Robert, Madrigal form future for White Sox

Outfielder, second baseman continue quick climbs to Majors

Luis Robert ranked second among all Minor Leaguers with 314 total bases and fourth with 74 extra-base hits. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

By Brian Stultz / MiLB.com | October 16, 2019 10:30 AM

Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

There's something brewing on the South Side of Chicago, with a core of young talent taking over Guaranteed Rate Field and turning the White Sox into contenders. Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, both top prospects entering this season, made the jump to the big leagues and showed why they are thought of as two of the key members of the team's future.

They won't be alone.

Luis Robert, the 2017 signee who received a $26 million bonus, jumped 37 spots to No. 3 in MLB's Top 100 Prospects list during the season. He's followed by Andrew Vaughn, the third overall pick in the 2019 Draft, who moved quickly through the ranks in his first professional season and is 21st on the Top 100. Nick Madrigal (40th), the 2018 first-rounder, showed flashes of why he's the second baseman of the near future for the Sox. 

Add Michael Kopech at No. 17 and the White Sox have four prospects among the top 40. The right-hander sat out this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March. 

Yes, the future is bright for the White Sox and it won't be long before you see many of these guys in big league ballparks. 

White Sox Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Yermin Mercedes, Birmingham (42 games), Charlotte (53 games): The 26-year-old finally broke through to the Triple-A level after 42 games with Double-A Birmingham, and he didn't disappoint. Mercedes posted a .310/.386/.647 slash line in the International League with 17 homers, 12 doubles and 62 RBIs. It was the first time he topped .300 since 2016, when he was in the Orioles system. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound backstop threw out 27 of 62 would-be basestealers while compiling a .983 fielding percentage.

The White Sox claimed the native of the Dominican Republic off waivers in December 2017. 

"We knew we were getting a bat, but to be honest with you, the defense was pretty good as well. He can throw and he has pretty good receiving abilities," director of player development Chris Getz told NBC Sports Chicago. "A guy that loves to play, plays with great passion and he has tools. He really took off in Birmingham this year. He was probably the most consistent hitter that they had. He can hit for [power], he can get hits the other way. He stays on pitches well. There's some ingredients for future success here. It was a bright spot in our farm system what Yermin was able to accomplish."

Video: Knights' Mercedes homers off bull

First baseman -- Gavin Sheets, Birmingham (126 games): A big target at first base and a big swinger at the plate, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Sheets roped 16 dingers, 18 doubles and 83 RBIs while batting .267 in his first season at the Double-A level. In 110 games at first, the 2017 second-round pick out of Wake Forest -- and the 13th-ranked White Sox prospect -- committed only three errors and posted a .997 fielding percentage. 

Second baseman -- Nick Madrigal, Winston-Salem (49 games), Birmingham (42 games), Charlotte (29 games): There aren't many players who move through the orginizational ranks faster than Madrigal has, reaching Triple-A in his second year after being drafted fourth overall in 2018 out of Oregon State. Combined, he raked for a .311/.377/.414 line with four homers, five triples, 27 doubles, 76 runs scored and 55 RBIs while drawing 44 walks. More impressively, the 22-year-old struck out only 16 times in 473 at-bats while swiping 35 bases. He also was stellar defensively, committing four errors in 488 total chances and earning a Minor League Gold Glove. Madrigal represented the White Sox at the Futures Game, getting the start at second base.

"It's definitely very exciting," Madrigal said of the potential to be a star in Chicago. "It's very realistic. We have a very dangerous lineup when you have that top of the order along with all of the other pieces we have in this organization. The White Sox fans have a lot to be excited for in the future, and I'm happy to be a part of it."

"Certainly bat-to-ball skills is one of his strengths," Getz told NBC Sports Chicago. "It is an elite skill that he has and in the game nowadays with the amount of strikeouts you see and how pitchers are attacking hitters, it makes him even more valuable. You look at his year, from [Class A Advanced] to Triple-A, to be honest with you, he continued to get better. He's a guy that once we got him a little bit closer, he got a little more excited and continued to perform."

Video: Knights' Madrigal goes inside the park

Third base -- Danny Mendick, Charlotte (133 games): Before being called up to the White Sox on Sept. 3, Mendick put up a .279/.368/.444 slash line with the Knights, collecting 17 dingers, 26 doubles, 66 walks, 75 runs scored and 64 RBIs in 133 games. The No. 26 White Sox prospect played four different positions, posting a .994 fielding percentage at shortstop, .969 at third, 1.000 at second and 1.000 in left field.

Shortstop -- Zach Remillard, Winston-Salem (95 games), Birmingham (27 games): The 25-year-old appeared in 96 games at shortstop, 15 at third and four at first base, proving his versatility. During his time at shortstop, he put up a .950 fielding percentage, committing 21 errors in 419 total chances. At the plate, Remillard batted .277 with seven long balls, 18 doubles, 66 runs scored and 43 RBIs. He'll need to cut down on strikeouts -- he whiffed 125 times in 452 at-bats -- while drawing 46 walks. For his efforts with the Dash, Remillard was named to the Carolina League end-of-season All-Star team.


MiLB.com 2019 Organization All-Stars: Team by Team >>


Outfielders

Luis Robert, Winston-Salem (19 games), Birmingham (56 games), Charlotte (47 games): There wasn't much that Robert didn't do across three levels this season, earning a trip to the Futures Game along with Double-A All-Star Game MVP and USA Today Minor League Player of the Year honors. He put up a .328/.376/.624 slash line with 32 dingers, 11 triples, 31 doubles, 92 RBIs, 36 stolen bases and 108 runs scored in 122 games, joining the Astros' Kyle Tucker as the only members of the Minors' 30/30 club.

"You look back at the year, what our initial goal was and it's pretty impressive what he was able to accomplish," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz told NBC Sports Chicago. "We continued to challenge him with different levels and he continued to perform at an elite level."

Like Jimenez a year earlier, Robert did not get called up when rosters expanded in September.

"Sure, there are guys that are getting called up with lesser numbers," Getz said. "However, what's the best route for Luis Robert? We felt the best route was not to bring him up here."

Video: Robert clubs moonshot

Steele Walker, Kannapolis (20 games), Winston-Salem (100 games): The 2018 second-round pick didn't spend much time at Class A as he hit .365 in 20 games before getting called up to the Carolina League. There, he stayed productive, raking at a .269/.346/.426 clip with 10 homers, two triples, 26 doubles, 59 runs scored and 51 RBIs in 100 games. It didn't matter where the sixth-ranked White Sox prospect played in the outfield, he was perfect, posting a 1.000 fielding percentage on 223 total chances. Walker twice was named Carolina League Player of the Week (June 16, Aug. 4) and earned a spot on the end-of-season All-Star team.

Video: Dash's Walker hits for the cycle

Daniel Palka, Charlotte (106 games), Chicago (30 games): The 27-year-old left-handed slugger notably struggled in the Majors (.107/.194/.179 in 30 games), but he forced his way back to The Show with a strong display in the International League. Palka hit .263/.374/.527 over his 106 games with the Knights. His 27 homers were second-most in the system, trailing only Robert's 32, and his .900 OPS also placed second. Adjusting for league factors, his 126 wRC+ placed fourth among White Sox full-season hitters.

Utility player -- Matt Skole, Charlotte (92 games), Chicago (27 games): The 30-year-old had a stellar first half in the IL, hitting .260/.386/.534 with 20 homers and 48 RBIs in 76 games. While he cooled off following the Triple-A All-Star break, Skole was one of 24 Knights who made it to Chicago this season. Promoted on Aug. 2, he batted .208/.275/.236 with a pair of doubles and six RBIs in 27 games with the White Sox.

Left-handed starter -- Avery Weems, AZL White Sox (four starts), Great Falls (10 starts): Picked in the sixth round of this year's draft out of the University of Arizona, Weems made quick work of the Rookie-level Arizona League, putting up a 0.69 ERA in four starts and striking out 14 over 13 innings while issuing only three walks. Promoted to Great Falls on July 7, the 22-year-old went 4-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 10 starts, holding opponents to a .235 average to earn midseason and end-of-season Pioneer League All-Star honors.

Offseason MiLB include

Right-handed starter -- Jorgan Cavanerio, Arkansas (seven games, one start), Winston-Salem (20 games, 19 starts): Released by the Mariners on May 7, the 25-year-old signed a Minor League contract with the South Siders three days later. Cavanerio rewarded their faith by going 9-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 73 strikeouts over 112 innings in 19 starts for the Dash.  

"You look at the way the ball comes out of his hand -- it's live," Voyagers pitching coach John Ely said at the end of August. "He spins the ball extremely well. He has two distinct, Major League-style breaking balls: a curve and slider that play, at all levels.

"His best fastball is a two-seamer that we're trying to get more depth out of, but he throws the hell out of it."

Video: Weems records ninth K

Relief pitcher -- Will Kincanon, Winston-Salem (42 games): When the 2017 11th-round pick came into a game, opposing hitters didn't stand much of a chance. Over 58 innings, Kincanon allowed only 12 earned runs while striking out 71 and keeping foes to a .208 batting average. He compiled a 1.86 ERA and 1.22 WHIP and was one of six members of the Dash named Carolina League midseason All-Stars.

Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More