Grouping the White Sox prospects: 2018’s draft class and relievers

Before we continue Prospect Week with a look at the players who just started their pro careers, a quick follow-up on Tuesday’s post about the body count:

Michael Kopech started throwing.

That is all.

Looking at the post about the 2017 draft class from last February, nobody really changed the dialogue all that much. Jake Burger didn’t get a chance to show anything due to the Achilles rupture, but Gavin Sheets lacked power in his debut, and that was his chief shortcoming in 2018. Luis Gonzalez had the most impressive start to his career, and he padded his lead throughout the season.


*Onward and upward
*When injuries interfered
*2018 draft picks and relievers
*The big questions

The pitchers made bigger strides. Tyler Johnson walked fewer guys in his first full season (16 over 58 innings) than he did in his pro debut (19 walks over 25⅔ innings), while Lincoln Henzman’s transition from college closer to A-ball starter succeeded, at least in terms of getting past 100 innings.

Another college-heavy class makes rapid transformations unlikely, but when factoring in injuries and new routines forced by a pro ball schedule, it’s worth dropping the preconceived notions and see what sticks in the year after they’re drafted.

Nick Madrigal: He ranked 15th on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 100 list. He didn’t make Keith Law’s at all. Such is life for a 5-foot-7-inch second baseman who settled for opposite-field singles in his pro debut. Glass half full, Madrigal can play some shortstop, and authoritative pull contact increases in frequency as he gets further and further away from the broken hand he suffered in February. Glass half empty, Madrigal looks professional and doesn’t strike out, but struggles to make an impact. I’m expecting him to turn around Carolina League pitching if he starts there.

Steele Walker: He dealt with a strained oblique at the end of his college season, and his .209/.271/.342 line over 44 games scattered across two rookie leagues and Kannapolis suggest he could’ve used a longer break. The end of the season probably came as a relief, as he went 3-for-29 with 12 strikeouts over his last seven games. His draft-day profiles agreed that he should’ve had more success with wooden bats. I’m guessing he’ll resume action in Kannapolis, where he’ll be hard-pressed to outrace Gonzalez up the ladder.

Konnor Pilkington: The big lefty out of Mississippi State fell to the third round due to a drop in velocity, and pro hitters certainly found him hittable, even in the rookie leagues. He gave up 21 hits and five walks over 14 innings, although he sandbagged his line with an ugly debut. It’s hard to get a gauge on a guy when he’s limited to two innings at a time, especially when he’s setting a career high in innings when combined with his collegiate workload. He can throw three pitches for strikes, but the hope is that he’ll have more to offer than polish when he gets back in a regular starting routine.

Bryce Bush: The draft board says the White Sox took only two prep players on the second day of the draft (Lency Delgado and Cabera Weaver). The money says they took three. They selected Bush in the 33rd round, but they signed the Detroit prep product for $290,000, which is a sixth-round bonus. Bush slipped that far not because he was truly interested in going to Mississippi State, but because he seemingly had a price in mind, and the White Sox were the only ones willing to meet it.

Bush looked worth it out of the gate. He outproduced Weaver, a wispy center fielder with speed and some on-base ability, but missing contact and quality. Bush also outproduced Delgado, who surprised by playing shortstop instead of third but lagged with the bat. He outproduced everybody in the Arizona Rookie League, hitting .442/.538/.605 with twice as many walks as strikeouts before getting promoted to Great Falls.

The Pioneer League provided more of a test, as he hit .250/.327/.385, although the plate discipline numbers were still acceptable (10 walks, 21 strikeouts over 108 PAs). Those numbers also don’t count his five hits and five walks over four games in the Voyagers’ two postseason series. He’ll need to have an impact bat as long as he lacks a position, but as one of the rare teenagers showing some thump for the White Sox, he has time on his side.

Jonathan Stiever: The Sox drafted a lot of college arms, and the fifth-rounder had the best debut of them all, striking out 41 batters to 10 walks over 34 innings. He made 15 appearances, and 10 of them were scoreless. He’s ready for a full season of work, and will probably get the chance with Kannapolis. More power on his breaking stuff will help him gain separation from what 2080 Baseball called a back-end profile.

Davis Martin: The White Sox met or exceeded the third-day max for four pitchers early in the draft’s second day. Martin, who signed for $130,000 out of Texas Tech, was the only one to pitch at a level representing his talents. Isaiah Carranza (12th round) is recovering from Tommy John surgery, Luke Shilling (15th round) suffered a lat injury like Jake Peavy’s, and Jason Bilous (13th round) had a 7.85 ERA. Martin’s 21 decent innings in rookie ball don’t elevate his fifth-starter profile and the bigger arms may speed past him, but 80 percent of success is showing up.


The White Sox drafted South Florida college closer Andrew Perez in the eighth round, as well as Codi Heuer, a sixth-round righty who started for Wichita State but is expected to find his calling in the bullpen.

I suppose you can add them to the list, but relievers aren’t terribly satisfying to rank, mostly because it seems like they can be generated from a whole bunch of different sources. Look at all the ways the Sox acquired their best bullen prospects:

First-day draft picks: Zack Burdi, who was among the injured prospects covered on Tuesday.

Second-day draft picks: Tyler Johnson, as mentioned above. Ryan Burr was a fifth-round pick of the Diamondbacks, and the Sox added him to the mix for international bonus money they couldn’t use.

Third-day draft picks: Ian Hamilton was one of those max signings early on Day 3, and he looks like he has the inside track to high-leverage work if he can iron out his slider with the pro ball. The Yankees signed Caleb Frare the same way, and the White Sox also used international money to acquire him.

Waivers: The Padres converted Jose Ruiz to pitching, but didn’t have the time or 40-man roster space to see it through. The White Sox claimed him on waivers, were able to outright him, and Ruiz climbed back into the mix with a fastball-slider combo and impending minor-league free agency. He succeeded in his audition to hang around another year.

That doesn’t even count Thyago Vieira, who was also acquired for international money but harder to watch due to a lack of a compelling secondary pitch. It also doesn’t yet include pitchers like Jordan Stephens and Kodi Medeiros, who were drafted and groomed as starters (the latter by the Brewers) but may soon end up relieving. There’s no glory in putting these guys in any order, so I’ll punt on the issue for now.

Coming Thursday: The big questions

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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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KLaw seems high on Gonzalez too from his write up today. All is forgiven


That ERA surely made Bilous bilious


Any chance Kopech is able to make it back in late 2019? I’m surprised he’s already pitching. According to WebMD (for whatever its worth), recovery to full game competition for TJ surgery is about 3 months after the player begins pitching with a windup. 

I assume they keep him shut down either way (better safe than sorry), but he seems to be on the fast-track to recovery. 

Yolmer's gatorade

I think he is just throwing not pitching from a windup.


It is techinically possible he could have a fast enough recovery to start like 4 games max in 2019.

Its only 4 starts in the absolute best case scenario. So chances are almost 100% that even if he does fast track the recovery the Whitesox would play it safe and hold him back.

I would say there is a less than 0.5% chance he starts games in 2019

karkovice squad

That’s overly pessimistic. Those are like the odds he starts games by the All-Star Break.

karkovice squad

9 months is about the minimum time to return to competition. But that’s not really a guarantee of effectiveness because velocity, feel, and control can take longer.

Trooper Galactus

Especially for a young pitcher who throws triple digit heat.

As Cirensica

I see no reason why the Sox would rush him up

karkovice squad

If he’s fully recovered, there’s no advantage to delaying his return. He’ll be burning service time on the 60-day DL otherwise.


That’s an overlooked aspect. No reason to delay him if he gets greenlighted to at least get rehab time or work out of the pen at the end of the year.

Freak athletes set their own pace. Adrian Peterson outpaced everyone coming back from his ACL. It occasionally happens.


Even if Kopech is at 100%, I don’t see him pitching in the majors. Maybe some innings in the low minors on a rehab outing.

In an ideal world, you’d want to pencil him in for 160+ IP in 2020. That’s ambitious for a pitcher in his first full year back from TJS but whatever the Sox can do to build his stamina back up without exerting himself too much would be the best path.

As Cirensica

Yup…in the best case scenario, he’ll be logging rehabs innings in the minors

karkovice squad

That’s not the best case scenario.

karkovice squad

In an ideal world, Kopech matches or beats Strasburg’s timeline of throwing off a mound in May, simulated games in July, rehab starts in August to build stamina, and in the majors around the beginning of September.


Hopefully he doesn’t also match Strasburg’s timeline of then being shutdown before the 2020 playoffs.

As Cirensica

Immediately vastly underrated

I hope Katiesphil is doing well…he coined that phrase.

karkovice squad

Hopefully he manages a full recovery at all.

As Cirensica

@karkovice squad I hope you are right. I have the tendency to overrate the TJ recovery times, maybe because it still scares me (TJ surgery), but I guess the fear factor of a TJ surgery has diminished as there are a lot more successful endings than bad ones.

karkovice squad

there are a lot more successful endings than bad ones.

“Successful” recovery is defined as 1 major league appearance after surgery. >80% of pitchers manage that. But that’s not really what we want from Kopech.

The median outcome for all pitchers in the 2000s was 60 appearances & about 100 IP total over the rest of a career. The median outcome among pitchers who did return was still only 100 appearances and 160+ IP total. Pitchers Kopech’s age were more likely to go over 200 IP.

The median outcomes were best for 14-20 month recoveries.

But the best case is still a full recovery by 11 months.

*Data for post-2010 surgeries isn’t complete because some players are still active.

As Cirensica

Thanks. Useful info.


Could they activate him from the 60-day DL then option him to the minors instead of a rehab assignment?

karkovice squad

That would probably be courting a service time manipulation grievance.

But no, players can’t be optioned from the DL.

lil jimmy

Kopech. Once we sign Machado, and Gio, and trade for Pederson, we can bring Kopech back in August so he can pitch in the playoffs


I don’t think the Sox should trade Kopech to a playoff team.


You forgot Harper


For all of those I’ve heard suggesting the Sox pass on meeting Machado’s asking price and wait for Arenado, you might be waiting for a while


The Sox need to draft more players like Babe Ruth, who would be 124 today.

Happy birthday, Babe!

Trooper Galactus


lil jimmy

Kelvin Maldonado, drafted in the 11th round and paid over slot, is a high school player with about the same upside as the two listed.


Doesn’t Maldonado have a lower ceiling with his bat?

lil jimmy

Time will tell. He’s toolsy, as they say. We have not seen much of him since he comes from a s–t hole country, that is placated by flying rolls of paper towels.


Kids there learn how to hit by swinging at flying rolls of paper towels. The better ones graduate to swinging at toilet paper rolls.

lil jimmy

and then cash register paper rolls.


I’m unreasonably optimistic about Bryce Bush. Maybe it’s just because he breaks the mold a bit from what the Sox have done in the past.

Basically every other team takes fliers on high upside high-schoolers. The Sox got burned bad in the first round doing that and so have seemingly avoided those types of players for the last 6-7 years. Sometimes you need to roll the dice for the payday.

The biggest thing about Bush to me though is that he’s from Michigan and so got limited looks from scouts (and also limited playing time due to weather). Despite that he was considered a day two talent that fell in the White Sox lap. 

jose robcada

i dont find it unreasonable to be very optimistic… search up stars like literally half of them are later rounds ( betts 5th round,jd martinez 20th round, paul goldschmidt 8th round just to name a few theres tons more, heck even trout wasnt til the 25th pick)

thats why i sometimes hate top 100 cuz for example luis gonzalez, with his tools and the production he put up, if a guy with same tools and production that was drafted in 1st round he would prolly be ranked in top 50 easily but because he was 2nd day hes not even on the radar for top 100

at the end of the day no scout can tell you who is the best otherwise 1st round picks would always be best players, it comes down to production and so far both bush and gonzalez have shown pretty well so its ok to be optimistic

As Cirensica

I wonder what would be the title Jim will use in his article about the Sox signing Machado when it happens…Maybe he has it already set.

“It’s happening!!!!”


“Oh my God, oh my God….squeals sound…”

or a more sober

“White Sox goes to the 9-digit land”


Optimistic jopf! Are you trusting the consistently unreliable Phil Rogers, or are you just interpreting the narrative arc of all the stories?

As Cirensica

Nah… I was just bored.

btw…it is jofp


“Renisdorf is dead”

karkovice squad

“Long live The Renisdorf!”