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After acquiring Eloy Jimenez from the Cubs, the farm system is still just as strong this year.
The top of the system is among the best in the game, with outfielder Eloy Jimenez, righthander Michael Kopech and Cuban import Luis Robert each having extremely high ceilings. The rest of their Top 10 is very talented as well, and could be further improved with strong first full seasons for their top picks from the 2017 draft, third baseman Jake Burger and first baseman Gavin Sheets.
Once you get past the top 15 prospects, the list drops off quickly into players with more marginal futures. Those same players, however, could significantly raise their stock with rebounds from injuries or tough seasons. Outfielders Luis Alexander Basabe and Alex Call, for example, battled injuries for most of the season and could rise on next year’s version of the list with strong 2018 seasons.
Notable Graduations: 2B Yoan Moncada (1), RHP Lucas Giolito (2), RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3) and C Omar Narvaez (30).
Track Record: The Cubs signed two of the best prospects in the 2013 international class in Jimenez and shortstop Gleyber Torres. Four years later, both have been traded away. The Cubs dealt Torres to the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline for closer Aroldis Chapman. Jimenez, who signed for $2.8 million, was sent to the White Sox in 2017 as the grand prize in a four-player package (which also included righthander Dylan Cease) for lefthander Jose Quintana. Jimenez showed standout tools at every stop with the Cubs, played in two consecutive Futures Games and went viral on Twitter in 2017 with a home run in the high Class A Carolina League home run derby that blasted a light tower in left field, a la Roy Hobbs in "The Natural". As far as games that counted, Jimenez missed time with shoulder and hamstring injuries at high Class A Myrtle Beach but returned to star form after his mid-July trade to the White Sox. Scouting Report: Scouts who saw Jimenez last season used words like "man-child," "mutant" and "Superman." More specifically, Jimenez is an intimidating, strong-bodied prospect with a whip-quick bat capable of massive home runs. More than his raw power, which approaches the top of the scale, he is a diligent, dedicated worker. One manager recalled seeing Jimenez strike out multiple times during a game, then saw him on the field early the next day for tracking drills. Rival managers lamented not being able to find many holes in his swing, even when they pitched him backwards. And here's the scary part: Jimenez might not be done developing physically. He played all of 2017 at 20 years old and still has room to sculpt his body and add more strength, possibly becoming a perennial 40-home run threat. Jimenez has spent his career flipping back and forth between right and left field, with left his likely eventual home because of his below-average arm. He's also a tick below-average runner. Defense and speed were never expected to be selling points of his game, however. Jimenez is a hitter, period, with a mix of power and ability to get to it to change a game. The Future: Jimenez will likely begin 2018 back at Double-A Birmingham. With a rare mix of plus hitting ability, massive power potential and the work ethic to make it all click, Jimenez projects as foundational, middle-of-the-order hitter for the White Sox.
Track Record: Kopech has long reigned as one of the hardest-throwing starters in the minors, and the White Sox acquired him as part of the trade for Chris Sale at the 2016 Winter Meetings. Kopech had a couple of incidents mar his development--a 50-game suspension for amphetamines and a broken hand sustained in a fight with a teammate--but he's still become an elite prospect. Scouting Report: Kopech's calling card is his top-of-the-scale fastball, which sits in the upper 90s and regularly touches 100 mph with armside run and downhill plane. It's an elite pitch, but he overthrows it at times. The White Sox asked Kopech to add a two-seam fastball to induce more grounders and help teach him not to overthrow. He boasts a slider that projects as a future plus pitch, as well as an average low-90s changeup the White Sox encouraged him to throw more. Kopech still needs to iron out his delivery in order to improve his below-average command and control. The Future: Kopech likely will begin 2018 at Triple-A Charlotte, where he finished 2017, with a good shot to make his big league debut during the year. If he can tame his arsenal, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Track Record: Considered a candidate to go first overall in the 2016 draft, Hansen had a disastrous junior season at Oklahoma and got bumped from the rotation as well as the first round. The White Sox snatched him up in the second round and signed him for $1.2 million. Chicago started Hansen in Rookie ball in 2016 to regain his confidence against less experienced hitters, and he began 2017 at low Class A Kannapolis, ultimately finishing second in the minors in with 191 strikeouts. Scouting Report: Hansen starts his arsenal with a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 98 mph. He gets downward plane on the pitch, and the White Sox made mechanical tweaks--namely keeping his shoulders even throughout his delivery--to help keep his fastball life consistent. Hansen couples his fastball with a hard curveball that flashes plus potential. He improved his changeup from a show-me pitch at Oklahoma to one with heavy sink and average potential. He's also working to develop a slider. Hansen's imposing size gives him an intimidation factor on the mound but also contributes to inconsistent command and control. The Future: Hansen will return to Double-A Birmingham in 2018 and has a No. 3 starter ceiling.
Track Record: Robert built an impressive track record in Cuba, where he put up an .895 OPS as a 15-year-old against older competition on the island's 18U league. Robert, who had heaps of international success, signed with the White Sox for $26 million in May, setting a franchise record for an international signee. He impressed scouts in the Dominican Summer League in 2017 despite a few nagging injuries. Scouting Report: While Eloy Jimenez is farther along, Robert's tools are just as impressive. He boasts a strong, lean frame and his swing is compact and simple, producing well above-average bat speed. He's got plus raw power and slugged three homers in limited time in the DSL. Robert tends to swing and miss on elevated fastballs, but it's not a huge ding on his record. He graded as an above-average to plus runner as an amateur, but reports indicate his speed has increased as he matures. The White Sox believe Robert will be able to maintain enough speed and range to stay in center field, though his bat will profile in a corner if necessary. The Future: After spending 2017 in the DSL mainly for tax purposes, Robert likely will join a crowded outfield at high Class A Winston-Salem in 2018.
Track Record: The White Sox targeted Dunning in the 2016 draft, but the Nationals took him at the end of the first round before Chicago had a chance to grab him. Six months later, the White Sox acquired Dunning from the Nationals along with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito for Adam Eaton. Scouting Report: Dunning operates primarily with a sinker and a slider, but he has a changeup as well. He sits in the low to mid-90s, peaking at 96 mph. When his delivery is clicking, Dunning features heavy sink and will coax hitters into beating the ball into the ground. He struggled at times to get out over his front side, which had a flattening effect on his stuff and resulted in an elevated--and out-of-character--home run rate of 1.1 per nine innings at high Class A Winston-Salem. Dunning's slider and changeup, both thrown in the low to mid-80s, have at least above-average potential. To maintain consistency and crispness on his pitches, he needs to stay tall through his delivery. The Future: Dunning will likely join Alec Hansen atop a talented rotation at Double-A Birmingham in 2018. With three quality pitches and a clean, repeatable delivery, Dunning has mid-rotation potential.
Track Record: Collins earned a reputation as one of the best offensive catchers in the country at Miami and was drafted ninth overall by the White Sox in 2016. He signed for $3,380,600 and finished his first full season at Double-A . Scouting Report: Collins is a divisive prospect, but everybody sees his nearly unmatched batting eye and pole-to-pole power. However, not all scouts are convinced he'll hit for average, especially after he hit .224 in 2017. Collins wraps his bat at the beginning of his swing, which diminishes his ability to get to hard fastballs. He retooled his swing in instructional league, making it quieter to get in a better position to hit. Collins worked diligently on his defense throughout the 2017 season and needs to continue. He struggles to receive velocity and presents pitches poorly, turning strikes into balls. He has improved his blocking technique but has work to improve his agility. Collins' arm ranges from average to plus on throws to second base, and improved footwork would make his arm play up. The Future: Collins will return to Double-A Birmingham to start 2018 and continue working to improve his contact skills and defense. He could be an offensive-minded everyday catcher.
Track Record: Burger raked for three years at Missouri State and emerged as the top power prospect in the 2017 draft. He swatted 47 home runs his sophomore and junior seasons and earned a spot on USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team and was first-team All-America as junior. The White Sox jumped on Burger with the 11th overall pick and signed him for $3.7 million. Scouting Report: Burger's power is prodigious, and his leadership-oriented makeup is legendary, but scouts have concerns about his body. At 6-foot-2 and a thick, bottom-heavy 210 pounds, he stayed in Arizona over the winter to work on his conditioning. Scouts see a solid-average hitter with above-average power potential, and the plate discipline to get to it in games as a pro. Burger's body opens the door for questions about his defense, but he has worked hard to improve his footwork and range to stay at third base. He has more than enough arm to stay at the position and the power to profile there. He's a well below-average runner. The Future: Burger will head to high Class A Winston-Salem in 2018, where he'll get to show off his power in the hitter-friendly confines of BB&T Ballpark.
Track Record: The Yankees were ecstatic Rutherford fell to them at No. 18 in the 2016 draft, and they signed him for $3.282 million. But after a middling start to his first full season at low Class A Charleston in 2017, the Yankees traded Rutherford in mid-July to the White Sox as the headliner of a four-player package for relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier. Scouting Report: Rutherford's sweet lefthanded swing and disciplined approach makes scouts believe he'll be an above-average hitter, but questions about his power potential linger, especially after he hit just two homers in his full-season debut. Rutherford likely will move off center field, so the emergence of power will be key to his profile as a big leaguer. Evaluators with both the Yankees and White Sox saw average power potential--so long as he works to add muscle. Because of his below-average speed and arm, Rutherford appears destined for left field. The Future: Rutherford likely will be part of a crowded outfield picture at high Class A Winston-Salem in 2018. He will rotate between center and left field, and whether his power begins to play in games will be key.
Track Record: The son of former Orioles slugger Larry Sheets, Gavin hit 11 home runs combined his first two seasons at Wake Forest but erupted for 21 as a junior in 2017. His power burst carried the Demon Deacons to Super Regionals, and the White Sox grabbed him with their second-round pick and signed him for $2 million. Scouting Report: After a long college season, Sheets was a bit fatigued when he made his pro debut, which he spent mostly at low Class A Kannapolis. Still, he showed impressive hitting ability. Sheets has a leveraged swing with plus raw power, but evaluators note he will have to be more selective with pitches in the zone to find ways to do damage. He rarely chases out of the zone and posts promising strikeout-to-walk marks for a power hitter. Defensively, Sheets moves well for a big man and is a solid defender at first base with average range and an average throwing arm. The Future: Some scouts see Sheets as a hitter in the mold of Lucas Duda at the highest level. He will move to high Class A Winston-Salem in 2018 and try to continue slugging in one of the better hitter's parks in the country.
Track Record: Cease had Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school, but the Cubs saw enough in his younger years to draft him in the sixth round in 2014 and sign him for $1.5 million. After he spent a year recovering, Cease debuted in 2015 and was traded to the White Sox in July with Eloy Jimenez and two others for Jose Quintana. Scouting Report: Cease's best pitch is a hard mid-90s fastball that reaches 98 mph and has tickled triple digits in the past. Its elite velocity plays up with sink as well. Cease couples his fastball with a hard 12-to-6 curveball that he uses to get swinging strikes and projects as a plus pitch. His changeup has made progress, but it's still a distant third pitch. Cease's below-average command and control have improved, but he still walked 4.2 batters per nine innings at low Class A in 2017. The Future: Because of his two dominant pitches, Cease might have more success as a high-leverage reliever. It's too early for that move now and the White Sox will continue developing him as a starter. He will head to high Class A Winston-Salem in 2018, where his main goals will be to sharpen his fastball command and improve his secondary pitches.
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