Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

White Sox Prospect Primer: South Side on top

System continues to blossom with Jimenez, Kopech, Robert, more
Eloy Jimenez has mashed 43 homers and socked 80 doubles over 300 professional games since 2014. (Jimmy Mitchell/Birmingham Barons)
March 22, 2018

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2018 season approaching, takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.Shining Star: Eloy Jiménez, OFAcquired

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2018 season approaching, takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining Star: Eloy Jiménez, OF
Acquired with Dylan Cease, Bryant Flete and Matt Rose in the deal that sent Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs, Jimenez became the prize component of a White Sox system that already was full to the brim of top-shelf Minor League talent.

"It certainly takes us to another level," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. "When you have a guy of Eloy's talent, his level of talent, you don't see it every day, especially his advanced feel for his age, is very impressive."
Only 20 at the time of the trade, Jimenez batted .345 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 29 games with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and hit .353 with three jacks in 18 games after a promotion to the Double-A Birmingham. But even beyond the 60-grade hit tool and 70-grade power, Chicago sees a lot to like in's No. 3 overall prospect.
"He's got a great temperment about him," Getz said. "To get him in the mix like we were fortunate to do is really invaluable. And I can tell some other players are responding very positively because of it.

"[Leadership] comes very naturally to him. Some guys try to be leaders and can come across maybe a bit abrasive and not have the positive effect you want from those leaders. He's just got a great way about him. He doesn't have an ego. He enjoys talking to anyone, regardless of where they are in the organization, whether the guy can help him personally or not. He's just been raised very well by his family. I feel very lucky to have him. You look at all the teams that have been successful at the Major League level, and often they can be pretty good teams, but then they go out in free agency and they seek out leadership. It would be great to have that internally."
Breakout prospect: Blake Rutherford, OF
White Sox fans don't know what they have in Rutherford if they've only paid attention to his numbers since he joined the organization from the Yankees in last summer's Todd Frazier and David Robertson deal -- he hit .213 in 30 games for Class A Kannapolis. But the 2016 first-rounder had a great debut in short-season ball and profiles as a five-tool player. With Rutherford comfortable in his new system, look for him to produce.
"Last year was a lot to take in. For one, it was his first full season in professional baseball, which is a huge adjustment for anyone, let alone a high school kid," Getz said. "He had a good instructional league and he's having a very good Spring Training here. And I think the more he's getting comfortable, the more optimistic we're getting as an organization for how we view him."
At the crossroads: Michael Kopech, RHP
Kopech's struggles in the Cactus League were well- and widely documented, but the flamethrowing right-hander is on the brink of the big leagues. Last year, he punched out 172 over 134 1/3 innings while posting a 2.88 ERA in 22 Double-A and three Triple-A games, and there's no doubt about his fastball. Assigned to Minor League camp on Tuesday, the 21-year-old Texan is headed back to the International League, where he can go a long way toward reaching his big league potential by refining one pitch.
"His changeup," Getz said. "Obviously, he's got the electric arm, the big fastball, a very good slider. He's got an excellent changeup, he just needs to get more comfortable with it. He needs to throw it more. He's got the power, but now he needs to find the finesse of pitching. He was able to do that last year in the second half, so he just needs to continue to build off how he finished there into this year. Clearly, he has a very bright future and we're excited to just get him going again."

Full-season debutant: Luis Robert, OF
Signed as an international free agent last May, the 20-year-old Cuban wrecked the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League to the tune of a .310/.491/.536 slash line, 12 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 28 games last year. He sprained a thumb ligament sliding into second on a stolen base in a Cactus League game (and homered after the injury), but the team is confident he'll have a good, long season when he returns to action.
"He opened a lot of eyes in Spring Training. We didn't really know what to expect. Obviously, you get the guy that's been profiled often, and then last year he was in the DSL. You just don't know," Getz admitted. "He hadn't been over to the United States and in our culture, how's he going to react? He's been awesome. There is a setback with the injury, but we're also fortunate in that it's not too significant of an injury. Sure, he's not starting in the beginning of the season, but we expect him mid-May, late-May, and to be able to get plenty of at-bats and not lose too much on his development."

Loudest tool: Thyago Vieira, RHP
The White Sox picked up Vieira from the Mariners in November. Like Kopech, he features an 80-grade fastball that he has no trouble ratcheting into triple digits. Unlike Kopech, the 24-year-old Brazilian is a reliever, and working out of the bullpen gives him the opportunity to lean on his best pitch often. The offering is complemented by a strong slider and dangerous but inconsistent splitter. By most reports, if those secondary pitches improve, Vieira has the makings of an elite closer. Even if they don't, the stellar fastball means he still has the potential to make an impact as a big league reliever.
More to keep an eye on: Dane Dunning, who had a 2.94 ERA and 168 strikeouts over 144 innings between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last year, is working on returning the curveball to his reportoire and spent his time in big league camp, learning from James Shields. ... The injury bug has been unkind to Chicago at Spring Training. In addition to Robert's thumb ligament, No. 8 prospect Jake Burger ruptured his left Achilles tendon and will miss the entire season. Micker Adolfo has a torn flexor muscle and strained ulnar collateral ligament, but he was active in a Double-A game on Wednesday and seems set to play as a designated hitter before undergoing offseason surgery. ... Although Zack Collins has slipped out of the Top 100 Prospects, partially due to a high strikeout rate since being drafted in the first round in 2016, he put up a .370 on-base percentage between Winston-Salem and Birmingham last year and has had no problem generating power. A left-handed-hitting catcher, he remains one of the most promising Minor Leaguers at the position.

2018 organization predictions:
Most home runs in the system: Jimenez
Most stolen bases: Robert
Most strikeouts: Hansen
Current prospect to get most Major League playing time: Aaron Bummer
Non-Top-100 prospect to end 2018 in the Top 100: Somebody they get at the Trade Deadline for Nate Jones?

Josh Jackson is a contributor to Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB.