Micker Adolfo

How does the recent spate of injuries to top prospects affect the White Sox rebuild?


How does the recent spate of injuries to top prospects affect the White Sox rebuild?

At this point, it seems like we’re receiving news of another significant injury to one of the White Sox highly touted prospects every couple of days.

Half of the organization’s top 12 prospects are currently injured: No. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez on the disabled list with a strained adductor muscle, No. 3 prospect Luis Robert expected to miss several more weeks with sprained thumb, No. 6 prospect Dane Dunning expected to miss several more weeks with an elbow sprain, No. 9 prospect Jake Burger out for the remainder of the season and perhaps beyond after suffering a pair of Achilles tears, No. 10 prospect Micker Adolfo out for the next eight to 10 months after having Tommy John surgery and No. 12 prospect Zack Burdi still recovering from his own Tommy John surgery and yet to throw a pitch in 2018.

That’s a lot of injuries.

It’s bad news, obviously, for a team that has invested so much in its minor league system, a team that’s been able to get its fans to buy in to the idea of waiting for all these guys to develop and turn a rebuilding organization into a contending one on the South Side.

But is this the rebuild-altering kind of bad news? Do all these injuries throw Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort off course? Do they, at the very least, change when this team is expecting to be competitive?

The short answer to all those questions, per Hahn, is no.

“No, it doesn’t,” Hahn said Tuesday, asked if all these injuries will alter the team’s planned contention window. “It’s been precisely that, a window. So it’s not like a start date that we need it to be: on this specific time on this specific date we need to be ready to win. It’s more, during this time frame we expect to be in a position to contend annually.

“Obviously on certain players who haven’t been able to give us full seasons, the jury might still be out going into next offseason on exactly how and when they matriculate to being contributing big leaguers on a championship club. But in general, the breadth and the depth of the prospects and the ceilings of the prospects still keeps us on relatively the same time frame that we put out there.

“Until these guys get to Chicago, though, and are performing in Chicago and we’ve augmented them properly through free agency or trades, it’s impossible to say they’re going to start winning on this date. There’s still work that needs to be done.”

It’s become more apparent as this season has gone on that the White Sox might still have a couple years to go in this process before they are contending for championships of any kind. The big league team is 31 games under .500 as of this writing. Young players like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada have gone through dramatic struggles in their first full tastes of the majors. And even some of the minor leaguers who were generating the most excitement when the season began have failed to find the kind of consistency that would shoot them through the system and to the South Side.

And, too, injuries have stolen away valuable developmental time for a lot of these players.

Even though the team is fully expecting Burger to develop into the player they thought he’d be when they used their first-round pick on him last summer, Burger being robbed of his first full professional season started a conversation outside the walls of Guaranteed Rate Field about the future at third base.

Much fanfare accompanied Robert’s signing last summer. But prior to this season, he’d still yet to play a game of minor league baseball in the United States. Then he missed months at the start of this season, and he’s in the middle of another shelving that could also, perhaps, last multiple months. Missing that time could take away an important year of the development the White Sox thought he’d have by the time next season begins.

Hahn is correct, though, in saying that there is no set date for when this team expects to be finished rebuilding. That always has depended on the development of the players in the minor leagues, regardless of their injuries, and it will still depend on that moving forward. With it looking like the team is still a couple of years away, the players have the blessing of time to get over these injuries and continue their development.

In other words, injuries to guys in the lower levels of the minor leagues are not what have knocked the White Sox out of contention for the 2019 American League Central title.

And the White Sox have also installed a sort of safety net for injuries like these with all the talent they’ve added to the system over the last couple years. It’s certainly not good that the injuries are happening to the highest-ranked players in the organization. But think of how many players who play the same positions as the guys who are hurt are having big years. Jimenez and Robert and Adolfo are on the shelf, but Blake Rutherford and Luis Gonzalez and Joel Booker are tearing things up. Dunning is injured, but Dylan Cease is having a tremendous season.

Depth has come into play. And though it might not be quite as necessary once these players are big league ready, it shows that the White Sox are prepared — or trying to be prepared, anyway — for when the inevitable happens and baseball players have to miss time.

“It’s been a tough year from a health standpoint,” Hahn said. “At the same time we know a couple things. If you have a great number of prospects, a great number of young players that people are interested in, the odds of some of them or multiple of them getting hurt are higher. Just the nature of the business.

“At the same time, I think it reinforces some of the tenants or mantra you’ve heard us repeat from the start of this entire rebuild going back the last 18 months. We need to build depth, we need to build enough redundancy within our own system, so when things like this happen, we have alternatives. We don’t want any player to get hurt, but we want to put ourselves in a position to have enough premium talent on hand that we can fill whatever voids are created by these setbacks.”

It’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned about these injuries, considering the amount of focus that’s on these young players and the impact they’re expected to have on the future of this franchise. Missing developmental time now could have its effects a year or two or three from now.

But there’s no rush to get these players, even the healthy ones, to the major leagues. Time is on the White Sox side. Even if luck hasn’t been this year.

Another significant injury to a White Sox prospect, as Micker Adolfo needs Tommy John surgery

Another significant injury to a White Sox prospect, as Micker Adolfo needs Tommy John surgery

The injuries keep piling up for the White Sox wealth of highly touted prospects.

Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Dane Dunning are all on the disabled list. Alec Hansen missed months while recovering from a springtime injury. Jake Burger is out for the season and beyond thanks to two Achilles tears.

And now you can add Micker Adolfo to that list, with general manager Rick Hahn announcing Tuesday that the minor league outfielder needs Tommy John surgery on the elbow he injured back in spring training. Adolfo will be out for the next eight to 10 months.

"As a position player, the return to play protocol is quite different than for a pitcher," Hahn said. "We're hopeful to have him back in the vicinity of eight to 10 months, which would have him hopefully with an affiliate by May 1 of next year."

Adolfo injured the elbow back in the spring, and the White Sox hoped he could avoid surgery by strictly playing designated hitter and staying out of the outfield. That's what happened the last few months, but he had a setback during a recently commenced throwing program and now surgery is required on what was at one point considered one of the best outfield arms in the organization.

Adolfo's bat was not affected too badly by the injury. He slashed .283/.368/.466 in with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 78 games with Class A Winston-Salem.

The injury doesn't prevent Adolfo from being an important piece of the White Sox rebuild. But like the injuries to all the other talented youngsters, it brings up the question: How will it affect his development and his timeline to reach the South Side?

"Obviously not great news for Micker," Hahn said, "but at the same time for those of you who have been following this story going back to spring training that initially we were concerned he was going to end up missing the entire year, and at least this way Micker was able to get over 300 plate appearances at Winston-Salem, had a very solid year from a development standpoint and will be back in time — assuming everything goes smoothly — with a chance for essentially a full season in 2019.

"Should not set him behind too far developmentally, but obviously not great news for the kid personally."

What did White Sox prospects do yesterday? More trouble for Carson Fulmer in the minor leagues


What did White Sox prospects do yesterday? More trouble for Carson Fulmer in the minor leagues

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

Triple-A Charlotte

The good news is that Carson Fulmer only issued one walk in his fourth start at Charlotte since being demoted from the big league club. The bad news is he allowed six runs, five of which were earned, on nine hits, including two homers, in just five innings in this 6-2 loss. Fulmer's 3.68 ERA over those four starts isn't too terrible, but a lot of hitters have reached base against him. In 22 innings, Fulmer's walked 15 batters and given up 19 hits.

Double-A Birmingham

Spencer Adams allowed just one run over six innings in this 3-2 loss. Adams is in a nice groove lately, with one earned run allowed in 21 innings over his last three starts. Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins and Seby Zavala each had a hit in this one.

Class A Winston-Salem

Joel Booker had two hits, including a double, in this 2-1 win. Micker Adolfo had a hit, and Blake Rutherford scored a run.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Robert, Luis Gonzalez and Luis Curbelo each had a hit in this 4-1 win.