This post is the sixth in a series called “Farm Fodder” that will examine White Sox prospects who could make a significant impact in Chicago in the coming years.  Recent trades have significantly increased the amount of talent in the White Sox Organization, but there are also a few very talented players that remain from before the trades.  The next prospect we will examine is Jordan Stephens.

Jordan Stephens is a 6’-1” 190lb right-handed starting pitcher selected by the White Sox in the 5th round of the 2015 amateur draft out of Rice University.  Stephens showed great promise pitching with the Rice Owls and pitched to an 8-4 record and 2.43 ERA in 17 starts his sophomore season in 2013.  As he began his junior season, early predictions were that Stephens would be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft in 2014.  However, early in the 2014 season Stephens suffered an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery.  He recovered faster than expected, and was able to make 11 starts and finish the 2015 season as Rice’s “ace”.  His showing was enough to prove to teams that he hadn’t lost a step, and the White Sox rewarded him with a 5th round selection.  Other notable players selected in the 5th round after Stephens include Yankees highly regarded pitching prospect Chance Adams, Pirates southpaw pitching prospect Brandon Waddell, and Dodgers young toolsy infield prospect Brendon Davis.

Stephens was not rushed in 2015, pitching only 17.2 innings as a pro, after throwing 59.2 innings for Rice.  However, he was effective, allowing only 9 hits and 2 earned runs for the Rookie League Great Falls Voyagers and the Sox Rookie Arizona League team.  The “kid gloves” came off in 2016, and Stephens really impressed.  Spending the whole of 2016 at A+ Winston Salem, Stephens made 27 healthy starts, throwing 141 innings.  He pitched to a respectable 3.45 ERA, struck out 155, and allowed less hits than innings pitched.  Stephens’ repertoire is summed up by MLB Pipeline:

“Working in shorter stints in pro ball and during instructional league, Stephens dealt at 93-96 mph with his fastball, up from his usual 90-93 mph as a starter. His plus curveball features good depth, and he also mixes in a mid-80s cutter/slider that has its moments and a changeup that lags behind his other pitches.  Stephens’ lack of size and his medical history lead to worries about whether he can hold up as a starter, but he doesn’t have any issues maintaining his velocity deep into games. His smaller stature means he has to work to create angle and plane on his pitches, which sometimes flatten out. He fills the strike zone and his dogged competitiveness draws comparisons to that of Carson Fulmer, the White Sox’ 2015 first-rounder.”

Elsewhere, Eric Longenhangen of FanGraphs adds that Stephens has good arm-side movement on his fastball, and a “uniquely shaped curveball, which has a sharp, roller-coaster hump”.  He also indicates that Stephens has work to do to better use his lower half, and that this factored along with the injury history has many scouts believing Stephens will be a reliever long term.  However, Stephens’ performance in 2016 shows his promise as a starter, and the White Sox are very bullish on Stephens as a starter.  In an interview with Brian Bilek of Future Sox, White Sox Director of Scouting Nick Hostetler spoke very highly of Stephens,  “Oh yeah.  He’s going to pitch in the big leagues.  Jordan Stephens has some of the best on-field toughness and grit that I’ve ever seen.  The kid gets after it.  There’s a lot of Jake Peavy in this kid.”  Surely the combination of above average stuff and off-the-charts competitiveness will bode well for Stephens as he continues his professional career and works towards pitching in the Major Leagues.

If everything goes well for Stephens, he has the potential to be a #3, #4, or #5 starter in a few years for the White Sox.  However, if the current stash of White Sox pitching prospects all live up to their potential, it may be best for the Organization if Stephens is utilized as a shut-down, back-end of the bullpen reliever.  For now, the Sox will let Stephens continue to develop as a starter.  Stephens will be 24 at the start of the 2017 season, and should begin the season at AA Birmingham.  There is a strong chance that a solid first half performance will earn him a promotion to AAA Charlotte.  There is a small outside chance that Stephens could receive a look in the Chicago bullpen this season, or as a September call up, but considering the Organization’s pitching depth ahead of Stephens, that seems unlikely.  Otherwise, continued development and growth, sustained health, and a little luck could land Stephens in Chicago sometime in the 2018 season. -DV

Jordan Stephens Video:

Jordan Stephens Strikeout 2016 A+ Winston Salem:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGkrSsc96LY

Jordan Stephens 2015 White Sox AZL:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmH7JrZ0TUo

 

 

Twitter:  @DaVroomer

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