Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system.
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camp, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Chicago White Sox.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two years ago, MLBPipeline.com's White Sox Top 20 Prospects list included Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson, Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas. None of them made much of a direct impact in Chicago, but they all have helped the club via opportunistic trades engineered by GM Rick Hahn.
At the 2014 Winter Meetings, Hahn sent Semien, Bassitt, Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo to the Athletics for Jeff Samardzija and right-hander Michael Ynoa. Samardzija struggled last year in Chicago, though his departure as a free agent landed the White Sox the 26th overall pick in the 2016 Draft as compensation.
• White Sox Top 30 Prospects list
They have higher hopes for two deals Hahn made this offseason. When Oakland grew disenchanted with Brett Lawrie, Chicago grabbed him at the low cost of left-hander Zack Erwin and righty J.B. Wendelken. To add some much-needed power to a team that finished last in the American League in homers last season, Hahn parted with Montas, Johnson and Thompson in a three-team swap that landed All-Star Todd Frazier from the Reds.
Trading prospects won't help a team look good in farm-system rankings -- the White Sox are absent from MLBPipeline's Top 10 again this year -- but can help them win. Chicago constructed most of its 2005 World Series championship club via trades made by GMs Ron Schueler and Kenny Williams (now its executive vice president).
"This goes back to Kenny Williams' days as general manager," White Sox farm director Nick Capra said. "Kenny did the same thing and Rick has adopted the same mentality. We're going to give up Minor League players to win at the big league level."
MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports
At the same time, Chicago also hopes to build from within. After getting almost nothing out of 20 first-round picks from 1991-2009, it has had much more success at the top of recent Drafts. Chris Sale (2010) and Carlos Rodon (2014) went almost straight to the Major Leagues, and shortstop Tim Anderson (2013) and right-hander Carson Fulmer (2015) could arrive this year as 22-year-olds.
The White Sox have unearthed some promising players in later rounds as well, such as outfielder Adam Engel (19th round, 2013) and third baseman Trey Michalczewski (seventh, 2013). They've also resuscitated an international program that took years to rebuild following a bonus-skimming scandal in 2008, with outfielders Micker Adolfo and Franklin Reyes and catcher Jhoandro Alfaro boasting some of the highest ceilings in the system.
"We're getting more depth at premium positions," Capra said. "We have shortstops, second basemen, center fielders, we've got power guys coming in. We're adding depth this system hasn't had in a long time."
Though he has just 23 innings of Minor League experience, Fulmer began his first pro spring as a nonroster invitee to big league camp. He wasn't intimidated in his first appearance, against the World Series champion Royals no less, attacking the zone and throwing 19 of 30 pitches for strikes.
Fulmer's fastball sat at 93-94 mph and had some success with his changeup, but lacked consistency with his hard curveball, which can be a plus pitch. He gave up three runs on five hits over three innings without recording a walk or a strikeout, but made a bigger impression with how he handled his first exposure to Major League hitters.
"He was aggressive," Capra said. "He's amped up a little bit different than most of us, in a good way. That's just his competitive nature. He may take it to another level. He showed why we drafted him where we did."
At the other end of the Draft spectrum from Fulmer is outfielder Jason Coats, who tore the ACL in his right knee as a Texas Christian senior in 2012 and signed for $1,000 as a 29th-rounder. He homered off Trevor Bauer in his first start of the spring, then doubled and scored the eventual winning run in the ninth inning the next day against the Royals.
Coats is 26 and more of an extra outfielder than a regular, but he's laying the groundwork for his first big league callup sometime this year.
"Coats is a sleeper player who just keeps producing," Capra said. "He just does his job. He's consistent and he barrels balls so well. He does a lot of the little things."
Scouts considered Spencer Adams one of the most athletic and projectable prep arms in the 2014 Draft, and he has proven to be one of the most polished as well since the White Sox stole him in the second round. He recorded a 155/22 K/BB ratio in his first two years as a pro and pitched well as a 19-year-old at Class A Advanced at the end of last season.
Now the next step is to consistently show the 92-96 mph fastball and plus slider he had in high school, as neither pitch was quite as sharp as the lanky right-hander adjusted to his first full season as a pro.
"Spencer Adams looks really good," Capra said. "He's getting bigger and stronger. Obviously, location of his pitches always has been very good. Now his pitches are getting more behind them. They're sharper and crisper."
Chicago's first major move when trying to rebuild its international program was spending $1.6 million to sign the power-hitting Adolfo out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. He has hit .229/.293/.359 with five homers and 110 strikeouts in 68 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, playing in just 22 contests in 2015 before hurting his left ankle and requiring surgery to fix a fracture and some ligament damage.
Chicago believes that Adolfo can take a big step forward this season in Class A Kannapolis now that he's 100 percent physically and better acclimated to U.S. pro ball.
"He's probably a little tentative coming off the injury, but he's moving around well," Capra said. "His swing looks better. He spent time working on some mechanical things over the summer. He's a beast. The bat's not there yet, but if it comes he has a chance to be very good."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.