Chicago White Sox – 2018 UTR Organizational All-Stars

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CGunnar TroutwineThe minor league catching hierarchy in the White Sox system starts with 2016 – 1st rounder Zack Collins (University of Miami) and 2015 – 12th round draft choice Seby Zavala, who came from San Diego State University. Both have seen plenty of press here at the website, with Zavala as my top UTR OAS choice in 2015, and most notably when they appeared together when Collins was the top catcher choice in our 2016 OAS installment seen here and Zavala received equal mention. So, in combining the organizational depth with the UTR frame of mind, this leads me to Troutwine, who came to the White Sox in 2018 from Wichita State (9th round). The 6’1”- 230 lb. righty spent his debut season with LoA Pioneer League champion Great Falls where his good glove and average power profile played fairly well. He posted a .984 fielding percentage with six doubles and two home runs. In his four years with the Shockers, he batted a career .282 with 17 home runs and 122 RBi, and this translated well to the pros. Troutwine played in only 35 of the Voyagers games, but batted .316, posted a .412 on-base percentage and registered a nearly perfect BB-to-K ratio drawing 19 free-passes to 20 strikeouts. I’ll be interested to see where the organization assigns him in 2019. Could we see a possible breakout?
 
1BCorey Zangari – As simple as it may seem, it was extremely pleasing to see White Sox first baseman Corey Zangari make his first, and eventually three, appearances on the UTR Hitter of the Day lists in 2018. Why? Because it always stinks when you watch a prospect begin to make his mark and within a flash it’s over. The now 6’4”- 240 lb. Zangari was taken in the 6th round out of Carl Albert HS (OK) in 2015 and brought with him a huge power arm off the mound (fast ball peak at 96) but an even bigger bat at the plate. The White Sox marked him a first baseman and in his first two seasons as a pro in 2015 and ‘16, he batted .245 with 21 home runs and 92 RBi. But he missed the entire 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery after feeling pain in his right elbow during a pre-game spring warm up when throwing to home plate. Zangari returned in 2018 fifty pounds lighter and batted .266 with nine home runs and 22 RBi in only 18 games. Eighteen? Yes, eighteen, because the injury bug struck again when Zangari was hit on his right wrist in his first at-bat July 20 vs. Hickory and missed the rest of the 2018 season. Obviously, we’re giving the young slugger the benefit of the doubt. But man, if he can avoid the injuries in 2019, it’s exciting to think about what he could do in an entire year of full-season ball.
 
2BAmado Nunez – After splitting time between third base and shortstop in his first three seasons, the White Sox decided to shift the 6’2”- 180 lb. righty to the keystone. Defensively, he struggled posting a .919 fielding percentage in 210 chances (17 errors), but offensively, the 20-year-old Dominican’s bat came alive. His 86 hits, 21 doubles and six triples all ranked third in the PIO league, and he also ranked within the PIO league’s top ten in batting (.357), RBi (52) and total bases (137). It’s pretty clear that with an offensive explosion like this, the organization will do what it can to ensure Nunez improves his defense. It’ll be interesting to see where Nunez is assigned in 2019. With Tate Blackman and 2018 – 1st rounder Nick Madrigal ahead of Nunez on the depth chart, it all depends on where they go and more intriguingly, where they both play before Nunez settles in with the hopes of either a repeat of 2018 or an even better campaign with improved defense.
 
3BBryce Bush – Originally a Mississippi State Bulldog commit, the White Sox drafted the 6’0”- 200 lb. righty in the 33rd round in 2018, where he surprisingly signed, and for another surprising above slot deal worth $290K. He was assigned to the Arizona League squad and hit the ground running, batting .442, with five extra bases,  eight walks to four strikeouts in 14 games. The organization saw enough and promoted Bush to Pioneer League Great Falls, and despite the slowdown in production, he batted an even .250 with two home runs, 16 runs scored and 10 RBi in 24 games. It might not seem like much, but with a .309/.396/.453/.849 slash line and an 18:25 BB-to-K ratio in the debut season from a 33rd round draft choice? I’ll take that eight days a week. He’s got great bat speed and above average power. Once his glove catches up to his bat, the White Sox could have a real nice surprising prospect on their hands. Bush could see most of his 2019 with LoA Kannapolis.
 
SSLaz Rivera – Keeping with the late-round gems, we may not have a better one in terms of the value/production scale than Rivera. After his senior season at the University of Tampa in 2017, the White Sox drafted Rivera in 28th round and signed him for a meager $1K. And what did the 6’0”- 185 lb. righty do in his debut to return the favor? Bat .296 with 19 extra-base hits and finish inside the AZL top ten in runs scored, hits and total bases. The organization loved what they saw, skipping him directly over Rookie Great Falls and right to LoA Kannapolis for 2018, where he more than picked up where he left off. In 63 games, he hit a scorching .346 with 15 doubles, six home runs and 42 runs scored. More incredibly, in only 237 at-bats, Rivera lead the Intimidators in hitting, on-base percentage, SLG and OPS, and also ranked within the team’s top five in four other offensive categories. He earned a promotion to HiA Winston-Salem in mid-June and despite the dip in batting average (.280), he cut down his strikeouts and increased his extra-base percentage by over 100 points. Sure, major league starter Tim Anderson gives Chicago the room to establish a new prospect at the position, and some projections trend that 2018 – 1st rounder Nick Madrigal could shift to shortstop, but goodness gracious, what’s not to love here? Rivera is probably my favorite White Sox UTR prospect follow heading into 2019.
 
LFMicker Adolfo – In sort of the opposite of the Toronto Blue Jays, who’s Baseball America Top 10 prospect list boasts five middle infielders, the White Sox top 10 version contains six outfielders. One of which is Eloy Jimenez who,  ever since his debut as a Cub back in 2014, has sat the head table of prospects and is considered the future of the Chicago’s south side for potentially the next decade. Of course he’s #1 on the White Sox list, but there are five others, one of which is Adolfo. Like many other names you’ve read about in our 30 teams in 30 days OAS series so far, the 6’3”- 200 lb. Dominican native has appeared on “UTR Hitters of the Day” lists 22 times over the last five seasons. 2018 was no exception, as he batted a career best .282 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBi in 79 games. But much like system mate Corey Zangari, Adolfo’s season was cut short, playing his final 2018 game July 6 versus Down East. Adolfo needed Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. It was a planned surgery after the organization announced that Adolfo was hurt the previous February. Their hope was that he’d have the surgery and be ready by spring training 2019. We hope so too. He’s unfortunately spent time on the disabled list every season starting in 2015, where he suffered a broken leg, then a broken hamate bone in 2016 and a pinky injury in 2017.
 
CFLuis Gonzalez – You might not think, but this was a tough choice. As much outfield talent that the White Sox possess in the outfield, it was difficult not to dip down a bit and choose 22-year-old Luis Alexander Basabe. He spent nearly two months with HiA Winston-Salem where he batted .266 with 9 home runs, 30 RBi and seven stolen bases, but it’s the promotion to AA Birmingham in mid-June that’s the sticking point. Basabe played the majority of his games with the AA Barons, and an equal conundrum is that past the switch-hitting Basabe, the organizational centerfield ranks drop considerably. So for UTR and performance sake, Luis Gonzalez gets the nod. Not that he isn’t deserving. After all, using my personal metric, the 2017 – 3rd rounder out of the University of Mexico was my total score leader among all White Sox prospects HiA down, and fundamentally, the 6’1”- 185 lb. lefty destroyed his debut season’s production. Across two levels (LoA and HiA) Gonzales clubbed 40 doubles, hit 14 homers, scored 85 runs drove in 71. He also raised his batting average 65 points from 2017 and also stole 10 bases.
 
RFTyler Frost – Ok. As I mentioned earlier, Eloy Jimenez is a as close to major league ready as any prospect in the minors. Could/should see Guaranteed Rate Field very early in 2019, therefore the right field UTR situation gives me a lot of wiggle room. I didn’t want to choose another top 10’er in Blake Rutherford, despite having a great season in HiA. So, 2017 – 15th rounder Tyler Frost it is. I know this may come across as tongue-in-cheek, but quite honestly, Frost had a darn good season in LoA. The Gonzaga University draftee collected 98 hits with 18 home runs and 21 doubles. Add in four triples and that’s a .439 extra-base percentage. Frost has spent time in center, but with this kind of power output, he’s ticketed for right field. Sadly, his future is uncertain with All-World prospect Jimenez in front of him. But Frost will be fun to follow as he spends all 2019 with HiA Winston-Salem.  
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Scores) / Highest Level Attained
 
1. RHP Blake Battenfield – (20) / HiA Winston-Salem
** One year removed from making 21 Pioneer League relief appearances after his 17th round selection in 2017, Battenfield has impressed the White Sox organization. So much so, there’s discussion that he could battle for a future role within the White Sox rotation. That’s a tall task considering the amount/quality of arms ahead of the 6’3″ 220 lb right-hander. The current rotation includes past UTR-OAS stalwarts  Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, with up-and-comers like: Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen (both 2017 UTR-OAS), Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech once he returns from TJ surgery. The 24-year old Battenfield had a heck of a month of May (4-0, 1.16 ERA, 31 IP, 8 BB, 35 K, .173 opposing BA) which strengthens his radar signal. MinorLeagueBall.com’s John Sickle took notice and labeled Battenfield as a “Sleeper” during one of his June articles. The Oklahoma State product attacks hitters with a 4-pitch mix of a 4-seamer (low 90’s) and sinking fastball, slider, curve, and change-up.
 
2. LHP John Parke(15.5 / HiA Winston-Salem
3. RHP Lincoln Henzman (12) / HiA Winston-Salem
4. LHP Parker Rigler– (11) / HiA Winston-Salem
 
5. LHP Bernardo Flores – (11) / HiA Winston-Salem   “Legit UTR”
** Flores could also be another prospect to battle Battenfield for a back-end rotation spot soon. He doesn’t have the wares as described by the #1 UTR-OAS above, but he does possess an above-average fastball/change-up combo that he commands very well. The 6’3″ 170 lb lefty posted a 1.8 BB9 rate in a career-high 156 innings last season, across two levels. In fact, his stats were very comparable across the board between HiA Winston-Salem (77.2) and Double-A Birmingham (78.1). Another note of consistency is Flores’ career 0.6 HR9 rate over 339.1 innings and 3.47 K/BB rate.
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Scores) / Highest Level Attained
 
1. RHP Tyler Johnson(14) / HiA Winston-Salem
2. RHP Jake Elliott(11) / LoA Kannapolis
3. RHP Matt Foster(7) / Double-A Birmingham
 

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