2016 Chicago White Sox

Hitters

  • 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 EngelTyler 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. 

Pitchers

No sooner than Frankie Montas hit my radar, he was traded to the Dodgers during the hot stove season in 2015. But before getting to the White Sox, he belonged the the other color of  Sox. The Boston Red Sox dealt him to Chicago in another 3-team deal back in 2013. The 23 year-old jumped on the UTRMinors pages in 2014 when he vaulted from the AZL to HiA Winston-Salem and became a UTR-OAS at the end of the season. He was the only spotlight in a hodgepodge of arms for the Sox, with exception of a  19 year-old Luis Martinez who glimmered his way into the OAS Top 5. With Montas gone to LA, most of those listed in 2014 faded away, which opened the door for a talented group in the 2015 edition. The spotlight transferred over to Jordan Guerrero, who I missed on as a “One to Watch”prior to the 15′ season. But I recovered in making our readers aware by writing a blurb on the then 20-year old who was tearing it up at LoA Kannapolis. Now 22, Guerrero spent 2016 cutting his teeth  in the Double-A Southern League with Birmingham. He’s a command specialist waiting to blossom; and I still consider him a safe buy to stash in a deep league roster. I could go on to mention the others making the UTR-OAS in 2015, but you’ll see that most grace the Top 5 below. Oh…and Frankie Montas?….my radar was dead-on calibrated, as he made his MLB debut with the White Sox in 2015, and probably would have continued in LA, had he not gotten derailed by an off-season surgery in early 2016. The extraordinary circumstances of his injury may have frightened the Dodgers, as they moved him to the Oakland Athletics in August 2016.
 
Internationally for the South-siders, it was tough to find a DSL pitcher within my spreadsheet . In fact, only three were listed out of the 30+ pitchers tracked over the last 3 seasons respectively. In 2014, Kevin Escoria and Jadier Rocha were named Organizational All-Stars, but their development has slowed. 2016 International Watch was Jhoan Quijada, who made his U.S. debut, but saw limited action, mostly out of the bullpen.
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Scores/TPS
 
1. LHP Tanner Banks – 20 / .121
  • 24 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
  • 18th round – 2014
  • Banks had a solid season, especially after his June promotion to Winston-Salem. He drops from my UTR radar, as he turned 25 in late October and hopefully will move on to a more age appropriate level in 2017. Though he rose to the top within my system, I believe it’s too late and I project him as organizational filler.
2. RHP Zachary Thompson– 17 / .095
  • 22 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
  • 48th round – 2011
  • YES!…it’s so awesome to see a draft pick at the lowest level make the list. And even better when it’s in back-to-back years. Just a few days ago, Hudson Belinsky at Baseball America was asked about the 6′ 7″ righty during the White Sox Top 10 chat session. Some reports state that he has a big fastball and should be groomed in the bullpen.
3. RHP Thad Lowry – 17 / .145    “Take a Flyer”
  • 21 years old – (HiA Winston-Salem / Double-A Birmingham)
  • 5th round – 2013
  • Lowry didn’t a move an inch from last season to 2016. Well, OK, he received a late season promotion. But he remained ranked 3rd as a White Sox UTR-OAS and just saw one tick chopped from his 2015 TPS (.146 score). Another big righty at 6’4″, Lowry shows promise with a low-90’s fastball with sink, a nice change-up and improving curveball. Though the Double-A numbers were a small sample, they were something to build toward 2017, as Lowry will sit at 22 years-old for the whole season.
4. RHP Jordan Stephens – 17 / .079   “Solid Stash”
  • 23 years old – (HiA Winston-Salem)
  • 5th round – 2014
  • Stephens had TJ surgery during his time at Rice University and the White Sox handled him slowly in 2015. He only saw 17.2 innings of work over 11 appearances, with one start. He came on strong in 2016 by skipping over LoA Annapolis and throwing 141 Double-A innings, putting up seasoned numbers. He had 155 strikeouts over that workload and had the top K/9 rate (9.89) amongst all qualified HiA pitchers. This also translated into the second-best K/BB differential at 18.8%. Watch for his command to develop further, which means he won’t be too far away from Chicago.
5. RHP Luis Martinez – 15 / .085
  • 21 years old – (LoA Kannapolis)
  • International Free Agent- 2013
  • After Martinez was named a UTR-OAS in 2014, he fell off the radar scope the following year. He repeated at Kannapolis in 2016 and got back on track…and here he is again. Keep a close eye on yet another huge right-hander (6’6″ – 190 lbs) for the Sox.
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factors Score/TPS
 
1. RHP Taylore Cherry – 8 / .093
  • 21 years old – (LoA Kannapolis / HiA Winston-Salem)
  • 32nd round – 2015
  • Cherry was considered a project coming from the UNC Tarheels. Inconsistency was the mark on his scouting report, but he’s blazed through four levels since his pro debut with no issues. He throws a mid-90’s fastball with a ton of sink and comes after hitters with a side-arm delivery. He did wane toward the end of the season, but he should be continued to be watched if your deep league values relief pitchers.
2. RHP Matt Foster – 6 / .059
  • 21 years old – (AZL White Sox / Pioneer Great Falls)
  • 20th round – 2016
  • If you’d like to track Cherry in the upper levels of the White Sox, try to keep a close eye on Foster. Drafted out of the University of Alabama, Foster had an outstanding pro debut, and led the White Sox minor league system in saves (11). Prior to transferring to the SEC, Foster was absolutely dominant as a starter for Gulf Coast Community College. In 16 starts, the right-hander posted an 11-4 record with a 2.03 ERA and struck out 111 over 105.2 with only 26 walks. His success continued when the Crimson Tide moved him into the bullpen full-time.
3. RHP Matt Cooper– 14 / .062
  • 24 years old – (HiA Winston-Salem / Double-A Southern)
  • 16th round – 2014
  • Cooper’s Factor Score above indicates that of a starting pitcher, and just missed being ranked #5. But Cooper made more relief appearances than starts and he gets mentioned as a relief pitcher only because my limited spreadsheet entries. Plus, the White Sox system was weak from the bullpen. Cooper was mentioned last season, but this year holds more clout, as he could have easily made both lists, which is a UTR-OAS rarity.
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