miami before bouncing around the infield in the Cape Cod League. The White Sox like the way he’s taken to shortstop in 2021. If he can stay at the position, he’ll provide an intriguing middle-diamond prospect with plenty of power at the plate.
Simply getting back on the field after a pair of torn Achilles tendons has made 3B Jake Burger one of the best stories of the year in the minor leagues. That he was selected to the Futures Game and made his big league debut puts a whole jar of cherries on top.
OF Benyamin Bailey ranked No. 24 on the White Sox’s list entering the season, but he proved nowhere near ready for Low-A. That was especially true on defense, but he was overmatched at the plate as well. He worked to a .421 OPS at Kannapolis before being sent back to Arizona.
OF Blake Rutherford simply has not put it together at the plate the way the White Sox hoped he would when they acquired him from the Yankees in 2017. Not only has Rutherford, 24, failed to show the power requisite for a corner outfield spot, but he hasn’t provided much in terms of average or on-base percentage, either.
OF Luis Gonzalez is injured now and got a couple of cameos in the big leagues, but he’s struggled mightily at the plate with Triple-A Charlotte. His overall numbers have been boosted by playing at one of the sport’s most hitter-friendly parks, where he has produced a .960 OPS. Away from home, however, his OPS is just .556.
After sitting out the 2020 season because of concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic, RHP Michael Kopech has been excellent this season in a mostly relief role designed to ease his innings count after not pitching at all between 2019-2020. Through July 28, the righthander, acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal, had whiffed 56 in 40.1 innings.
The White Sox were aggressive with 2019 first-round pick 1B Andrew Vaughn, who jumped to the majors without spending a day above High-A. So far, they’ve been rewarded with slow, steady progress that’s resulted in 11 home runs through Vaughn’s first half-season in the big leagues.
An injury stopped 2B Nick Madrigal from graduating in 2020, and another injury—this time a torn right hamstring which required surgery—brought his 2021 season to a halt. When healthy, he showed the same blend of contact skills which carried him through the minors.
LHP Garrett Crochet hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was in 2020, but he’s settled in as an effective setup man who can blow guys away with his high-octane arsenal. He still needs to polish his command and control, however.
Righthanded relievers Codi Heuer and Matt Foster have come back to earth after excellent turns out of the White Sox’s bullpen in 2020, and catcher Zack Collins put his name in the history books by catching lefty Carlos Rodon’s no-hitter.
RHP Luke Shilling, who was released in 2020 but re-signed in 2021, had shown a promising jump in stuff but sustained a torn elbow in July and is out for the season. If he is to be retained, the White Sox will have to re-sign him once more as a minor league free agent this offseason.
OF Luis Gonzalez is dealing with an injury to the labrum on his right shoulder. The White Sox are currently evaluating the injury and trying to figure out a plan for the next steps.