An early look at the White Sox’s top pitching prospects

Pitching is the lifeblood of any Major League Baseball franchise. The numerous cliches about its importance — “you can never have too many pitchers” chief among them — exist because pitching is tough to find and develop. As another adage goes, it takes ten pitching prospects to get two.

Fortunately for the White Sox, the system has several pitching prospects worth watching, albeit at the lower levels. Here’s an early look at a few of the key prospects in the system.

Jared Kelley / Matthew Thompson / Andrew Dalquist

These three players are so similar in profile and performance that it’s challenging to separate them. All three were high draft picks out of high school that received large signing bonuses. Because of the 2020 season being lost to COVID, all of them have essentially one year of professional experience in the fold. All three of them had a rough time in their first year.

On the field, they are all quite different. Kelley is a fireballer with a killer changeup, Thompson a superior athlete and Dalquist a well-rounded pitcher. 2022 is hardly make-or-break for any of them because of the lack of experience, but it could go a long way in determining their career trajectory.

Jared Kelley is starting the season in Kannapolis, the same location he finished last year. Conditioning is a significant obstacle for him, and the early reports indicate that it was not addressed during the offseason. In his two starts back in Low-A, he has thrown 4.2 innings with four strikeouts and a WHIP of 2.143. His ERA currently sits at 7.71 with a FIP of 11.22, both of which are worse than he posted in 21 unimpressive innings at the level in 2021. For a deep dive on Kelley’s most recent start, check out our recent article by Jim Margalus.

Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist opened 2022 in High-A Winston-Salem. Both pitchers turned in disappointing metrics at the lower level in 2021, and it’ll be interesting to see how they perform against tougher competition. In three starts this season, Thompson has covered 13.1 innings with 13 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.275. With a 4.46 FIP and an ERA of 4.05, he has improved upon his 2022 numbers in the early going. In his third start of the season, Thompson provided hard evidence of what the hype is all about. In five innings of work, he struck out an impressive seven hitters while allowing a mere two hits without issuing a base on balls.

Dalquist also has three starts covering a dozen innings. In the early going, he’s posted a FIP of 8.61 to go with an ERA of 7.50. The 6’1” right-hander has 11 strikeouts and a WHIP of 2.00. These numbers are off the pace he set in 2021. Hopefully, in his next start or two, he can find the magic formula that slingshots his 2022 season on an upward trajectory.

Matthew Thompson’s athleticism on display

Sean Burke

Sean Burke is another pitcher with acres of upside. A draftee from the class of 2021, Burke, features an above-average fastball, curveball and slider. Commanding three plus pitches is a common problem, and Burke is no exception. He averaged 4.9 walks per nine innings during his collegiate days playing for the Maryland Terrapins. Turning pro did nothing to change that for the 6’6” 230-pound right-hander as his walk rate climbed to 6.4/9 over 14 innings in Kannapolis in 2021. In his three starts in 2022, Burke has walked nine in 13 innings of work while allowing nine hits. Burke certainly looks the part and appears to have the talent. If pitching coach Danny Farquhar and the rest of the development team can get him to consistently throw strikes, the White Sox may have something.

Norge Vera

One of many Cuban prospects, the hard-throwing right-hander dominated in the DSL in 2021. In 19 innings, he struck out 34 with a WHIP of 0.737 thanks to a repertoire that was too advanced for the competition. Vera has hit triple digits and consistently reaches 95-98 MPH. In addition to a big fastball, he throws an above-average curveball to go with a solid changeup and splitter. Like many players who come over from Cuba, it may take him some time to get acclimated to playing stateside, and that was the case even before a strained lat removed him from the proceedings early in spring training. He’s supposed to receive an assignment sometime in June, which might still be enough time to take the next step in building up his workload.

Here’s some 2021 footage of Vera from the DSL

Do you have a favorite among the players mentioned? Is there somebody else you think should be added to the conversation? Drop a few names in the comments section below to get the debate rolling.

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Ken Sawilchik
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As Cirensica

Thanks.

Man, Jered Kelley’s numbers do not look enticing.

Norge Vera was injured in March. Has he recovered?

knoxfire30

That HS trio is bad, real real bad….. really need to see some progress in the next few months.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Thompson’s looked okay this season so far.

ParisSox

wasn’t Thompson the guy who had a good start, then had a bad start trying to deal with a new pitch clock which threw him off, then had a second good start after he adjusted to the pitch clock? Or is it someone else?

a-t

yeah that was thompson. Dalquist’s stuff is up a lot but at the cost of his previously stable plus control/command profile, so there might still be something here. Kelley’s not looking great rn

gibby32

That play that Thompson made was one that I had never seen before.

ForsterFTOG

Are any of the Sox minor league coaches not former Sox players who say nice things about Jerry Reinsdorf?

abehickock

ForsterFTOG, you hit the nail right on the head. Nicky Delmonico being named a minor league hitting instructor earlier this year is a perfect example. Look up the WAR of every player the White Sox have drafted since 2000, it’s pathetic. Every now and then they get lucky with their first round pick or they acquire someone from another organization. There is very little developmental success with any draft picks after the first round.

JimMargalusBiggestFan

This organization is so far behind the better teams when it comes to player development, it’s frightening. They can’t identify players in the draft and they cant improve/develop the ones they do select. Just a horrible, horrible organization led by a horrible, horrible owner.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimMargalusBiggestFan
a-t

the comments here are dementedly down. These guys at worst in their second full pro season; Kelley can’t even drink legally yet, Thompson is looking good, Dalquist’s stuff has ticked up, he & Burke need time (and reps) to find mechanical consistency. Vera’s stuff is also up from when he signed, we’ll see him in a little while.

Not mentioned here is Tanner McDougal, who was a promising prep choice last year w/ good velo and high spin curve, since I believe he blew out his UCL. We’ll see him next year at age 20.

JimMargalusBiggestFan

Show me the team that would be interested in acquiring any of them in July. Outside of that, do you really have confidence this organization will develop them? Based on what historical precedence?

Trooper Galactus

I’m still not sold on Dalquist. His stuff may have ticked up, but nothing really seems like a plus offering to me, and he isn’t commanding it, which doesn’t seem like an ideal combination. I just don’t see the upside that Kelley (who I’m also not sold on) and Thompson (still a fan) have.