Three prospects show three paths to shoring up White Sox depth chart

At one time or another over the course of the 2021 season, the White Sox rostered eight of their last nine first-round draft picks. They had Carlos Rodón posting what turned out to be a top-five Cy Young season in the rotation, and Zack Collins often catching him. They had Nick Madrigal and Tim Anderson up the middle. Andrew Vaughn was keeping his head above water while playing a decent left field, Jake Burger provided a midseason boost off the bench. Garrett Crochet had a nice first full season in the majors out of the bullpen, with Zack Burdi joining him for a spell.

(Poor Carson Fulmer is the lone exception. He had a devil of a time with the Reds, posting a 6.66 ERA over 20 games before returning to Triple-A.)

That’s a pretty cool feat, even if nothing so gold could stay. Madrigal was traded for Craig Kimbrel, who is not expected to last the winter with the White Sox. Burdi was claimed by the Orioles, then the Diamondbacks. Rodón is not yet a former White Sox, if only because he’s not a current anybody else. He’s expected to sign elsewhere in free agency.

Among the guys currently in the organization, Anderson is the lone fixture. Vaughn had a tall task and couldn’t quite tackle it, which isn’t his fault, but still. Crochet has earned his keep as a reliever, but he could return to the minors to stretch out, or he could be dealt elsewhere. Collins shouldn’t be Plan A as the Plan B catcher. Burger did everything he could to reestablish his presence on White Sox prospect lists, but now his body needs to allow him to do it again.

It isn’t a knock on the first-round success rate if only three or four guys stick instead of eight, but it feels like such a clip is needed when the top prospect list dries up so suddenly. As many of our Offseason Plan Project architects realize, a roster gets expensive when a team can’t produce its own replacements.

The good news is the well isn’t dry. The question is whether it’s potable, but three players in particular can go a long way in producing another layer for a depth chart.

THE SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICK: GAVIN SHEETS

Gavin Sheets played exactly one-third of a season, which makes extrapolation both easy and fun. His .250/.324/.506 line produces 33 homers and 102 RBIs when multiplying everything by three, and the 48 walks aren’t bad for a rookie, either. Being cast out of position made it hard for him to clear replacement level, but finishing within 0.2 WAR puts him within range of being the White Sox’s most productive second-round draft pick in 50 years. Just one decent, full season will get the job done.

  1. Terry Forster, 12 WAR, 1971-76
  2. Jake Petricka, 2.6 WAR, 2013-17
  3. Trayce Thompson, 1.6 WAR, 2015
  4. Larry Thomas, 1.5 WAR, 1995-97
  5. Bill Sharp, 1.9 WAR from 1973-75
  6. Brian Simmons, 0.4 WAR 1998-99
  7. Gavin Sheets, 0.2 WAR in 2021
    Josh Paul, 0.2 WAR from 1999-2003

Petricka was a decent find 63 picks deep and had some moments in high-leverage before his arm gave out, but he shouldn’t have cast such a large shadow over the selections that followed.

The White Sox dealt Walker after his first full season for one bad year of Nomar Mazara, and he’s not yet making the White Sox regret it. He hit .255/.323/.439 at Double-A Frisco, but Triple-A pitching held him to a .223/.287/.348 line. This is who I’m keeping in mind if the White Sox ever sign somebody who cost them a draft pick. If they can shed a second-rounder for Mazara, then nobody should shed a tear about it with regards to a Michael Conforto.

Sheets could make everybody think a second time about sending away a second pick, but it’s going to take a greater sample size than “1” to shift a strategy unless he continues bashing away. This is his invitation to continue bashing away. He’s got some ground to make up if he wants to overtake Forster, especially as a hitter (lifetime .397/.413/.474 average!).

THE THIRD-DAY DRAFT PICK: ROMY GONZÁLEZ

Relievers can show up from anywhere. That doesn’t make Aaron Bummer‘s ascent from the 19th round any less impressive of a personal journey, but such pitchers are only asked to play to their strengths for one inning at at time, which increases the chances of a team striking gold. A fellow 19th-rounder on the position-player side like Adam Engel isn’t going to sign a $16 million extension for running and catching. He had to shape himself into a hitter in order to earn his keep.

So here comes Romy González, who is suddenly bearing the weight of the entire 2018 draft class after the White Sox traded three of their first six picks that year (Madrigal, Walker, Konnor Pilkington, Codi Heuer). That entire draft class capital was used on miserable partial seasons from Mazara, Kimbrel and César Hernández.

González is going to be one of the most fascinating prospects to follow in the upcoming cycle of organizational rankings. What do you do with this performance?

SeasonAgeLevelPosPA2B3BHRSBBAOBPSLG
201922ALF405224411.244.329.364
202023n/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/a
202124AA-AAASS4041702424.283.364.532

If we all weren’t so intimately familiar with why he wasn’t seen in 2020, you might’ve assumed that he was bitten by a radioactive Bo Bichette, and I still wouldn’t rule it out. However it happened, the Sox now have a random 20-20 guy from the 18th round.

This sort of performance would’ve been a godsend during a rebuild, when he would’ve been qualified for hundreds of plate appearances among the five positions he can play, and any struggles could more or less be shrugged away. The current context makes it more difficult, especially after a season in which scalding cups of coffee from unexpected sources played a surprisingly large part in the White Sox’s cruise to 93 wins. The White Sox’s re-signing of Leury García for three(!) years suggests some organizational skepticism about a guy who could theoretically cover the same ground.

THE INTERNATIONAL SIGNING: JOSE RODRIGUEZ

Micker Adolfo‘s body fell apart roughly two dozen times on his way to breaking down the wall between the White Sox’s international baseball academy and Charlotte. It’s hard to see how his story avoids the John Henry path, because with no minor-league options remaining, there isn’t a likely path to a responsible audition with the White Sox. He’s hitting .205/.225/.359 with two homers and 16 strikeouts over 40 plate appearances with Estrellas in the Dominican Winter League, which is the first of the last two small samples that might change some minds. The writing on the wall says that he’d benefit from a trade to an organization with plenty of low-stakes outfield playing time to spare.

The greater hope is that Adolfo’s path indicates an easier time ahead for younger players, after years of seeing the White Sox’s teenage signings stalling out at Winston-Salem. Jose Rodriguez is chief among them after a wildly successful age-20 season. He hit .301/.338/.469 over 111 games before the Arizona Fall League provided a little bit of a heat check.

Rodriguez isn’t quite alone in the White Sox farm system, as Bryan Ramos and Luis Mieses providing some upside with athleticism at each of the A-ball levels, and Lenyn Sosa has climbed to Double-A at a slow but steady clip.

Yet it’s also a little optimistic to say that Rodriguez has company. Yolbert Sánchez is running alongside Rodriguez as an international signing who is a couple good minor-league months away from his first cup of coffee, and he posted a .533 OBP in the AFL. He’s also four years older than Rodriguez, as is Yoelqui Céspedes, who looked lost in the desert. Norge Vera could be the real deal, but his dynamic debut in the DSL came closer to American Legion competition than American League.

Also, all of those players are Cuban. That’s no strike against them, but the one country that Marco Paddy and Co. have scouted well is also the one with the least reliable schedule for producing players thanks to geopolitics. When it comes to the traditional hotbeds like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the White Sox’s only real success story is Yolmer Sánchez, who signed 12 years ago.

It’s not great that the White Sox have graduated so many top draft picks, traded others, and still only have one typical international signing cracking the top 10 list for both MLB.com and Baseball America. Rodriguez, who signed for $50,000 out of the Dominican in 2018, gives the White Sox their current best chance to show they have some idea of what they’re doing when it comes to helping precocious international talent reach the highest levels. Again, perhaps Adolfo will beat him to Chicago, but the accumulation of scars, figurative and literal, make him a better story to read about than emulate.

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

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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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Greg Nix

“It’s hard to see how his story avoids the John Henry path“

He’ll buy the Red Sox?

mikeschach

He’ll build railroads?

AshnodsCoupon

Don’t forget Liverpool and the Pengiuns lol

Ted Mulvey

“He had a devil of a time…posting a 6.66 ERA” Good stuff.

mikeschach

A 2d round draft pick (aka total crapshoot) had better not be what keeps the Sox from signing Conforto. I’m already planning on being disappointed, but I’d like to at least be entertained by the excuse.

Trooper Galactus

Didn’t stop them from signing Melky and DRob a few years back. My guess is the primary concern, as ever,is money.

Augusto Barojas

Planning on being disappointed is about the only thing you can count on from this organization.

Trooper Galactus

The White Sox have added the second most payroll of any team over their Opening Day 2021 payroll, only surpassed by the Mets. Unfortunately, that increase is basically pay raises for their existing players and picking up Kimbrel’s option (Graveman’s contract is basically a swap for Eaton’s money-wise). I’d call that pretty disappointing.

Augusto Barojas

I think calling the past two offseasons disappointing is an understatement. It is sad when JR hoards even during the peak of their window. I know they appear to have a 5th ranked payroll now, they probably won’t be in the top 10 by opening day. For a year or two they are going to need a higher payroll than what they have now, to have a real chance to win. They could have gotten players who would have been huge upgrades without dealing Eloy, Vaughn, or Sheets like they probably will.

Trooper Galactus

If they hold where they currently are at (assuming a Kimbrel trade but picking up something else and filling out the rest of the roster internally), they’ll be around eighth, I think.

texag10

Man, remember when everyone thought Erik Johnson was the big name piece the Padres were getting for James Shields? Good times…

Trooper Galactus

I thought Johnson was gonna be legit. Broad shouldered, stocky build, solid arsenal. Guy looked like a potential workhorse who could at least fill in at the back end of a rotation but once he got hurt he was never the same.

GrinnellSteve

I remember a game where Forster was up in a bunting situation. Both corners were charging in. Forster showed bunt and then pulled back and hit a screamer that almost took George Scott’s head off. He was such a good hitter.

Elena

Ahhh…”The Boomer!” Haven’t heard of him for awhile.

asinwreck

Poor man, by his own admission, suffered from Dunlop’s Disease late in his career. (“My belly dunlopped over my belt.”)

Trooper Galactus

I wondered back when they first put Adolfo on the 40-man if it would come back to bite them in the ass. Sure, San Diego had been in the habit of snatching up young, far off talent like that and stashing them at the back end of their 25-man roster back then, but it still struck me as curious at the time.

shaggy65

I felt the same way at the time, but the parallel path for Basabe has convinced me that if either of them was going to be a legit major-leaguer he would have made it by now.

Trooper Galactus

Except Basabe stalled out in High-A performance-wise and never played a game in AAA but got rushed to the majors in the COVID-shortened season as a use-it-or-lose-it move. Adolfo showed more in his time in AA and AAA this season than he ever did in his career, and unlike Basabe has legit earned a big league shot.

Greg Nix

I think Adolfo got an extra option year because of the injuries, so even if they waited to add him to the 40-man this would still be his make or break spring.

Trooper Galactus

Interesting! Thanks for that tidbit!

knoxfire30

Be interesting to see where Jose Rodriguez shows up on the prospect rankings both organizationally and for all of baseball. Not a lot of up the middle players put together that kind of age 20 season, should be some real helium there.

While we debate what the sox may do at 2nd and RF it appears DH is likely gonna be Sheets and Vaughn…. I am still pretty skeptical about Sheets but if he actually found his game power and can club right hand pitching that fills a very big roster need.

Last edited 1 month ago by knoxfire30
texag10

I know everyone still has night terrors about DHydra but this team seems particularly well built to employ that as a strategy this season but we would really need to get a solid backup C to take full advantage of it. Right now though we have Sheets who can “play” RF and 1B, Vaughn LF/RF/1B, Grandal 1B/C, along with Abreu and Eloy. We can cycle guys through the DH spot to give people a day off without every having to take their bats out of the lineup.

knoxfire30

Right…. and you can basically add Burger to that mix at some point too… 1b/3b/Dh… dare I say 2nd lol.

Hahn has a list 2nd, RF, SP, backup C but I think they are fine at DH using it for some of the young guy options and like you suggest as a rotating tool for off days from the field for Abreu, Grandal, and Eloy.

As Cirensica

The DHydra terror were more caused by letting Jim Thome go than anything else, right?

Trooper Galactus

Personally, I have Popeye as their #1 prospect, but I tend to lean on results and timeline to the majors over pure potential. I’m sure most will put Montgomery at the top because, as a 6-foot-4 shortstop, his peak potential is incredible, but I’d need to see a lot more from him before I’d bet on him even approaching it. Basically, Montgomery would have to blast his way to Birmingham next year to be in the same position Popeye is in RIGHT NOW.

I think he SHOULD be firmly in most organizational top fives, but there’s probably a lack of enthusiasm to place him any higher because there’s a perception that he has no truly plus tools in his arsenal and that he’s more of a utility player in the long run given he hasn’t been able to lock down any single position yet. Personally, I think a lot of people will sell his hit tool short (I’d put it at a 60) and I think he has Eduardo Escobar sorts of talent, and I’d say he exceeded the utility infielder limit most assumed he had.

ParisSox

What shocked me most about this article was that 1971 was 50 years ago.

roke1960

Best comment all day!!! I remember Dick Allen’s MVP season so well, and next year will be the 50th anniversary of that. (And he’s still not in the Hall of Fame). Where did that time go?!?

Joliet Orange Sox

I hope next year the Sox will wear the 1972 red pinstripe uniforms to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 “team that saved the Sox”. I’d like to see those uniforms instead of the 1983 uniforms (that I disliked at the time and still dislike) on Sundays.

roke1960

I also really liked the baby blue road uniforms from that time period. Both of those uniforms were really nice.

asinwreck

Seconded! And the team could do a tie-in night with the upcoming Dick Allen biography.

“Chili Dog MVP: Dick Allen, The 1972 White Sox and A Transforming Chicago” re-creates a unique time and place in baseball and Chicago history, when the arrival of a controversial slugger lifted the bedraggled Sox out of a daunting hole and briefly united a fractious fan base for the two hours-plus he played.

Lead author John Owens, along with Dr. David Fletcher and George Castle, weave an entertaining narrative of Allen, his teammates and broadcaster Harry Caray bringing pride to a franchise that had one foot out of town to Milwaukee just 2 1/2 years previously and equal status in profile with the dominant Chicago Cubs.

roke1960

That was just a magical year. I just looked up that season- they were in first place as late as Aug 28, before Oakland took over for good. Dick Allen had a 199 OPS+!!! We went to several games that year- they were such a fun team.

GrinnellSteve

They swept 4 in Oakland in August. A crowd was at the airport to greet them on their return. I remember John Allyn got off the plane smoking a big stogie in celebration.

roke1960

On Aug 26, the Sox had a 1.5 game lead. They went 17-18 the rest of the way and Oakland went 24-11.

Joliet Orange Sox

In looking at the book launch publicity and background, I saw this youtube video about 1972 which I really enjoyed. It includes the Phil Rizzuto call for Yankees radio of the epic Bat Day home run that I was in attendance for.

Video about 1972 Sox featuring Dick Allen

GrinnellSteve

I think in 2012 the red pinstripes were the Sunday alternates. 40-year anniversary. in 2013 they went to ’83’s (30-year). I hoped they would continue to honor different eras, but they mostly got stuck on this terrible ’83 fetish.

roke1960

Well, hopefully they’ll go back to the 72 jerseys for the 50 year anniversary.

asinwreck

All the coverage of Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary marvels over the clear, crisp restoration of 52-year-old footage, and my takeaway is how did that stuff recede to half a century in the rearview mirror?

roke1960

Are we really that old???

asinwreck

Time remains undefeated.