2022 Chicago White Sox Top 5 Prospectsby Alex Kielar February 19, 2022 2 comments
The White Sox recently graduated or traded away a number of top prospects, including Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, and Garrett Crochet. While their system isn’t as strong as it once was, they still have some solid pieces that could make a big impact on the team in the near future. It is a bit top-heavy and relies heavily on these players reaching their ceilings or at least getting close.
Make sure to check out all of our other Top Prospect Articles.
1. Jose Rodriguez, SS
After signing for just $50,000 out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2017-18 International class, Rodriguez took a huge jump last year. He made his United States debut in 2019 and showed off surprising power while slugging .505 and mashing nine homers in the rookie-level Arizona League. The infielder jumped up three levels last year while flashing plus bat-to-ball skills and an ability to hit to all fields. In addition to the hitting, the soon-to-be 21-year-old showed off his speed as he stole 30 bases overall.
Rodriguez finished the year at Double-A Birmingham, but only played four games there. The majority of his time was spent at Low-A Kannapolis as he played 78 games there, and he played 29 games at High-A Winston-Salem. Overall, he slashed .301/.338/.469 with 14 homers, 27 doubles, 26 walks, and 51 RBI. He had a massive .381 on-base percentage at High-A before getting the late call-up to Double-A.
Rodriguez has a quick and easy stroke at the plate from the right-hand side and showed a more patient approach. He also played solid defense at shortstop and should be able to stick there. His free-swinging tendencies could cause some struggles to start the year at Birmingham, so he will likely need some time at that level. The potential here is off the charts, though. The likely scenario for Rodriguez is that he moves to second base with average speed, range, and arm strength. Add in the fact the White Sox also have the next guy on the list at shortstop.
2. Colson Montgomery, SS
The White Sox selected Montgomery with the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft out of Southridge High in Indiana. The 6-foot-4 shortstop has drawn comparisons to Corey Seager, and rightfully so. He has the bat speed and pop to develop into a 25-30 home runs a year hitter. The pop is what stands out in his large frame but he has a smooth stroke and approach at the plate to hit for average as well. The 19-year-old held his own in Rookie-ball during his pro debut, as he slashed .287/.396/.362 with 13 walks and seven doubles in 26 games. The power obviously wasn’t shown off yet as he didn’t hit a homer and his slugging percentage was very low. But the tools are certainly there and he should only continue to work on them.
The fact he hit for a high average and worked his way on base so frequently is a good sign the raw power will work its way into his game. Showing off an ability to hit to all fields is far more important of a skill to develop than going all out for the power, anyway. Montgomery doesn’t have the classic build for a shortstop but moves well enough for his size to stick there. The only real reason Rodriguez is above Montgomery on this list is his proximity and his quick movement last season. But they both have very high ceilings.
3. Wes Kath, 3B
After winning Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year award in his senior year at Desert Mountain High, Chicago used a second-round pick on Kath last year. He made the move to third base from shortstop when he turned pro. He has an advanced approach at the plate with a tremendous combination of patience, hitting to all fields, and raw power. The 19-year-old didn’t get off to a great start in his pro debut, as he slashed just .212/.287/.337 with three homers in 28 games at the complex league. But he is still very young, of course, and will need to adjust to the pro level.
Kath has the approach to reach a plus-hit and plus-power ceiling and just be a great all-around hitter. He consistently makes hard contact to all fields and the raw power should come along as he adds more strength. The White Sox hope that they develop Montgomery and Kath to be the future of the left side of their infield.
4. Norge Vera, RHP
The only pitcher on this list, Vera defected to the states and signed with the White Sox for $1.5 million last February. The right-hander has a very solid three-pitch mix of fastball, curveball, and slider, that all flash plus. He was rated as the top pitcher in the 2020-21 international class and lived up to the hype in the Dominican Summer League. The 21-year-old dominated his competition; in eight games – seven starts – he struck out 34 and walked just five while allowing no runs and a .141 batting average against.
Vera has a very projectable 6-foot-4 frame that should add more velocity to his fastball. The heater currently sits around 96 mph and combines well with his high-70s curveball and a low-80s slider. While he was much older than the average competition at the DSL, the stuff was there. Vera will likely be placed at a full-season affiliate and have a chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
5. Yoelkis Cespedes, OF
The younger brother of Yoenis Cespedes, Yoelqui defected to the states from Cuba in 2019 before the White Sox signed him for $2.05 million in January 2021. He is on the older side, at 24, but was able to flash his tools in his first taste of American baseball. Between High-A and Double-A, Cespedes slashed .285/.350/.463 with eight homers, 27 RBI, 48 runs, and 18 stolen bases in 72 games. He has the bat speed and strength to give him plus-plus raw power, but he hasn’t shown much of it yet in the minors.
The Cuban outfielder has a tendency to get long on his swing at times which causes free-swinging and the strikeouts to pile up. If he can just trust in his natural hitting ability instead of selling out, he won’t struggle as much. As the competition gets tougher, Cespedes may have a tough time hitting top-level pitchers with his current approach. There is very little room for error but the talent is there if he can learn to lay off more pitches. He was able to flash his solid speed but his plus-plus arm strength would make him a fit in right field.
What Does the Future Hold?
There are a few other right-handed pitchers in the White Sox system, who they have drafted over the last few years. Jared Kelley struggled between Rookie ball and Low-A after being a second-round pick in 2020. He walked 26 batters in 23 2/3 innings to go along with his 27 strikeouts and had a couple of trips to the injured list. The righty still has plenty of raw abilities, but Chicago has to be cautious after the injury concerns, specifically with his elbow. Andrew Dalquist had an okay year after he was drafted in the third round in 2019. The California native struck out 79 in 83 innings with his solid three-pitch mix of fastball, curveball, and slider. Matthew Thompson flashed a solid mix of plus velocity and a potential plus curveball, while also showing off his ability to field his position well. Third baseman Jake Burger made an impressive comeback after an Achilles tear and re-tear sidelined him for two entire seasons, then Covid erased his chance to compete in 2020. The 2017 first-rounder began the year at Triple-A and even made a trip up to the league, where he mashed his first big league homer.
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexKielar
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images