Prized Prospects: July Edition
Much like June, July was a month filled with surprises from both well-known players and also names that aren’t as common within the White Sox prospect pipeline.
Welcome back for the second edition of “Prized Prospects”. If you missed the June Edition, make sure to check that out as well regarding some of the top prospect performances from the month of June.
TOP 100 PROSPECTS
There is no denying that Luis Robert continued to do his thing in the month of July. After spending all of May and June and part of July in AA Birmingham, he earned a promotion to AAA Charlotte following his performance in the AA All-Star Game and has put up tremendous numbers there. In the 18 games that he has played in Charlotte, he has been held hitless in only two games while hitting .351/.420/.714 to go along with six home runs, four doubles, three triples, 15 RBIs, and five stolen bases in six attempts. With his hot start in AAA, the fifth-ranked prospect in all of baseball is currently on track to put up better numbers in AAA than he did in AA if he maintains a similar pace.
Dylan Cease, who is the fifth-best right-handed pitching prospect according to MLB.com, made his MLB debut on July 3rd against the Tigers in which he earned his first career win. While his numbers and fastball command have left much to be desired, he has still shown flashes of why he was named the best pitcher across all minor league levels last season. There is no reason to worry about this kid because once he regains control of his fastball and starts avoiding early-inning trouble, he will be a staple at the top of the White Sox starting rotation for a very long time.
Newly drafted Andrew Vaughn also saw his first bit of action in professional baseball this past month. Vaughn quickly showed why he was regarded as the top hitting prospect in this year’s draft, making quick work of the Rookie League by hitting .600/.625/.933 with nine hits, including two doubles and one home run to go along with four RBIs in just three games. Since then, he has continued to hit well for the Single-A Kannapolis Intimidators, slashing .253/.388/.410 with two home runs, seven doubles, and 11 RBIs in 23 games played. This performance warranted a promotion to High-A Winston-Salem on Wednesday. In the updated prospect rankings, he is ranked third within the organization and is the highest-rated first base prospect in all of baseball, and for good reason.
Like Vaughn, Nick Madrigal earned a promotion to a higher level within the organization on the last day of July. The fifth-ranked prospect in the White Sox organization played 42 games for AA Birmingham, where he put up significantly better numbers than he did during his 49 game stint with High-A Winston Salem. For Winston-Salem, he hit .272/.346/.377 with 72 total bases. In comparison to his Birmingham numbers of .341/.400/.451 with 74 total bases, it is definitely promising to see that an increase in competition led to improved numbers in just about every major category. His next and final test before the major leagues will be how he well he adjusts to yet another level of competition. If he continues progressing at the pace that he has been all season, he will likely ace this test as well.
OUTSIDE OF TOP 100
The performances of the top-tier prospects are definitely significant. Currently, these are the players that we are most likely to see as the future superstars delivering big-time production for the White Sox down the road. Deservedly so, these are also the players that get the most attention from the media and are often featured during White Sox broadcasts. However, these players alone don’t tell the full story of this team’s farm system. There are dozens of prospects within the organization who don’t get the same attention; their performances are overlooked because people simply don’t know about them. Now we’ll dive into some of these prospects that aren’t within MLB.com’s Top 100 rankings, but performed exceptionally well in the month of July and deserve some recognition.
Jonathan Stiever has made one of the biggest (if not the biggest) jumps on the White Sox internal top 30 prospect rankings this season. In the preseason rankings, he was ranked 27th but is now ranked eighth largely due to the incredible stretch of pitching that he has provided the organization over the past few months. In July, the White Sox’s fifth-round draft pick in the 2018 draft out of Indiana University (Go Hoosiers) pitched 32 innings for High-A Winston-Salem, where he recorded a 2.25 ERA, 0.750 WHIP and a 12.67 K/BB ratio. If this progression continues, the 22-year old could throw himself into the mix of young, talented arms ahead of the 2021 season.
Gavin Sheets began the season as the White Sox’s 18th ranked prospect but with the graduation of a few players from prospect status and his own performance, he has made his way to 14th on the midseason rankings. Sheets had a slow start to the season, but with each month that passes his numbers have steadily improved. In July, the 2017 second-round pick out of Wake Forest hit .315/.385/.511 with six doubles, four home runs, and 17 RBIs. If Sheets can continue to improve against AA pitching, he may force his way into the mix of AAA Charlotte’s loaded lineup and be an option for a roster spot at some point next season and beyond.
After beginning the season outside of the Top 30, Danny Mendick found his way onto the midseason rankings as the 27th ranked prospect and with good reason. After having an incredible Spring Training and seemingly coming out of nowhere, Mendick has continued his success by posting his best month of the season in July. Over the past month, he hit .308/.394/.527 with eight doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs for AAA Charlotte. Mendick has been with the organization since he was a 22nd round pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He has battled and fought at every level that he has played. He is now seemingly one step away from earning his first action at the major league level. With Nick Madrigal recently earning a promotion to AAA and being given the everyday second baseman role, Mendick deserves a chance to show what he can do at the major league level by the end of this season. With the struggles of infielder Yolmer Sanchez and bench pieces A.J. Reed (Update: Reed was optioned Thursday) and Welington Castillo, there is no reason why the White Sox should not see what Mendick is capable of in place of players that aren’t part of this team’s future plans. Since he can play multiple positions, he and Leury Garcia could provide a versatile tandem for the White Sox off of the bench in contending seasons.
After beginning the season as the 28th ranked prospect within the White Sox system, Johnson moved up to the 20th spot in the MLB.com midseason rankings. After pitching very well in relief last season, Johnson suffered an injury early on this season and didn’t resume pitching in games until late June. The fifth-round pick from the 2017 draft had a quick stint with the Arizona League White Sox before he was sent to High-A Winston Salem, where he spent the rest June and part of July. After putting up a 1.80 ERA and 15 strikeouts across ten innings pitched in High-A, he earned the call to AA Birmingham where he has pitched well in three appearances. While the back-end of the White Sox bullpen has some decent pieces that’ll be around for the next few seasons, Johnson could certainly make his way into the mix for a spot if he proves to be more consistent than some of the current options that see regular action.
After being selected in the 20th round of this year’s MLB draft out of the University of Virginia, Cameron Simmons has jumped onto the scene and made his presence known. After he signed, he began his professional baseball career in the Rookie Pioneer League. He didn’t put up big numbers in June, but once the calendar flipped to July he went on a seven-game hitting streak that included a two-home run performance in his last Pioneer League Game. Following this game, he was promoted to Low-A Kannapolis, where he spent the rest of his July. Across both levels of play, he closed out the month by hitting .350/.395/.600 with 24 total bases across 12 games. There aren’t many expectations around a 20th-rounder, but this is certainly a preferential way for a player with something to prove to begin his career.
That wraps up the Prized Prospects for the month of July. Look out for August’s edition in early September!
Featured Photo: USA Today