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White Sox blessed with starter prospects

Chicago intends to contend in near future by measuring growth and issuing role to rotation
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Pick almost any day of the week during the 2017 Minor League season, and the White Sox figure to start a couple of Top 20 pitching prospects from within their organization.

Right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito (No. 30 prospect overall per MLBPipeline.com), Reynaldo Lopez (No. 38 overall) and Carson Fulmer (No. 61 overall) work with Triple-A Charlotte. Michael Kopech (No. 11 overall) and his 100 mph fastball reside in Birmingham with the Double-A Barons, along with Spencer Adams (No. 12 among White Sox prospects) and Jordan Stephens (No. 14 White Sox).

CHICAGO -- Pick almost any day of the week during the 2017 Minor League season, and the White Sox figure to start a couple of Top 20 pitching prospects from within their organization.

Right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito (No. 30 prospect overall per MLBPipeline.com), Reynaldo Lopez (No. 38 overall) and Carson Fulmer (No. 61 overall) work with Triple-A Charlotte. Michael Kopech (No. 11 overall) and his 100 mph fastball reside in Birmingham with the Double-A Barons, along with Spencer Adams (No. 12 among White Sox prospects) and Jordan Stephens (No. 14 White Sox).

Dane Dunning (No. 11 White Sox) practices his craft for Class Advanced Winston-Salem, while Alec Hansen (No. 10 White Sox) and Bernardo Flores (No. 19 White Sox) sit atop Class A Kannapolis' starting five. These talented Minor League rotation members in the present provide a Major League question for the future.

Who will comprise the White Sox rotation when the team should be ready to contend for a World Series championship in 2019 or 2020?

Video: Outlook: Rodon could be set for statistical jump

This list doesn't even include Carlos Rodon, 24, who is close to a return to the Majors after battling biceps bursitis all season. It doesn't include Jose Quintana, 28, who could be the franchise's biggest trade chip in the upcoming weeks leading into the non-waiver Trade Deadline or continue as the staff ace. It doesn't include strong candidates outside of MLBPipeline's Top 20.

Manager Rick Renteria explained how every organization has set parameters to determine the role for a given player.

"You allow starters to be starters as long as they can until they qualify or quantify or identify that they'd be better served in a different role," Renteria said. "I don't know we have reached that point with any of those men mentioned. Most guys end up starting out as starters first before they become relievers."

Hard-throwing reliever Nate Jones backs up that Renteria point, having made 51 starts in the Minors before all of his 238 White Sox appearances came out of the bullpen. Lincoln Henzman (fourth round) and Tyler Johnson (fifth round) did their collegiate work in relief, but these White Sox selections from the 2017 MLB Draft will begin as starters.

Some of the pitchers from this group could wind up as part of future trades as the White Sox move closer to their goal of sustained success, but those who don't make the rotation are more likely to play valuable roles out of the bullpen. And pitchers such as Andrew Miller and one-time White Sox Minor Leaguer Chris Devenski have proven the value of extended quality relief work.

"When you take them as an amateur you spend time getting to know them more and you present them with additional challenges," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "Then you sort of respond to the level of success they're having.

"How their stuff holds up over the course of a start, and how they physically hold up over the course of a long season. You reassess the situation in the offseason and sort of make up a plan for next year."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox