The White Sox fully embraced the rebuilding process during the 2016 Winter Meetings, trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton on consecutive days in exchange for seven prospects from the Red Sox and Nationals. Both Sale and Eaton went on to win World Series championships with their new clubs, while Chicago has endured its worst three-year stretch since 1968-70 as its string of consecutive losing seasons has grown to seven.
There is cause for optimism, however. Yoán Moncada and Lucas Giolito, the centerpieces of the Sale and Eaton deals, emerged in 2019 as the franchise cornerstones the White Sox hoped they could be. Eloy Jiménez, acquired in the Jose Quintana trade with the Cubs in July 2017, did the same while slamming 31 homers as a rookie. Dylan Cease, also part of the Quintana transaction, showed swing-and-miss stuff in his first stint in a big league rotation. Former first-round pick Tim Anderson led the Majors in hitting with a .335 average.
For Chicago to end a playoff drought that extends to 2008, the farm system will need to fill some more holes. Though the system isn't as deep as it was in mid-2017, when MLB Pipeline ranked it the best in baseball, it still has some reinforcements at the ready. Outfielder Luis Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal are leading contenders for next year's American League Rookie of the Year Award, and right-hander Michael Kopech could be a third as he returns following Tommy John surgery.
The White Sox system is top heavy, so it will need its blue-chip talents to live up to expectations. Robert, first baseman Andrew Vaughn and Madrigal all rank among the 40 best prospects in baseball, but there may not be another quality everyday big league position player down on the farm. Their top two pitching prospects, Kopech and Dane Dunning, are recovering from elbow reconstructions and Jonathan Stiever is their only other potential mid-rotation starter who has pitched above the Rookie-level Arizona League.
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Luis Robert, OF (No. 1): He has electrifying tools and had an electrifying season, batting .328/.376/.624 with 32 homers, 36 steals and a Minor League-best 314 total bases, becoming the youngest 30-30 player (age 21) since Chin-Feng Chen in 1999 and the first 30-30-300 player since Jose Cardenal in 1961.
Jonathan Stiever, RHP (No. 7): A 2018 fifth-round pick, he went 10-10 with a 3.48 ERA and a 154/27 K/BB ratio in 145 innings between two Class A levels in his first full pro season. More »
Jonathan Stiever, RHP (No. 7): His stock dropped a bit when he got hammered in an NCAA playoff start right before the 2018 Draft, but now Stiever looks like a steal with his ability to push his fastball to 98 mph and to harness his spike curveball.
Alec Hansen, RHP (No. 27): Since Hansen led the Minors with 191 strikeouts and reached Double-A during his first full pro season in 2017, his mechanics, stuff and control have regressed significantly.
Draft: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, 1st round (No. 3); Matthew Thompson, RHP, 2nd round (No. 14); Andrew Dalquist, RHP, 3rd round (No. 15); James Beard, OF, 4th round (No. 21). Complete Draft list »
International: Yolbert Sanchez, SS (No. 22).
The White Sox got the best all-around hitter in the 2019 Draft (Vaughn) as well as its fastest player (Beard), sandwiched around a pair of projectable prep right-handers (Thompson, Dalquist). A Cuban defector who played with Robert on the nation's 18-and-under team, Sanchez earned a $2.5 million bonus with his defensive ability.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Luis Robert, OF (No. 1): He and Madrigal are both ready to fill two of the biggest holes in Chicago's lineup on Opening Day, with Robert possessing one of the highest ceilings on the Top 100 list and Madrigal owning one of the highest floors.
Hit: Nick Madrigal
Power: Luis Robert
Run: James Beard
Arm: Micker Adolfo
Field: Nick Madrigal
Best athlete: Luis Robert
Fastball: Michael Kopech
Curveball: Jonathan Stiever
Slider: Michael Kopech
Changeup: Bernardo Flores
Control: Bernardo Flores
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
The White Sox top five prospects are comprised of their biggest amateur investments in each of the last three years (Robert in 2017, Madrigal in 2018, Vaughn in 2019) plus additional pieces of the trades involving Sale (Kopech) and Eaton (Dunning).
TOP 30 BY POSITION
The Top 100 Prospects list features just nine first or second basemen, yet the White Sox claim one of each in Vaughn and Madrigal. Chicago's Top 30 has representatives at every position but the system is thin in left-handed pitching, with only Konnor Pilkington (No. 16) and Bernardo Flores (No. 28) cracking the list.