Offseason’s first top White Sox prospects list sets baseline for hazier forecasts

Baseball Prospectus broke the seal on 2023 White Sox prospect rankings by releasing its top 10 list on Friday, and it provided the first set at staking ground for a few prospects I feel will be particularly divisive.

Ben Spanier is listed as the lead author, which is good since he’s provided a lot of the in-person looks and highlights for the North Carolina-based affiliates over the course of the season.

  1. Colson Montgomery
  2. Oscar Colás
  3. Bryan Ramos
  4. Norge Vera
  5. Cristian Mena
  6. Noah Schultz
  7. Peyton Pallette
  8. José Rodríguez
  9. Luis Mieses
  10. Sean Burke

There are a lot of directions you can run with the list, but some disagreements are a natural product of circumstances. I’m not so much interested in the placements of Schultz and Pallette because they didn’t pitch meaningful innings at the amateur, college or pro levels in 2022, so I don’t think any ranking has a whole lot of nutritional value. Likewise, I feel like Rodríguez could fluctuate between the top and bottom halves of these lists because the hamate injury is not yet behind him, and that’s understandable.

As for Mieses, well, BP has a tendency to have one guy pop in the top 10 with no company. Last year, it was Jonathan Stiever despite season-ending lat surgery after an awful 2021. The year before that, Avery Weems cracked the top 10. Compared to those two, Mieses has a little more going for him.

There are a few players who I expect might have big splits in their rankings due to uneven performances, and whose names I will seek out before assessing a list as a whole:

Norge Vera: He’s 22 and he’s pitched a grand total of 54⅓ innings over two seasons. What’s more, he issued 31 walks over 35⅓ innings last year, including 16 over 11⅓ innings between Winston-Salem and Project Birmingham. Despite pitching only four innings once all season, he didn’t really melt the radar gun, with readings from 92-94 in a couple webcasts later in the season.

The good news is that his problems were largely self-inflicted, because he didn’t really get squared up, yielding just one homer over 13 games. There’s reason to think he has more than he’s shown, and Spanier is really bullish on his top two pitches.

Vera possesses more control than command at present, but his delivery is clean and he has shown feel for locating the fastball up, which is where it plays best. There is also some deception in his motion, which begins deliberately, but eventually leads to a last-second burst of a quick arm action out of a high slot. His main secondary is a true overhand curve that seemed sluggish in his first couple of starts but appeared more promising on my third look. The pitch shows great depth and at times sharp and late movement, projecting above-average and occasionally flashing plus, contrasting well with the number one when located at the bottom of the zone. The change is a show-me pitch at present, but it’s improved command and consistent execution of the curve that will get Vera where he needs to go.

Cristian Mena: He probably had the best season of any prospect in a pound-for-pound sense, striking out 126 batters against 38 walks while posting a 3.80 ERA over 104⅓ innings across three levels at age 19. He seems like a comfortable top-10 selection given the lack of standout pitching performances in the system, but I’m more curious if his name has any resonance among prospect types. So far, so good, with a fifth spot on this list.

Lenyn Sosa: In 2020, he registered as BP’s off-the-radar prospect by grabbing the 10th spot on that year’s list. After a stunningly succcessful minor-league season that resulted in a couple cups of coffee with the White Sox at the age of 22, he’s all the way up to … 11th.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on its face, but the three biggest selling points of Sosa’s surge can be credibly doubted:

  • Power: The increased strength in his swing is noticeable … but it’s also not a classic home run stroke, and all-fields power doesn’t do the kind of damage that it used to.
  • Patience: He showed a better handle on the strike zone than ever before … but it can still get away from him in a hurry.
  • Versatility: He can handle three positions … but he’s best at second base.

And Romy González is right there as a random Birmingham breakout player whose strengths might not be strong enough at the MLB level. It wouldn’t shock me if it ends up that 2022 represented Sosa’s peak stock in a similar fashion, although González had injury and illness to blame for most of his struggles this past season.

But I also tend to be of the mindset that a player who has shown the ability to make significant strides while young for the level deserves leeway to show that he can further fine-tune an approach. It’s not like Sosa needed to be better at any one thing when he was hitting .331/.384/.549 in Birmingham, and he crushed the ball for Charlotte over the final few series of the season. Development isn’t linear, but Sosa’s tendency to struggle at a a level before the lightbulb flickers on might be the most reliable pattern in the White Sox system. I’m waiting until after trades are made before putting any number on a prospect, but if he’s still around, I’ll probably be inclined to give him more credit for that feature of his track record.

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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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GrinnellSteve

I traded Pallette to the Dodgers in my OPP. I felt I needed to sweeten the pot with someone intriguing but far away.

Augusto Barojas

My goodness I hope Sosa is better than 11th. His numbers indicate reason to think more highly of him than that. I’d be happier with him at 2b even if he struggles than to waste games with Garcia starting. Sosa at least has real power potential to be better than a max 1-2 WAR player like Leury. They aren’t going anywhere in 2023, might as well use the season as a stepping stone and let somebody like him play. Anybody other than Leury.

Trooper Galactus

I’d feel better about Sosa at 11th were I actually convinced the ten guys ranked ahead of him all deserved to be.

ForsterFTOG

None of the three of Dalquist, Kelly or Thompson on the list.

Trooper Galactus

Nor should they be, and it’s pretty sad they aren’t. I’m pretty sick and tired of White Sox prospects almost always losing value after a year in the system. Wes Kath looks like he’s on a similar trajectory right now.

670WMAQtheElder

Don’t all of us have a tendency to struggle before the light bulb flickers on? New job? New city? New sport?

asinwreck

Not sure when Twitter will cease functioning, but today it gives us a little more information on the 2023 coaching staff.
https://twitter.com/CST_soxvan/status/1594402211819409408

BenwithVen

Makes sense since he was doing Menechino’s job for him when guys were rehabbing in Charlotte last year,

Trooper Galactus

It makes no sense because it saddles Grifol with another guy in the clubhouse he didn’t have a say in hiring.

BenwithVen

How do you know he didn’t have a say in it?

Trooper Galactus

Yes, I’m sure that, with an entire league full of potential candidates, Grifol just happened to want the hitting coach of the 57-93 Charlotte Knights, owners of the 13th best offense in the International League. I’m sure he said he was fine with it (because at his core he’s a yes man like any good White Sox employee) but I sincerely doubt it was his choice.

Augusto Barojas

exactly

HallofFrank

You don’t know how long the list of potential candidates was not even what role he’s hired in. In general and all else being equal, there are good reasons to promote from within, even when an outside hire is making that call. I have an easier time believing this was a decision Grifol was in on than the Montoyo decision.

Trooper Galactus

He’s just enjoying the ride; he ain’t controlling it.

Right Size Wrong Shape

It’s a fancy way of saying that he’s working for Roger Bossard now.

Greg Nix

The Sox need complicated titles like any good fiefdom. I’m hearing D-Bo got shifted from 1B Coach to Chief General Commandant of Cultural Assimilation.