- C – Zack Collins – 21 yo
- 3.41/.811 combined – PAG/APPA (AZL – 0.67/.182; HiA Winston-Salem – 3.64/.856)
- 2016 stats combined: .244/.396/.435; .831 OPS; 6 home runs, 33:46 BB:K; 1.000 Fld%
In the seven years that we here at UTRMinors have tracked low-level minors, sadly the Chicago White Sox have preserved their spot among the dregs of ‘top-prospectdom.’ Recently, studs like Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer made their mark on the big league club, but unfortunately that leaves only a select few kids to carry the load of the system. But as always, there’s hope in the annual draft and that’s exactly what Zack Collins brings to the table. I’ll reiterate that this is an annual All-Star list. Not a ranking. I’m still very high on 2015 UTR OAS catcher Seby Zevala. He raked to the tune of 4.74/1.129 PAG/APPA in his pro debut in the Arizona League. This year, however, his PAG/APPA plunged (2.82/.649) after a promotion to LoA Kannapolis. This leaves Collins atop this years list. The 6’3″ – 220 lb. University of Miami draftee brings power from the left side and was touted as one of the purest bats in the entire 2016 draft. Despite going errorless in his first 39 games as a pro, some scouts aren’t sold on him sticking behind the plate. We’ll see. I predict a full year back at HiA Winston-Salem.
- 1B – Anthony Villa – 22 yo
- 2.59/.671 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Great Falls)
- 2016 stats: .249/.364/.383; .747 OPS; 15 doubles, 35 RBi’s; 20:38 BB:K ratio, 1.000 Fld%
When the White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a $68 million dollar contract in 2013, it was a smooth transition, as Paul Konerko and his great career was coming to a close. Abreu has been nothing short of amazing, winning Rookie of the Year, finishing 4th in MVP voting, earning an All-Star nod and winning a Silver Slugger Award all in 2014. Not a bad debut huh? With Abreu signed through the 2019 season, this allows us more time to sort through the minors. I could have gone the safe route and chose 2015 – 6th rounder Corey Zangari. He has colossal power and a canon for an arm (as a former third baseman), but the strikeouts are alarming, whiffing 176 times in 110 games this season. This leads me right to the 6’3″ – 220 lb Villa. The 2016 – 19th rounder out of St. Mary’s College Of California (Moraga, CA) showed off his own power clubbing 15 doubles, three home runs and 35 RBi’s in 59 games for the Voyagers. Villa isn’t the sexiest prospect, but he has power, he draws walks and committed zero errors at first base. He should see a promotion to LoA Kannapolis or quite possibly HiA Winston-Salem.
- 2B – Toby Thomas – 22 yo
- 2.63/.643 – PAG/APPA (HiA Winston-Salem)
- 2016 stats: .269/.321/.409; .730 OPS; 33 doubles, 7 home runs
Even though Jim and I focus on the lower level prospects, the not-so-highly noted kids, our ultimate goal is to see players we (and we only, at the time) tout make it to the major leagues. The White Sox second base situation is intriguing. Not so much in the first -level statistical vain, but more so in the, “Who’s going to ultimately grab the 2B job by the horns” sense. For the last three seasons, 2009 free-agent signee Carlos Sanchez has manned the keystone, but his production has been nothing more than mediocre/poor at best. In 201 major league games, he’s posted a 1.79/.524 PAG/APPA. Would you want a guy on your fantasy team who averages only [a little more than] a point per day? Not me. So, the question is, “Do the White Sox sign a free agent or dive into the organization?” Who knows, but current White Sox top 30 prospect and 2014 Organizational All-Star Jake Peter and this year’s OAS choice Toby Thomas are running amazingly neck-and-neck for the future at second base. Peter posted a combined PAG/APPA of 2.67/.641 for AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte this season. Thomas, a 2014 and 2015 “One to Watch choice, posted a 2.63/.643 for HiA Winston-Salem. I’ll be honest and would place Peter ahead of Thomas on the second base vector, but the 2013 – 21st rounder out of Pensacola Junior College (FL) shouldn’t be ignored. In 99 combined games (at LoA and HiA) last season, Thomas logged a 2.32/.602. In other words, Thomas’ improvement this year proved he belongs in AA Birmingham in 2017. Sure, Thomas needs to outperform the hitting machine that is Jake Peter, but hey, anything is possible.
- 3B – Brady Conlan – 22 yo
- 3.18/.720 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Great Falls)
- 2016 stats: .281/.321/.431; .751 OPS; 15 doubles, 8 home runs
The situation surrounding White Sox and third base has somewhat of an even slotted feel/look to it. First you have 2-time All-Star Todd Frazier, obtained in a three-team trade in mid-December. Then you have top prospect Trey Michalczewski, who spent all of 2016 in AA Birmingham where he posted a 2.67/.643 PAG/APPA in 134 games. And next up, in prime UTR fashion is 2016 – 24th rounder Brady Conlan. Again, the OAS series isn’t a hierarchy of talent. If it was, maybe I’d place fellow organizational mate Ramon Beltre ahead of Conlan. But, Beltre, statistically, did not have the season that the 6’1″ – 205 lb. Conlan did. In his debut season, the right-handed slugger pounded out 24 extra-base hits to Beltre’s 15. Regardless of his production, Conlan will have his detractors based on the fact he was a 22-year-old playing in the Pioneer League. (The “age/level” argument). But he had a good year with Rookie League Great Falls. Nothing fancy, but a good year.
- SS – Mitch Roman – 21 yo
- 3.57/.830 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Great Falls)
- 2016 stats: .332/.392/.418; .810 OPS; 26 stolen bases
Approximately a month ago I was in a conversation with a few friends about the 2016 N.L. Cy Young race. Of the pitchers discussed, Jon Lester was the main focus. Mainly because of his ability, or inability, to hold runners on base. The main point of the argument was aside from the fact that Lester gives up a fair share of stolen bases, he still won 19 games and posted a 2.44 ERA. This reminded me of White Sox freshman shortstop Tim Anderson. The 6’1″ – 185 lb. righty strikes out at an alarming rate. To put it in perspective, in 22-year-old organizational mate Max Dutto‘s pro debut, he drew 14 walks in 32 games for Rookie Great Falls. In 99 games for the major league club, Anderson drew 13 free passes. But despite the K’s, Anderson still provides power, speed and is a career .301 hitter (combining minors and majors.) I like Ditto, but this year’s OAS Mitch Roman, another 2016 draftee, posted a nice line at Rookie Great Falls. He came from Wright State University boasting good contact skills, above average defense and plus speed. Roman finished the season ranked second in the Appalachian League in steals and within the Pioneer League top 10 in runs scored (52) and hits (85).
- LF – Nick Basto – 22 yo
- 3.18/.741 combined – PAG/APPA (HiA Winston-Salem – 3.46/.796; AA Birmingham – 1.83/.455)
- 2016 stats combined: .288/.364/.443; .807 OPS; 31 doubles, 12 home runs.
When researching Basto’s stats, it made me scratch my head. Sometimes when someone struggles so much to start their career, they generally stay planted in the low minors until they figure things out. The 2012 – 5th rounder out of Archbishop McCarthy HS (Southwest Ranches, FL) embarked on a rather unique path. In his first two seasons combined (with Rookie Bristol, Rookie Great Falls and LoA Kannapolis) the 6’2″ – 210 pounder posted a putrid 1.77/.467 PAG/APPA. In 2014, the organization surprisingly promoted Basto to HiA Winston-Salem (after 9 games in the GCL) where he batted .263 with 14 doubles and seven home runs. The promotion/demotion yo-yo continued when Basto began 2015 in LoA Kannapolis. In 42 games, he hit a meager .217 with 3 home runs and 18 RBi’s. Yet again, he got the call to HiA Winston-Salem to close out the season, and posted a .203 batting average with 18 doubles and seven home runs. This season added to the bewilderment, but the results were pleasing. He remained in HiA to start 2016 and in 106 games logged a .308 average, clubbed 27 doubles and ranked seventh in the Carolina League in home runs (12) and total bases (195). Once Basto received a promotion to AA Birmingham, he no longer qualified for UTR. Hopefully Basto earned his way to a full season in AA, but with his track record, who knows. I just hope he hits well enough to stay, or simply be, relevant.
- CF – Alex Call – 22 yo
- 3.49/.757 combined – PAG/APPA (Rookie Great Falls – 3.93/.791; L0A Kannapolis – 3.24/.734)
- 2016 stats combined: .308/.394/.445; .839 OPS; 20 doubles, 6 home runs; 14 stolen bases.
Centerfield has always been looked upon as the one position where a player has to posses nearly all the elements that make up the prototypical player at the position. So, when choosing the White Sox OAS center fielder this off-season the choice was rather obvious. In my humble opinion, the 6’0″ – 185 lb. Call has it all. The Ball State University draftee hit the ground running after being taken in the 3rd round of this years draft. He batted a career .351 for the Cardinals; and in 2015 batted .303 for the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League. The White Sox assigned Call to Rookie Great Falls and he never stop hitting. In 27 Pioneer League games, he batted .308 with 19 walks to 18 strikeouts, four stolen bases and committed only one error. Call received a mid-July promotion to LoA Kannapolis posting an identical .308 batting average, but his power began to show, slugging 17 doubles and 3 home runs. He also went errorless in the outfield and stole 10 more bases. Despite fellow organizational mates Adam Engel, Tyler Sullivan and Hunter Jones leading the system with 31 swipes this season, I believe Call has the skills to steal much more. Overall, there just really isn’t anything to dislike about Call. He may not have any seriously loud tools. He just does everything really well. He could see a possible promotion to HiA Winston-Salem to start next season.
- RF – Aaron Schnurbusch – 22 yo
- 4.42/1.003 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Great Falls)
- 2016 stats: .357/.471/.542; 1.013 OPS; 14 doubles, 6 triples, 6 home runs;
These are the exact kinds of prospects we here at UTRMinors are drawn to. In his professional debut, all the 28th rounder out of the University of Pittsburgh did was lead the Rookie Pioneer League in walks (47) and earned Pioneer League top 10 honors in batting, runs scored (53), hits (85), triples, RBi (44), on-base percentage, OPS and total bases (129). But it’s the 6’5″ – 235 lb. lefty’s pedigree that has us intrigued. Schnurbusch was a two-way player at Johnson Country Community College (KS) before transferring to Pitt for the 2015 season. In his two years at JCCC, he batted .363 with 74 RBi and 66 runs scored. In 2014, as a starting pitcher, he led all Cavalier starters with a 12-2 record, a 2.42 ERA while striking out 102 batters in 107.3 innings. He transferred to Pittsburgh in 2015, making a full-time shift to the outfield despite appearing twice on the mound (where he went 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA). In his two seasons as Panther, he batted .259 with 32 extra-base hits, 64 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. Schnurbush will have to fight for every bit of prospect attention, but with his two-way capability, he could be a nice wild-card prospect moving forward.