Baseball America’s list of top White Sox prospects highlights the battlegrounds

Dane Dunning pitching for Winston-Salem in September. (Jim Margalus)

Even after the White Sox graduated their top three prospects, Baseball America calls the farm system “still as strong as last year.”

That seems improbable on its face, although partially because Baseball America rated Reynaldo Lopez a little higher than the rest (he was behind Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech in the consensus rankings). More to the point, yes, Eloy Jimenez came over from the Cubs to take over Moncada’s spot as the position player who makes scouts drool (with such descriptions like “man-child,” “mutant” and “Superman”), but fellow Quintana-trade traveler Dylan Cease is still limited to low-A, and the most comprehensive scouting report on Luis Robert simply says “ALLERGIC TO SHIRTS.”

For the system to maintain its strength, it requires incumbents to rise up and swarm the top half of the list.

Baseball America’s new top-10 list says some of them did just that:

  1. Eloy Jimenez
  2. Michael Kopech
  3. Alec Hansen
  4. Luis Robert
  5. Dane Dunning
  6. Zack Collins
  7. Jake Burger
  8. Blake Rutherford
  9. Gavin Sheets
  10. Dylan Cease

Once again, the White Sox have a pretty solid foursome at the top, and Kopech’s stock likely outpaces Giolito’s from last year. The bellwether is at No. 3. BA was more skeptical about Hansen than the other seven outlets, and now you can call it a skeptic no more. In his write-up of the system, Josh Norris said Hansen improved his arsenal by maintaining the life on his fastball via mechanical changes and hiked his changeup from a show-me pitch to one with average potential.

Looking at this list, the combination of Robert’s physicality and acquisition cost make him a natural top-five fit, and his lack of recent relevant scouting information makes it hard for prospect analysis outfits to put him over guys they’ve seen dominate stateside. That effectively makes him a firewall between the rock-solid prospects and the ones who are going to have major detractors, and there are more of those guys than last year.

Dunning: His combination of skill set and performance should make him the least divisive of the remaining prospects. It’ll come down to whether a scout believes he can improve his changeup enough to be a third pitch that gets outs, which he’ll need as a starter since his fastball doesn’t keep up with Kopech’s or Hansen’s.

Collins: The biggest question last year was whether he could catch. After hitting .224 with 129 strikeouts over 113 games, now he has people wondering if he can actually hit enough to make his batting eye and power usable, and he still hasn’t quelled his defensive doubters. He tried to clean up his swing mechanics in the instructional league.

Burger: Everybody loves his makeup. Nobody is crazy about his body, which makes it very easy to think he won’t stay at third base (and thus elevates concerns about his swing’s lack of loft). Judging by his offseason work in Arizona, he’s taking the criticism about his build seriously.

Rutherford: The guy hit two homers over 440 plate appearances in the Sally League.

Sheets: He’s a first baseman who is legally required to be compared to Lucas Duda, so he shouldn’t generate much controversy in his individual profile, but he’ll probably be the subject of philosophical debates between those who cringe at putting an A-ball first baseman this high in a good system.

Cease: Considering Cease breached Checkpoint Luis on the Baseball Prospectus list, it only takes two rankings to get a sense of how much he can divide evaluators. His fastball-curve combination isn’t the problem, but it’s the lack of advancement both in-game (limited to five innings) and in-season (hasn’t hit Winston-Salem yet) that puts the bullpen tag on him.

These profiles are where the battles will take place, and this is where the overall level of regard for the White Sox farm system will fluctuate. For his part, Norris has the Sox behind the Padres, Braves and Yankees overall.

* * *

Other things to note from Norris’ rankings and follow-up chat:

*Luis Alexander Basabe underwent knee surgery at the end of the year, and it may have been bothering him more than he let on. He’s somebody who can come back to crash the party after being a consensus top-1o prospect last year.

*Ian Hamilton is a sleeper due to an ordinary starter repertoire transforming dramatically out of the bullpen.

*Jimenez provided Norris enough material to indulge fans multiple times over:

AA (FL): Please wax poetic about Eloy Jimenez.

Josh Norris: I already did, but I will again. Let’s talk more about his batting practice this year. At Carolina, he pulled balls into the forest in right field over a Green Monster-type of wall, then put balls over the batting eye in center field, then put balls over the ribbon board to the opposite field. When he gets to Charlotte, look out, because he’s going to knock out a window in one of the stadium’s surrounding buildings.

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the most comprehensive scouting report on Luis Robert simply says “ALLERGIC TO SHIRTS.”

I believe the medical term for this is Giancarlo Syndrome.

Eagle Bones

I’m not a huge Cease guy by any means, but I don’t understand having him THIS low.  Unless he’s totally destroyed health wise, he seems to stand a pretty decent chance of carving out a nice role in a pen.  Some of the guys above him seem to stand a pretty decent chance of never getting anything more than a cup of coffee if they can’t fix major glaring issues or just hit a shit ton.


I think there has to be some prospect fatigue with Cease. He’s only 22, but feels older than that. If Cease ends the year in AA, I would expect people/analysts to get excited about him once again.

Along some what similar lines, I think we can cross Rutherford off as being a future star, but I wouldn’t bail on him yet. He might just need a little more time. He is only 20 and won’t be 21 until May. He’s still a little ways from make or break.


Considering Cease’s health history, there’s a pretty decent chance he never gets a cup of coffee.

Eagle Bones

Sure, there’s definite downside there.  It’s just a lot easier to envision him as a major MLB contributor (he basically just needs to stay healthy enough, and not even healthy enough to be a starter, healthy enough to be a reliever).  Collins, Burger and Sheets are a lot harder to picture as contributors given their shortcomings and/or distance from the majors (and that’s assuming health for them).


Guys seen as future ‘Pen arms due to durability concerns don’t seem to get much love on these lists.

Greg Nix

Still weird to have him below Sheets. The only thing worse than a relief prospect is a first base prospect.

Eagle Bones

Being a possible starter, probably reliever doesn’t seem like the worst profile at this point given the usage and valuation of relievers in the game now.

Trooper Galactus

A 22-year old starting pitcher who hasn’t gotten out of A-ball, has not crossed 100 innings in a season, and showed some issues with control last season probably has enough volatility to warrant a lower ranking due to high risk.  I don’t think anybody denies he has a legit major league arsenal, but there’s a lot of concerns he has to address before some publications get very high on him.

Patrick Nolan

Burger is a guy I’ve been low on, but put some loft on that swing and that changes the calculus quite a bit.

Reindeer Games

I’ve loved him since the draft.  Us fat kids gotta stick together.  Dude’s looking slimmed down.  He should grow a real big beard, so he doesn’t have a fat guy face on a not fat guy body like Freddie Freeman.

Brett R. Bobysud

I’m the same boat regarding Burger.  If he puts loft on the swing, and as a bonus shows that he can be average to decent at 3B, he’ll continue to rise through the ranks.


I was optimistic about him after the draft basically because I didn’t want it to be a wasted pick.

Now I’m optimistic for reasons.


Burger…I’m assuming that was Burger in the video-if he wants more loft he needs more ground force on that front side look at the instability on that front foot as it rolls over as he rotates. Ground force will also cut back on his drifting at foot plant which will enable him to lift easier as well.


That’s Andy Serkis behind Burger in the video. “Burgerses? What is a Burgerses, precious?”


What are the theories on Rutherford’s power outage? Adjusting to better pitching, obviously, but is he “warning track” power now with the wood bat? I wonder if he’s hitting deep fly balls that used to be dingers.


I think most theories center around body doubles or electromagnetic anomalies in the greater Kannapolis area.


It’s the chemtrails, man.

Greg Nix

He’s never really had power. Just a projection that he’d grow into power.


Sox still with a good amount of work to do in the Minor League depth dept. My point of reference is the Yankees. Over the last 2 years, they’ve promoted 4 top 15 prospects, traded away 5 more, made the playoffs and still rank ahead of the Sox according to Norris.

Novice 15 seconds in the cage take is that Burger has some awfully busy hands.

From the Norris Chat, future ‘Pen currently looks to be the deepest and most promising area for the org.


Novice 15 seconds in the cage take here is that Burger looks like a guy who has abandoned Cheetos and ice cream.


And what of the other 14:45, hmmmm? You can eat lots ‘o crap in that amount of time.


It helps when a solid, but not great, prospect goes supernova in the majors as a rookie. The Sox depth would look a lot different if, say, Burger turns into Kris Bryant lite when he reaches the majors.

Greg Nix

Also helps to get lucky. They’ve hit on a ton of guys. There’s definitely some institutional skill involved, but Gregorious and Hicks came out of nowhere, and Judge and Sanchez are far exceeding realistic projections. Plus they can eat contracts like Stanton and Ellsbury.


The reclamation projects and money don’t change the fact they promoted or traded 9 of their top 15 prospects and still have a top 3 minor league system. Waves and waves

Greg Nix

It’s true. Although Yankees prospects are also often overrated. Rutherford may be an example. Regardless, they’ve got an organization to envy right now.


Their farm system would’ve looked a lot less enviable after all those graduations if they hadn’t traded major talent to back fill it with the number one prospect in the game and another top 30 guy. Which is not to say that they’re not in an enviable position, or that I wouldn’t prefer that the Sox demonstrated similar ability to produce major leaguers, just that it’s a hard model to replicate. Take out the replenishing vets-for-prospects deals, and they’d be a lot closer to Boston’s current situation.


What happens to the Sox’ Minor League system if you take out the vets for prospects deals?

Agree it’s tough to duplicate, but it’s the path the Sox chose, and are having more success with than intl FA signings (which the Yankees also have up and down that system) or the draft. So I hope they stick with it. Got a few more vets they can use to replenish.



Without our trades, it’d be us, the Orioles and the Blue Jays Spider-Man memeing eachother. I bring up the Yankees just to say that we shouldn’t get too down on our future outlook if we slip a little in overall system rankings. They don’t suffer some of our disadvantages, and we don’t enjoy any of their advantages.


Speaking of prospects,who got larry in the divorce?


Second question: what level are each of these guys expected to start at? Most interested in guys 4-10

Patrick Nolan

Larry seems entrenched at SSS, what with him demanding our heads on stakes for leaving and all.


And with all the cross comment posting going on, I’d advise you guys to keep your heads on a swivel.


That’s what you have to do when you find yourself in a vicious cockfight.


He seems to be really enjoying calling for our heads.

Like, really enjoying it.

This break seems to be revelatory.


burning’s too good for ye.

Patrick Nolan

Nice to see Larry’s allowing you to come visit.


i’m hoping the scarlet pimpernel will protect me.

Buck Turgidson

I would guess that since he has the front office job, the Sox discourage larry from participating on two message boards

Un Perro

My spitballing for 4-10 based on past level and/or offseason performance:
Robert – No reason to send him back to Great Falls.  Roll him out in Kannapolis.
Dunning – Back at high-A with a quick promotion to AA if he’s the same in his first few starts.  Could crack AAA by the end of the MiLB season.
Collins – The contact concerns that Jim highlighted are real, but he handled himself well enough at AA in his short stint.  I think he’ll spend most, if not all of the 2018 in Birmingham.
Burger – Winston Salem when they start their season.  Trying desperately for a food pun here but can’t think of it.  FJM would be disappointed.
Rutherford – I live in NY and was subjected to endless Rutherford propaganda, and in reading every scouting report and watching every video I just don’t see it.  He has to repeat low-A ball, considering how dreadful he looked, and i think he spends some time there.  It will just be his age-21 season, but I really disliked the Kahnle trade when they did it and I hope they flip Rutherford again before the shine wears off.  Man, I hope I’m wrong on this.
Sheets – Will make short work of Kannapolis and earn a Winston-Salem promotion in short order.  The bat is advanced and, given his extensive college experience.  I’d expect him in Birmingham by the end of July.
Cease – Like Rutherford, I think Cease benefited from a great deal of “he’s in the ____ system so let’s bump his prospect grade 5-10 points.”  The stuff is great but Jim’s synopsis noted all the red flags.  I think he’ll break camp at high-A, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he fails to work longer into games and spends the year there working on pitching instead of throwing, as cliched as that sounds.

My own, way-underinformed two cents from too much offseason youtubing and report reading.  Hooray rebuild and slow market…

Patrick Nolan

Good summary. Seems like Rutherford doesn’t have much more rope to remain in these conversations. I’m definitely not crazy about him.

I’ve yet to understand the fuss over Cease, whom everyone seems to think is a likely reliever. The Cease – Robert – Burger – Dunning ordering over at BP made me scratch my head (though they had somewhat legitimate “haven’t been able to see him” caveats on Robert’s ranking)


I loved Rutherford and wanted the Sox to pick him over Collins. Not giving up.

I don’t agree with it, but I think the rose colored glasses view of Cease was that he is ’16 Kopech in talent and red flags. (without the redass)

Eagle Bones

I’m not big into Rutherford, but people seem to be jumping off the bandwagon fast based on a couple bad months.  His line before coming over from the Yanks was just fine (though a bit disappointing in the power department).

As Cirensica

Rutherford: The guy hit two homers over 440 plate appearances in the Sally League.

The first time around I swear I read Silly League…

Rock's Sox

I’ve still got hope for Rutherford. He looked bad at the plate after being traded to us, but it was his first full season as a pro. Despite not showing much pop, he looked good at the plate prior to the trade. I like his approach at the plate and think he will be one of our prospects who rise up these rankings as the year goes on. I don’t have any stats to back this up, just a got feeling. Also i’m very biased cause I wanted us to draft him in 2016.


I also WANT him to be good.  I hope he is a slow starter, that he has to gain some physical and mental maturity at which point he will excel.  This is what I hope.  And want.  For all of us.



where do all these outfielders play though?

Eloy starts in AA, moves up to AAA quickly, and not sure from there.

Tito Polo starts at AA, possible move up towards end of season if deserving

Call and Basabe start at high A.  Hopefully Call forces a quick move up.  I’d push him regardless.  Basabe moves up later in the year if deserving.

Rutherford, Adolfo, Luis Gonzalez, Craig Dedelow start at A ball.  Hopefully Gonzalez and Adolfo warrant a quick move up.  Rutherford later in the year if deserving.

Luis Robert starts at Great Falls and ends with Kannapolis.





Jose Garcia and Felix Mercedes look interesting enough as well.  Most of the draftees from 2017 did average or better.  Maybe one of Alex Destino, Tyler Frost, or Logan Taylor can become the next Adam Engel type prospect (meaning late teens draft pick that does well)???  I honestly don’t know enough about them.


I think they’ll want to get Robert in full-season ball to start the season.

Un Perro

This.  Robert Starts with Kannapolis and possibly even ends with Birmingham.



Kan – Robert, Rutherford, Dedelow. Robert and Rutherford get to WS at some point if they do well, still raw.

WS – Adolfo, Call, Gonzalez, Basabe. Call gets to Birm or Cha, others maybe get to Birm.

Birm – Eloy, Polo. Both get to AAA or MLB at some point in ’18. I think Eloy arrives to MLB by the trade deadline and may force trading Avi.

The Wimperoo

Miss a little, miss a lot.  A guy goes on vacation for a week and the world turns upside down.  I look forward to the new(old) site.  In keeping with all of the changes, I will no longer carry the torch for my man, Pablo Ozuna.  I, hereby, declare my open love for Tom Paciorek (and for commas).  I welcome my new Sox Machine overlords and thank them for their benevolence.

Trooper Galactus

What’s rather nice to see is this is no longer simply a system built on talent acquired by trading our best players.  Remove all the trade acquisitions, and our system looks like this:

1) Hansen
2) Robert
3) Collins
4) Burger
5) Sheets

Assuming Fulmer still qualifies for prospect lists, he’s probably number six.  Otherwise, fill in Burdi, Adams, Adolfo, Stephens, Guerrero, Skoug, Fisher, and Call however you please.  That’s not a top system, but it’s also a far cry from the bottom five, which is where we were languishing for far too long.  Way I see it, that’s two top-50-ish guys, a guy in or just scraping the top-100, a top-10 third baseman, and a good mix of high upside and decent floors rounding out the list.  Even that would make for a better system than we had at the end of the 2016 season when Fulmer and Adams were at the top of our charts.

Brett R. Bobysud

Charlotte is probably going to be what Birmingham was last year, especially at the start of the season.

There’s no real “big-time” position prospects in line to start the season there, so the big draw for fans is that Kopech pitches every 5 days.