Over the past few years, the biggest talking point around the White Sox has been the plethora of prospects accrued from trades, the draft and international signings. There is no denying that this talk is warranted, with major hype surrounding the likes of Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez among others. Now that the rebuild has seemingly turned a corner and many of the young guns are starting to see regular action in the majors, the main focus has shifted back to the product on 35th and Shields.
However, it’s no surprise that the major league team has holes that need to be filled in order to be taken seriously as a contender. What we have within our system is important for not only filling those holes directly, but also in an indirect way by being movable pieces for proven veterans. There is no doubt that some of these will certainly be the highly-regarded, can’t miss guys like Luis Robert. However, in winning organizations, contributors from within the organization can come from avenues that not many people would have anticipated. Everyone knows about the Top 100 rated prospects within our system, as touched on in an article from a few weeks ago. However, there were other prospects not named Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal that had attention-grabbing production the past month that received less recognition. In the first edition of Prized Prospects, we’ll give credit where credit is due and dive into who heated up along with the June weather.
Blake Rutherford has been a highly talked about prospect since he was involved in the trade that sent Todd Frazier, David Roberson, and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees back in 2017. Coming into the 2017 season, he was listed as the 37th best prospect in all of baseball according to Jonathan Mayo’s MLB.com Prospect Rankings. Since then, he has fallen out of the Top 100 completely and struggled a bit following the trade. However, the 8th ranked prospect in the system provided a solid month of June for the AA Birmingham Barons good for a .365/.400/.471 slash line, 38 total hits, and 12 RBIs. This turnaround is promising to see as he started his 2019 campaign poorly, mustering only 12 hits in 82 plate appearances in April. His June wasn’t perfect, as he raked up 26 strikeouts in 27 games, but in this instance you can take the good with the bad and be optimistic about his turnaround.
Steele Walker is the 10th ranked prospect within the White Sox organization, and has progressed since being drafted last year in the second round out of Oklahoma University. The 22-year old outfielder has certainly made his mark within the organization, although with his share of struggles. He started of his 2019 campaign with immediate production at Low-A Kannapolis, but struggled in his first action following his promotion to High-A Winston-Salem. In May, he only provided a .233/.351/.333 slash line. While he still reached base at a respectable clip, the average and the power numbers fell off a bit. In June, however, he certainly bounced back as he produced a .330/.379/.523 slash line to supplement six doubles, three home runs, and 16 runs batted in. If he continues to produce consistently, he could find his way in AA soon enough if Luis Robert earns the call to AAA.
Yermin Mercedes is certainly a player within the organization that has not received much attention until recently. The little-known, but big-bodied, prospect has bounced around different organizations since beginning with the Nationals organization back in 2011. He had years of mixed success and eventually was released a few years later. Following this stint with the Nationals, he bounced around independent leagues before getting a chance with the Orioles organization. From there, he was picked up by the White Sox in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft and has produced significantly since his arrival. His month of June saw incredible results, particularly since his call-up to AAA. He’s played in seven games with Charlotte (small sample size, I know) and has put up some video game type numbers to the tune of two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .458/.500/.875 slash line. That’s good for an OPS of 1.375!!! The one troublesome aspect about Mercedes is that he is primarily a catcher, while also getting action at first base and DH. There are currently quite a few options that exist at catcher, including All-Star James McCann, Zack Collins, Welington Castillo, and Seby Zavala (who also had a solid June). The first base and DH roles are even more crowded with Jose Abreu, Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, and a few other names fighting to earn either of those roles in the coming years. There is also the strong possibility that Eloy Jimenez and Zack Collins slide into either of those roles at some point, creating even more traffic. However, if Mercedes continues to crush the ball the way he has been, he’ll find a role for either the White Sox or another organization.
Codi Heuer is another player within the White Sox organization that hasn’t been talked about as much. Heuer was a 6th round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Wichita State, and the 6’5″ right-handed pitcher has been impressive since being drafted. Across both High-A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham, he racked up eight relief appearances across 15.1 innings pitched and tallied 16 strikeouts to only 3 walks in June. While certain young arms in the White Sox bullpen have been impressive, many pitchers within the system have recently suffered serious arm injuries and possess uncertain futures and timelines. With this being the case, Heuer can certainly enter his name in the competition for a bullpen role down the road if the opportunity presents itself and he continues to improve.
Kade McClure is another under-the-radar prospect that had himself a dazzling June. McClure currently isn’t on the MLB.com Top 30 rankings for the White Sox, but the right-handed starting pitcher is hard to miss on the mound with his large 6’7″ stature. The 6th round pick out of Louisville in the 2017 MLB Draft began the season in Low-A Kannapolis, but spent all of June with High-A Winston-Salem. In five starts over the past month, he racked up 29.2 innings pitched and surrendered fewer than one hit or walk per inning pitched. The future starting rotation figures to include Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease. Uncertainty arises for the remaining two spots, and at least one of the openings figures to be filled from outside of the organization, but with expatiated progress McClure could earn the occasional start as another injury-riddled area within the organization is starting pitching.
That wraps up Prized Prospects for the month of June. Look out for July’s edition in early August!
Featured Photo: Birmingham Barons