Where do they go from here? Tracking White Sox's top prospects

 
 
Updated 3/4/2018 3:28 PM
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  • In 2 Cactus League outings, the 21-year-old Michael Kopech has pitched 4⅓ innings and allowed 1 unearned run while piling up 6 strikeouts.

    In 2 Cactus League outings, the 21-year-old Michael Kopech has pitched 4⅓ innings and allowed 1 unearned run while piling up 6 strikeouts. Associated Press

The Chicago White Sox are nine games into the Cactus League schedule, and that's usually the time when the 25-man roster starts coming into view for the upcoming season.

General manager Rick Hahn, manager Rick Renteria and the rest of the Sox's staff are undoubtedly getting that group figured out, but minor-league assignments are actually much more important for a rebuilding team that is practicing patience while waiting for a deep pool of prospects to work their way toward the major leagues.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the White Sox's Top 10 young players:

Eloy Jimenez, Baseball America's No. 4 overall prospect, got an at-bat in the White Sox's first exhibition game but has since been sidelined with patella tendinitis in his left knee.
Eloy Jimenez, Baseball America's No. 4 overall prospect, got an at-bat in the White Sox's first exhibition game but has since been sidelined with patella tendinitis in his left knee. - Courtesy of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans
1. Eloy Jimenez

The supremely confident 21-year-old outfielder was most likely thinking he'd arrive at his first training camp with the Sox and hit his way on to the 25-man roster.

That's not going to happen, but not because Jimenez lacks the talent.

Acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade last July, Baseball America's No. 4 overall prospect got an at-bat in the White Sox's first exhibition game but has since been sidelined with patella tendinitis in his left knee.

Anti-inflammatory medicine has apparently knocked out most of the discomfort, and Jimenez is confident he'll be back on the field this week.

Looking ahead: Jimenez is likely to open the season back at Class AA Birmingham, where he hammered Southern League pitching for the final 18 games of 2017.

Assuming the knee issue remains minor and he continues on his impressive path, Jimenez moves to Class AAA Charlotte in June and joins the Sox in August or September.

2. Michael Kopech

Hahn has been saying prospects will tell the White Sox when they're ready for the majors since the rebuild began 15 months ago.

Kopech has picked up the proverbial microphone and voiced his intentions. He's on the fastest track of any player in the system.

In 2 Cactus League outings, the 21-year-old phenom has pitched 4⅓ innings and allowed 1 unearned run while piling up 6 strikeouts.

Kopech's fastball was clocked at 99 mph in Saturday's start against the Royals, but he is also featuring a much improved changeup this spring.

Looking ahead: Kopech will open the season back at AAA Charlotte, where he made 3 starts to close out the 2017 season.

If he overwhelms International League hitters -- a distinct possibility -- the right-hander could be in Sox's rotation in June.

3. Luis Robert

The 20-year-old outfielder gets an A-plus on the eye test.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Robert is big, strong and fast, and you can see why the White Sox were more than happy to pay $26 million for his services last May.

Unlike the Sox's other top prospects, Robert never played in the United States until this spring.

With 3 hits in his first 7 at-bats this spring, Robert is already making the most of his initial opportunity.

Looking ahead: Robert's ladder probably starts at low Class A Kannapolis,

Look for a quick climb to high A Winston-Salem, followed by a push up to AA Birmingham late in the season.

Alec Hansen struck out 191 batters last season -- the highest total for a minor-league pitcher since 2011.
Alec Hansen struck out 191 batters last season -- the highest total for a minor-league pitcher since 2011. - Associated Press
4. Alec Hansen

The towering right-hander made his Cactus League debut on Thursday, and Hansen said: "I wasn't great, but it was good for the first one."

The 6-foot-8 starter is obsessed with greatness after striking out 191 batters last season -- the highest total for a minor-league pitcher since 2011.

Hansen pitched at three levels in 2017, Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham, and was a combined 11-8 with a 2.80 ERA.

Against the Reds Thursday, he pitched 1⅔ innings of relief and allowed 3 runs on 3 hits and 1 walk to go with 3 strikeouts.

Looking ahead: Hansen starts the season back at Birmingham. If he continues last season's success and maintains his strength, Charlotte is the next stop in June or July and he is added to the White Sox's expanded roster in September.

5. Dane Dunning

Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already in the Sox's starting rotation, and Dunning is the third pitcher acquired from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade making his push to the South Side.

Washington's first-round pick in 2016, Dunning has held his own in 2 Cactus League appearances, allowing 1 run in 3⅔ innings.

Looking ahead: Dunning split last season between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem and was a combined 8-8 with a 2.94 ERA.

Look for the 23-year-old righty to start the upcoming season with Winston-Salem and pitch the second half for Birmingham.

6. Dylan Cease

The other key prospect acquired from the Cubs for Quintana, Cease was 0-8 after joining Kannapolis. Don't be fooled by that stat.

The 22-year-old righty allowed 3 runs or less in all 9 starts after joining the Sox, and he had 52 strikeouts in 41⅔ innings along with a 3.89 ERA.

Looking ahead: Good health has been the biggest hurdle for Cease, who had Tommy John surgery after his senior year of high school and has also dealt with shoulder and ankle injuries.

A power arm, Cease likely opens the season with Kannapolis again. If he finishes on a high note with Birmingham, the White Sox will be thrilled.

The Sox's first-round draft pick in 2016 (No. 10 overall), Zack Collins spent most of last season trying to prove he had the defensive skills to be a major-league catcher.
The Sox's first-round draft pick in 2016 (No. 10 overall), Zack Collins spent most of last season trying to prove he had the defensive skills to be a major-league catcher. - Associated Press
7. Zack Collins

The Sox's first-round draft pick in 2016 (No. 10 overall), Collins spent most of last season trying to prove he had the defensive skills to be a major-league catcher.

He accomplished that goal, but the former college slugger out of Miami (Fla.) batted a combined .224 with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Collins did flash power with 19 home runs in 113 games, so the White Sox aren't overly concerned.

Looking ahead: The Sox signed veteran catcher Welington Castillo to a two-year contract, so there is no rush to push Collins through the system.

If the defense holds up and the bat comes back, Collins should spend the first half of the season with Birmingham and the second half with Charlotte.

8. Charlie Tilson

He's finally healthy, and the New Trier High School product is itching to show the White Sox what he can do this season.

After sitting out all of 2017 with a fractured right foot and fractured right ankle, the 25-year-old outfielder has held up well so far this spring.

Looking ahead: Tilson could open the season at Charlotte or Birmingham. He just needs competitive playing time, so the level is not that important.

If Adam Engle returns as the Sox's starting center fielder and struggles with the bat again, Tilson could be back in the major leagues. He played in 1 game with the White Sox in 2016 after being acquired in a trade from the Cardinals and tore his left hamstring.

9. Micker Adolfo

The White Sox already lost one top prospect for the season this spring -- third baseman Jake Burger (ruptured Achilles tendon).

They apparently caught a break with Adolfo, who was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow earlier in camp. Surgery was the initial fear, but the 21-year-old outfielder is going to let the injury heal while moving to designated hitter.

Looking ahead: Adolfo spent the entire 2017 season at Kannapolis. He hit well enough (.264, 16 home runs, 68 RBI) to play at Winston-Salem this year.

10. Blake Rutherford

Acquired in the July trade that sent Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, Rutherford was invited to SoxFest but not to major-league training camp.

New York's first-round draft pick in 2016, Rutherford struggled at Kannapolis last season after joining the White Sox, batting .213 with no home runs and 5 RBI in 30 games.

Looking ahead: The Sox still like Rutherford's left-handed bat and they believe he is athletic enough to play all three outfield spots. Like most players drafted out of high school, the 20-year-old Rutherford needs more time to develop.

If he splits the upcoming season between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem and puts up solid numbers, that works for the White Sox.

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