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Baseball America published its top 100 prospects list this morning, and the White Sox came away with five spots. An above-average number is always a positive indicator of farm depth, but it’s especially impressive after a season in which three previous top-100 prospects graduated.
Eloy Jimenez replaced Yoan Moncada as the White Sox’ top-five prospect, coming in fourth after Ronald Acuna, Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Following Jimenez in the Sox system are Michael Kopech (No. 11), Alec Hansen (No. 57), Luis Robert (No. 58) and Dane Dunning (No. 82).
That’s a strong showing considering none of last year’s top-three prospects were eligible this time around. The Sox lost Yoan Moncada (No. 2), Lucas Giolito (No. 25) and Reynaldo Lopez (No. 31) from the 2017 BA list, with Kopech showing up as the first holdover a spot later.
Zack Collins was the only White Sox prospect to fall off the list for the wrong reason. He tumbled off the board all the way from No. 56 in 2017, which gives you some indication of the work in front of him. BA liked him when he was above-average bat with a chance to stick at catcher. The positional uncertainty is less forgivable after hitting .223 with 118 strikeouts in 101 games at High-A. That kind of bat no longer plays somewhere, so Collins’ path to the majors is now muddier. He spent instructional league working on reducing the hitch in his swing.
Fortunately, the Sox have replacements. Hansen had the reverse fortune, making a believer out of BA after its evaluators were reluctant to buy into his encouraging pro debut. Robert is a spot behind him, which is conservative but fair given the lack of stateside experience and visuals.
Dunning’s inclusion surprised me the most, in that he showed up comfortably within the top 100. I had expected bubble status, similar to Dylan Cease ending up on the other side of 100 on this list after ranking 97th last year. The final judgment on the Adam Eaton trade won’t arrive until at least one of the pitchers turns in an above-average performance, but with Giolito and Lopez deserving rotation spots on Opening Day and Dunning cracking these sorts of rankings, it’s off to just about the best start possible.
Speaking of best-case scenarios, only Ohtani’s jump to the United States kept Kopech out of the top 10, and Jimenez rose 10 spots from his 2017 preseason spot as a member of the Cubs organization.
If you needed a griping post, with Collins losing his membership card, Hansen is the only prospect acquired by the Sox via the normal routes of amateur player procurement. The Sox paid more than $50 million to sign Robert, and the other three came via trade of valuable major leaguers. Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 9) would’ve counted if he weren’t traded, but alas, Marco Paddy’s biggest success is happening with the Padres. The Sox didn’t need to draft well to start the rebuild, but they’ll need better results in this area to reinforce it.
Also, as PauliePaulie noted, Blake Rutherford fell further than Collins, ended up out of the top 100 after a No. 45 ranking the previous year. Unlike the Eaton trade, the Tommy Kahnle deal leaves plenty to be desired at the onset.
In other prospect news, Keith Law is rolling out his top-100 list in two parts. He published the back half of his rankings today, and there isn’t a White Sox prospect to be seen. He was more bullish than anybody on Kopech last year, so I’d expect he and Jimenez to get top-10 spots. The question is whether he’s similarly enthusiastic about Hansen and Robert, or whether those two and Dunning are off the board entirely.