White Sox

White Sox prospect turnaround could give them baseball's No. 1 farm system

White Sox prospect turnaround could give them baseball's No. 1 farm system

The White Sox farm system has undergone such a dramatic overhaul that Baseball America’s newest organization top-10 list features only one holdover from November.

The team’s additions in the past eight months through massive trades and the signing of Luis Robert have been so overwhelming that the publication is on the cusp of naming the White Sox farm system as the best in baseball. Baseball America editor J.J. Cooper said on Tuesday that he believes the White Sox will hold that title after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“It is crazy how much better it is than it was a couple of years ago,” Cooper said. “It would not surprise me when we get past the trade deadline if the White Sox end up having the best farm system in the game right now.”

As it stands, the publication thinks the Atlanta Braves still possess the best farm system in baseball. That organization currently features nine top-100 prospects, while the White Sox have seven on Baseball America’s list. The Braves also have significant depth in their favor, too.

But the White Sox have made up massive ground since the start of the winter meetings, adding 11 prospects in the trades for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana. Of the farmhands holding the top 10 spots on BA’s current White Sox list, Yoan Moncada (No. 1), Eloy Jimenez (No. 2), Michael Kopech (No. 3), Reynaldo Lopez (fifth), Lucas Giolito (sixth), Dylan Cease (seventh) and Dane Dunning (ninth) all were acquired in trades.

First-round pick Jake Burger holds the No. 8 spot, while pitcher Alec Hansen, who's ranked 10th, is the only holdover from November. Robert, who is ranked fourth, was signed in May for $26 million. That influx of talent has displaced November’s No. 1, Zack Collins, and a slew of others, including 2015 first-rounder Carson Fulmer, who was once third.

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“In a normal year, Collins would be a top 10 for the White Sox,” Cooper said. “But, this isn’t normal. Gavin Sheets would be an easy top 10 if this was normal. Carson Fulmer — the star has dimmed on Carson Fulmer some. But at the same time, if we’re talking about the White Sox system of five years ago, we’d be talking about Carson Fulmer as the No. 3 or No. 4 prospect. It has not turned out how either he or the White Sox would have liked, but you still at least have hope he’s going to put something together out of all this. But now that makes him a guy who’s not a top-10 prospect for them and that’s a pretty dramatic difference where the White Sox have been for really much of this century before this.”

Jimenez is the latest top-25 player to join the organization as Baseball America has him rated as the No. 5 overall prospect. The publication also has Cease, who was acquired with Jimenez last Thursday in a trade for Quintana, rated No. 63 overall. Cease made his organizational debut on Monday night, allowing two earned runs and four hits with a walk and four strikeouts in five innings at Single-A Kannapolis.

“They've got a ton of talent, so it's really exciting,” Cease said of the White Sox. “Eloy is one of the most talented players I've ever seen, especially the fact he's only, I think, 20. I expect he's going to do really big things. For me, I think I just want to go out there and keep learning, keep getting better. I don't know exactly when any of that would be. But I know if I keep trusting everything and getting better, hopefully it's sooner rather than later. Like I said, I'm just looking forward to keep playing and competing.”

Cooper is looking forward to what else Rick Hahn and the White Sox can pull off over the next 13 days. Todd Frazier looks like a good fit for the Boston Red Sox, and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle have a lot of value if they’re traded. Cooper thought Robertson might bring back the minor league equivalent of what the Pittsburgh Pirates received for Mark Melancon. Pitcher Felipe Rivero, one of two players acquired from Washington, has a 0.72 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings for the Pirates this season. The White Sox also can offer value in outfielder Melky Cabrera and reliever Anthony Swarzak.

“I can see the White Sox getting even better than it is right now,” Cooper said.

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

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USA TODAY

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

It might end up an ugly week for the White Sox in Houston. But try to find some beauty in what this Astros team looks like. Because it's what the White Sox hope to look like, eventually.

While White Sox fans were likely staring with a frown at Brad Peacock mowing down their team's lineup and at a couple home runs absolutely blasted out of Minute Maid Park in the first of this four-game series Monday night, know that the inverse of that feeling is what the White Sox front office is hoping to deliver in the coming seasons.

The Astros, along with the Cubs on the North Side of Chicago, are the template for what the White Sox are trying to do with their ongoing rebuilding process. Houston experienced some hideous seasons on the way to becoming a perennial contender and a World Series champion in 2017, losing a combined 416 games in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade. Two years later, they were the world champs, and they remain an annual title contender and are currently the best team in baseball two years after that.

The first part of that should sound familiar, as the White Sox have lost a combined 195 games in the two seasons since this rebuild officially began. Things are better now than they were during last year's 100-loss campaign, but it's expected to be another season of more losses than wins and another season without a playoff berth on the South Side, which would be the franchise's 11th straight to end without a trip to the postseason.

The second half of the Astros rags-to-riches story is yet to come for the White Sox, who are still waiting for young players to develop at both the major league and minor league levels, still waiting for the entire core to assemble in the big leagues. That includes, right now, waiting for certain players to recover from serious injuries. That includes watching growing pains up and down the organization. It's not unexpected for such things to happen in the middle of a rebuild. But when mired in the losing years, they become constant sources of frustration for fans.

Just like no one in Houston looks back fondly on the 100-loss seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2013, it's unlikely South Side baseball fans will look back fondly on these loss-heavy campaigns. But it's part of the process, as maddening as that might be to keep hearing.

Fortunately, there are examples of what the end of the tunnel looks like, and the White Sox are up against one of those examples this week. The Astros are dominating the competition so far this season, their young core of sluggers and a few overpowering starting pitchers fueling the best team in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve might have been out of the lineup Monday night, but Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were still on display. And none of those guys were the ones to blast home runs halfway to Oklahoma off the White Sox on Rick Renteria's otherwise successful bullpen day. Peacock was traded a few times before landing in Houston, and Justin Verlander and Geritt Cole were trade acquisitions, as well. All of those guys have made the Astros a formidable force once again.

The White Sox are likely going to have to make a few outside acquisitions, too, before they can finally reach baseball's mountaintop. General manager Rick Hahn says that's the plan. But the homegrown portion of those rosters of the future could resemble what the Astros have put together in recent seasons. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins. That's the planned core on the South Side. And Hahn has a number of young pitchers who could make up a fearsome rotation, too, in Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. There are more names White Sox fans are familiar with who could play big roles, too.

That's a lot of talent, and while White Sox fans might remain skeptical until the wins start coming at an increased rate, the blueprint is there for those pieces to come together and create something special. The blueprint is what's across the field from the White Sox this week in Houston.

The Astros might cause some bad feelings for the White Sox and their fans over the next few nights. But if they look closely, they might catch a glimpse of the White Sox future if this rebuild goes where Hahn & Co. envision it going.

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Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Things looked grim when Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top-ranked prospect and a centerpiece of the South Side rebuilding plans, was down in pain on the warning track.

But a little more than three weeks later, Jimenez is back in the lineup, returned from his stay on the injured list for the start of a four-game series against the Houston Astros.

Jimenez made a leaping attempt to catch a home-run ball in the April 26 game against the Detroit Tigers. In the process, his foot got stuck in the padding of the left-field wall, and the 22-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain. He limped off the field and needed help getting into the dugout and clubhouse. Thoughts of "here we go again" flashed through a fan base that's watched top prospects suffer one significant injury after another in recent seasons.

The White Sox said Jimenez would be reevaluated in a couple weeks, while cursory Google searches revealed recovery times of more than a month for this type of injury.

But Jimenez seems to have healed quickly. He went on a minor league rehab assignment last week, playing in five games with Triple-A Charlotte before being deemed ready to return Monday.

This is phenomenal news for the White Sox and their fans, of course, who in the time Jimenez has been sidelined have seen another key piece go down with Carlos Rodon's Tommy John surgery. Jimenez hasn't got off to the rip-roaring start some predicted — he's slashed .241/.294/.380 with a trio of home runs in his first 21 major league games — but all playing time for the youngster is good playing time as he continues his development in his first big league season. Throw in Jimenez's four-game stay on the bereavement list prior to that game against Detroit, and he's had just one at-bat since April 21.

So maybe expect some rust, and manager Rick Renteria said Jimenez could perhaps be eased back with a game at DH here and there as he continues to work on improving his defense in left field.

Jimenez did go 7-for-22 (a .318 batting average) with a homer and a double in his rehab stint in Charlotte. Now he's back in the major league outfield, a good thing for everyone following along with this rebuild.

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