Under normal non-lockout situations, this would be the last week before the start of spring training. Even under the constraints of the lockout, that means that this week is Prospect Week at Sox Machine, buying us numerous days of legitimate distraction before the realities of the labor struggle resume their suffocating overhang.
Prospect Week isn’t the Christmas morning it used to be for White Sox fans. The White Sox farm system no longer ranks in the top 10, or even the top 20. It does qualify as top 30, but 1) so does every team’s system, and 2) the White Sox barely made that cut. You’ll risk melting your scroll wheel trying to find the White Sox on the farm system rankings posted by Baseball America and Keith Law, as the Sox are the caboose of both trains.
That said, the write-ups from BA …
The White Sox graduated a tremendous group of talent to the majors and reached back-to-back postseasons as a result. What’s left is a thin system worsened by poor 2021 performances from its three top pitching prospects—righthanders Jared Kelley, Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist.
… and Law …
The White Sox, unlike some previous teams, did earn their position as the proud owners of the worst farm system in baseball: They won.
… both note the good that brought about the bad. Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and Nick Madrigal became the latest to shed their top-100 prospect status. Then there’s Gavin Sheets, who improved too quickly for prospect re-consideration before exceeding his rookie status with an impressive first 179 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2021. Were Madrigal not traded, they’d comprise about one-fifth of the 2022 active roster by themselves.
This is all to say that while the White Sox are back to the cellar with regards to prospect depth, they’re at least champions of context.
Sox Machine Podcast: State of the 2022 White Sox Farm System with Jim Callis
In other good news, the Sox also have a more interesting array of unranked talent than 10 years ago, when Addison Reed led all lists, and No. 2 prospect Nestor Molina was a household name only in asylums. The Sox upped their investment in teen talent, giving them a longer runway for developing carrying tools. The farm system has a foursome of specifically Marco Paddy products: Cubans who are older than the typical international signing, but still have the potential to contribute to the big-league roster over the next couple years. On top of that were a couple of breakout performances from prospects who were left for dead, if they were ever considered in the first place.
We’ve seen worse, and it could get better before you think. It’s just hard to consider the White Sox better off than any other team for now. Every system has such stories off the radar, and the Sox haven’t yet demonstrated a knack for weaving their own gold, especially on the pitching side.
Over the next several days, I'll be digging through the White Sox farm system, ending with my ranking of the system's top prospects. Were major-league pitchers and catchers right around the corner, this might be considered an anticlimactic way to end our offseason coverage. While we're mining for silver lining, a benefit of an indefinite offseason is a forced perspective that makes even this kind of farm system stand taller.