Who will be the White Sox next Minor League star?

October 17th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin's White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- The White Sox Minor League system no longer is as highly touted as it consistently was during the nascent rebuilding stages.

In fact, as of Aug. 23, the White Sox were ranked 26th by MLB Pipeline with Colson Montgomery (No. 57) and Oscar Colás (No. 95) the lone Top 100 players. Yet it’s a group featuring talent not far off from contributing at the big league level.

Tony La Russa, who will not return as manager in ’23 due to health reasons, frequently talked about how impressed he was by the young players beginning back in February as he viewed them working out in Arizona during the lockout. Part 2 of my year-end wrap, following last week’s Season in Review, focuses on the present and future of the White Sox Minor League system.

3 players who forced their way onto the radar:

Let’s begin with Mena, who at 19 was selected as the 2022 White Sox Pitching Prospect of the Year by MLB Pipeline. The right-hander ranked fourth in the organization with 126 strikeouts over 104 1/3 innings thrown across Single-A Kannapolis, High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. Mena finished with a 3.80 ERA overall, including three starts for the Barons as part of the innovative Project Birmingham program.

Perez and Sosa saw limited time with the White Sox in ’22 and could be in play for roster consideration out of Spring Training in ’23. Perez seems very comfortable behind the plate, with 21 home runs, 40 strikeouts and 34 walks over 465 plate appearances for Triple-A Charlotte. Sosa sported an .880 OPS for the Barons and Knights, with 23 homers and 22 doubles alongside his ability to play defensively across the infield.

2 possible breakout players to watch:

I asked White Sox assistant general manager Chris Getz if Montgomery was capable of playing for the White Sox this season about two-thirds of the way through Colson’s first full professional campaign. Getz was diplomatic with his answer, but he looked at me as if I had asked for money with no intention of paying him back.

Ok, I jumped a little ahead of myself, but those who watched Montgomery as an Indiana high school baseball and basketball star characterized the top White Sox prospect as ready for the bright lights even at that level. The team’s top pick in the ’21 Draft has an outside shot of hitting the Majors in ’23, as the shortstop posted an .810 OPS over three Minor League stops, with 11 homers, 17 doubles and 58 runs scored.

Rodriguez, who is one year older than Montgomery at 21, was third in the White Sox system with 40 stolen bases. His statistics were impressive across the board in his first full season with the Barons.

1 big question for next season:

The answer is: probably not at the season’s outset. But the White Sox need more left-handed hitting to balance their lineup, and the recently turned 24-year-old hit from Winston-Salem to Birmingham to Charlotte. Colás finished with an .895 OPS, 23 homers, 24 doubles, 79 RBIs and 81 runs scored in his first year with the organization, earning him MLB Pipeline’s White Sox Hitting Prospect of the Year. He looks Major League-ready.

“Unclear on the timing of something like that, but he's shown us that he's got the skills to impact the game in a lot of ways,” said Getz of Colás during this past season. “It's certainly a great indication of being able to make quick adjustments and take on challenges.

“It's certainly worthy of celebration based on what he's been able to accomplish. Oscar Colás has had a nice year.”