The White Sox farm system has fallen to one of the worst in baseball in 2021. That doesn’t mean it’s a failure by the organization. When the team decided to tear the big-league club down to start a full-on rebuild in December of 2016, Chicago’s minor league prospects began to fill up top 100 lists. Many of those players are currently key figures on the major league roster that looks to be set up for playoff runs for several years in a row. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn, and Carlos Rodon are all home-grown players. The White Sox have used the farm system in a smart way – as the foundation for a World Series contender.
The Southsiders’ farm system is currently bereft of talent that would be considered star potential that is close to the majors. For years, Chicago relied on college players at the top of their drafts. But in recent years, that approach seems to have changed and now much of the White Sox’ top minor league talent are high school draftees. That is by design as the major league club seems largely set, just needing free-agent additions to fill in needs here and there.
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1. Yoelkis Cespedes OF
Cespedes is the younger brother of former major leaguer Yoenis Cespedes. He adds to the Cuban pipeline the White Sox have developed in recent years. Cespedes signed for over $2 million in January of this year and was considered to be the top international prospect by some evaluators. He has thrived at Double-A Birmingham this season, posting an August slash line of .339/.406/.613. Already 23 years of age and with substantial experience in Cuba, a promotion to the big-league club in the second half of 2022 is realistic. The White Sox don’t have anybody resembling a set-in-stone right fielder and Cespedes could easily slide into that role.
2. Colson Montgomery, SS
By all reports, the White Sox targeted Montgomery in the 2021 draft and he fell to them at the 22nd spot in the first round. Montgomery was a year older than most high school seniors but he offers an intriguing mix of talent that overrides the concern about his age. He will likely stay at shortstop even though he is tall and lanky. Montgomery possesses above-average athleticism as evidenced by his accomplished high school basketball career (he was offered a walk-on spot in basketball at Indiana University).
3. Wes Kath, 3B
Kath was another player that was widely rumored to be a White Sox target in this year’s draft. Some thought Chicago might select him in the first round but he lasted to them in the second round and they gladly scooped him up. Kath offers a polished bat with the potential for enticing power. While he played shortstop at the prep level, he has already transitioned to third base. Kath was the Arizona high school player of the year in 2021 and led his team to the state title. He hits from the left side and features a strong arm. The duo of Montgomery and Kath will be fascinating to watch climb the minor league ladder together.
4. Jake Burger, 3B
Burger’s road to the major was anything but smooth but when he made it to the big-league club this season while filling in for injured regulars, he equipped himself well. Burger was the 11th overall selection out of Missouri State University in the 2017 draft. He suffered two major injuries but regained his prospect status this season. His bat packs a punch as evidenced by his impressive .597 slugging percentage and .949 OPS at Triple-A in 2021. His physical profile doesn’t scream athleticism, but he has gotten himself into the best shape of his life and plays an adequate third base.
5. Norge Vera, RHP
The White Sox have taken several high upside prep pitchers in the last two drafts but Vera slips into the 5th spot in these rankings. Another in the White Sox vast collection of Cubans, Vera was considered the top pitching prospect of the 2020-21 international class. He currently sits in the mid-90s with his fastball but there is projection in his arsenal when he fills out his current 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame. Vera supports his fastball with an above-average curveball and slider. His command currently leaves a bit to be desired, but if he can improve in that area, he will be slotted into the White Sox rotation by 2024.
What Does the Future Hold?
It is believed that the White Sox are the presumptive choice for prime international prospect Oscar Colas. Assuming he signs with Chicago in January, he may jump to the top of this list. Colas has starred on the mound and in the batter’s box but he will likely focus solely on hitting in the future. Beyond the young arms in the White Sox system, Gavin Sheets is the closest to a major-league regular. He spent time in the majors in 2021, making a positive impact and playing a significant role for Chicago for a stretch this season.
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