MLB.com and Keith Law of ESPN both released their Top 100 Prospects lists in the past week. Keith Law is THE baseball prospect guru for ESPN and his rankings are well received in the baseball community, even though he often times diverges from the MLB rankings. This year, Law ranked four White Sox prospects in the top 100 and ranked the White Sox system as a whole tenth overall. MLB.com ranked six prospects in their top 100, adding Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to the four players below that Keith Law ranked. Lopez is currently ranked #46 overall and Fulmer is ranked #71 on the MLB.com list. Below are the four players Keith Law ranked in his top 100 prospects going into the 2017 season.
#7 Michael Kopech, RHP (#16 for MLB.com) ETA: Late 2018
Kopech (pictured) was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. Still only 20 years old, Kopech has been routinely compared to Noah Syndergaard, the young ace for the New York Mets. Law states “Kopech’s pro career got off to a rocky start, but once he returned from the disabled list in mid-June 2016, he emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, which in turn allowed the Red Sox…Kopech can touch triple digits with his fastball, which regularly sits in the upper 90s — he was clocked at 96-99 mph in his first outing in the Arizona Fall League — with ridiculous arm speed and huge extension over his front side that must make hitters think the ball is coming in at 110. He has some feel for both a hard slider and changeup, though neither is very consistent just yet, with the changeup a little ahead the last time I saw him pitch.”
“Other than a slight cutoff in his landing, Kopech’s delivery works and should allow him to develop average or better command over time. He just needs to pitch, both to build up durability and work on fastball command and getting those two off-speed pitches to be regularly above average. His upside is that of a No. 1 starter who has two or three truly plus pitches and logs 200 innings a year.” Kopech has yet to throw one pitch in AA and thus has plenty of development time left before he reaches the majors. With the White Sox in rebuilding mode, expect Kopech to take all the time he needs. When he does eventually make it to the big leagues, Keith Law’s analysis indicates he will be towards the front end of the White Sox rotation.
#13 Lucas Giolito, RHP (#12 for MLB.com) ETA: 2017
Part of the shocker trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, Keith Law opines that his early struggles in the majors may not be cause for concern. “Giolito’s big league debut went poorly, though there are some good reasons why — the Nationals had tried to alter his delivery early in the spring, which cost him control and velocity, and promoted him to the majors not long after restoring his previous mechanics. He was still touching 96 mph in the majors and sitting around 93 with his fastball, so his arm is fine, though between that and the different baseballs, he didn’t show the dominance he had in the low minors.”
“When he’s right, Giolito will sit at 93-95 mph with his four-seamer, touching 97 or 98, with an out-pitch curveball, average or better change and a two-seamer he can use to mitigate the lack of life on his four-seamer. He’s a superb athlete with a clean, repeatable delivery, one that might not provide a ton of deception but does allow him to throw plenty of strikes. He has been healthy since 2012 Tommy John surgery and is almost ready for a major league rotation spot right now, with plenty of untapped upside for his new employers to coax out. There’s No. 1 starter ceiling here given the size, delivery and out pitch in the curveball, with a mid-rotation floor.” Giolito will most likely be up on the major league roster in 2017 as he has already received some playing time with the Nationals, but will most likely start the season in AAA. With two top 15 pitching prospects, the White Sox seem to have a potential two-headed monster in Giolito and Kopech.
#17 Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B (#2 for MLB.com) ETA: 2017
Probably the biggest shocker in Keith Law’s rankings, the former top prospect and #2 overall player in MLB.com’s rankings, Yoan Moncada is ranked outside of the top 10 by Keith Law. “He’s an enormous, explosive athlete who can flash all sorts of baseball skills. Moncada looks like Lawrence Taylor in a baseball uniform, but if you saw him in the majors in September, you also saw some of the flaws in his game. Moncada is a plus runner with good bat speed and plus raw power, with a better left-handed swing but potential on both sides of the plate.” Law projects Moncada as a better defensive player at third base but the White Sox have indicated they plan to use him at second for the time being. “He has moved around the diamond a little, looking too stiff and upright at second but much better at third base, a position that demands quicker reactions and relies less on getting down to field slower ground balls.”
“He destroyed High-A to start 2016, then hit well in Double-A (.277/.379/.531) but struck out 31 percent of the time, and then looked lost with a late promotion to the big leagues. However, Moncada wraps his bat and can’t get to the stuff thrown inside and backspin it, getting on top of those pitches or missing them entirely. When he reached the majors, it was as if he’d never seen a breaking ball in his life. The latter problem can change with development time, but the former is a more significant mechanical question that reduces his likely ceiling for me.” Expect Moncada to start the season at AAA. Once Moncada is ready to play in the majors he will be on the roster to stay. With Brett Lawrie blocking him at second base, and no dream of contention in 2017, Moncada will not be rushed.
#95 Zack Collins, C (#81 for MLB.com) ETA: Late 2018
The White Sox first round pick in 2016, Keith Law does not see him sticking at the catcher position. “I don’t think Collins, already big for the position and not that agile, will make it to the majors as a catcher, but I do think he can really hit, and do so with power and some on-base ability, so it might not matter in the end. When Collins keeps his swing controlled, he’s short to the zone and explodes quickly from where he loads, with plenty of natural angle in his finish to hit for power, but he does get a little homer-happy and then his swing becomes unnecessarily long. His pro debut went better than anyone could have expected, with a lot of strikeouts but a .258/.418/.467 line that would have placed him among the league leaders in OBP and slugging. There is absolutely some extra value in having this kind of bat behind the plate, but if Collins’ bat is as advanced as I think it is, he might hit his way off the position this year.”
The White Sox really want Collins to work out at catcher as the position has been weak ever sine A.J. Pierzynski left and there are not other top catching prospects in their system. Collins will most likely start the season at AA and will need a few years to really hone his defense before making it to the majors.