All-Patreon All-Star Break: How is the White Sox depth chart holding up?

Injuries took the best case scenario out of the equation, but there's still plenty on hand for 2020

After spending Monday assessing the best use of Dylan Covey’s limited effectiveness, we continue the All-Patreon All-Star Break with a question Sox Machine Supporter Andrew Segall:

Now that this year’s draft has happened, could you give some thought to an organizational depth chart, by position, with an eye towards building the 2020 roster from internal talent only? It could double as a “what if the Sox don’t spend any meaningful money” exercise and an eye on who/what to draft next year.

Let’s do it.

Catcher

It’s Zack Collins and Seby Zavala, or Seby Zavala and Zack Collins, depending on whether you think Collins’ defensive skills can ever catch or surpass Zavala’s. Collins is easier to move to first base thanks to his batting eye assuming his hit tool can hang at the higher levels, which isn’t a given.

There isn’t much going on besides them, especially since Evan Skoug‘s progress at Kannapolis has been undone over a very rough last month and a half. Carlos Perez is probably the next-most-intriguing catcher, and he’s got a .293 OBP at Kannapolis as a 21-year-old.

Basically, if the White Sox draft Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman with their first-round pick next year, nobody’s going to be in his way.

First base

Even with just four homers over 77 games this season, Gavin Sheets has the most upward mobility of any prospect at first base for the White Sox, as there is nobody blocking him at Charlotte (Casey Gillaspie), much less Birmingham (Keon Barnum). The hit tool and plate discipline are there, but he has to hit the ball out of the park before plans can be made.

The same thing can be said for Justin Yurchak, who is hitting .253/.354/.333 with a 13.4 percent walk rate and 15.8 percent strikeout rate at Kannapolis, but isn’t offering much in the way of extra-base hits and doesn’t have defensive versatility to offer any alternatives. Corey Zangari is the only one booming the ball, but he’s just coming off a lost year at Great Falls.

Long story short, there’s a home here if Collins can’t cut it at catcher. It’s also why there’s an air of inevitability around Jose Abreu, although the longer his struggles last, the less his free agency after 2019 is a dire concern.

Second base

Between Yoan Moncada in the majors and Nick Madrigal getting started in Kannapolis, it’s bad news for everybody in between. The good news is that the middle infielders of some intrigue all can handle shortstop. Let’s just go there now.

Shortstop

There’s no reason to boot Tim Anderson from the position, especially when Moncada has had all sorts of problems at second this year. Still, the Sox have what you’d call organizational depth at this position that can be moved down the spectrum. Jose Rondon at Charlotte, Danny Mendick at Birmingham, Laz Rivera at Winston-Salem and Luis Curbelo at Kannapolis — all these guys can’t be written off as rosterable utility types, and maybe even more in the case of a younger guy like Curbelo.

Judging only by the rate of errors committed, Curbelo seems way more comfortable at shortstop than third, but he may have to move depending on how badly the Sox want to see Madrigal at the infield’s most demanding position.

Underneath the full-season affiliates, Lenyn Sosa looks like one international pick who is staying at the position. He’s hitting .290/.297/.449 at Great Falls, and while one might laugh at the plate discipline numbers, 1) he’s only struck out 13 times in 26 games, and 2) he’s just 18 years old.

Third base

Plans for this position got blowed up real good when Jake Burger blew out his Achilles twice. It’s a good thing Ti’Quan Forbes discovered a hit tool this year, because there would be nothing else to report here from the full-season affiliates. He’s hitting .284/.325/.407 as a 21-year-old in Winston-Salem, which is progress from having no discernable skills the year before. Curbelo is also a possibility in A-ball. This year’s draft gave the White Sox further projectability with Lency Delgado, but they’re all projects at this point.

This is why Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado are so desired by White Sox fans, and why their cases are given even the slighest bit of consideration. That said, it also seems like a potential home for Moncada if second base proves too much for his dexterity.

Center field

The Sox have plenty of options here, even if Luis Robert‘s thumb has limited him to just 21 games outside the Dominican Summer League. Luis Alexander Basabe leads the way as a 21-year-old who was deserving of a promotion to Birmingham, even if his early performance there (.233/.320/.314, 29 strikeouts over 22 games) makes it difficult to put him on a firm timetable. Luis Gonzalez and now Steele Walker also provide upside among the non-Roberts, but Adam Engel, Charlie Tilson and Leury Garcia won’t be challenged from below this season.

Joel Booker was drafted in the 22nd round partially because of his age. At 24, he’s on the older side for a speed-oriented prospect, which is why the uptick in power has been a pleasant surprise. Birmingham will be a test for everything in his game regardless, and he’s hitting .267/.315/.376 over his first 23 Double-A games.

Underneath it all, Luis Mieses‘ stateside debut is going fairly well for an 18-year-old, as he’s hitting .278/.283/.433 for the AZL White Sox.

Corner outfield

The Sox are also well-stocked here when you consider that everybody in center can slide over. Eloy Jimenez is at the top of the heap regardless, and can probably be promoted any day now (although the Sox will probably want to make sure he’s healthy so they don’t use service time on an early DL stint). The only drawback is that he’s played more left field than right this year, so he’s not a direct replacement for Avisail Garcia unless the position shift is purely to make it easier on legs that aren’t 100 percent.

After that, a post-surgery Micker Adolfo will provide power with the hope of an evolving hit tool, and Blake Rutherford will provide a hit tool with the hope of maturing power. Alex Call is in between, which gets the ‘tweener label due to the lack of a carrying tool.

As for the MLB level, Garcia’s injury reduces the urgency to address his post-2019 future, and Nicky Delmonico and Daniel Palka have yet to distinguish themselves as more than short-term entertainment. Like the current center fielders, they’re still not under a ton of pressure at this time.

Starting pitchers

While Michael Kopech is basically ready for a look, the injuries to Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning make it harder to project an entirely homegrown rotation by the end of 2019. They’re still high-impact guys, and with Dylan Cease checking off all boxes so far in 2018, their collective upside is still intact, albeit delayed.

The Sox also have an array of recent second-day draft picks (Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores) in the high minors who could angle for an audition at some point in 2019. We’ll see whether the recently promoted 2017 draft picks like Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield power through new challenges in Winston-Salem.

The hope is that the development of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez mean all these guys won’t be necessary, and I wouldn’t mind it if Carlos Rodon would stick around, too.

If some of them advance over the next year-plus, new third-round pick Konnor Pilkington adds a collegiate lefty to the ranks, and fifth-rounder Jonathan Stiever adds another righty. Thirteenth-rounder Jason Bilous and 14th-rounder Davis Martin are harder to peg right now).

Relievers

It’s easy to forget that Zack Burdi is still around, and once he returns from Tommy John surgery, he’ll be the high-octane righty the bullpen has been missing with Nate Jones out. Thyago Vieira and Ian Hamilton could beat him there, but they don’t have his fastball. Tyler Johnson is trying to get in the picture, too, as he could probably be in Birmingham by now, but Jose Ruiz is doing a fine job there (36 strikeouts to 24 baserunners over 28 innings).

Between Jace Fry and Aaron Bummer, the Sox have two homegrown lefties who could hang on the 25-man roster for years. The Sox drafted South Florida closer Andrew Perez in the eighth round as somebody who might be able to race up the minors in a limited role. Otherwise, this side is thinner.

* * *

Along with the stumbles at the major league level, injuries (Hansen, Dunning, Robert) and conservative promotions (Kopech, Jimenez) make it difficult to establish roster spots with confidence for 2019. It seems like there are two infield spots, one outfield spot, most of a rotation and half a bullpen hammered down, but the rest is still up for grabs in the big picture.

That lack of certainty makes it easy to lose faith in the rebuild, but the depth is still adequate. The problem with depth is that, as we’re seeing in center field, it’s not satisfying in and of itself until names and dates emerge.

It also makes it difficult to justify spending big in 2019, unless it’s for an elite talent. If they want to go after Machado to take care of third base for the next five-plus seasons, by all means. But when it comes to the contracts where the first two years of the deal are vital to the success of he signing, the Sox won’t be able to put those to the best use.

That said, I can see a case where the Sox are players in January and February for short deals, where an OK starter gives the Sox an idea of what their roster looks like with an adequate contributor in center field or third base or wherever. If another Mike Moustakas situation arose, I’d be all for taking a crack at it.

As for the system, strong debuts for Madrigal and Walker to overcome the questionable first-day picks of Burger and Sheets in 2017 would help. They won’t help the corner infield spots or catcher, which are the three biggest voids if Plan A doesn’t work out (or, in the case of third base, there is no Plan A). Going forward, besides the usual mandates for up-the-middle talent and pitchers, corner power is probably the biggest void that can be specifically targeted in the various markets.

By 2020, I’d probably count on three infield spots and two outfield spots having MLB-caliber talent from the farm system, and potentially an entire rotation. Some of those guys will be going through their first full seasons and so averageness can’t be expected, but more should be expected from the Moncada-Jimenez-Anderson-Kopech sect, and the Sox should have a better idea of where they’re going to get no internal support for that core. If there aren’t compelling reasons to add to that team, then I’d start wondering about the rebuild.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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roke1960

If the Sox add no one from outside, I think the 2020 starters would be:
Abreu 1b, Madrigal 2b, Anderson ss, Moncada 3b, Eloy Lf, Avi Rf, Basabe or Robert Cf, Zevala/Collins c. Starting pitchers: Rodon, Kopech, Lopez, Giolito, Hansen/Dunning. Relief: Burdi closer, Hamilton, Viera, Fulmer, Fry, Bummer.
If Avi’s last month is the new Avi with the increased launch angle, I think he may be a better extension candidate that Abreu. His June was the Avi we have been waiting for on offense. Now he’s got the second half to prove that wasn’t a fluke.

jose robcada

with robert basically missing the whole year, i think seeing robert in 2020 outside of maybe september is extremely optimistic… he would have to replicate acunas 2017 to have anything sooner

varrows

Since, we’re doing pure hypotheticals, and provided 3 caveats, no more serious injuries (which would be something of a miracle, in itself), full recovery for currently injured players, and ceiling-level rate of promotion and advancement through minor league levels (also, something miraculous) — I think the ideal development and subsequent starting lineup in 2020 from players only within the White Sox farm system or on the current active MLB roster would look more like this: C Zavala/Collins 1B Collins/Abreu 2B Moncada SS Madrigal 3B Burger LF Jimenez CF Anderson RF Adolfo DH Abreu/Collins SP1 Rodon SP2 Cease SP3 Kopech SP4 Lopez SP5 Giolito. The bench would also be populated with notable names like Basabe, Rutherford, Sheets, and my personal sleeper pick, Laz Rivera, who has excelled and outperformed expectations at every level thus far and will benefit the rest of this year and most of next under the tutelage of Vizquel at Winston-Salem. Of course, I imagine we would see Dunning, Hansen, and Flores at some point via spot start, double header, etc. etc. Again, I fully realize that this is a dream scenario that is very unlikely to to come to fruition. A man can dream, right?

Eagle Bones

Given what we seen this season, why would they move Anderson off SS and keep Moncada at 2nd?

lil jimmy

It’s not a plan of action, it’s a dream.

Last night I dreamed I was scooping coffee beans in a sack, using only my arms and hands, assisted by an Orangutan

Not as complex as Varrows but…

knoxfire30

Injuries have obviously hurt the system this year. The depth at SP/RP, and OF seems legit either way. At some point the sox will be able to flip a young starter or a toolsy outfielder for a power corner bat. That type of deal should already be, being looked at.

Eagle Bones

Why would they start looking at consolidating assets when they’re one of the worst teams in the league? Seems like a move that’s at least a year away.

Josh Nelson

My crazy idea: Eloy Jimenez get some reps at first base this upcoming Spring Training. The White Sox hopefully will churn out enough major league talent at the outfield position where they can move Jimenez to first while still fielding an athletic outfield that can be above average defensively. Like I said, it’s a crazy idea but one that is growing on me.

Meanwhile…

Josh Nelson

I don’t remember the Toby Hall days well.

Josh Nelson
PauliePaulie

This was my roster fix if Madrigal pushes Moncada to the OF.

Trooper Galactus

I think Moncada’s next stop is 3B if it comes to that.

Ceverettsdinosaurs

Might need to keep first base open for Jake Burger, though. Gotta expect that he’s going to lose some mobility after two Achilles injuries and he wasn’t exactly nimble at third to begin with…

Eagle Bones

I don’t think they really need to plan anything around Burger at this point. If he hits enough to get to the majors, that’s gravy considering where he’s currently at.

Trooper Galactus

Until Burger gets a professional season under his belt, I’m not even counting him in the plans.

sgp2204

I applaud you for actually giving him a chance, unlike most people that wrote him off the second he was drafted.

Patrick Nolan

This might be overly pessimistic but given everything that’s happened this season I’m having a harder and harder time seeing a contender form without very substantial additions from the outside. The rebuild was structured more heavily around pitching prospects than position-player prospects. Here were the most important pitchers coming into the season:

Kopech
Giolito
Lopez
Hansen
Dunning
Rodon
Cease

Of those, only Cease could be said to be having a “good” season from a combined effectiveness / long-term health perspective. The White Sox of the future will need at least two front-line starters and I think the odds of all six non-Cease (who may have been one of the two least-likely guys to fill that role to start) guys on that list have suffered a reduced likelihood of that outcome since when the year began (with possibly an argument that Rodon’s odds haven’t changed since he was hurt to begin with). Kopech still remains the best bet (albeit a slightly reduced one with the newfound control problems), but Giolito’s awfulness, Lopez’s all-around back-end-starter-ishness, and Hansen/Dunning’s injuries raise plenty of questions about which guys are going to step into those front-of-staff roles.

I was hoping the White Sox would be able to devote the majority of their available dollars to the free agent position player bucket, but what looked like a substantial organizational strength at the beginning of the year is considerably less of one now, and that’s to say nothing of the mounting injury concerns with Jimenez, Robert, Burger, etc.

knoxfire30

There is no good reason for this team not to be able to aggressively add multiple high end talents via free agency. Almost no meaningful dollars committed to anyone. New TV deal is right around the corner, etc etc

Josh Nelson

Yeah, that TV deal is going to be interesting when the Cubs announce they are leaving NBC Sports.

knoxfire30

Ive heard the number 750K a game (more possible for cubs then sox but gives you an idea)… thats 121,500 mil before you sell one bag of peanuts, a ticket, a parking pass, etc etc

Josh Nelson

Yup. If the Rays could net a 15-year, $82 million a year TV deal, I’m sure the White Sox could net something similar if not better.

But I’m wondering what will happen with NBC Sports Chicago if the Cubs leave. That’s a significant amount of ratings gone and left behind with a rebuilding White Sox & Bulls squad, and whatever the state the Blackhawks are in.

Marty34

Sox ratings are down again this year (not surprising.) The thing to remember though of course is these deals are for 15-20 years and with sports betting now legalized it will be interesting to see how much they get.

Partnering with the Blackhawks and Bulls will give the outlet that gets them inventory that a Cubs only network just can’t match.

lil jimmy

or trade.
I agree with Pnoles. Blake Snell was brought up recently. A pitcher such as that. Proven, and under control for the window. As KW will tell you, prospects are for trading.

Eagle Bones

Are we talking about this offseason or like in the future? Unless they can grab a young elite talent like Harper or Machado, I’m not sure I see the point in committing huge FA dollars this offseason since their other young talent doesn’t look fully formed yet. That seems like a next offseason move at this point (after the young guys hopefully take steps forward in 2019).

oljeto

What agent would let his top talent sign here?  Jerry would have to outbid by a lot.  When has that ever happened?

Josh Nelson

That’s why I agree with Jim and could see the White Sox play this off-season really slow. Like not being involved until mid-January. I hope you saved your “Why the White Sox should sign Mike Moustakas to a one-year deal” talking points, folks.

PauliePaulie

This season has definitely been a serious case of TINSTAPP. Said a few day ago the Sox can absolutely not afford to have Dunning and Hansen both flop.

Greg Nix

I think Rodon’s odds of being a front-line starter have substantially improved since the season started. We had no idea what he was going to look like coming off shoulder surgery. There was a possibility he turned into John Danks, or suffered a setback and didn’t pitch at all. Now we know he’s as healthy as one could hope and his stuff looks roughly as good as before the surgery.

PauliePaulie

Not sure he’s proven healthy after 43 innings. He threw nearly 70 post-DL last season.

Greg Nix

I didn’t say he’s proven healthy. I said right now he’s as healthy as you could hope and his stuff looks the same. He could obviously get hurt again, but in the meantime his return has been as successful as possible. 

PauliePaulie

I read “now we know” incorrectly.

Eagle Bones

I’m having a hard time seeing him turn into an ace at this point, but your point is a good one. He could have gone total pumpkin after that surgery and the stuff looks to still be there which is a huge victory in and of itself.

oljeto

Have to agree.  Trade pitchers for position players.
Sox continue to show no ability to grow them–probably because the ability to evaluate draft talent has been woeful, too.

Lurker Laura

Why is this column making me sad?

PauliePaulie

’cause you’re smart?

Lurker Laura

Well, yes, just look at my glasses.

jorgefabregas

Nice Kanny debut for Madrigal.

PauliePaulie

And it was at 2B. Interesting.

Marty34

Jimenez hit a bomb to right that landed on the homer porch. Awesome opposite field power.

PauliePaulie

Fangraphs has a recap of the worst called Ball of the 1st half.
A Fastball thrown by Dylan Covey, caught by Omar Narvaez.

jose robcada

-the biggest suspense for me will be if we ever extend rodon (i hope we do)
-i feel like the rebuild is moving too slowly for machado to consider us since he obviously has contender suitors, possibly arenado or rendon in 2019 tho if we make a jump next year. that is my second biggest anticipation (anthony rendon is often over looked with machado and arenado but he would be an extremely solid pickup)
-i find it hard to consider burger atm considering his injury and the fact tht he’s a low a ball player with alot to prove even after he shows health
-for all other positions im satisfied with progression even with massive amounts of injuries… we might have to use outfield depth in trade for 3rd base depth or star in future unless madrigal rushes super fast and pushes moncada to 3rd

varrows

I still don’t understand the logic of sending assets the organization sacrificed legitimate stars for in order to gain a star rental player, albeit a young and talented one that MAY sign a long-term contract. It seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider that even if he were to re-sign a contract, he would be getting paid to waste away on a rebuilding team that is at least two years away from seriously contending, at best.

Eagle Bones

I believe he’s talking about signing those guys in FA, not trading for them before it.

5742mail

How the sox evaluate talent is beyond me. JJ Muno career started in AA,hopefully this was because that was the only roster spot available if so shouldn’t Roberts be the one to start there. Mason Robbin played 5 games in AA hit 350 and was promoted to AAA. Joel Booker stat through 5 games were much better and we need a CF. Can you imagine the Southside hitmen mixed with the go go white sox. Donn Roach was let go without giving him a look. Since this is a rebuild,shouldn’t some of our pitching be getting on the job training. Don’t we have a top rated pitching coach. Being a Sox fan is rough, not being a Sox fan is unthinkable.

sgp2204

It’s not as much about talent right now as it is about development. The development of certain guys is much more important than the development of others. The guys you’re talking about are likely nothing more than organizational fillers. If they get sent to a level and have their development stall, nobody cares because nothing was expected of them to begin with. They’re only there to fill a roster spot.

The important, actual prospects are taking the much more conventional route to the bigs. 

Eagle Bones

With the exception of maybe Booker (and that’s still maybe), the guys you’re talking about are all org players. They’re not prospects. They’re there to fill out rosters.

jorgefabregas

Roach was let go as a favor to him. Quad-A players can get guaranteed contracts in the hundreds of thousands in Japan. Robbins was promoted to make room in Birmingham for actual prospects.

JJ Muno started his career in rookie ball, not AA https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=sa3004176&position=2B/SS

As Cirensica

Readig this made me think White Sox depth is not so deep

Trooper Galactus

One thing to feel good about, amidst all the awfulness, is that the White Sox are not far from having a pretty lights-out bullpen. There’s five potential impact arms who should have a pretty short time to the majors (Vieira, Hamilton, Burdi, Ruiz, Johnson) in addition to potential holdovers (Fry, Minaya) and that’s a lot of money they could spend elsewhere instead of blowing tens of millions on relief pitching.