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Sox On 35th’s 2023 Pre-Season Top 30 White Sox Prospects: #1-15

by Michael Suareo

There is more optimism with this farm system heading into 2023 than there was a year ago. While the depth of the organization as a whole has some room for growth, the White Sox saw several breakout performances from their home-grown talent to bolster the overall strength of their farm system.

While the White Sox farm system as a whole has its fair criticisms, their top prospects are among some of the best in baseball. The top half of their top 30 prospects list is comprised of players who have the ability to become mainstays on an MLB roster, with some even having all-star potential. The White Sox have seen three prospects make an appearance on different media outlets’ top 100 prospects lists, and that number can grow with further development from some of these talented players.

15. Matthew Thompson SP (Prev. 16)

It seems like every season Matthew Thompson does just enough to give people reasons to continue to hold out hope that one season he will finally put it all together. He had an up-and-down season at High-A Winston Salem that ended with a 4.70 ERA and pedestrian strikeout numbers, but he seemed to find a new gear when he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham. In 25.1 innings at that level, he showcased his strikeout potential with 11.01 K/9, and while his 5.33 ERA seems lackluster, his 4.33 FIP and 4.49 xFIP suggest he pitched better than the results show. He will most likely remain in Double-A, where he will look to build off the promising end to the season he had.

14. Luis Mieses OF (Prev. 22)

If there is a player in this system who can make a Bryan Ramos-like jump in 2023, my money is on Mieses. The left-handed outfielder had a rock solid 2022 season, holding a .281 batting average with 12 home runs while leading the South Atlantic League with 34 doubles joining Project Birmingham. He proved ready for the promotion, as he hit .299 with 3 home runs in 103 games at the level. He profiles as a prototypical left-handed right fielder with raw power and a strong throwing arm. He has been able to keep his strike-out rates low, however, he rarely walks, limiting his on-base potential. With that being said, he has starting right-field potential.

13. Yoelqui Cespedes OF (Prev. 12)

Yoelqui Cespedes’ 2022 season was a bit underwhelming as a whole. While he seems to have all the tools to develop into a starting-caliber MLB outfielder, his aggressiveness at the plate has limited his overall impact. In 2022, while he did hit 17 home runs, he struck out over 30% of his at-bats and walked less than 6% of the time. He does offer additional value with his speed and defensive capabilities, so he could still benefit a team in a platoon/fourth outfielder role if his current pace continues.

12. Jonathan Cannon SP (Prev. 11)

Cannon only pitched 7.1 total innings between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A Kannapolis, so it is difficult to judge him based on his 2022 performance. After being taken in the third round of the 2022 draft, however, Cannon provides a safety net for this farm system. While he doesn’t possess the elite pitching arsenal as other players on this list, he makes up for it with incredible command and an ability to pound the strike zone. He has a full pitching arsenal that consists of a fastball, cutter, slider, and changeup that he uses effectively, topping out at 96 with his heater. The best part of his game is his ability to limit baserunners, as he only averaged 1.4 BB/9 in his junior season. He has a mid-rotation starter upside and has a chance to be the first payer from this entire draft to be called up to the majors.

11. Wes Kath 3B (Prev. 10)

Wes Kath had an inconsistent season, where the highs were very high and the lows were incredibly frustrating. In 449 plate appearances at Low-A Kannapolis, he held a 109 wRC+ with 13 home runs, a 33% strikeout rate, and a 13.4% walk rate. His final month at that level before joining the rest of the top prospects in Birmingham was by far his best, putting up an OPS over .900. He shows patience and has plenty of raw power when he squares up the baseball, but his strikeout issues continue to limit him. Defensively, he has a chance to be a solid third baseman after fully transitioning from playing shortstop in high school. He will most likely spend the vast majority of 2023 in High-A Winston Salem, where he will continue to work on cutting down his strikeouts to reach his potential.

10. Sean Burke SP (Prev. 14)

All Sean Burke has done is progress through this farm system faster than anyone could have expected, finishing off last season with two starts in Triple-A Charlotte. The strikeouts have been there for him consistently, sporting an 11.42 K/9 rate across three levels, and though his ability to limit runs has been a bit inconsistent, his showing in his first full season after being selected in the third round in 2021 cannot be looked at as anything but a success. With his fast rise through the ranks, it is extremely possible that Burke will eventually make his MLB debut at some point in 2023.

9. Peyton Pallette SP (Prev. 8)

Unfortunately, Pallette was unable to make his professional debut in 2022 after being taken in the second round, as he continued to rehab from Tommy John surgery. He appears on track to pitch in the White Sox system at some point in 2023.

Pallette probably could have been drafted a round earlier if he didn’t miss his entire junior year from his injury. While not a physically imposing presence on the mound at 6’1 180 lbs, Pallette possesses elite stuff that has garnered Walker Buehler comparisons from scouts. His fastball can touch 99 mph, and his curveball is even better with incredible spin and movement. His changeup is also at least usable at this stage. He has front end of the rotation potential as well.

8. Norge Vera RHP (Prev. 6)

Many will argue that Norge Vera is the best pitching prospect in the White Sox farm system, and there is certainly a case to be made for that. The 22-year-old from Cuba has always looked the part and has the stuff to eventually develop into a front-line starter. The biggest problem for him so far in his minor-league career is that he just hasn’t logged many innings.

After a 2021 season where he dominated the DSL by not allowing a single run in 19 innings, Vera was on a strict inning limit in 2022; of his 35.1 innings last season, only 11.1 of those innings were above Low-A Kannapolis. While he was able to miss plenty of bats, his command regressed in his second season, as he sported a 7.90 BB/9 rate across three levels. Vera still features a fastball that can touch triple digits and his smooth, effortless delivery still gives him a great shot at sticking as a starting pitcher, but he will need to prove he can handle the workload first.

7. Jose Rodriguez 2B/SS (Prev. 9)

Jose “Popeye” Rodriguez came into the 2022 season with high expectations after being somewhat of a breakout prospect in 2021, however, he struggled to find the same success at the Double-A level until late in the season. His final slash line was .280/.340/.430. Those stats were heavily carried by his performance in July and August, where his slash line was .313/.398/.595 with 10 of his 11 home runs and a 157 wRC+. Unfortunately, he was forced to miss the final month of the minor league season due to a broken hamate bone.

Rodriguez has played the majority of his games in his minor league career at shortstop, however, he might profile better at second base. He has shown excellent bat-to-ball skills and more pop in his bat than scouts expected when he signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2018. It is unclear if the plan is for him to repeat at Double-A or to begin his season in Triple-A, but he appears to be on track to enter the eventual competition to be the White Sox second baseman.

6. Noah Schultz SP (Prev. 5)

The White Sox have a type when it comes to first-round pitchers: tall, lanky, and left-handed. Noah Schultz fits this profile perfectly, with a 6’9 frame and a unique 3-quarters delivery that makes it difficult for batters to read the ball out of his hand. He keeps his delivery under better control than one would expect, and his fastball/slider combo is as good as anyone’s from this draft class. All his tools combined, he has true top-of-the-rotation potential. He, unfortunately, didn’t get to pitch in the Arizona Complex League last season, but he will make his anticipated professional debut in 2023.

5. Lenyn Sosa SS (Prev. 3)

What a 2022 season for Lenyn Sosa! The White Sox have always been high on him as a prospect, and he finally delivered with a true breakout season that saw him earn his MLB debut. In the minors across Double-A and Triple-A, Sosa totaled 23 home runs, a .315/.369/.511 slash line, and a 130 wRC+. Sosa is historically a slow starter when promoted to a new level, so the fact that he could not sustain the same level of success in his brief MLB stint shouldn’t be a knock on what was overall an incredibly successful season.

Sosa has always shown solid bat-to-ball skills, but his power surge added a new element to his game that dramatically increases his overall potential. The main obstacle he will have to overcome to be a successful MLB player will be his aggressiveness at the plate. While he is a good enough hitter to limit his strikeouts, his aggressiveness has led to a lower walk rate, limiting his ability to get on base. With the recent signing of Elvis Andrus, it appears likely that he will go back to Charlotte to begin the 2023 season, but he has firmly put himself in the conversation to be a long-term option at second base for the White Sox.

4. Cristian Mena SP (Prev. 4)

Out of all of the White Sox pitching prospects, Cristian Mena has the best combination of established minor-league success and future upside. During a season in which he was just 19 years old, Mena pitched effectively across three minor league levels, finishing in Double-A as part of Project Birmingham. Hat stint in Birmingham might have been his most impressive feat of the season, where he struck out 13 batters and issued just one walk in 10 innings, posting an impressive 2.58 FIP to negate his inflated ERA.

Mena was able to add a bit of velocity to his fastball this past season, touching mid-90s. He paired that with his power curveball – his best pitch – and an impressive ability to command the strike zone despite his age. As he continues to mature and develop, he has a chance to eventually turn into a number two or three starter.

3. Bryan Ramos 3B (Prev. 7)

Ramos has always had the ability to become an impact type of prospect, and in 2022 he put it all together to turn the best season of his minor league career. At just 20 years old, Ramos displays an advanced approach at the plate to pair with his plus raw power. At High-A Winston Salem, he hit 19 home runs, drew walks in 9.2% of his plate appearances, and limited his strikeout rate to just 16.4%. It was a bit of a rollercoaster season, as he began the season on fire, then went into a month-long slump before gradually heating back up at the plate from June through August.

Ramos profiles well as a third baseman but has also spent some time at second and could also profile well in a corner outfield spot. While he holds solid value defensively, it is his abilities at the plate that have put him in the conversation for some top 100 prospect lists. It is likely that he will be in Double-A to begin the 2023 season, but is currently on track to make his debut in 2024, if not earlier.

2. Oscar Colas OF (Prev. 2)

After what felt like a lifetime of hearing about Oscar Colas eventually joining the White Sox system, he finally played his first season in their minor league system last year and did not disappoint. At 23 years old, Colas advanced successfully through three levels of minor league baseball, ending with a bang at the Triple-A level.

Colas ended his 2022 season with a .314/.371/.524 slash line, 23 home runs, and a 137 wRC+. While his biggest knock has been his aggressiveness at the plate, his 7.8% walk rate and 22.8% strikeout rate shouldn’t get in the way of his success if he can stay at those levels. He taps into his raw power well and should give the White Sox that power-hitting left-handed right fielder they have been looking to add for years.

Defensively, he played plenty of center field in 2022 and held his own, but his long-term home should be in right field. He features plus arm strength that stems from his past experience as a pitcher and has enough range to be an asset in the corner outfield spot. He appears to be the frontrunner to start in right field on Opening Day for the White Sox.

1. Colson Montgomery SS (Prev. 1)

The White Sox haven’t featured an elite prospect since the end of the rebuild, however, Colson Montgomery has broken that streak with a massive breakout 2022 season. Through 302 at-bats between Low-A and High-A, Montgomery featured a .295/.405/.450 slash line with a 140 wRC+ and nine home runs. To cap off his impressive showing, he strung together an incredible stretch of 50 games straight reaching base. While he struggled during his stint in Double-A for the Project Birmingham initiative, that should be attributed to the wear and tear from adjusting to a longer season from high school.

The most impressive part of Montgomery’s game is how advanced of an approach he featured despite being drafted out of high school. His 14.1% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate show an incredibly patient approach and an impressive batter’s eye at the plate. His bat-to-ball skills early on have been better than expected, and there is still plenty of raw power in his bat to increase his home run output.

Defensively, while many still project him to move to second or third base eventually, he was able to use his athleticism effectively at shortstop, showing decent range and actions. He could eventually outgrow the position, but his bat should allow him to profile at another position just fine. It is likely that he will begin the 2023 season in Double-A, and could be knocking on the door to the MLB roster in no time.

Do you agree with our top 15? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, be sure to check out our other lists:

  • Prospects #16-30
  • Honorable Mentions
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