It’s once again projection season, and a few weeks ago, we talked about PECOTA’s Player Projections and what projections for the 2022 White Sox looked like. However, the sustained success of any team is determined by what is coming in as reinforcements from the minor league system.
Earlier this offseason, Keith Law ranked the White Sox Farm System 30th in all of baseball – Baseball America isn’t likely to rank them much higher either. However, another projection system – FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections, created by Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs – painted a bit of a rosier picture for the White Sox farm system.
As a primer: ZiPS is Dan Szymborski’s personally created projection system. It uses multiple years-worth of data with multiple statistics that have been determined to have higher predictive value in terms of understanding player success. You can read more information from Szymborski himself here, since you’ll obviously learn more from the person who created the system. However, here’s a short summary from that article:
“At its core, however, it’s still doing two primary tasks: estimating what the baseline expectation for a player is at the moment I hit the button, and then estimating where that player may be going using large cohorts of relatively similar players.“Dan Szymborski, 2022 ZiPS Projections are Coming
While ZiPS does create MLB player projections similar to PECOTA, Szymborski also uses a 50th percentile career projection to create a Top 100 Prospect Rankings list each season. And, this year, while the White Sox farm system is far from elite, ZiPS points out two players that the White Sox might be able to hang their hats on for the future. The great news? They’re both young ballplayers who are already putting up noticeable numbers.
Let’s take a look further:
Jose Rodriguez, 2B/SS (#87 Overall in Rankings)
Jose Rodriguez’s appearance on this list isn’t all that surprising, nor is the place at which he is ranked. After signing as an International Free Agent, Rodriguez would hit .292 in two seasons in rookie ball at the ages of 17 and 18. After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez slashed a combined .301/.338/.469 across Low-A, High-A, and AA in 2021, earning himself quick promotions at each stop. He isn’t one to walk very much, as evidenced by his 5.8% walk rate in Low-A and 4.0% walk rate in High-A, but he prevents himself from striking out as well (15.8% K-rate in Low-A and 10.3% K-rate in High-A). As a result, he has begun to model himself as a Nick Madrigal-Esque player: someone who will primarily provide his value by putting the ball in play. The difference though: Rodriguez hit 14 home runs last season.
Rodriguez has certainly caught the eye of many White Sox fans – as well as the ZiPS projection system. Because ZiPS is a 50th percentile system, it’s going to point out players with lower ceilings, but potentially higher floors. This is certainly how many people would describe Nick Madrigal, which explains why ZiPS might’ve put Rodriguez on its radar.
Rodriguez has certainly become a player to keep his eye on in the White Sox system, especially with few appealing options in the middle infield long-term. He has some growing to do, but to be in this position at just 21-years-old is a welcome sight for White Sox fans.
Bryan Ramos, 3B (#20 Overall in Rankings)
However, the true surprise on this list is Bryan Ramos rising to #20 overall on these prospect rankings. He ranks behind Nolan Gorman and Miguel Vargas on the overall third base list. Ramos is a year younger than Rodriguez and just completed his age-19 season. He slashed .277/.353/.415 as a 17-year-old in Rookie Ball in 2019, and after a year off due to the pandemic, put up a similar slash line in Low-A: .244/.345/.415. A 19-year-old hitting 13 home runs in 115 games is certainly noteworthy, showing Ramos might be developing some power that explains his placement on this list. His impressive 10.1% walk rate and just 21.8% strikeout rate show a player with pretty solid plate discipline to go along with his developing power at the hot corner.
Here’s what Szymborski himself had to say about Ramos’ appearance in his Top 100 rankings at #20:
“Then there’s Bryan Ramos. ZiPS absolutely loved Ramos’ season and thought he was even unlucky from a BABIP standpoint. A .244/.345/.415 line for a 19-year-old infielder in a full-season league is solid, and his comps are a who’s who of interesting-ish prospects who developed power, like Jose Valentin and Dan Uggla. I’m not saying that he’s a slam-dunk — ZiPS also loved Arismendy Alcántara — but don’t completely forget his name. Especially since the White Sox didn’t do so well here otherwise.“Dan Szymborski, ZiPS 2022 Top 100 Prospects
Obviously, projections aren’t perfect, and Ramos’ inclusion at #20 on this list after not being included elsewhere is certainly interesting. However, his swing shows some impressive power, and his low-A numbers at the age of 19 are certainly among some of the more impressive ones that young, international White Sox prospects have put up in recent memory. Once again, it’s still early to tell on Ramos, but he’s clearly established himself as a name to keep an eye on for the White Sox.
For quite a few years, our focus as fans was on the minor league system – those were some of the rough days of the rebuild. It should be no surprise that our attention has largely shifted elsewhere in the wake of better days at the major league level for a team with championship aspirations. But, championship windows can’t last forever unless minor league development remains at the top of the organization’s mind.
As always, it’s important to exercise caution at the same time. Both players are incredibly young, and these projections are based on 50th percentile career projections. This means that there are going to be a lot of players who likely have a higher ceiling than Ramos and Rodriguez – which explains why neither was listed on other page’s rankings. At the same time, while we wait for guys such as Colson Montgomery, Wes Kath, Jared Kelley, Andrew Dalquist, Yoelkis Cespedes, Matthew Thompson, and others to make the next step in their development, Bryan Ramos and Jose Rodriguez are good reminders of some of the “diamonds in the rough” any organization is hoping to find when they sign talent internationally.
You can view the ZiPS projections for any player at the bottom of their player page on FanGraphs (example shown below).
In addition, you can find the full ZiPS list of Top 100 Prospects here.
Follow us @SoxOn35th for more updates!
Featured Image: @Kcannonballers and Tyler Buckwell / Twitter