With the failure that has been the 2023 Chicago White Sox, fans are looking to the future in what will hopefully be better things to come. Because of how this season has played out, the White Sox have decided to build for the upcoming years, focusing on the next wave of prospects to hopefully come together to be a competitive baseball team. After bringing in more talent through the draft and the trade deadline, the White Sox now have a respectable pool of prospects developing down in their farm system.
There is already a group of names firmly cemented into what is believed to be the next core of the Chicago White Sox, including Colson Montgomery, Edgar Quero, Bryan Ramos, and Nick Nastrini, along with prospects like Noah Schultz who have star potential but are a bit farther away. The future seems bright on paper, but the development of the rest of the farm system is detrimental to establishing success down the road. Prospects outside of the team’s top five or six prospects need to develop and turn into additional useful players for this next rebuild/retool to be successful.
In comes Wilfred Veras, who might just be the most underrated prospect in the entire White Sox system. Veras, who is currently ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the White Sox organization by MLB Pipeline and 14th in the Sox on 35th mid-season top 30 prospect rankings, has flown through the rankings in his young minor league career and is doing everything his power to put himself in the Sox future plans.
In 2022, he made his full-season league debut with the Low-A Kannapolis Cannonballers and generally had a successful season with a .773 OPS despite some over-aggressiveness at the plate. Where he stood out, however, was in his stint at Double-A during Project Birmingham, where he hit three home runs and held a .846 OPS and a 116 wRC+ through 48 plate appearances despite being significantly younger than the competition at just 19 years old. That stint is what began to open the eyes of talent evaluators. The biggest question for him was just where his future defensive home would be, as he split time between first base and third base with reports from scouts not coming back as very optimistic.
To begin 2023, Veras was assigned to High-A Winston Salem, where at 20 years old he was still considered young for the level of competition. He still battled with the same aggressiveness at the plate, striking out at a 25.1% rate and only drawing walks at a 5.0% rate. Still, Veras began tapping into his massive raw power with 11 home runs and 26 additional extra-base hits at the level and added an element of athleticism with 18 stolen bases. To top it all off, Veras spent the offseason working on a transition to the corner outfield, which is where he has played almost exclusively in 2023. The reports back have been way better than anticipated, as he has appeared competent manning either side of the outfield and has even shown off an improved arm that is capable of throwing baserunners out.
That success at the High-A level has truly given the Sox minor league decision-makers a lot of confidence in his abilities as a baseball player, as they felt he was ready for an aggressive promotion back to Double-A, this time as a full-time starter at just 20 years of age. He has awarded that vote of confidence, as he has gotten off to a roaring start at the level. In his first 26 games, Veras mashed three home runs with 12 additional extra base hits and has held a .951 OPS and 149 wRC+. The plate discipline has been about the same as it has throughout his career, with a strikeout rate of just over 24% and a walk rate of 5.4%, but as long as he continues to hit the ball hard and produce results, then no one will be complaining too much about his lack of walks.
The most impressive part about Wilfred Veras’s future outlook is that he still has plenty more raw power that he can potentially tap into. He is described as possessing “well-above-average raw power, the product of bat speed, strength and an aggressive right-handed swing” by MLB Pipeline, and is given 60 and 70 grades on his raw power on the 20-80 scale. Based on those reports, if he can even tap into 80% of his raw power he should have no problem hitting 25-30 home runs on a yearly basis. As mentioned several times here, his over-aggressiveness at the plate is what will potentially hold him back as he progresses. While it hasn’t hindered him quite yet, it is reasonable to assume that adding some patience at the plate would allow him to get better pitches that he can turn on and show off that over-the-fence ability he has.
While it’s understandable that Veras isn’t in the same class as Colson Montgomery, Edgar Quero, or Bryan Ramos, Veras also should be talked about much more in that next wave of White Sox prospects than he currently is. He has showcased the ability to be an asset at the plate, in the outfield, and on the basepaths, all while performing as one of the youngest players at every level he has played in. While he is Rule 5 eligible this coming offseason, there is little doubt that the White Sox will protect him from being picked up and stash him on the 40-man roster. That will also open a path for him to potentially see some MLB action at some point in the 2024 season, as they will not need to do as much roster maneuvering.
While Oscar Colas will still most likely get the first crack at proving he can still be the Sox’s long-term solution in right field, he should in no way be considered a lock to stick long-term. If Colas struggles to begin next season and Veras takes the next step that he is capable of, don’t be surprised if he forces the Sox to make some tough decisions in the near future.
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