By now it is known league-wide that the White Sox boast the top farm system in all of baseball. While that is exciting, it is still important to realize that a good amount of these prospects might not reach their ceilings. A few could even bust completely. Right now it looks like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech are going to be the real deal. However, for a handful of prospects, the 2018 season is going to be a crucial one in determining their future on the South Side. But who specifically is going to be under close watch this coming summer? Well, that would be the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th prospects currently in the White Sox system. AKA Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Dylan Cease, Alec Hansen, and Zack Collins.
The prized international free agent signee will finally begin to play regularly stateside in the summer of ’18. It will be very interesting to see how he handles the rigors of a full season in a new environment. When it comes to God-given talent, few can match what he brings to the diamond. His combination of power and speed gives him an incredibly high ceiling and a pretty high floor as well. International players are usually a big question mark. The White Sox struck gold with slugger Jose Abreu, but have also whiffed on people like Dayan Viciedo. Former White Sox center fielder and World Series Champion Aaron Rowand has gone on record comparing Robert to a bigger and stronger version of Dexter Fowler. Only time will tell if that comparison comes to fruition. Look for Robert to play the majority of the year in high-A ball as a member of the Winston-Salem Dash, although he might begin the year in low-A with Kannapolis just to get his feet wet.
Blake Rutherford was the headliner the White Sox received from the Yankees in exchange for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier. Rutherford had some growing pains in his first professional year last season, but with him being just 20 years old, there is no need to panic yet. The no. 39 overall prospect has a wide array of tools that project to a successful MLB career.The numbers he had before he was traded to the White Sox were actually pretty impressive. Being traded to a new organization at such a young age probably had a big effect on him mentally. As a member of the Yankees system, he slashed .281/.342/.391. Once with the White Sox he dropped to .213/.289/.254. The biggest thing I am looking for next year with Rutherford is if he is able to tap into his power more. If he can, he can be a star. With his first full season under his belt and more familiarity with his new teammates, I expect Rutherford to have a bounce back year and show everyone why Rick Hahn traded for him at the deadline.
Dylan Cease was the lesser of two headliners the White Sox received from the Cubs in exchange for Jose Quintana; the other being Eloy Jimenez. Cease pairs a deadly curveball with an electric fastball, giving him the pure stuff to be a force at the MLB level. Working with pitching coach Don Cooper in Spring Training should do wonders for his development. His changeup and control are both areas where he needs to improve upon. If he can stay consistent, he has the potential to blow through the minors. If his control remains an issue, his stuff should still make him an above average bullpen arm for the White Sox.
Alec Hansen could very well end up being the future ace of the White Sox pitching staff when they are ready to contend. Standing at an imposing 6′ 7″, Hansen has the build and the stuff to be a frontline starter. The Oklahoma product started the year in Kannapolis, but quickly showed everyone that he was a man amongst boys. Soon he was with the Winston-Salem Dash in high-A ball, where he spent the majority of the year. He even got a brief stint in Double-A with the Birmingham Barons. If he continues his dominance, he could be a September call up for the White Sox towards the end of 2018. Control was a big reason why he slipped so far in the 2016 draft, but you wouldn’t know it based off his numbers from last year. In 141.1 innings pitched, his k/bb ratio was 191/51 and had a total ERA of 2.80. If Hansen continues to keep his pitches under control, his pure stuff will see to it that he progresses quickly through the minors. He is currently just the 90th overall prospect in baseball. Expect that to change in the very near future.
When the White Sox drafted Collins 10th overall in 2016, they saw him as a power hitting catcher who has a knack for getting on base. While many scouts see him more as a first baseman, the White Sox still seem firmly set on him sticking behind the plate. As a hitter, Collins struggled in his first full year as a pro, hitting only .224. There is reason for optimism however, as he still managed to get on base at a .370 clip despite his subpar batting average. He also flashed his plus power, belting 19 home runs in 113 games. His 17 home runs with the Winston-Salem Dash led the team. In 2018, it will be interesting to see how he changes his approach at the plate, if at all. He seems confident enough in his swing where any changes would be minimal at best. Some scouts say his low average had to do with him focusing primarily on improving his defense all year long. He shouldn’t have to hit .300 to make believers out of fans though. If he can hit around .260 with 20+ home runs and can still get on base at a .370 clip or better, it would be a great sign for the White Sox catcher of the future.
These five prospects will hopefully be a part of a young core on the South Side for years to come. In 2017 they were able to get their feet wet and adjust to pro ball. In 2018, they will look to take the next step and work their way closer to the MLB level. Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez will make the White Sox good again. These next five prospects could help make them great.