Expectations for the White Sox in 2018 are murky. The team should definitely be better with more prospects on the way, but no one expects a contender. Potentially, the south siders could finish .500, or perhaps with the slow development of some prospects, the Sox finish with 95 losses. While 2017 brought an exciting element of trading veterans, 2018 should be entirely about the prospects. Let’s meet the four farmhands who I expect to make big-league debuts next season.
The man with the blazing fastball has caught fire for the Birmingham Barons and seems poised to reach the majors in 2018. Acquired in the Chris Sale deal, Kopech has overcome a midseason slump in his 2017 campaign. In his last five appearances spanning 34 innings, the 21-year-old righty sports a 0.79 ERA to go along with 44 Ks. More importantly, Kopech has weathered his control issues, allowing just five walks in that span. As long as he continues to avoid the BBs, Rick Hahn and Co. should have no issue calling him up in 2018.
Kopech’s journey to Chicago is hard to pinpoint, however. His recent numbers are sparkling, but the Sox want to be sure it’s not just a high point on a rollercoaster ride. As a result, I think Hahn and his farm system aides wait until next season commences before they promote Kopech to Class AAA Charlotte. From there, I think Kopech continues his development, and as long as his numbers are decent, he gets the call soon after the trade deadline.
Prediction: August 10
Too many Sox fans, Adams is an afterthought prospect, a mediocre pitcher who has nothing on the boatload of prospects that joined the Sox prospect rankings ahead of him. While this is a reasonable outlook, Adams is still a 50-rated (average) prospect and would be in the top 10 of most other teams’ prospect list. Despite slightly underwhelming numbers (4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) with Class AA Birmingham this season, Adams is still projected to get his chance to prove the doubters wrong in 2018. With several premier hurlers likely joining Chicago in 2019, Adams might be a future trade piece unless he proves himself immediately.
Drafted in 2014, Adams has experienced some regression since a dominant start to his pro career. Still, he has three adequate pitches and impressive command, meaning he doesn’t have any major flaws to work out. He gets hit pretty hard, as opponents are batting .271 facing Adams in 2017, but he keeps things under control by limiting walks (31 free passes in 134.1 innings). Consequently, Adams won’t spin many gems on the mound, but he will avoid big innings and consistently make it into the sixth inning. Therefore, I think Adams continues on his steady path towards Chicago, earning a promotion to Charlotte in early 2018 and debuting around when Kopech does.
Prediction: August 14
Probably the most prolific force in the White Sox system right now, Jimenez seems on pace to accelerate his promotion timeline. Ever since he was acquired in the cross-town Jose Quintana trade, Jimenez has been an absolute beast with Class A+ Winston-Salem. The sample size is relatively small (103 plate appearances), but it’s not like he’s enjoying just a one-week hot streak. Through 25 games with the Dash, he’s slashing .370/.437/.707. For the mathematically lazy, that’s a superb 1.143 OPS.
Yes, MLB Pipeline projects him to debut in 2019, but if he keeps hitting like this, there’s no reason to wait so long. I expect Jimenez to reach Birmingham before the 2017 campaign is over, and then transition to Charlotte in May/June of 2018. Barring a drastic decrease in production, I think Hahn and Co. call him up in August so he can get a taste of MLB pitching. That way he’s all the more ready for a full season with Chicago in 2019 when the team might be competitive.
Prediction: August 25
The Sox’s second round pick in last year’s amateur draft, Hansen is special because he’s the highest-ranked prospect that arrived through the draft. Though he came before the Sox decided to rebuild, undoubtedly Hansen should be a major part of the future. Left out of MLB Pipeline or Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list, Hansen’s magnificence in the minors should catapult him into those rankings come next season. Over 114.1 IP with Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem this year, his ERA is 2.44 and his WHIP is 1.10. Additionally, he’s fanned a whopping 150 batters.
Some may argue my choice to put Hansen on this list, given that Pipeline predicts he’ll be called up in 2019, and also that I’m leaving the similarly wonderful Dane Dunning off of here. Addressing the Dunning comparison: Yes they’re both 22, were drafted in 2016, and have great stats, but Hansen has been much better with Winston-Salem. Dunning’s season totals are nice, but he was markedly superior with Kannapolis, as his WS Dash numbers are merely decent and not stunning: 3.33 ERA, 1.27 WHIP. Conversely, Hansen has shined at both levels, and I feel like that will result in a quicker call-up down the line. Taking into account that Chicago’s competitive window opens in 2019, I’m guessing that Hahn will give him some MLB starts under his belt prior to that year, in the form of a September call-up.
Prediction: September 1st