MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Chicago White Sox

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our sixth farm system overview will be of the Chicago White Sox. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: 1B Andrew Vaughn

vaughn
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 21

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 214 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Overall- 2019

Hit: 65 Power: 65 Field: 47.5 Arm: 47.5 Speed: 35

Overall Grade: 60.075

Outside of possibly Adley Rutschman, no one was as successful in the collegiate ranks over the past two years as Andrew Vaughn was at the University of California, who won the Golden Spikes Award in 2018 and was a finalist in 2019. As a result, despite being a one-dimensional type of player, the 21-year-old was selected with the third overall pick by the White Sox, who should reap the benefits immediately. To be frank, there may not be a minor-leaguer with an offensive profile as the same caliber with Vaughn, who has great plate discipline, plenty of power, and zero noticeable flaws with his swing. The comparison, although lofty, needs to be Miguel Cabrera, as even though he’s not much a defender at first base, he could easily post 6+ WARs on an annual basis. Plus, he’s already in High-A, and could be in the majors, if needed, by the end of this season. Simply put, this is a special prospect.

#2: 2B Nick Madrigal

madrigal
Photo Cred: Baseball America

Age: 22

Height: 5’7″ Weight: 165 lbs

Drafted: 4th Overall- 2018

Hit: 67.5 Power: 42.5 Field: 60 Arm: 50 Speed: 62.5

Overall Grade: 56.75

The White Sox clearly are enamored with the idea of bringing in high-end college performers; a year before drafting Vaughn, they used the fourth overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft on Nick Madrigal, who was the leader of the College World Series-winning Oregon State Beavers. By no means is Madrigal your typical prospect. At just 5’7″ and 165 pounds, he’s never going to hit for much power, even though he has more pop than you’d expect for someone at that frame. However, it’s his pure hitting ability that makes him so intriguing, as he refused to strike out at all, and it doesn’t come at the expense of a solid walk rate; he should hit for high on-base percentages and enough power to be an All-Star-caliber hitter. In the 22-year-old, you’re also looking at a Gold-glove defender and tremendous athlete at second-base, which further confirms his high floor as an all-around standout infielder. Though he’ll likely spend the first month in the minor leagues for service-time reasons, he should be the White Sox starting second basemen as late as early May, and will produce at a high rate immediately.

#3: OF Luis Robert

luisrobert
Photo Cred: South Side Sox

Age: 22

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 185 lbs

Signed: May 27, 2017

Hit: 50 Power: 60 Field: 57.5 Arm: 60 Speed: 62.5

Overall Grade: 56.75

Although Vaughn and Madrigal were top-five picks, no prospect in the White Sox farm system has as much pressure to realize his potential than Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, who is seen as the team’s top prospect by nearly a public consensus. After all, the 22-year-old signed him for $26 million, as well as a tax penalty for nearly the same amount, and before he played a game in the majors, signed him recently to a six-year, $50 million extension that can max out at eight years and $88 million. With elite power and incredible athleticism, there’s no doubt that Robert’s potential is enormous, which is what the front office is betting on. Yet, he might not be the blue-chip prospect many are labeling him as. He’s posted high on-base percentages in the minors, but that’s due almost entirely to his absurdly high batting average on balls in play, and his plate discipline is a major red flag in terms of walks and strikeouts. Perhaps further development is what he needs to become a superstar, but he’s going to be in the majors from the get-go for a team that is under pressure to win; this could go south in a hurry, though Robert’s overall upside still cannot be ignored.

#4: RHP Michael Kopech

kopech
Photo Cred: Chicago Sun-Times

Age: 23

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 33rd Overall- BOS 2014

Fastball: 75 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 45

Overall Grade: 55.25

With the way Yoan Moncada has developed, the White Sox have to feel pleased about their return for Chris Sale in the 2017 blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. However, there is one more piece to the trade that can further boost their spirits- flamethrower Michael Kopech. With a fastball that easily touches 100 MPH with a lot of movement, as well as a power slider, he has the type of two-pitch mix needed to generate strikeouts at an extremely high rate, and his changeup is fine. However, there are two red flags with the 23-year-old. For starters, he missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so we still have to see how he recovers. Plus, even then, he’s yet to post a walk rate below 4.00, which could hamper his chances of becoming a true front-line starter, even if he is healthy. Obviously, Kopech has what it takes to dominate in the big leagues. Still, he’s not someone without flaws, so he’s a pretty risky prospect- he’s similar to Robert in that regard.

#5: RHP Dane Dunning

dunning
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 25

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 200 lbs

Drafted: 29th Overall- WSH 2016

Fastball: 50 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 55

Overall Grade: 53.75

Another pitcher whom the White Sox acquired as a secondary piece in a big trade (Adam Eaton to Washington) and is coming off of a Tommy John surgery, there is pressure for Dane Dunning to make a quick recovery- he’s already 25-years-old. He was on the brink of a major-league promotion prior to the surgery, as he was pitching at a high quality, but at the moment, it’s impossible to tell how he’ll perform this upcoming season. Although his low 90s sinker isn’t a great offering, his two-plus breaking balls and changeup give him “strikeout stuff”, and his command is pretty refined. He may not have the upside that Kopech has, but Dunning seems like a safe bet to be a productive #3 starter, and probably will make his major-league debut during the 2020 season.

#6: OF Luis Alexander Basabe

basabe
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Age: 23

Height: 6’0″ Weight: 160 lbs

Signed: August 26, 2012- BOS

Hit: 45 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 60 Speed: 60

Overall Grade: 50.55

Acquired alongside Moncada and Kopech in the Sale trade, Luis Alexander Basabe has dealt with multiple injuries that have stunted his development, but there’s still a lot to like with him. His launch angle oriented swing and strong plate discipline numbers should theoretically give him a high floor offensively, but he’s yet to put it together, and at 23-years-old, he’s running out of time. I have hope that maybe he can be an average starting outfielder, but if not, he’d be a very high-quality fourth outfield type.

#7: OF Micker Adolfo

adolfo
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 23

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 255 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2013

Hit: 42.5 Power: 57.5 Field: 45 Arm: 60 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 50.05

Signed for $1.6 million in the 2013 international signing period, Micker Adolfo has been in the White Sox organization for five seasons now, but just reached Double-A (23 games) this season. So, what has gone wrong? Well, his first two seasons were destroyed due to various injuries, and after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, barely played this season. Plus, the swing and miss concerns with the 23-year-old have persisted, and likely due to the injuries, his outfield defense isn’t refined. So, why is he still a well-regarded prospect? With his massive frame, it’s no surprise that Adolfo has plenty of raw power, which he utilizes with his excellent bat speed; he also has a cannon for an arm. Like Basabe, there’s still a chance that Adolfo can be a starting-caliber outfielder, but he’s a few years away from being big-league ready, and that’s certainly alarming, given his age.

#8: OF Luis Gonzalez

luisgonzalez
Photo Cred: South Side Sox

Age: 24

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- 2017

Hit: 52.5 Power: 45 Field: 50 Arm: 55 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 50.025

Though he shares the name of a Diamondbacks legend, Luis Gonzalez is looking to make a name for himself at the next level. After all, the 24-year-old was well regarded when he was selected in the third round, and has the type of pure-hitting ability that is needed to transition to the next level. However, with below-average power and mediocre athleticism, that’s about all the Mexican-born outfielder offers. That’s good enough to be a fourth outfielder, which is what he could be as soon as next season.

#9: OF Blake Rutherford

rutherford
Photo Cred: South Side Sox

Age: 22

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 210 lbs

Drafted: 18th Overall- 2016

Hit: 50 Power: 45 Field: 50 Arm: 47.5 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 48.3

Blake Rutherford certainly hasn’t lived up to his standing as the 18th overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, especially since being traded to the White Sox in 2017; he struggled mightily in 2019. Essentially, the 22-year-old is the epitome of an average player, though even then, he has below-average power and middling athleticism. Maybe he still has a big-league future, but it’s certainly been a tough time for the former first-round pick, who’ll look to turn it around in 2020.

#10: C Zack Collins

zackcollins
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Age: 24

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 220 lbs

Drafted: 10th Overall- 2016

Hit: 45 Power: 55 Field: 42.5 Arm: 50 Speed: 25

Overall Grade: 47.4

Similar to Rutherford, Zack Collins hasn’t lived up to being the 10th overall pick yet, but at the very least, he’s already in the majors. The 24-year-old does have a lot of power and high walk rates, but his strikeout rates are very concerning, so he’ll be limited offensively until he can fix that. That’s an issue, because he no longer appears to be capable of catching, so if he has to be a first baseman or designated hitter, he’ll need to hit at a higher rate. Unlike Rutherford, he’ll at least have some role as a big-leaguer, but still, it’s hard to imagine him being any sort of key contributor at the moment.

Best of the Rest

  • Matthew Thompson was drafted in the second round, and is a boom-or-bust type of prospect as a high-school pitcher
  • Jonathan Stievier has three plus pitches and solid command, but could make these types of list soon if he can continue to have success.

Farm System Overview

As players like Moncada and Lucas Giolito have graduated, the White Sox don’t have the deep farm system they once did, but Vaughn is one of the top prospects in the MLB, Madrigal looks like an immediate All-Star, and Robert’s upside is incredible. It’s unclear if Chicago’s aspirations to win this upcoming season will come to fruition, but they have to be optimistic about their future.

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