The White Sox have improved enough at the MLB level that it’s cool if their most recent first-round pick isn’t automatically their best prospect. They drafted 22nd in 2021, when they selected Colson Montgomery. They’re going to draft 26th in 2022, and Baseball America’s way-too-early mock draft has them selecting another University of Tennessee pitcher who could be fast-tracked to the bullpen. The White Sox have had college relievers leading their prospect lists before, and it’s always a drag, even if this one is named “Blade.” Now’s the time for incumbents to rule.
Alas, when looking only at farm system rankings, this is the kind of season where you wish they had a top-five pick. It’d be comforting to take Andrew Vaughn’s name, slap it on top of the list, then quibble about everybody who comes after.
There are no such natural cues right now. Looking at the top 10 lists from last year, everybody got the top four right. Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal and Garrett Crochet all fared well enough in the majors last year.
Afterward? Last year’s attempts to establish order after the top four quickly descended into disarray. Here were the back six for my list, and those of six other outlets you should read.
Keith Law was the only one who had Jake Burger in his top 10, and BA looked smart to include Gavin Sheets (if only it had the right González ninth). FanGraphs nailed Jose Rodriguez, although it looks less prescient when he’s listed behind Zack Burdi and Benyamin Bailey. Of the consensus picks, Yoelqui Céspedes was the only one who held his own. The pitchers who aren’t Norge Vera messed everything up, which is ironic considering that the structure at alternate training sites seemed to benefit the arms over the bats.
Thankfully, we’re coming off a more normal minor league season this time, even if it’s not entirely a return to what we knew. Short-season leagues were eliminated, creating a whole class of White Sox prospects with the label of “could’ve really used a stint in Great Falls.” Full-season affiliates worked with geographically imbalanced six-game series, creating a familiarity with opponents that might’ve had some effect on approaches. At all levels, you had players dealing with or succumbing to rust, resulting in a brand of baseball that made scouts gripe across the board.
Acknowledging all the wrinkles, what’s important is that players got a chance to accrue sizable samples in standard games, and the ability to inspire enthusiasm. We also got to see more of them than ever, because Kannapolis finally got to open its beautiful new ballpark and join the rest of the system in streaming games. That’s part of the reason why the discussion is more open than previous years. It’s not all bad, even if the Cannon Ballers themselves were.
I’m enjoying the lack of consensus, even if it’s born from a lack of top-100 prospect. It invites imagination. Maybe that isn’t the right word, since that implies inventing something that isn’t there, but this is the time to scrub any preconceived numbers from your head, write out their cases, and see where your gut goes. That’s what I did this year, both with the paragraphs over the course of Prospect Week …
- Wrangling 2022 White Sox Prospects: Big question marks
- Wrangling 2022 White Sox Prospects: Onward and upward
- Wrangling 2022 White Sox Prospects: Time on their side
- Wrangling 2022 White Sox Prospects: New in town
- Wrangling 2022 White Sox Prospects: When injuries interfered
- Prospect Week arrives, albeit with fewer White Sox prospects in tow
… as well as the blurbs accompanying each player below. I ended up shuffling the numbers twice after my first attempt.
With my rankings, I approach it from the standpoint of “Which player would I most dislike seeing the White Sox trade?” I feel like that keeps me in my lane of first-guessing how the White Sox fare, rather than pretending I know as much about scouting as those who are hardwired into that whole process and community. Beyond that, if last year’s lists are any indication, you’re probably going to want the attempts at ordering the system to capture as many names as possible.
Because my list is weighted by types of players the White Sox have fared well with, it’s why I ended up topping it with …