White Sox prospect report from alternate site

October 6th, 2020

With alternate training sites having ended, MLB Pipeline is recapping the development highlights for the prospects involved for each organization.

Top position prospect: Andrew Vaughn, 1B (No. 1 on White Sox Top 30)
The White Sox spent the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 Draft and a $7,221,200 bonus on Vaughn because he was one of the best all-around college hitters in recent memory. He spent most of his pro debut in Class A Advanced and might have arrived in Chicago during his first full season if 2020 had been a normal year.

Instead, Vaughn spent the summer at the Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill. He demonstrated that he won't need much more development time before he's ready to face Major League pitching. He also saw some action at third base and in the outfield in addition to his regular position.

"Andrew hits the ball from pole to pole, consistently has good, quality at-bats, works deep counts and always squares up pitches," Chicago farm director Chris Getz said. "He's a combination of hitting and power. There wasn't too much of a focus on things he needed to improve offensively at the alternative site. It was more a focus of facing upper-level quality pitching and on a daily basis.

"We moved him around from first base to third base to the outfield to build some athleticism and keep his feet moving. At the end of the day, it's more about the bat and just finding a home for him. He can play first base."

Top pitching prospect: Garrett Crochet, LHP (No. 4)
As soon as the White Sox selected Crochet with the 11th overall pick in the 2020 Draft, talk started that he might be able to contribute in the Majors during this unusual year. But because Tennessee shut him down for the first three weeks when he came down with mild shoulder soreness, his junior season consisted of just one outing and 3 1/3 innings.

So Chicago was determined to bring Crochet along slowly rather than try to rush him. As it turned out, he became the first player to make his professional debut in the big leagues since Mike Leake in 2010, the first pitcher without pro experience to go straight to the Majors in the same year he was drafted since Mike Morgan and Tim Conroy in 1978, and the first college arm without pro experience to do so since Dick Ruthven and Eddie Bane in 1973.

Crochet averaged 100.1 mph with his fastball during six scoreless regular-season innings, then struck out both batters he faced in the Wild Card Series before exiting with forearm tightness.

"The first time we saw Garrett throw, it really jumped out at us," Getz said. "It's a body and arm you don't see very often. Right out of the gate, it was upper 90s and touching 101 mph, good slider, feel for a changeup that was further along than we expected.

"We worked on slowing it down for the kid, working on some delivery stuff. There was some very minor stuff with his direction to the plate. Any tidbit we shared with him, it translated very quick. The best players I've been around are able to make those quick adjustments."

Youngest prospect: Jared Kelley, RHP (No. 6)
The White Sox also brought in Kelley, a first-round talent who dropped to the second round in June and signed him for $3 million. The Texas high schooler was 18 for the duration of alternate camp and Chicago wanted him and their other top young arms -- right-handers Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist, who signed for a combined $4.1 million as prepsters in the 2019 Draft -- to face upper-level competition rather than staying idle all summer.

"There were some extra benefits for younger pitchers to be around older players who've been in the big leagues, to face experienced hitters," Getz said. "The environment also expedited some adjustments. If you're in Arizona or [Class] A ball against lesser competition, you might get away with things that you couldn't get away with at our alternative site.

"Jared already has a mid- to upper-90s power fastball. We focused on the consistency of his breaking ball, which is more a slider than a curveball right now, and worked on the shape of that. He already has a nice changeup, so we wanted to maintain his consistency with that. The consistency of his arm and his delivery are already nice back to front, so it's about his ability to repeat."

2020 Draft picks
Crochet and Kelley were the two 2020 draftees in Schaumburg.

Pleasant developments
Right-hander Dane Dunning (No. 5) hadn't pitched in a game since June 2018 but used alternate camp to complete his rehab from Tommy John surgery and become a useful big league starter. Before he blew out his elbow, he demonstrated the ability to throw strikes with four solid offerings, but he still surprised Chicago at how quickly he returned to form while appearing in the Majors for the first time. He logged a 3.97 ERA, .197 opponent average and 35/13 K/BB ratio in 34 regular-season innings and earned a playoff start.

Outfielder Blake Rutherford (No. 13) hasn't lived up to expectations since the Yankees drafted him 18th overall in 2016, particularly in the power department.

The lone player remaining from the four-player package acquired from New York for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson in July 2017, Rutherford has just 19 homers in 367 pro games and slugged .365 in Double-A a year ago. He encouraged the White Sox by doing a better job of driving balls to his pull side and of backspinning balls at the alternate site.

Third baseman Jake Burger (No. 14) hasn't played in a pro game since September 2017, three months after Chicago drafted him 11th overall. He ruptured his left Achilles tendon running out a grounder in February 2018, tore it again three months later and missed all of last season with a severely bruised left heel. He did see game action in the CarShield Collegiate League before coming to Schaumburg, where he got some much-needed at-bats and moved well in the field.