With the MLB Draft and the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, it is time to look back at the White Sox farm system and do a mid-season reranking of their top 30 prospects!
This season, the White Sox have infused their organization with a plethora of new young talent through both trades and draft picks. While all of us Sox fans can agree that this is not the position we thought we would be in a few years ago, the Front Office took a step in the right direction by selling off some expiring contracts in exchange for prospects with the potential to make a positive impact n this roster down the road.
This year, Michael Suareo was joined by Sox on 35th’s own Thatcher Zalewski, as each mocked up their own top 30 prospect lists while also identifying other prospects who deserved a mention despite missing the cut. They then combined each of their lists to come up with one consensus ranking.
For the second installment of our list, we reveal the bottom half of the Sox on 35th’s top 30 prospect list. Here, we reveal some of the exciting new talent that the Sox brought in throughout the 2023 season, along with prospects who still made the cut despite all the new additions to the system.
Don’t miss the Honorable Mentions list HERE.
30. Adam Hackenberg, C
Michael’s Ranking: NR
Thatcher’s Ranking: 26
Before the trade deadline, Hackenberg was likely the top catching prospect in the White Sox farm system. Despite being known more as a defensive first catcher, Hackenberg is currently having the best offensive season of his professional career. Patient at the plate, Hackenberg held an 11.6% walk rate and a 113 wRC+ in Double-A Birmingham, and the Sox decided that they had seen enough progress at the plate to promote him to Triple-A Charlotte. Behind the plate, Hackenberg is mobile and excels at blocking, and his receiving skills are improving. He also has a strong, accurate arm that keeps base runners in check. He might never be a true starting catcher, but he has a chance to split starting duties at the MLB level.
29. Jake Peppers, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: NR
Thatcher’s Ranking: 22
Jake Peppers was selected in the ninth round of the 2023 draft out of Jacksonville State. The 21-year-old right-hander has three pitches but only throws two effectively. Peppers’ best pitch is his fastball, which sits around 93-95 miles per hour. He also has a slider which is swing and miss pitch. He throws a change-up but lacks command of it.
Peppers struggled with command in college as well, posting 5.2 walks per nine innings in his three years at Jacksonville State. Peppers could likely end up as a reliever long-term due to those control issues and only having two strong pitches. However, if the changeup comes around, he could rise up lists and very well end up as a starting pitcher.
28. Tanner McDougal. RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 25
Thatcher’s Ranking: NR
Despite being drafted back in 2021, Tanner McDougal is basically pitching in his first professional season, as he missed more than. a full season due to an injury that required Tommy John Surgery. While his results this year have been inconsistent, the most important thing is that he is pitching on a regular starter’s schedule.
At his best, McDougal sits in the mid 90’s with his fastball and posts elite spin rates with his breaking pitches. Even with this season being a build-up year, he. is still posting impressive strikeout numbers, with a K/9 rate over 10.5. Next year will be the true testament to where McDougal is as a prospect, but for now, he is still one of the more intriguing arms in the White Sox organization.
27, Matthew Thompson, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 30
The White Sox selected Matthew Thompson in the second round of the 2019 draft, and he has shown flashes of being that front-line starter that the White Sox were hoping for when they selected him out of high school. Unfortunately, he has been up and down due to injuries early in his career, and even when he has been healthy, he has just not been able to find any sort of consistency. He possesses a four-pitch mix that features a fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball, with his curveball being the best out of the four.
Thompson has put up high strikeout numbers in the minors but has struggled with his command, leading to more walks. Thompson is currently pitching with the Barons in Double-A and has a 4.83 ERA with 97 strikeouts, but 60 walks, in 20 starts; however, over the last couple of months, he has started to look like the pitcher the Sox thought they were drafting in 2019. If he can get his command under control, Thompson will most likely rise up prospect rankings once again.
26. Jared Kelley, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 24
Thatcher’s Ranking: NR
Jared Kelley’s career trajectory has taken numerous twists and turns, but it appears he might have finally figured out a role that allows him to excel. With the High-A Winston-Salem Dash, Kelley transitioned into a multi-inning reliever role, and his production took off. He looked so much improved that the Sox decided to test him out in his newfound role at the Double-A level. Kelley still possesses the talent that had many project him as a first-round pick back in 2020, and a condensed role appears to be allowing him to tap into his plus stuff more than ever in his professional career.
25. Jordan Leasure, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 26
Thatcher’s Ranking: 24
The second pitching prospect acquired in the Lynn-Kelly deal with the Dodgers was right-hander Jordan Leasure. Leasure projects long-term as a backend reliever due to only having two pitchers: a fastball and a slider. MLB Pipeline has an 80 grade on Leasure’s fastball, making it his best pitch of the two, but his slider is not far behind with elite spin rates and movement. In Double-A with the Dodgers, Leasure held a 3.09 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 16 walks in 35 innings.
Leasure has been up and down since arriving with Charlotte but seems to be getting back to his regular ways. He is a pitcher who should not be overlooked in his ranking due to projecting more as a reliever, as he has an elite ability to generate whiffs. He is a player who could eventually become a big-league closer due to having a high-velocity fastball and a slider that he can command very well.
24. Norge Vera, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 27
Thatcher’s Ranking: 19
Coming into the 2022 season, it was almost unanimous that Norge Vera was the best pitching prospect in the White Sox organization. Fast forward a year and a half, and he is almost an afterthought now. Injuries are the main culprit of Vera’s downfall, as he only logged 35.1 innings in 2022 and has just a handful of appearances so far in 2023. He still possesses an effortless delivery that generates high velocities on his fastball and above-average breaking pitches, but until he can stay on the mound consistently he will never be able to develop into the pitcher many thought he could become.
23. Calvin Harris, C
Michael’s Ranking: 22
Thatcher’s Ranking: 21
The fourth-round pick out of Ole Miss, Calvin Harris has been off to a strong start in Kannapolis with the Cannon Ballers. A proven winner, he was a teammate of first-round pick Jacob Gonzalez at Ole Miss where they won the National Championship together.
Harris has a nice left-handed swing that can produce over-the-fence power, as proven by his 12 homers this year for Ole Miss in 54 games. Since Harris was promoted to Kannapolis, he has hit .303/.410/.455 with two doubles and a home run. He may not stick behind the plate long-term due to his slow pop time, however, he has improved since getting surgery during his freshman year. Harris is only 21 years old so there is still plenty of time for him to improve behind the plate.
22. Abraham Nunez, OF
Michael’s Ranking: 19
Thatcher’s Ranking: 25
Abraham Nunez tied with Luis Reyes for the largest signing bonus commanded in the most recent White Sox international class. While Reyes was ranked higher by most outlets, Nunez is the one who has broken out big time in the 2023 season in the Dominican Summer League.
Although he has cooled off a bit as the season has progressed, he is still one of the Sox’ biggest up-and-coming prospects, showcasing five-tool ability while manning center field. What is most impressive about Nunez’s game is his advanced approach at the plate, which has allowed him to draw walks in nearly 20% of his plate appearances while striking out at almost half that rate. While it remains to be seen how he fares when he is challenged in his stateside debut next season, he has put himself at the top of 2024 watchlists.
21. Seth Keener, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 20
Thatcher’s Ranking: NR
The White Sox selected Seth Keener in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. The 21-year-old has a three-pitch mix which highlights his slider as his best pitch. He also has a fastball that can range from 91-97 miles per hour and a changeup that he mainly uses against left-handed hitters. Keener has only thrown four innings in Arizona for the Complex League team but has been solid with a 2.25 ERA with three strikeouts and has been very efficient in minimizing baserunners.
Keener’s ability to keep his WHIP low was one of the main standouts for him in college at Wake Forest. Keener can become a big-league starter but needs to work on going deeper into ball games. However, if Keener were to move to the bullpen his slider would play and make him an effective reliever.
20. Ryan Burrowes, SS
Michael’s Ranking: 21
Thatcher’s Ranking: 20
Ryan Burrowes was a surprise breakout star in the White Sox organization last year, generating many fans in scouting circles during his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. Unfortunately, he hasn’t broken out quite as well as many were hoping, although there is still plenty of reason to be excited about what he could develop into.
A 6’2 shortstop, Burrowes is a fantastic athlete that is dangerous on the basepaths and has range defensively. He is a patient hitter who is willing to draw walks and wait for his pitch, although his strikeout numbers have spiked this season. While he has only produced minimal power numbers, he has very good bat speed and a frame that can easily add strength to give him 20 home run power at his peak. He has also been praised as a high-character player and teammate and has the mental makeup to work toward honing his craft.
19. Grant Taylor, RHP
Michael’s Ranking: 17
Thatcher’s Ranking: 27
Before sustaining an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, Grant Taylor was generating first-round buzz heading into the 2023 collegiate season for LSU. Instead, the White Sox snagged him in the second round, where they believe they drafted a premium arm.
Although he spent the bulk of his collegiate career as a reliever, Taylor pitch extremely well as a starting pitcher at the Cape Cod league, firmly putting himself on the map in the eyes of scouts. When healthy, he throws a mid-upper 90’s fastball with life, and a curveball that generated elite spin rates. He also mixes in a slider and changeup that are at least average, and he throws from a high three-quarter arm slot.
18. Jacob Burke, OF
Michael’s Ranking: 23
Thatcher’s Ranking: 14
A former 11th-round pick, Jacob Burke has put together quite the season for himself, including a 52-game on-base streak across two levels. After 35 games with the Cannon Ballers where Burke put together a slash line of .315/.416./512 and four home runs, he earned himself a promotion to the High-A Winston-Salem. Burke has played in 31 games for the Dash so far and hasn’t slowed down. He is currently hitting .317/.425/.431 with one home run. Burke has now become a popular name amongst Sox fans and should see a promotion to Double-A before the end of the year.
In addition to his hitting ability, Burke has great speed and can play all three outfield spots fairly well. Burke has stolen 17 bags so far and could finish with 30 if all goes well. Burke also does take his fair share of walks and puts together good at-bats by limiting strikeouts.
17. Korey Lee, C
Michael’s Ranking: 16
Thatcher’s Ranking: 15
The second catcher that the White Sox acquired at the deadline comes in at number 17 in our rankings. Korey Lee was involved in the deal that sent Kendall Graveman back to the Houston Astros. An older prospect at 25 years old, Lee has massive pop in his bat that allows him to project as a capable offensive catcher. He just came back from an injury that took him out for almost all of July. Lee made 12 appearances for the Astros last year where he slashed .160/.192/.240 – not very appealing on paper, however, the sample size is very small.
The power has taken a step back this year for Lee, as he only has five home runs in 74 total games. However, as he gets back to full strength, the power should return. Lee also possesses a very strong arm that allows him to keep baserunners in check and moves quickly behind the plate for a catcher. He does, however, get mixed reviews about his blocking and receiving which may slot him in one of the corner outfield spots. Despite this, Lee could make it back to the majors this year with the White Sox and see time behind the plate. Lee will be a strong candidate to replace Yasmani Grandal on the 2024 White Sox as the catching market in free agency isn’t the strongest.
16. Terrell Tatum, OF
Michael’s Ranking: 15
Thatcher’s Ranking: 16
Terrell Tatum has been an extremely pleasant surprise as a 16th-rounder from the 2021 draft class. While his 2022 season was limited due to a 50-game suspension for banned substances, he has been a productive hitter at every minor league stop he has faced so far in his career.
In 2023, he was excellent in High-A Winston Salem, producing a 143 wRC+ largely due to his incredible 21% walk rate. His on-base abilities have also allowed him to showcase his plus speed, swiping 32 bases at the High-A level in 2023. His speed also gives him plenty of range in center field. He was productive enough to force the White Sox’s hand in giving him a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, where he has held his own so far. He needs to cut down his strikeouts and get some more loft on the balls he hits (as evidenced by a ground ball rate that sits at around 60%), but at the very least he can be a useful fourth outfielder who provides defensive and pinch runner value and can be a useful bat from the left side of the plate.
Stay tuned this week as we release our top 15 prospects in the White Sox’ system!
Featured Image: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports