The excellent prospect staff at Baseball Prospectus has finished putting its organizational rankings together for the 2017 season. Unlike years past, the White Sox ranking is one to get excited about. As is mentioned in the article, the White Sox were in the bottom ten a year ago and now sit in the top ten. That is mostly because of the two headline trades this offseason, as well as a draft that yielded two Top 101 prospects in Zack Collins and Alec Hansen. However, as good as sixth in all of baseball is, the there is still work to be done in their rebuild.
The additions of Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada have been talked about in great detail both here and elsewhere. The depth added by Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, and Luis Alexander Basabe are crucial as well — after all, it isn’t always the headline prospects in a trade that wind up being the most valuable.* Recent draft picks Collins, Hansen, and Carson Fulmer help fill out the rest of the team’s Top 10.
*Michael Brantley was the Player To Be Named Later in a blockbuster trade that yielded Brantley and basically nothing else for Cleveland.
However, as is mentioned in the article, the White Sox have a prospect depth problem. Recent draft picks Alex Call and Jameson Fisher along with players who have resided in the system longer like Jordan Stephens, Trey Michalczweski, and Tyler Danish could certainly help in that area, but each one of those players would have to elevate their current profiles with a strong 2017 season. Even with breakout seasons from those players, the system is still weaker 11-30 than many other organizations — even those ranked behind the White Sox overall.
A huge reason for the White Sox lack of depth is trades made in recent years in an attempt to patch the holes of a win-now team that hasn’t been over .500 since 2012. Trayce Thompson, Marcus Semien, and even Fernando Tatis Jr. have all left the system in recent years. None of those three will blow you away (although Keith Law has Tatis Jr. in his Top 50), but each would have provided insurance for a suffering White Sox system in places it desperately needed it. And given that even top prospects require some good fortune, the more players you can acquire that have a shot at being a major leaguer one day, the more likely you are to get lucky and find a regular outside of the usual places.
Rather than dwell in the past, however, we can look forward and see what the White Sox can do to further their rebuild with the highest chance of success. The first thing they, and any team, must do is draft well. The White Sox were notoriously poor at this for a number of years, but have improved in recent years. Determining how much better they have done will take a couple more years to decide, but the most recent draft was certainly encouraging. A key factor in the 2016 draft being an improvement was the high volume of draft picks, especially at the front end of the draft. For once they were on the receiving end of a compensatory pick, rather than giving them to other teams. Also, when you lose a lot of games you pick at the front of each round and get a bigger bonus pool.
The best way for the White Sox to lose a lot of games this season is to complete the fire sale and trade Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie, and Nate Jones. Losing those veterans would almost certainly push them closer to a top draft pick. It would also provide quality prospects, and depth players, in return. Quintana should yield a return similar to the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades — perhaps on a smaller scale. Frazier, Robertson, and Jones would all bring back, at the very least, players to put some meat on the bones where the White Sox are lacking in the farm system.
It’s amazing news that the White Sox farm system is ranked sixth in all of baseball. The fact that most outlets do Top 10s masks the fact that the White Sox coincidentally have a huge drop-off after prospect No. 10, and even with Moncada and Collins in tow, there is still a troubling lack of position players of the future. If they can focus on that area in the next 12 months, they’ll see themselves rise even higher on organizational rankings, which should eventually translate to the ultimate goal — winning at the major league level.
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