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The White Sox farm system was naturally going to take a hit across the board in organizational rankings simply because it’s really hard to replace four top-100 prospects in a given year, especially when drafting in the 20s for the foreseeable future.
The reason why it’s bringing up the rear is because while the White Sox have increased their attention toward and investment in prep picks and international signings, only one of them made big strides. The rest were lucky if they managed to tread water during the 2021 season, and if they start 2022 one affiliate up, it’ll be due to belief in offseason/spring tweaks rather than anything they accomplished the year before.
And that’s fine, even if it’s not preferred. The whole point of signing teen talent is a greater margin for error, and most of these players have a little bit of that left, even for those who had down years.
The hope was that one of the two early-round prep pitchers selected by the White Sox in the 2019 draft would distinguish themselves in their first proper pro season. Alas, 2021 turned into a slog for both, turning in nearly identical seasons at Kannapolis from a run-prevention standpoint.
The differences were mild. Thompson was hit a little harder, but partially because he stayed in the strike zone more than Dalquist, whose ERA was softened by a bunch of unearned runs. Dalquist didn’t miss a start, whereas Thompson needed a brief stint on the IL.
Both pitchers made gains in terms of velocity — in Thompson’s case, holding it start to start — but neither pitcher’s athleticism has translated into repeatable deliveries, so command is the chief concern even by A-ball standards. The hope is that their stumbles are largely attributable to the false starts their career suffered due to the cancelled 2020 season.
Ramos’ .244/.345/.415 line doesn’t jump off the page, but he gets points for being 1) 19 years old and 2) often the only productive age-appropriate member of the lineup. He topped 40 extra base hits, stole 13 bases and drew a respectable 51 walks on top of a whopping 18 HBPs against 110 strikeouts over 504 plate appearances. When it’s working, he’s got the ability to lift the ball to the pull field while playing third base.
The complications? Well, he played some second base due to shoulder issues, although it didn’t get in the way of a full, IL-free season. Keith Law also identified one flaw that could prevent Ramos from tapping into his power as often as his good swings suggest possible:
He has a wide setup without a stride, which seems to cut off some of his power upside — he can go soft on the back side and doesn’t hit the ball as consistently hard as he should given his strength.
But considering he’s been young for two aggressive assignments and has produced enough in both, there are no alarms to sound just yet.
Sosa’s track record says he’s going to have a rough first month at a new level before figuring out how to hit. Sure enough, he posted a .240 OBP over his first month at Winston-Salem, then hit. 317/.352/.483 over his remaining 49 games with the Dash before earning a promotion to Birmingham.
The same thing happened with the Barons, although the struggles were more pronounced. He finished the year with that same .240 OBP over 33 games at Double-A, even though he had that same month-to-month progress from August to September.
At this point, plate discipline is the real concern. Sosa struck out 28 times against two walks over 33 games with the Barons, and that wasn’t the first stretch of the season where that ratio was worse than 10-to-1.
There are reasons for optimism around those numbers. Sosa can play three positions around the infield, and he reached 10 homers for the first time in his career, so he’s made plenty of progress for an age-21 season. It just could all be for naught if he can’t close that gap in his strike zone numbers.
Mieses ultimately proved the White Sox correct in their idea that he could handle High-A pitching in 2021. He just needed a brief demotion to Kannapolis in order to get calibrated with the Dash. The line at Winston-Salem says .238/.278/.464, but the stints tell the story:
- First try: .155/.189/.366 over 74 PA
- Second try: .275/.319/.510 over 160 PA
He’s another guy who doesn’t walk much (24 BB, 81 K over 110 G), but considering he hadn’t produced at any level in his first three years in the DSL, AZL and Pioneer League, he made the necessary strides to define himself as worth watching. His left-handed swing generates power, although it’s the kind of lefty swing that might not stay on left-handed pitching well. He might only have a platoon bat path right now, but he’s in way better shape entering this season than the last one.
The seasons of Mendoza and Mieses had the same shape, with Mendoza also having much better luck with the Dash his second time around.
- First try: .170/.298/.234
- Second try: .287/.340/.379
If you could give Mieses Mendoza’s plate discipline and ability to stay on left-handed pitching, you’d have a real threat. As it stands, while Mendoza has the best strike zone control of any prospect in the system, he’s a first baseman who only hit five homers last year, which was one short of his career high.
He’s never had a bad year professionally, but until he shows the ability to put the ball over the fence more often, it looks like he’s a Casey Rogowski of a new generation.
Both second-day prep picks were drafted for their speed, both were expected to need time to acclimate to professional pitching, and so far that has born out. Beard hit .192/.308/.286 in his first full pro season, with 107 strikeouts over 273 plate appearances. The biggest disappointment is that he stole only nine bases, although Kannapolis’ lineup-wide struggles probably made the running game difficult to establish.
Then again, Weaver was able to swipe 29 bags in 37 chances over 99 games between two levels despite an OBP of .285. Weaver was somewhat the victim of his own success, as just when it looked like he was getting a handle on Kannapolis pitching, he was thrust into High-A in order to make room for new blood on the Cannon Ballers roster, and he struck out 29 times in 66 plate appearances with the Dash.
Beard had little experience against top-level competition while in Mississippi, and he’s probably one of those players who really would’ve benefited from the existence of a Great Falls. Alas, he’ll need to figure it out in Kannapolis, and he looks likely to get a second crack at it in 2022. Weaver’s a year older, so he’s used up his age-for-level allotment.
At times, Krogman looked like he was on the verge of turning the tables on Low-A East pitching. Despite some moments — including 10 homers over 77 games — he had to settle for a so-so first full season, hitting .200/.351/.348 at age 20.
He has an unusual profile. If you saw that he was lefty and struck out 130 times over 311 plate appearances, you’d probably assume that he struggled heavily against southpaws. Instead, he hit .286/.423/.405 against same-sided pitching, striking out just 15 times over 52 plate appearances. Perhaps it’s just an extreme small sample or a reflection of the lefties who couldn’t make it out of Low-A, but it’d seem like he might have the ability to bolster his strike-zone control against pitches breaking toward him.
Like Beard, Thompson and Dalquist, I’m guessing the start-stop-start nature to his pro career didn’t do him any favors, but he doesn’t turn 21 until the end of his month, so perhaps lasting the full season in Kannapolis was all he needed to accomplish. He finished with a flurry (.371/.439/.600 over his last 10 games), so he can say he merely needs to pick up where he left off.
Previously on Prospect Week
- 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