Nick Madrigal

Where the White Sox top prospects rank on MLB Pipeline's new top-100 list

Where the White Sox top prospects rank on MLB Pipeline's new top-100 list

You know the White Sox have a loaded farm system. You know they have a bunch of highly rated prospects. But if you were busy attending SoxFest or following all the happenings at the Hilton Chicago, you might've missed MLB Pipeline unveiling its preseason list of the top 100 prospects in the game.

Well, six White Sox prospects landed on the list, so let's update where they all rank.

Eloy Jimenez, the top-ranked prospect in the White Sox system, is still the No. 3 prospect in baseball, ranking behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres. Jimenez is expected to bring his incredible bat to the big leagues within the first few weeks of the 2019 season, and he'll likely be jousting with Guerrero all season for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Tatis, of course, is the former White Sox prospect traded in the James Shields deal in 2016, something Rick Hahn revisited with some colorful commentary during SoxFest.

The next White Sox prospect on the list is Michael Kopech at No. 18. Kopech made his major league debut last summer, but he'll miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. That means he'll hang onto that top-prospects status until 2020, when he rejoins the White Sox rotation.

Dylan Cease is the No. 21 prospect in baseball thanks to his remarkable 2018 campaign that ended with him being named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. He's ticketed to begin 2019 at Triple-A Charlotte, and he's expected to be on the same track Kopech was last season. If he pitches well and avoids the bumps in the road Kopech did in the middle of last season, Cease could arrive earlier in the calendar.

Outfielder Luis Robert ranks No. 40 on the list. While he's got incredible talent and is deserving of the hype, he's probably further away from the majors than some of the other highest-rated prospects in the organization. White Sox fans have been hearing about Robert for a long time, as he was signed in May 2017, but it's important to remember he doesn't have much minor league experience at all. He didn't play his first minor league game in the United States until last June, and he ended up playing in only 50 games in 2018 while battling thumb injuries.

The fifth top-50 player in the White Sox organization is Nick Madrigal, last year's first-round draft pick out of Oregon State, ranked at No. 47. Madrigal's arrival date is unknown at this point, as he has yet to play above Class A, but it is interesting because he could be moving rapidly through the system. After joining the organization following a College World Series championship, he played at three different levels. He was touted as the best all-around player in college baseball when the White Sox drafted him.

Dane Dunning won't be coming to big league spring training, getting eased in after an elbow injury last season. He'll start the season at Double-A Birmingham, and he'll be doing it as the No. 80 prospect in baseball. He was outstanding last season before the injury, posting a 2.71 ERA.

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Baseball Prospectus puts six White Sox on its top 101 prospects list

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USA TODAY

Baseball Prospectus puts six White Sox on its top 101 prospects list

The White Sox have a lot of good prospects. That's not news. But just how highly one site thinks of one of those prospects could generate some excitement among South Side baseball fans.

Baseball Prospectus put out its annual list of the top 101 prospects in the game, and the White Sox are well represented, with six players in the rankings. Eloy Jimenez is one of the highest-ranked prospects in baseball, no shock, coming in at No. 4. But so, too, is Nick Madrigal, the White Sox first-round pick in last summer's draft ranking at No. 15 on the list.

Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease are also highly ranked, at Nos. 24 and 26, respectively. Luis Robert is at No. 45, and Dane Dunning rounds out the White Sox contingent at No. 76.

But Madrigal's status as one of the top 15 prospects in the game — not to mention the No. 2 prospect in the White Sox system — is certainly the most head-turning development here. The White Sox touted him as the best all-around player in college baseball when they took him with the No. 4 pick last June. After taking some time to win the College World Series with his Oregon State teammates, Madrigal started his pro career with a pretty specific amount of fanfare: He struck out just five times in his first 43 games as a White Sox minor leaguer.

Madrigal might not end up providing a ton of pop, but the rest of his game should have White Sox fans salivating. He put up a .303/.353/.348 slash line with 47 hits, eight stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts in those 43 games. And the White Sox said after he was drafted that he could be a Gold Glove caliber defender on the middle infield. That likely means a future at second base, where he almost exclusively played in the minor leagues last season.

Madrigal could be a rapid riser through the system after playing at three different levels in that short stint after joining the organization.

As for the others, Kopech obviously reached the big leagues at the end of last season but required Tommy John surgery after his fourth start. That will knock him out for the entirety of the 2019 season, and he'll keep his top-prospect status until he returns to the major league mound in 2020. Jimenez is expected to make his big league debut within the first few weeks of the 2019 campaign and should graduate from prospect status very soon. Cease could follow a similar path to the one Kopech did last season. He's expected to begin the season at Triple-A Charlotte, and if his performance resembles what he was able to do in 2018, it might not be long before he's pitching in the big leagues. Robert is a little further away, especially after thumb injuries robbed him of so much playing time last season, and Dunning is coming off an elbow injury and likely won't be rushed in any way, shape or form.

But, yes, in case you were wondering, the White Sox farm system is still loaded. Carry on.

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White Sox Team of the Future: Second base

White Sox Team of the Future: Second base

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) this month. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

A first-round draft pick isn't assured to rocket through the farm system. Jake Burger, the White Sox first-round pick in 2017, hasn't played above Class A Kannapolis, thanks in part to a pair of Achilles tears last year. Zack Collins has spent two and a half years in the White Sox system after they spent a first-round pick on him in 2016. Carson Fulmer, the first-round pick in 2015, did move quickly through the system, but his long-term major league future is a question mark after he struggled mightily at the big league and Triple-A levels in 2018.

Nick Madrigal might be different.

In fewer than 40 games as a pro after the White Sox used the No. 4 pick on him last summer, Madrigal played at three different levels and showed what made team brass call him "the best all-around player in college baseball." It's why he's our second baseman of the future.

Madrigal has more than a couple things going for him. He's touted as a Gold Glove type defender on the middle infield. He doesn't strike out, like at all, doing so just five times in 173 minor league plate appearances. He reaches base often (a .353 on-base percentage) and hits for a high average (.303 batting average). He has plenty of experience playing winning baseball, earning a College World Series championship with his Oregon State teammates in 2018.

All that makes his future not only look bright but makes his future look near.

The White Sox, of course, aren't putting a timeline on when Madrigal could reach the majors. They don't do that with any of their prized prospects. But Madrigal seems to be on the fast track, whether that's just because he was advanced from playing high-level college ball for so long or because he's just really good. He's likely to play at the Double-A level in 2019, and if he succeeds there, who knows? Rick Hahn always says the good ones have a way of changing the team's plans. Could Madrigal rapidly reach the bigs and help the rebuilding White Sox transition from rebuilding to contending in the next year or two?

Regardless of when he arrives, the White Sox are obviously high on Madrigal's abilities. The question is which position he'll be playing when he gets to the South Side. The good news for the White Sox is that Madrigal brings versatility on the infield. He spent time at second and short at Oregon State. He almost exclusively played second base in the minors last season.

“I’ve worked on different positions throughout my life in the infield,” Madrigal said when meeting with reporters in September. “When my dad hit me ground balls, I made sure to take them from both sides of the bag, just to make sure I had that in my back pocket. I’ve played a lot of shortstop my whole life.

“When I was really young I caught, so I feel like I’ve played almost every position on the field and I feel comfortable doing that.”

Last time he caught, he was 11., so let's focus on the middle infield. The White Sox are talking about moving current second baseman Yoan Moncada over to third, not necessary because Madrigal is on the way, but that's part of it. Of course, if Manny Machado picks the White Sox, the entire infield alignment could be thrown into disarray.

But Madrigal seems to have the stuff to be the second baseman of the future. The question then becomes how quick can he get here?

Other vote-getters

Yoan Moncada. Moncada is obviously the second baseman of the present, and the guy who isn't too far removed from being the No. 1 prospect in baseball is very much a part of the White Sox long-term plans. Fans might have soured on his potential after his 217 strikeouts last season, but the White Sox see it as a step in his path to big league stardom. Where that will be, though, is not set in stone. As mentioned, the team has discussed moving him to third base, in part because Madrigal is on the way and could provide an elite glove at second. Moncada made 21 errors at second last season. Should Machado arrive on the South Side, however, Moncada might get the opportunity to stay at second. Or he might go to third anyway. Or he might stay at second if the White Sox don't get Machado. They're undecided.

Starlin Castro. Here's creativity in action. One of our voters sees the second baseman of the future arriving as a free agent after either the 2019 or 2020 season (he's got an option for 2020). Currently a Miami Marlin, Castro's been a Cub and a New York Yankee, too. He's already logged nine big league seasons and has done so to the tune of a career .281/.321/.411 slash line. That might not leap off the screen, but considering the White Sox could be loaded elsewhere on the diamond, Castro could be a nice piece to finish off the lineup, if need be. He's only two years removed from a career-best .792 OPS and his fourth All-Star appearance. Is Castro at the top of folks' free-agent wish lists? Probably not. But he certainly could be an under-the-radar move that helps complete a contending roster.

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