Chicago White Sox 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat
Following today's release of our new White Sox Top 10, Bill Mitchell answered your questions below.
Bill Mitchell: Good afternoon, White Sox fans. This is my first year doing their organization prospect list, and it's been fun getting to know more about players that I've seen in spring training and on the backfields over the years. Before we start, I'll remind you to go to the Baseball America Store to pre-order your Prospect Handbook. It's certainly a worthwhile purchase and you will get to go 40 deep on all 30 organizations.
- Where should we be at on Black Rutherford at this point? Are there any signs pointing to him being a productive big leaguer?
Bill Mitchell: Blake Rutherford is still on the White Sox top 30, but he'll turn 25 in May and needs to start showing more power. He's limited to the corners (and more likely to LF) so he's got to be driving more balls in the air. He takes inconsistent at-bats and tries to do too much, with the need to better utilize his lower half and create a better bat path. His ceiling is more of a 4th or 5th outfielder now, but he's got a chance to earn a big league spot. It just needs to start happening soon.
- Not a prospect anymore, but what are your thoughts on Andrew Vaughn's season? Did the White Sox shuffling him around on defense play a role in his underwhelming offensive output?
Bill Mitchell: Travis, we should remain patient but also optimistic with Vaughn. The shuffling of positions was a challenge for him, but also keep in mind that he didn't have even a full season of minor league ball under his belt before he made the opening day roster. Even with that, his contact rate was acceptable and he took a fair number of walks. He'll be fine. Expect better results in 2022.
- Going deep down the list, BA called Dario Borrero a new international with breakout potential at the start of 2021. He barely featured this summer in the DSL. Any hot takes from scouts on his prospect status?
Bill Mitchell: Norm, there's not a lot of info on Borrero yet since he barely played in the DSL after signing with the White Sox at age 17. He's listed at 6'5", 190, but I'm hearing he's already up to 6'6" with a frame that can fill out. In his limited time with the White Sox, he shows a mature approach at the plate with some ability to hit. He can play both corner outfield positions and first base. The size and left-handed bat is already reminding me of Luis Mieses. Borrero just turned 18 so I'm guessing that he'll be in Arizona for rookie ball next summer. We'll know more about him after he gets to the states.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Dipping down to the lower levels in the system, of the AZL White Sox pitchers moving up to Kannapolis or Winston-Salem in 2022 who are some standouts in your opinion?
Bill Mitchell: Karl, thanks for the question. The name to follow next year is Cristian Mena, who made his pro debut in the Arizona League this past summer. He showed a fastball averaging 92 mph and touching 95, with a frame that can certainly add strength. The curveball projects as an above-average pitch and the changeup will be more effective when he lowers the velocity on it. He may start out the year in extended spring training to manage his innings, but I believe he'll make it to Kannapolis at some point in 2022.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Just focusing on the AZL and low A Kannapolis can you give us the names of a few sleeper position players?
Bill Mitchell: The potential rising position player outside the org top ten is Bryan Ramos, who spent the season at Kannaspolis at the age of 19. Despite a nagging injury for part of the season, Ramos had a nice season at the plate and played multiple infield positions. With his strength and bat speed he projects to have above-average power, enough for third base which is his best position. One of my favorite guys to watch in the Arizona League before he was promoted to Kannapolis was shortstop Wilber Sanchez. He's an above-average defender and has plus speed, but he needs to add strength to go with his bat-to-ball skills. You'll be able to read about both of those young players in the Prospect Handbook.
KB (New York):
- In your opinion, what position does Colson Montgomery play long term for Chicago? With his athletic ability is corner outfield a good fit?
Bill Mitchell: KB, Montgomery has the skills and athleticism to stay at shortstop long-term even as the body matures and he adds strength. Any move off shortstop would be predicated by organization need, so it's way too soon to think about where else he'd wind up. But with his athleticism there's no reason to think he couldn't handle other positions.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- He is an older guy who has been around awhile, but Zach Muckenhirn seems to have had an impressive season pitching in AA - what does the future hold for him?
Bill Mitchell: Zach Muckenhirn was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 11th round in 2016 from North Dakota, that school's last year with a baseball program. The White Sox signed him in 2021 and he put up very good numbers in Double-A, although he was already 26. It's an organizational depth arm with a chance to be an up/down lefty reliever, but that's it since the velocity is below-average. The pitching metrics are good which will keep him employed for a while.
- I'm assuming Benyamin Bailey was nowehere near the top 10, but the Sox must have seen something they liked to push him to A ball after struggling in the complex. What are you hearing about Bailey?
Bill Mitchell: Fred, Bailey's placement in Low-A to start 2021 was aggressive and he wound up back in the Arizona League for the summer. There isn't the buzz on him that he had coming off his 2019 DSL season. He just hasn't shown that he can or will hit.
- Where does Romy Gonzalez rank and what's his future outlook?
Bill Mitchell: Kelly, thank you for asking about Romy Gonzalez. He was one of the biggest surprises in the White Sox organization this past year. When you get your Prospect Handbook, you will see that the former Miami product will be ranked in the 11-20 range, despite the fact that at 25 he's already past the normal age for a prospect. Call him THE late bloomer in the organization. After starting to play shortstop in 2019 instructional league, he really took to the position well after a year off, projecting as an average defender. At the plate, he's got above-average power and controls the zone. Gonzalez will have a major league role, especially considering his experience in both infield and outfield and for how hard he plays. He's a grinder who may be able to get playing time as a super utility guy. I'm all in on Gonzalez.
- Hey there, Who do you see as having the highest ceiling outside the top ten, bat and arm? Thanks
Bill Mitchell: Hi Gary, I already talked about Bryan Ramos in a previous question. He's got the highest ceiling outside the top ten among hitters. The fastest rising pitcher is Jason Bilous, a four-pitch power arm who was recently added to the 40-man roster. He should reach his ceiling of a 4th starter as he improves his control and gets more consistency in his delivery.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- I always enjoy the exercise of putting up the future 2025 line ups for teams. I see you have Reynaldo Lopez as the future #5 SP. That kind of surprises me. Does that say more about him being that good or the younger SP prospects not being that good? Just curious as to your feelings about future White Sox SP? Thanks.
Bill Mitchell: Ken, I originally put Andrew Dalquist into that #5 starter slot but then decided to go with the more experienced Lopez. There are still too many questions about the young White Sox pitching prospects. A strong season showing development from Dalquist in 2022 will help his stock for when we are projecting the 2026 lineups.
- Thanks for taking the time to answer questions - Favorite under the radar prospect for the sox?
Bill Mitchell: Collin, here's a name for you. Adam Hackenberg. He was picked in the 18th round in 2021 after a so-so career at Clemson, and he already ranks as the best defensive catcher in the system, also showing potential at the plate and more power in his short stint with Kannapolis. Hackenberg was a bigger deal coming out of high school (a possible top five round pick), but struggled with injuries during his three years in college.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- Thanks for this chat and your time. Romy Gonzalez is listed as the best power hitter and had some MLB at bats in 2021. But he's not even in the Top 10. What do we make of him going forward? Some type of part time player at best?
Bill Mitchell: Ken, I talked about Gonzalez a few questions ago, but I'll repeat that I see him having a major league career in a utility role, getting plenty of playing time because of his experience all around the infield and outfield. That type of player, especially if the hit tool and power play in the big leagues, has a lot of value.
Nick (Castro Valley, CA):
- If I recall Jared Kelly was seen as having above average command out of the draft, now the command grade is a 30. Similarly, I believe the changeup was seen as a potential plus pitch out of the draft, and now its “a bit firm at 85-87 mph” Sounds like both the command and changeup took a step back in his first year of pro ball?
Bill Mitchell: Nick, we need to be patient with the three young pitchers that were picked by the White Sox early in the 2019 and 2020 drafts. Prior to this past season, they all had limited pro experience since high school, and were affected by not having regular season games in the pandemic year. Kelley's off-season goal is to get at it in the weight room this off-season, with the expectations that a firmer body will help the control and command of his pitches. We are still projecting the changeup to be an above-average pitch with the refinements needed. In looking at his pre-draft report, the changeup then was in the low-80s, so he's obviously made it a harder pitch since then. A necessary adjustment.
- Is there any hope for James Beard to hit enough to be a major leaguer?
Bill Mitchell: Adam, thanks for the question. I'm not giving up on Beard yet but there's not much optimism that the hit tool will develop enough to get close to the big leagues. He's a 70 runner and a 70 defender, which will buy him plenty of time to figure it out. He showed some progress in instructional league, but needs to learn what kind of hitter he can be, get an approach that allows him to cover the outer half of the plate, and to better use his body in his swing instead of his arms.
Warren (New London):
- The description of Colson Montgomery reminds me a great deal of Scott Rolen, who was a high school basketball star in the same town that Montgomery was born in. Their first minor league seasons are also quite similar, though Rolen was a year younger and hit righthanded. Do you think Montgomery will be able to stay at shortstop, and if not do you think second base (where you have him in 2025) is as good a spot for him as third base?
Bill Mitchell: Warren, I mentioned in my response to an earlier question that Montgomery should be able to stay at shortstop but that he will have the athleticism and baseball instincts to handle other positions. Second base would certainly be a possibility. We slotted him in at the keystone just because Tim Anderson will still likely be the White Sox shortstop in three years and it was a good way to get Montgomery into the 2025 lineup.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- Is Cespedes a possible average or even better than average MLB OF? Or are the White Sox lacking in quality OF prospects at this point of time? Seems like the 2022 season could be an important year for Cespedes in determining his abilities going forward.
Bill Mitchell: I believe that an average MLB outfielder is a good ceiling for Cespedes, but there's still much we don't know about him. I talked to a lot of scouts and other baseball observers about Cespedes, with a wide range of opinions on his future. Consider that he was coming off nearly two years of not having played official games before his White Sox career got underway. As I said in his report, the White Sox have a good track record in developing Cuban hitters, so give him time before we finalize that projection. But you are right about there not being a lot of outfield depth in the system.
- He’s not in this system yet, but where will Oscar Colas fit in this Top 10, assuming he does sign with the White Sox next month?
Bill Mitchell: Oscar Colas! I've seen him described on some sites as the Cuban Ohtani since he was both an outfielder and a pitcher earlier in his career in Cuba. I wouldn't get too excited about him being the second coming of Shohei, since he'll be signed as an outfield prospect early next year. He's already 23 and has a track record of success as a hitter in the time he spent playing in Japan. He hasn't played in official games since 2019, so there's going to be some mystery around him until he arrives stateside sometime next year. Considering his age and track record, I'd be safe in slotting him into the White Sox top five but I don't yet know how he'd stack up with the rest of that 1-5 group. I've been on record stating that my number one priority next spring is to see Norge Vera on the mound, but a close second would be to getting eyes on Colas if he makes it in time for spring training.
KB (New York):
- Bill, thanks for answering the question Warren asked in depth about Colson Montgomery. I think many of us were wondering where he would be playing given Anderson likely will still be at shortstop and this might slow his ETA to the majors.
Bill Mitchell: KB, thanks for checking back in. Regardless of Anderson's status by 2025, if Montgomery is ready to fill a big league role the White Sox will likely find a place for him. But he hasn't yet played above rookie ball, so pump the brakes on the enthusiasm for now. He's a very good prospect (obviously, since we ranked him #1), but he has a lot of development ahead of him.
Bill Mitchell: That's it for today. Thanks for all of the great questions on the White Sox system. Be sure to pre-order your Prospect Handbook to be able to read all of the reports, and more. If you have further questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Happy Holidays to all!