Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the White Sox.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every season, there are teams who are in rebuilding mode who end up competing somewhat ahead of schedule. Just look at the 2017 American League Wild Card Game for prime examples. Yes, the Yankees have deep pockets, but their youth movement pushed them to the postseason earlier than expected, and the Twins surprised everyone by getting there.
• White Sox Top 30 Prospects list | Blake Rutherford Q&A
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Could the White Sox be the young, surprising upstarts of the 2018 season? With a group of young players getting to the big leagues last year ready to take the next step and more waves of talent coming, it's easy to predict improvement in the standings this season, even if a playoff run might still sound a little far off right now.
"We're dealing with young players who, when they come together, can accomplish great things," White Sox farm director Chris Getz said. "There's always these unexpected teams. We have to go out there and focus on winning game 1, then game 2, then game 3. Sometimes you look up and -- wow, we're right in the mix here. That's how those types of things happen. I don't see why something like that can't happen here. Does it happen this year or next year? Who knows? But we have guys who are prepared to go out there and win ballgames."
What the White Sox aren't going to do is stray from the path that they set out on when they hit the rebuild switch. Even with some top prospects graduating last year, they still have the No. 3 farm system in all of baseball. It's top-heavy with a tremendous 1-2 punch of Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech, the only duo from one organization in the top 10. Looking at the potential for long-term success, there won't be much deviation from the plan as the organization prepares for 2018 this spring.
"As an organization, and [general manager] Rick Hahn has been very vocal about what our plan is, he's been very good at communicating our vision, I think our fan base and people in general have an understanding of where we're at and where we're trying to be at a certain time," Getz said. "That being said, there's still a lot of work to be done. I think we're comfortable with where things are now, but I think we need to continue to push."
The pushing does get easier when everyone sees young players make it up to the big leagues. The 2017 season might have been a 95-loss one in Chicago, but there were some serious gains made as highly-ranked prospects like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez all spent enough time up in the big leagues to come off prospects lists and be counted on to make bigger contributions in 2018.
"From a player development standpoint, when you see your own guys graduating and taking that step forward and they're on the Major League club -- last year, they were playing with them in Double- or Triple-A and now they're donning Chicago White Sox uniforms, it's definitely motivating," Getz said.
"You see the pep in the step of some of these guys. These guys are hungry, they're working hard, a lot of them have been out here for a while. They're ready to get going and I'm almost trying to slow them down a bit because we're not even at full camp yet. It just shows how excited our players are and, on top of that, our staff, too, to continue to grow these guys."
Dealing with the loss of Jake Burger
The White Sox were thrilled to add Jake Burger's power potential to their system when they took the Missouri State product No. 11 overall in last June's Draft. They were even more encouraged when he performed well with a move to full-season ball during his summer debut, with the chance of him springboarding out of camp here onto a fast track to the big leagues.
All of that got put on hold when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon running out a grounder in early Cactus League action. He'll miss the entire 2018 season, but while he hasn't been a part of this system for long, the player development staff has a pretty good idea of how he's going to handle this setback.
"If there's anyone who can overcome this and come back, maybe even stronger, it's Jake Burger," Getz said. "That's a testament to his makeup."
One thing that helps is that Burger isn't a speed guy, though he does run better than he gets credit for. So while missing the reps and at-bats will set him back a little, the injury won't hurt his carrying tools.
"He has great hand-eye coordination, he has a knack for hitting, a knack for driving the ball and I don't think that's going to be affected by this," Getz said. "His speed is not what makes him who he is. He does move very well for his size, and he has good feet defensively, so it's going to be really important in the rehab process to stay on top of a lot of different things and agility is still going to be important regardless of the type of player he is."
Two arms who have gotten some big league innings this spring came to the White Sox in different ways. Alec Hansen was Chicago's second-round pick in 2016 and pitched his way across three levels, finishing his first full season in Double-A. Dane Dunning was also a 2016 draftee, but by the Nationals, who included him in the package for Adam Eaton. He spent most of his first full season of pro ball in Winston-Salem and was a rotation-mate with Hansen for a good chunk of that.
Both are getting a taste of big league camp for the first time and are making the most of it. Game results are truly inconsequential and both have stood out for how they are going about their business and how their stuff has looked on the mound. Hansen, who had struggled during his junior year, forcing his stock to slip, has taken huge steps forward since joining the organization and he's picking up where he left off.
"Staying over the rubber with good tempo is the key for Hansen," Getz said about the team's No. 4 prospect. "He's got multiple weapons to get swing and miss and we witnessed that last year racking up strikeouts through three levels. His work has been excellent since he's arrived and his last outing was very encouraging despite the results. His fastball is showing its usual life and curve and slider have been sharp. Our goal is to get him built up for his first start in Birmingham and he looks on track to do just that."
Dunning, No. 6 on that Top 30, looks like he should be ready to join him.
"Dane is getting his feet wet in his first Major League camp and is handling it very well," Getz said. "He's shown that hard sinking fastball that we are accustomed to. He's working on being more consistent with his curve and changeup. The key for Dane is staying under control within his delivery and when he does that his fastball has very good action and allows him to get on the attack early. He's definitely opening some eyes here in camp."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.