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Chicago White Sox's Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2015

Chicago White Sox's Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    LHP Carlos Rodon (No. 3 pick in 2014 draft) is nearly ready to join the White Sox's big league rotation.
    LHP Carlos Rodon (No. 3 pick in 2014 draft) is nearly ready to join the White Sox's big league rotation.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox may not have many big names on the farm beyond Carlos Rodon and Tim Anderson, the team’s first-round draft picks from the last two years, respectively, but they’ve quietly developed a deep system featuring a combination of high-probability and high-ceiling prospects.

    Right-hander Tyler Danish, 20, likely projects better as a reliever due to a sidearm delivery, but the uniqueness of his delivery and stuff allowed him to dominate older hitters this season between Low- and High-A. Right-hander Francellis Montas missed part of the season with a knee injury, but he sits in the upper 90s with his fastball and is incredibly difficult to barrel.

    Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, the No. 13 overall pick in 2012, rebounded well from an overaggressive assignment to High-A last year with a more consistent performance in his second tour of the Carolina League. That being said, strikeouts are still an issue and probably always will be.

    Third baseman Trey Michalczewski flew under the radar with a solid full-season debut, and the 19-year-old switch-hitting third baseman is a candidate for a breakout performance in 2014.

    The success and development of the team’s middle infielders this season was a bright spot, as shortstop Tim Anderson blew past expectations at High-A Winston-Salem and received a taste of Double-A, while second baseman Micah Johnson would have been a September call-up if not for a season-ending hamstring injury.

    The White Sox landed NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon—the top talent and projected No. 1 overall pick when the season started—with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and the organization wasted no time putting the 21-year-old on the fast track to the major leagues. Following a similar developmental time line as ace Chris Sale, Rodon made stops in rookie ball and High-A before finishing his pro debut at Triple-A Charlotte. Meanwhile, the South Siders also found a potential steal in right-hander Spencer Adams in the second round (No. 44 overall pick), as the first-round talent flashed his huge upside in his pro debut.

    Here are the Chicago White Sox’s top 10 prospects for 2015.

How They're Ranked

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    2B Micah Johnson
    2B Micah JohnsonElsa/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

     

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

     

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Carlos Sanchez, INF
    Carlos Sanchez, INFPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Trayce Thompson, OF

    Carlos Sanchez, INF

    Jacob May, OF

    Nolan Sanburn, RHP

10. Matt Davidson, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 03/26/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 225 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2009 by Diamondbacks (Yucaipa HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: Debuted in 2013

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560305045

     

    Scouting Report

    After coming over from the Diamondbacks in an offseason trade, Davidson was expected to open 2014 in the minor leagues but finish the year as the White Sox’s everyday third baseman. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen; the 23-year-old batted just .199 with a 30.4 percent strikeout rate—the highest of his pro career—over a full season at Triple-A Charlotte.

    Davidson’s power will always serve as his carrying tool, as the right-handed batter features plus raw pop to all fields—especially to the pull side—that’s resulted in 20-plus home runs in each of the last four seasons. His strikeout rate last season was the result of a regressed approach, although he’s likely to always have swing-and-miss issues during his career.

    Davidson’s defense has improved slightly in the last year, but he’s still fringe average at the hot corner due to his lack of side-to-side quickness and limited range.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (average major leaguer); Low risk

9. Micker Adolfo, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/11/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2013 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

     HitPowerRunArmField
    4560506045

     

    Scouting Report

    Adolfo was the South Siders’ big international signing in 2013, landing the Dominican outfielder for $1.6 million. The then-17-year-old had a shaky stateside debut this past season, batting just .218 with 85 strikeouts in 179 at-bats in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

    Adolfo, 18, is all projection right now, with the 6’3”, 200-pound right-handed hitter showing plus bat speed and power potential. His overall feel for hitting is raw, and he struggles with pitch recognition, although those are common issues for most young players, especially young international players, at the start of their professional careers.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); Extreme risk

8. Courtney Hawkins, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 11/12/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 220 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Mary Carroll HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4560556055

     

    Scouting Report

    Courtney Hawkins’ rawness was exposed last season with an aggressive assignment to High-A Winston-Salem, but the 21-year-old made important strides this year in his second tour of the level, batting .249/.331/.450 with 48 extra-base hits and a vastly improved walk rate.

    Hawkins’ explosive bat speed and plus raw power are undeniable, as they allow him to crush anything in the zone even when his timing is off. However, his swing has some length to it and can cause serious swing-and-miss problems against even average stuff, especially mediocre-at-best secondary pitches off the plate. The 21-year-old tightened his zone slightly in 2014, but he still has a long way to go in terms of establishing a consistent approach.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); High risk

7. Trey Michalczewski, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 02/27/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: Seventh round, 2013 (Jenks HS, Okla.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5050456050

     

    Scouting Report

    Michalczewski enjoyed a quietly good full-season debut last year at Low-A Kannapolis, batting .262/.340/.403 with 44 extra-base hits in 116 games, though he struggled over the season’s final month following a promotion to High-A.

    A 6’3”, 210-pound switch-hitter, Michalczewski has a clean swing from both sides of the plate, and it’s easy to envision him showing more power with improved contact skills and a more refined approach. None of his tools jump off the page at the moment, save for maybe his above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but there’s definitely a lot to like about this soon-to-be 20-year-old prospect.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); High risk

6. Tyler Danish, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/12/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Durant HS, Fla.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8

    ETA: 2016

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    55605555

     

    Scouting Report

    In his first full professional season, Danish, 20, was utterly dominant in his return to the South Atlantic League, posting a stellar 0.71 ERA without surrendering a home run over his first 38 innings (seven starts). He scuffled a bit following an early-season promotion to High-A, but he eventually settled in and emerged as one of the Carolina League’s top pitchers over the last two months of the season.

    A 6’0”, 205-pound right-hander, Danish has a feel for spotting low-90s fastballs throughout the zone, while his low three-quarters arm slot gives the pitch tremendous sinking action. His slider is above average and at times flashes plus, generating a decent number of whiffs with sweeping break, and he also throws a changeup that has solid-average upside with good fading action. 

    Danish has the potential to be a solid No. 3 pitcher and the makings of another White Sox pitcher who climbs the organizational ladder very quickly. Should the organization want, the 20-year-old could probably get a taste of the major leagues late next season in a relief role.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter); Medium risk

5. Frank Montas, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/21/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 by Boston (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2016

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70605045

     

    Scouting Report

    A pair of knee injuries limited Montas to only 11 starts in 2014, his first season with the White Sox, but the right-hander still made a strong impression during his time with High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and then opened even more eyes in the Arizona Fall League.

    The 6’2”, 205-pound right-hander boasts a fastball in the high 90s that eats up opposing hitters. However, in spite of his improved control last season, Montas' delivery involves considerable effort and currently impedes his ability to locate pitches within the strike zone; he won’t dominate as many hitters at the top of the zone at higher minor league levels.

    Montas struggles to throw strikes consistently with his above-average-to-plus slider and average changeup, with the former serving as his best swing-and-miss offering. The 21-year-old may be best suited for a bullpen role at the highest level, but any additional improvement to his secondary arsenal and command profile should further his stock as a potential as a starter.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 starter/late-inning reliever); Medium risk

4. Micah Johnson, 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 12/18/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Ninth round, 2012 (Indiana)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2015

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5535705050

     

    Scouting Report

    Johnson was named the White Sox’s 2013 Minor League Player of the Year after batting .312/.373/.451 in his full-season debut, with 106 runs, 46 extra-base hits and 84 stolen bases in 131 games across three levels.

    This past season, the 24-year-old second baseman showed better plate discipline and made more consistent contact, but he also took a step backwards on the basepaths, stealing 22 bags in 35 attempts.

    Johnson’s carrying tool is his speed, as he’s a 70-grade runner who shows excellent range at second base and profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter.

    Johnson was a strong candidate for a September call-up, especially after the White Sox traded Gordon Beckham, but a hamstring injury in late August ended his season ahead of schedule. He’ll likely compete for the starting second base job next spring, though I’d expect him to begin the season back in Triple-A.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular); Low risk

3. Spencer Adams, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/13/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 170 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (White County HS, Ga.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6055555550

     

    Scouting Report

    A three-sport standout at White County High School in Cleveland, Georgia, Spencer Adams was also known for his dunking prowess before the White Sox popped him in the second round of last year’s draft.

    Adams’ stock took off late in the spring behind a velocity jump into the mid-90s, while the highly projectable 6'4" right-hander’s athleticism and frame suggest he’ll gain velocity as he gets stronger and focuses on baseball-specific training.

    His slider is a potential above-average offering thrown in the mid-80s with tight spin and late, two-plane break that is ideal for missing bats at any level. Adams also has a good feel for a curveball, another potentially above-average pitch. The right-hander’s changeup represents the weakest offering in his arsenal, though his feel for the pitch is more advanced than one might expect. It projects to be at least average at maturity with decent fading action and good speed differential.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55/60 (No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher); High risk

2. Tim Anderson, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 06/23/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (East Central CC, Miss.)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: 2016

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550656055

     

    Scouting Report

    Selected in the first round of the 2013 draft based on the merit of his loud tools, Tim Anderson impressed last year in his first full professional campaign, opening the season at High-A Winston-Salem and finishing it at Double-A Birmingham.

    Anderson’s best tool is plus speed, and it plays on all sides of the ball. The right-handed hitter’s stick will ultimately determine his level of success; he shows excellent bat speed and barrel awareness, but the approach is super aggressive and has the potential to be exploited by upper-level arms. The 21-year-old’s in-game power comes mostly in the form of doubles at triples at the present, but his above-average raw pop that should translate to average over-the-fence power at maturity.

    His defense is still raw and too aggressive, like any young shortstop, but Anderson has the tools to be a first-division shortstop. All he needs now is experience.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division player); Medium risk

1. Carlos Rodon, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/10/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 235 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (North Carolina State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2015

     

    2014 Stats

      

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60705550

     

    Scouting Report

    The White Sox promoted Carlos Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft, to Triple-A Charlotte in mid-August, less than a month after he made his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League.

    The 21-year-old impressed at the minor leagues' highest level, posting a 3.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 12 innings (three starts), including 15 over his final two starts.

    Rodon has everything one looks for in a potential front-end starter with a durable frame, three offerings with plus-or-better potential, highlighted by a low-to-mid 90s heater and a 70-grade slider, and the type of competitive mound presence that can’t be taught. Rodon should compete during spring training for a spot in the South Siders’ Opening Day rotation, and as long as he stays healthy, it shouldn’t take him long to emerge as one of baseball’s premier left-handed pitchers.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter); Medium risk

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