Jordan Stephens

White Sox send Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to Triple-A Charlotte

White Sox send Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to Triple-A Charlotte

The last waiting game begins now.

Eloy Jimenez was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday as part of the White Sox latest round of roster cuts in spring training. The No. 1 prospect in the organization begins his final few weeks as a minor leaguer before making his major league debut, which is expected to come before the end of the season's first month in April.

Joining Jimenez in heading to Charlotte was Dylan Cease, the organization's No. 3 prospect who will be getting his first taste of Triple-A action this season. Catcher Seby Zavala and Jordan Stephens were also optioned to Charlotte. Outfielder Micker Adolfo was optioned to Double-A Birmingham.

The White Sox also sent Zack Collins, Jimmy Lambert, Donn Roach and Luis Robert to minor league camp.

Jimenez is the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball and had himself a monster season in the minors in 2018, finishing with a .337/.384/.577 slash line, 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games between Birmingham and Charlotte. General manager Rick Hahn faced a ton of questions all season long about when Jimenez would reach the majors, but the White Sox opted to keep him away from the big leagues in 2018. He'll likely stay in the minors several weeks into the major league season. After a certain point, he will be unable to amass enough service time to register a full year of major league service, which will allow the White Sox to gain an additional year of control on the end of Jimenez's contract.

Hahn and the White Sox have never said that the service-time issue is why Jimenez has yet to make his major league debut, but the team is not doing anything that goes against the rules, no matter the number of complaints about how teams across the league — like the Toronto Blue Jays with top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Cubs back in 2015 with Kris Bryant — deal with the financial realities of the game.

Cease will likely join Jimenez in the major leagues at some point during the 2019 season. Hahn said multiple times during the offseason that Cease is now on a similar track to the one Michael Kopech was on last season, when the top-ranked pitching prospect in the organization debuted in August.

Zavala is another candidate to make his major league debut sometime in 2019, though perhaps more likely once rosters expand at the end of the season.

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White Sox add four to 40-man roster, protecting prospects from Rule 5 Draft

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MLB.COM

White Sox add four to 40-man roster, protecting prospects from Rule 5 Draft

The White Sox added four of their valued prospects to the 40-man roster Tuesday, protecting them from selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft.

Dylan Cease, Seby Zavala, Kodi Medeiros and Jordan Stephens were the four additions to the 40-man, which the team announced sat at 38 after those moves.

Cease, MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year, was a no-brainer addition following his sensational 2018 campaign. He posted a 2.40 ERA and struck out 160 opposing batters in 124 innings over 23 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He's currently ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the organization.

Zavala got off to a hot start in 2018 before cooling down following a promotion from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte. With the Barons, he slashed .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs in 56 games. But in his 48 games with the Knights, he slashed just .243/.267/.359 with two home runs. Zavala is currently ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the organization.

Medeiros came over from the Milwaukee Brewers in the midsummer trade that sent Joakim Soria out of Chicago. The 2014 first-round pick made seven starts at Double-A Birmingham after the trade and posted a 4.98 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 22 walks in 34.1 innings of work. Medeiros is currently ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the organization.

Stephens split time between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2018. All together, he finished the year with a 4.23 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 28 starts. Stephens is currently ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the organization.

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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.