Blake Battenfield

What have you done for me lately? How the White Sox top starting-pitching prospects have fared of late

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AP

What have you done for me lately? How the White Sox top starting-pitching prospects have fared of late

With the exception of the outfield, no position in the White Sox loaded farm system seems to have more depth than starting pitching — and potentially big-time starting pitching, at that.

Michael Kopech is still one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, and Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning are not far behind in the top 100. Recent shuffling in MLB Pipeline’s rankings dropped Alec Hansen out of the top 100, but it hasn’t been long since he was in that group, too.

A look at all those names along with the young guys currently pitching at the major league level — Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez — sets up a pretty appealing rotation of the future, a crowded one where competition will be needed to find the five best guys. So how are these candidates for those future spots on the starting staff faring of late?

Kopech’s up-and-down season is most definitely in an upswing at the moment. His last four starts have been pretty fantastic from a results perspective. He’s got a 2.25 ERA and 32 strikeouts in that span, which has lasted 24 innings. He’s also walked only four hitters in those four games, an important note for someone who struggled with his command at points during this season. In fact, in the seven starts prior to this four-game stretch, he walked 31 batters in 31 innings. Four in 24 innings is, obviously, much better.

Kopech is the lone pitcher mentioned to this point pitching at the Triple-A level, which means the White Sox could opt to promote him to the big leagues at some point before this season is over. Consistency has been a bit of an issue during much of the season for Kopech, though if this recent success can keep going, he could answer questions about that inconsistency. It’s important to note, too, that as general manager Rick Hahn has mentioned repeatedly throughout the season, there are things that the player-development folks in the organization are looking for that aren’t easily found in a box score. So good results and big league readiness don’t always line up.

While outfielder Eloy Jimenez has been tearing it up at the plate at multiple levels and has created his own conversation about when a promotion to the bigs will happen, Cease — who was acquired in the same trade as Jimenez last summer — has arguably been the best news to come out of the White Sox system this season.

Cease earned a spot in the Futures Game as part of All-Star festivities last month, and boy did he deserve it. He’s got a 2.71 ERA in 19 starts this season between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and he’s actually put up better numbers since his promotion to the Double-A level, with a 2.34 ERA in six starts. He’s got a 1.20 ERA in his last five starts, he’s struck out at least seven batters in each of his six starts at Birmingham, and he’s turned in back-to-back scoreless outings, with no runs allowed in his last 17.2 innings.

Dunning is hard to place in this conversation because of an elbow injury that’s had him on the shelf for weeks. His last start came in late June, and he was in the midst of a strong campaign, with a 2.71 ERA in 15 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. But this long layoff has provided only one answer to the oft-asked question, “what have you done for me lately?”

Hansen is the only one of the highest rated of the starting-pitching prospects to not provide something worth getting excited about this season. After a forearm injury delayed his season debut until mid June, the numbers have not been good: He’s got a 6.56 ERA in nine starts and has walked 42 batters compared to 35 strikeouts.

Hansen just made his shortest start of the year, a 1.1-inning outing over the weekend that featured four runs and seven walks. That after he walked a season-high nine hitters in his previous start.

All this is, of course, without mentioning the successes of prospects who aren’t ranked quite as highly. Jordan Stephens gave up six runs in a brief outing last week, but prior to that he posted a 3.44 ERA over his previous six starts. Jimmy Lambert and Blake Battenfield have put up some good numbers at the lower levels of the system. And recently drafted Konor Pilkington and recently acquired Kodi Medeiros are highly though of enough to slide into the organization’s top 20 prospects.

With Rodon pitching very well at the major league level and Giolito and Lopez continuing to go through their own developments and showing sporadic flashes of brilliance, the rotation of the future looks promising. Of course, there’s still plenty of time before it completely falls into place. But what’s happened lately with the highest-rated pitchers in the system has been a very positive development.

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Blake Battenfield has a ridiculously low 1.58 ERA

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Blake Battenfield has a ridiculously low 1.58 ERA

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Kannapolis

Blake Battenfield allowed just one run in six innings in this 2-1 loss, lowering his ERA to a dazzling 1.58. Luis Robert was 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Class A Winston-Salem

Alex Call walked three times, and Luis Alexander Basabe and Micker Adolfo each had a hit and a run scored in a 7-3 loss.

Double-A Birmingham

Seby Zavala had two hits and scored a run in a 5-2 win. Zack Collins walked for the 54th time in 54 games.

Triple-A Charlotte

The Knights grabbed a 3-1 win thanks to a great outing by Donn Roach, who gave up zero earned runs in seven innings.