Micker Adolfo

Gavin Sheets, Blake Rutherford headline White Sox prospects headed to Arizona Fall League

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USA TODAY

Gavin Sheets, Blake Rutherford headline White Sox prospects headed to Arizona Fall League

When talking about the future of first base for the White Sox, Jose Abreu, Andrew Vaughn and perhaps even Zack Collins dominate the discussion.

However, another prospect with MLB pedigree is having a productive season at first base. Gavin Sheets, the White Sox second-round pick in 2017, leads the Double-A Southern League with 81 RBIs as part of a breakout second half of the season.

Sheets will also headline the prospects the White Sox are sending to the Arizona Fall League after the minor league season ends. Sheets will be joined by outfielder Blake Rutherford and pitchers Bernardo Flores, Tyler Johnson, Vince Arobio and Bennett Sousa. The Athletic’s James Fegan said outfielder Micker Adolfo is “likely” the seventh player the White Sox will be sending to Arizona. Adolfo has played just 115 games the past two years due to injuries so he could use the extra games.


The AFL is a prospect-heavy league and draws plenty of attention from scouts. It is a good test and a showcase for the players involved. This year, 20 of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects are set to play in the six-team league. Last year, Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and White Sox prospect Luis Robert were among the headline talent in the league. For Robert, a solid showing in the AFL was a springboard to a monster 2019 season.

The White Sox prospects will play at the team’s spring training home of Camelback Ranch for the Glendale Desert Dogs along with players from the Reds, Dodgers, Brewers and Cardinals. The schedule for the league has been moved forward this year and the teams will begin play on Sept. 18, about two weeks after the end of the minor league regular season.

For Sheets, it’s a big chance to prove he can be a long-term part of the White Sox future. After a rough first couple months, the 23-year-old has been a solid bat in the Birmingham lineup. He entered Thursday hitting .307/.386/.507 in 58 games since the all-star break.

If Abreu re-signs with the White Sox this offseason, first base could be locked down for at least a couple more years. On top of that, Zack Collins is on a roll in Triple-A Charlotte and could take some first base/DH at-bats in addition to some catching duty. Then there’s Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, who is currently projected as the long-term future at that spot.

For now, Sheets is closer to the majors than Vaughn though. Vaughn is still getting settled into pro ball and is in Single-A. Sheets appears to have cleared the Double-A hurdle and could start 2020 in Triple-A, meaning he might not be far from reaching the majors.

The AFL gives him an opportunity to show he might be ready to contribute earlier rather than later in 2020. It’s also a showcase for other teams to see him if the White Sox think Sheets is an expendable trade piece who also has some value.

Rutherford is actually the highest-ranked prospect of the group. Like Sheets, the outfielder got off to a poor start for Double-A Birmingham. Also like Sheets, he has shown improvement as the season has gone on, but his overall numbers (.259/.305/.359) are not as impressive. Rutherford is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason so the White Sox will have to add him to the 40-man roster or risk losing him.

Of the pitchers, Johnson is the most intriguing name. He comes in at No. 19 in MLB Pipeline’s White Sox prospect rankings. The 2017 fifth-round pick was out until mid-June with a lat strain, but has been a strikeout machine out of the bullpen with healthy. He has made 10 appearances in Double-A and has a decent shot to make the White Sox bullpen at some point in 2020.

 

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Arthroscopic surgery knocks Micker Adolfo out for the rest of the 2019 season

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USA TODAY

Arthroscopic surgery knocks Micker Adolfo out for the rest of the 2019 season

Among the bad news Rick Hahn delivered Monday was an unfortunate update on Micker Adolfo.

One of the organization’s top-ranked outfield prospects, Adolfo is, like Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning, in recovery mode after having Tommy John surgery in 2018. But the outfielder needs arthroscopic surgery on his elbow, which will happen Tuesday and knock him out for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Hahn said the team expects that Adolfo will be back and without restrictions come spring training 2020.

“Micker Adolfo will be visiting with Dr. Andrews (on Tuesday), at which time he will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow,” Hahn said Monday. “We are expecting it to be a debridement or a removal of scar tissue, as well as potentially some work done on the nerve, a nerve transposition in the forearm.

“That will knock Micker out for the remainder of the 2019 season. However he will be able to resume baseball activities shortly after the season ends, and we project him to be able to join us in 2020 spring training as an outfielder without any restrictions whatsoever.”

It’s obviously an unfortunate result for Adolfo, who first suffered an arm injury early last year. The White Sox hoped to avoid surgery by limiting Adolfo to work as a designated hitter. But though Adolfo put up some good offensive numbers, surgery was necessary, and his 2018 season came to an end in early July.

Adolfo started this season with Double-A Birmingham, again as a DH, playing in 23 games. He went on the injured list at the end of last month and now won’t play in another game before this season is over.

Between a strong bat and an outfield arm that’s previously been ranked as the finest in the White Sox minor league system, Adolfo looked like a potential important piece of the rebuilding franchise’s future. Despite a crowded group of minor league outfielders, Adolfo seemed capable of standing out. He still could, of course, but this setback will rob him of even more developmental time in the minor leagues as the White Sox steam toward seasons in which plenty of fans expected them to have a contending roster.

After breaking out with a nice 2017 season at Class A Kannapolis, Adolfo will head into the 2020 season having played just 102 games over the previous two campaigns at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham.

While it’s the same significant injury that Adolfo’s been dealing with for more than a year, it’s another long layoff for a piece of the White Sox future. Carlos Rodon joined Adolfo, Kopech, Dunning and Zack Burdi in the Tommy John club Monday, Luis Robert missed all but 50 games last season with thumb injuries, Jake Burger is still in recovery mode after suffering a pair of Achilles tears in 2018, and Alec Hansen missed a lot of time last year with a forearm injury.

It’s an ever-growing list of brutal blows for a rebuilding team that can’t seem to stop taking them. When Adolfo is ready for the big leagues at this point is a mystery.

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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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