As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an alternate training site in the hopes of staying fresh for a potential callup or getting in much-needed development time.
The MiLB.com staff is rounding up the notable prospects in each organization’s 60-man player pool and analyzing what the new system will mean for their 2020 seasons.
The White Sox entered Spring Training hoping to change the narrative. A flurry of moves in the offseason indicated this would not be Year 4 of a rebuild but rather time to contend. And, after seeing how well the squad performed before things were shut down in March, combined with the unexpected emergence of “ahead-of-schedule” young talent and another excellent Draft last month, it’s clear that things have turned around pretty quickly for the South Siders.
The organization’s initial decision to name 44 players to its 60-man player pool for Summer Camp further emphasizes this. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told reporters last week that more players will be added soon, but they would report to an alternate training site in mid-July. That's an indication the team is focused on carving its 30-man Opening Day roster out of the current group of 44.
It's a group that includes seven of the organization’s top-10 prospects as well as 13 of its top-30. Headlined by MLB.com’s No. 3 overall prospect Luis Robert the White Sox currently have three of baseball’s top-100-prospects working out on the South Side -- Andrew Vaughn (16) and Nick Madrigal (40) are the others.
That number was initially four, but baseball's 20th-ranked prospect Michael Kopech decided to opt out of this season on July 10. After missing all of 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the electric 24-year-old fireballer was thought to be healthy and expected to pick up where he left off with Chicago. The right-hander made his Major League debut on Aug. 21, 2018 and made four starts before being shut down with his elbow injury. Now Kopech will wait until 2021 to throw his next pitch in an official game, citing "personal reasons."
Luis Robert, CF: It is probably safe to assume that the top White Sox prospect will make his debut in The Show, manning center field for Chicago, on July 24. Already signed to a six-year, $50 million contract with a pair of club options in January -- Robert exhibited great resiliency rebounding from knee, ankle and thumb issues early in his professional career as he put together an absurd season last year. The 22-year-old climbed three levels of the Minors -- capped off by 47 International League games -- and sported a .328/.376/.624 slash line with 32 homers, 11 triples, 31 doubles, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. The Cuban native became the Minor Leagues’ youngest 30-30 player since 1999 and with a league-leading 314 total bases, Robert posted the first 30-30-300 season since Jose Cardenal in 1961.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B: Drafted third overall out of Cal just a year ago, Vaughn’s first big jump was climbing the organization’s prospect rankings to No. 2. His next might very well be to the bigs. Sure, some things would have to fall right for the 22-year-old to get the chance at this early stage in his professional career, but the team is still buzzing about his Cactus League performance. The 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner amassed a .304/.448/.522 slash line with a dinger, two doubles, five walks, five RBIs and five runs scored in 13 games before the shutdown. This after a stellar debut season in which the righty-swinging first baseman -- with 60 grades in both hit and power -- made the rapid ascent to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and finished with a .278 batting average, six homers, 17 doubles, 30 walks and 36 RBIs in 55 games.
Nick Madrigal, 2B: The 2018 first-round pick started his professional career with back-to-back seasons of playing at three different Minor League levels. That's no easy feat. But finishing last year with 29 games at the Minors’ highest level while posting a .331/.398/.424 slash line and earning Organization All-Star honors makes it even more impressive. The No. 4 White Sox prospect came to big league camp this spring, knowing he had an outside chance at landing the starting second base job and went 6-for-27 with three RBIs and four runs scored in 11 Cactus League games. Still, he's not on the 40-man roster and, with a pair of veterans in front of him, chances appear slim that the 23-year-old will break camp with the big club. But the Oregon State product will be a phone call away in the event of an injury or slump and almost certainly will make the jump to the Majors at some point this year.
Jonathan Stiever, RHP: Former Indiana Hoosiers ace Stiever got loads of work last year between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, making 26 total starts and pitching 145 innings. Now, the righty is on a fast track toward Chicago. Stiever was most impressive after his promotion to the Carolina League, posting a 2.15 ERA in 12 outings while limiting opponents to a .216 average, registering a 0.97 WHIP and striking out 77 against only 13 walks in 71 innings. With Kopech having opted out, Stiever is now the highest-ranked White Sox pitching prospect to be included in his team's 60-man group. The 23-year-old can scrape the upper 90s with his fastball and couples that velocity with a difficult angle and deceptive movement. Behind the heater, Stiever deals a plus curveball which he can also manipulate into a slider-like pitch as well as a changeup.
Dane Dunning, RHP: Another promising arm back from Tommy John surgery, the No. 6 prospect appeared to be on the doorstep of the Majors in 2018 before developing elbow issues. Acquired from the Nationals in the 2016 deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington, Dunning coasted through his second season in the White Sox system before getting hurt. In 15 starts between the Carolina and Southern leagues, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound righty posted a 2.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 100 strikeouts over 86 1/3 innings. He limited opponents to a .235 average and was named a Southern League midseason All-Star. Armed with a four-pitch mix, Dunning sports a 60-grade fastball that shows good, late sinking action and command on both sides of the plate. He can pitch off that with a plus curveball and 55-grade slider and changeup. If he can stay healthy, he will make his debut in The Show this summer.
Micker Adolfo, OF: Adolfo has long been tied with Eloy Jiménez and Robert as a three-headed outfield monster climbing the White Sox ladder, and now he'll join those two in Chicago's 60-man pool. One of the reasons fans may not be as familiar with Adolfo's body of work as his two outfield mates is the fact that the 23-year-old missed the last two months of the 2018 season after Tommy John surgery and only played 36 games last year between the Rookie-level AZL White Sox and Double-A Birmingham after follow-up arthroscopic surgery on the same elbow. Still, Adolfo's tools are tantalizing, starting with his 70-grade arm in the outfield and above-average power that grades as a 55. Adolfo is still a work in progress offensively, though, with a .714 career OPS and 504 strikeouts in 364 career games played. Being in the mix in 2020 will give the still-young outfielder a chance to make up for missed playing time.
Luis Alexander Basabe, OF: Considered by many to be a “throw-in” in the Chris Sale trade, the ninth-ranked White Sox prospect has performed more like a steal. After battling through a torn meniscus in his first year with the organization, the 23-year-old worked his way to Double-A Birmingham in 2018 when he was selected to the Futures Game. Still 21 at the time, Basabe clobbered a 102-mph heater from Reds prospect Hunter Greene for a booming home run in that game. The Venezuela native had the start of his 2019 season delayed after suffering a broken bone in his left hand, but he made his debut on April 22 with Kannapolis, where he played five games before returning to the Barons. Plagued by a leg issue that landed him on the injured list three separate times last year, Basabe managed to hit .250, score 33 runs and swipe 10 bags in 74 games. He participated in big league camp this spring, going 4-for-15 with three walks and four runs scored. His speed and arm make him an option at any outfield spots and his tempered approach at the plate should give the switch-hitter a real shot at breaking through at the next level.
Zack Collins, C: The 10th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Collins got his first taste of Major League action last season when he was called up on June 18. He was sent back to Charlotte a month later and finished the Minor League season there before returning to Chicago on Sept. 3. In 27 big league games, the 10th-ranked White Sox prospect collected 16 hits -- seven for extra bases -- drove in 12 runs and scored 10 times. Praised for his disciplined approach at the plate, Collins also worked 14 walks. In 10 starts behind the plate with the South Siders, the University of Miami product did not commit an error in 76 total chances. He also made one start at first base. With a pair of veterans sharing the catching duties in Chicago this summer, Collins’ ability to play first improves his chance of a quick return to the Majors.
Blake Rutherford, OF: A first-round pick of the Yankees in 2016, Rutherford hasn't quite developed the power that scouts saw in him as a prep player, but he's still just 23 and coming off his first Double-A season. Last year with Birmingham, the outfielder batted .265/.319/.365 with seven homers in 118 games and went to the Arizona Fall League to work on mechanical adjustments to his swing. The results weren't great -- he hit .179/.281/.385 in 21 games -- but exposure to a different kind of competitive climate this year will give Rutherford much needed at-bats against various levels of pitching.
Jimmy Lambert, RHP: Still recovering from Tommy John surgery in the spring, it appears the No. 16 prospect is healthy again and ready to go. Undrafted out of high school, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder turned himself into a fifth-round selection out of Fresno State in 2016 and has climbed the organization’s pitching ranks since. After an impressive 2019 debut at big league camp, where Lambert allowed one earned run and fanned eight over six innings, the right-hander made 11 starts for Double-A Birmingham before being shut down with elbow soreness on June 4. Although he is a long shot to break Summer Camp with the club, he's equipped with a four-pitch arsenal, and an above-average fastball and 12-to-6 curveball make him a bullpen option right away if the White Sox need depth there.
Ian Hamilton, RHP: Speaking of bullpen depth, the 18th-ranked White Sox prospect provides an interesting option. On the fast track since being taken in the 11th round of the 2016 Draft, the Washington State product made his Major League debut in 2018 with 10 appearances out of the bullpen. However, some bad luck struck the 25-year-old last year when he injured his shoulder in a car accident in March and wasn’t quite the same in 16 appearances for Charlotte before a line drive broke his jaw and ended his season in June. If he's healthy again, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound righty possesses a lethal two-pitch combo that includes a 70-grade heater that can touch triple digits with sink and a power slider.
Danny Mendick, INF: Mendick has been playing with a chip on his shoulder since he was drafted 652nd overall in 2015, and it all came together in 2019 for the 26-year-old. After putting up career highs in hits (133), homers (17), doubles (26), RBIs (64), runs scored (75) and walks (66) in 133 games at the Minors’ highest level, he made his big league debut on Sept. 3. In 16 big league games, the 19th-ranked prospect showed he belonged as he amassed a .308/.325/.462 slash line with a pair of dingers and four RBIs. Mendick also had his versatility -- and sure hands -- on display as he appeared at second base, short and third in 11 games and did not commit an error in 40 chances. With another strong showing before play was halted this spring, it would be surprising if Mendick didn’t break Summer Camp with the big league club.
Garrett Crochet, LHP: Taken out of the University of Tennessee last month with the 11th overall pick, southpaw Crochet is an imposing presence on the mound. At 6-foot-6 and nearly 220 pounds, the lefty touched 100 miles per hour last fall and features a plus slider and changeup. With the college season shortened due to the pandemic, Crochet only pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Vols this spring and hasn't been on a mound competitively since March 7. The highest-drafted pitcher in Volunteers history will get a chance to make a strong first impression in Chicago and salvage what's left of a strange 2020 as part of the 60-player squad.
Catcher Yermin Mercedes (No. 25) and righties Codi Heuer (No. 27) and Tyler Johnson (No. 29) round out the top-30 prospects included in the 44-man group at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mercedes, like Collins, is blocked at the position by veterans but should gain great experience at camp. Heuer is entering his third professional season but opened some eyes with an impressive showing at Major League camp and cannot be completely discounted as a relief option once the 60-game season begins. The same goes for Johnson, whose progress has been stifled by injuries but has the stuff to get big league hitters out.
Tyler Maun contributed to this report.