Tim Anderson has been a major leaguer for a little more than two weeks now, and while he’s gotten off to a promising start, his ascension thins out a minor league system that wasn’t all that impressive to begin with.
That’s a silly thing to care about, in reality. The point of your minor league system is for players to do well enough to eventually reach the majors. If that thins out your system, well, that’s OK. If Anderson were abducted by aliens, THAT would put a glaring hole in the White Sox system. Him coming up to the majors doesn’t. Well it does, but in a good way. Does that make sense? Let’s move on.
The White Sox entered 2016 with two legit Top 100 prospects in Anderson and Carson Fulmer. There are one or two other “hey, he’s kind of interesting” guys like Spencer Adams or maybe Jordan Guerrero, but Anderson and Fulmer were and are the realest of deals.
Now that Anderson is in Chicago and we can watch him in glorious high-definition on a regular basis, how does the rest of the system look? The answer isn’t very pretty. Let’s take a look at the next five, after Anderson who was No. 1, on BP’s organizational rankings coming into the season.
Before the season started, there was speculation that Fulmer, the White Sox’ first-round pick in 2015, could perhaps help the big league club as early as mid-season as either a bullpen arm or even in the rotation if reinforcements were necessary in either department.
Reinforcements have, indeed, been necessary, but the learning curve for Fulmer has been steeper than some might have expected. After tossing all of 22 innings in High-A Winston-Salem a year ago following the draft, Fulmer started the season in Double-A Birmingham and struggled with his control out of the gate and has a 5.82 ERA to show because of it.
Things seem to be progressing nicely. Even if he’s still walking more batters than the White Sox would probably prefer, he’s been stronger of late. After posting 36 strikeouts against 34 walks in his first 10 starts of the season, since the month of June began he’s struck out 32 batters with just eight walks in his four most recent starts, including a 6.2 IP, 10 K, 1 BB outing on June 9. (Note: this was written before Sunday’s start).
It’s unclear whether or not Fulmer’s slow start will also slow the White Sox’ plans of advancement for him. They traditionally promote players aggressively, and one would expect them to do the same with Fulmer, but whether or not we see him in a White Sox uniform in 2016 remains unclear.
After finishing the 2015 season at High-A Winston-Salem, Adams has spent the entire first three months of this season there with solid results.
Adams has never profiled as an elite strikeout pitcher, which is one of the reasons he’s hovered on the brink of several Top 100 prospect lists but outside of it in most pubs (Baseball America had him at No. 100 pre-2015 but no pub had him in their Top 100 this season). He’s striking out 6.2 batters per nine this season in the Carolina League, but what’s more impressive is his walk rate is 1.7 and he’s given up just six home runs in a league-leading 94.2 innings.
Adams just turned 20 at the start of the season, so there’s obviously a long way to go, but one has to imagine the White Sox are happy with his development.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been three years since the White Sox inked a 16-year-old Adolfo to a $1.6 million contract as one of the top international prospects in baseball. Now 19, Adolfo is finally getting his first taste of affiliated ball this season at Low-A Kannapolis.
Unfortunately for him, he has yet to get his feet more than wet as an injury sidelined him just a few weeks into the season until Saturday, when he returned to Kannapolis following a rehab assignment in the AZL.
He hasn’t yet seen enough action to fully judge, but Adolfo remains raw as hell and the fact that he’s finally getting a shot at a more advanced level than he had ever seen previously is a good sign.
An over-slot signing after being drafted in the seventh round in 2013, the White Sox have promoted Michalczewski aggressively, as after spending the entirety of 2015 at High-A Winston-Salem, the 21-year old started the season at Double-A Birmingham and has adjusted fine, putting together a .245/.336/.396 line in 283 plate appearances.
Questions still remain, however, about where he’ll wind up IF he makes the majors — some say first base or right field while he’s spent his career to date at third base. He certainly has the arm for third, but everything else is an open question.
Guerrero was a 15th round pick in 2012 who entered the prospect conversation a year ago when he struck out 148 batters against just 31 walks in 149 innings combined between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.
That, of course, prompted a promotion to Double-A Birmingham for the start of this season, and the results have been, well, less-than-promising for the 22-year old. In 80 innings thus far, he’s struck out 66 while walking 46, a massive leap in his BB/9 from 1.9 a year ago to 5.2 this season.
Guerrero never profiled as much more than a possible back-end starter, but if he doesn’t adjust to the struggles he’s seen in Double-A, he may fall back into obscurity.
Others of note
- Adam Engel became a thing briefly last fall when he was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.165 OPS and stealing 10 bases. Those numbers brought him to Double-A Birmingham for 2016, where he’s hitting .233/.345/.381 with 22 stolen bases. Hardly terrible numbers, until you remember he’s already 24 years old.
- Former first-round pick Courtney Hawkins, in his second go-around with Double-A Birmingham, missed the first month of the season with an injury and has returned to hit .221/.282/.351 in 170 plate appearances, with a K% of 33, which is about where he’s stood for the duration of his minor league career.
- Corey Zangari, like Michalczewski, excited people because he was a rare high schooler the White Sox paid above slot to sign when they drafted him in the sixth round a year ago. He’s hitting .166/.247/.316 with 106 strikeouts in 248 plate appearances at Low-A Kannapolis.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, the White Sox farm system is seriously lacking in players who are expected to make an impact at the next level, especially positionally. Recent draft picks like Zack Collins and Zack Burdi making their pro debuts and being added to this list will certainly help, but the team clearly has a long way to go in terms of getting their system up to snuff with more successful organizations.