7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
New draftee Rodon tops White Sox updated Top 20
Shortstop Anderson, right-hander Montas also among Chicago's top prospects
By Jim Callis / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
MLB Top 100 rank: 23 (Preseason: NA)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 70 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 60
The best college left-hander since David Price, Rodon entered 2014 as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the First-Year Player Draft after leading North Carolina State to its first College World Series berth in 45 years and topping NCAA Division I in strikeouts the year before. Rodon didn't dominate as much as expected, and he lasted until the third pick, where the White Sox gave him a $6,582,000 bonus -- the largest in franchise history and the largest ever for a lefty.
Rodon's best pitch is a true wipeout slider that usually arrives in the mid-80s and probably could abuse big league hitters right now. He relied on it too heavily during his junior season, which cost him some fastball velocity. Rodon operated in the low 90s for much of the spring, but he has shown the ability to reach 97 mph.
Rodon's changeup regressed some this spring, as well, but it can overmatch hitters when it's at its best. Once he stops using his slider too much, his fastball, changeup and command are all expected to improve. Add in a strong frame built for durability, and Rodon could be a future No. 1 starter.
2. Tim Anderson, SS
Preseason rank: 3
MLB Top 100 rank: 89 (Preseason: None)
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 70 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Undrafted out of high school and after his first year at East Central (Miss.) Community College, Anderson went 17th overall in June 2013 after leading Division II junior college players in hitting (.495) and on-base percentage (.568). Signed for $2,164,000, he went straight to low Class A, and he looked like he belonged. Anderson has continued to make progress in his first full pro season this year, though he was sidelined when an errant pitch broke his right wrist in late June.
Anderson was known more as a point guard at Hillcrest (Ala.) High, which he led to a 6A basketball state championship in 2011, yet he has advanced instincts at the plate. He understands the value of working counts to get on base, where he can use his well-above-average speed to put pressure on the defense. Anderson has a quick bat and some wiry strength, so he could develop some gap power.
Leading up to the 2013 Draft, some scouts projected Anderson more as a center fielder than a shortstop, but the White Sox have no plans to move him off his current position. Anderson has the actions, range and arm to play short, and he has the work ethic to make the necessary refinements.
3. Francellis Montas, RHP
Preseason rank: 19
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
When the White Sox traded Jake Peavy to the Red Sox in a three-team deal last July, the best of the four players Chicago got in return was big league-ready outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers. The Sox also got three Minor Leaguers from Boston, the best of whom is Montas. He emerged as Chicago's best pitching prospect in 2014, though he missed April following meniscus surgery on his left knee, and he had his season end in late June when he needed the same operation on his right knee.
Montas first hit triple digits with his fastball as an 18-year-old, and though he has to dial back on his velocity to find the strike zone, he operates at 91-95 mph and touches 97 on a regular basis. Montas can get some sinking or cutting action on his heater, making it even tougher to hit.
Coming into 2014, Montas lacked a reliable secondary pitch, and the effort and recoil in his delivery hurt his control and command. But he made major strides in all of those areas this season. Montas' slider looks like it could give him a second plus pitch, his changeup was more effective and he did a much better job of locating his pitches in the strike zone.
4. Micah Johnson, 2B
Preseason rank: 5
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 35 | Run: 80 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Fully recovered from an elbow injury that knocked him down Draft boards in 2012, Johnson had a sensational first full professional season in '13. Playing across three levels, he hit .312 and led the Minor Leagues with 84 stolen bases. Johnson followed up with a strong encore this year, and he appeared in his first Futures Game.
Johnson's speed is his best tool, and it grades out at the top of the scale. While speed drives his offensive game, he also has enough power to drive the ball in the gaps.
Johnson has good enough range and arm for second base, but he still has work to do defensively. If he can refine his defense, his speed and bat are good enough to take him to the Major Leagues.
5. Courtney Hawkins, OF
Preseason rank: 7
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
After signing for $2.475 million as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Hawkins reached high Class A and performed well as an 18-year-old at the end of his pro debut. He returned to that level in '13, and his season couldn't have gone any worse -- he ranked last in the Carolina League in hitting (.178) and first in strikeouts (160 in just 383 at-bats). Back at Winston-Salem again this year, Hawkins has regrouped and looked much better at the plate.
A year ago, the White Sox thought Hawkins got too focused on trying to race to the big leagues. In 2014, he has shown better balance, pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline. Hawkins will still pile up some strikeouts and may never hit for a high average, but he should be able to tap into his considerable raw power.
Hawkins has the best all-around tools in the system, though that won't mean much if he can't make consistent contact at the plate. His power, speed and arm strength all grade as above average, and he plays a solid center field. Already 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Hawkins projects to move to right field once he fills out.
6. Spencer Adams, RHP
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
No. 3 overall pick Rodon wasn't the only potential front-line starter whom the White Sox grabbed in the 2014 Draft. When their second pick arrived, at No. 44 in the second round, they were delighted that Adams was still available. Projected as a likely first-rounder, Adams signed for $1,282,700.
Adams was one of the most athletic and projectable pitchers available in the 2014 Draft. A three-sport star renowned for his dunking prowess on the basketball court, he has quality stuff and more command than the typical high schooler.
Adams already has a low-90s fastball that peaks at 96 mph, and it features plenty of life and sink. His slider has the potential to give him a second plus pitch, and his curveball and changeup could be average or better offerings. Adams does a fine job of repeating his loose, effort-free delivery.
7. Tyler Danish, RHP
Preseason rank: 6
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Scouts aren't fond of Danish's mechanics, but they love what comes out of his right arm. That's ultimately what led the White Sox to draft him in the second round and sign him for $1,001,800 in June 2013 -- after a high school senior season in which Danish worked 94 innings without allowing an earned run.
Danish gets exceptional sink on his fastball when he works in the low 90s, and his heater still features heavy life when he pushes it to 95 mph. He backs it up with a very advanced changeup for a teenager and a slider that's tough on right-handers, because he throws from an extreme angle.
Because he's a smallish right-hander -- his listed 6-foot-2 height is charitable -- with a low arm slot and considerable effort in his delivery, some scouts worry about Danish's ability to hold up as a starter. Others compare him to Peavy and think he could rush through the Minors.
8. Matt Davidson, 3B
Preseason rank: 2
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
Davidson had an impressive 2013 -- he was named MVP of the All-Star Futures Game, won the Home Run Derby at the Triple-A All-Star Game and made his Major League debut. It was also his last year in the D-backs' farm system. Davidson was acquired by the White Sox in December in exchange for Addison Reed. His first year in his new organization has been a struggle, as he failed to win the big league third-base job in Spring Training and has struggled in his return to Triple-A.
Davidson's best tool is his raw power, and he clubbed three home runs in his first 76 at-bats in the Major Leagues. But he has a long swing, which leads to a lot of strikeouts. Davidson is a patient hitter, but he whiffs too much to hit for a high average.
Davidson has worked hard to improve defensively, and he will likely end up as an adequate third baseman with a strong arm. The Sox figured to make him their everyday third baseman after trading for him, but Davidson's extended slump in Triple-A and Conor Gillaspie's strong season in Chicago now make the future less clear.
9. Trey Michalczewski, 3B
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
A two-sport star at Jenks (Okla.) High, Michalczewski was the starting tight end on a 6-A state football championship team, and he caught a 66-yard touchdown pass in the title game. He also was the state's top high school position prospect in the 2013 Draft, and he signed for $500,000 in the seventh round.
Michalczewski projects as a player capable of hitting for power and average. Because he's a large switch-hitting third baseman, he drew some physical comparisons to Chipper Jones as an amateur. Michalczewski shows a solid swing and bat speed from both sides of the plate.
After playing shortstop in high school, Michalczewski immediately moved to the hot corner in pro ball. He has the actions and arm strength to play quality defense at third base. Michalczewski is athletic and moves well for his size.
10. Carlos Sanchez, 2B/SS
Preseason rank: 13
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
In 2012, Sanchez won the high Class A Carolina League batting title with a .315 average, then batted .370 in Double-A and finished the season in Triple-A at age 20. Seemingly on the verge of the big leagues, he saw his offensive game collapse last year. Sanchez did regain some of his luster in the Venezuelan Winter League, finishing third in hitting (.348) and fourth in on-base percentage (.428), and he bounced back in his return to Charlotte this year.
A switch-hitter who's equally adept from both sides of the plate, Sanchez has to hit for a high average to make an offensive contribution. He focuses on making contact, but he walks only sporadically, and he has little power. An average runner, Sanchez has succeeded on just 62 percent of his pro steal attempts.
Sanchez stands out more on defense, starting with some of the best hands in the Minor Leagues. He has solid arm strength, and his range fits best at second base, where he has been touted as a potential Gold Glover. Sanchez is also a capable shortstop, and he could settle into a utility role if his bat doesn't come around.
11. Chris Beck, RHP
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 40 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Projected as a top-10 pick entering 2012, Beck slumped as a Georgia Southern junior, and he fell to the second round. He finished his first full pro season in Double-A, winning the Southern League championship with Birmingham.
Beck has the arsenal and control to be a No. 3 starter. He can throw his 89-95 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, and his changeup ranks as the best in the system. Beck's slider isn't as sharp as it once was, but it's still effective as a third pitch, and he can mix in a curveball to give hitters a better look.
While Beck doesn't have any trouble throwing strikes, he doesn't miss as many bats as his stuff suggests he should. He uses a drop-and-drive delivery, which gives him a flatter plane than most 6-foot-3 pitchers.
12. Jacob May, OF
Preseason rank: 9
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 75 | Arm: 40 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
May's baseball bloodlines run deep. His grandfather Lee May and uncle Carlos May were both big league All-Stars, the latter with the White Sox, and his father Lee May Jr. was a 1986 first-round pick of the Mets. Jacob went in the third round in 2013, and he quickly advanced to low Class A Kannapolis, where he was the Intimidators' best player in the final six weeks of the season.
Chicago grabbed a lot of speed in last year's Draft, with May the fastest player in a group that also includes first-rounder Anderson and 19th-round sleeper Adam Engle. May's quickness makes him a disruptive force on the bases and allows him to cover plenty of ground in center field. He still could refine his basestealing and defensive skills, however.
A switch-hitter, May has a sound swing from both sides of the plate, and he can bunt for hits. He has more pop than most speedsters, though at times that can get him into trouble at the plate.
13. Trayce Thompson, OF
Preseason rank: 8
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
Thompson is trying to become the fourth member of his family to play at his sport's top level -- but the first to make it to the Major Leagues. His father, Mychal, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft, and his brother Klay is currently one of the NBA's best shooters as a member of the Golden State Warriors. Another sibling, Mychel, played briefly in the NBA in 2012.
Like Hawkins, Thompson is an outfielder with all-around ability who still has to prove he can produce consistently at the plate. Thompson has bat speed, and he is willing to work counts, though his swing gets long and he can get too passive. Thompson strikes out too much to hit for a high average, but he is capable of contributing in all of the other phases of the game.
Thompson's quick bat and long levers give him above-average raw power. He runs well for a big man, and he has an average arm, which allows him to play all three outfield positions. Thompson profiles best in right field.
14. Adam Engel, OF
Preseason rank: 14
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 45 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
Engel was one of the top all-around athletes and most confounding players in the 2013 Draft. For all his tools, he batted a combined .265 with two homers in three seasons at Louisville. Engel's signability didn't line up with his production, so he fell to the 19th round, and he eventually signed for $100,000.
Chicago got Engel to raise his hands at the plate, and he responded by batting .301 with a Rookie-level Pioneer League-leading 31 stolen bases in 56 games. If his bat continues to progress, he could be a huge steal.
Engel makes enough contact to hit for a decent average, and he has the bat speed and strength to produce at least average power. He has plus-plus speed, covering 60 yards in 6.4 seconds, which makes him an asset on the bases and in center field.
15. Keon Barnum, 1B
Preseason rank: 15
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 65 | Run: 30 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
The White Sox graded Barnum's raw power as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale when they drafted him 48th overall and signed him for $950,000 in 2012. Barnum homered three times in his first five pro games, but he played in just 64 more contests in 2012-13 while battling shoulder, hamate and knee injuries.
With his bat speed, strength and leverage, Barnum can produce tape-measure shots. However, his very long arms also give him a very long swing, leading to concerns about his ability to make consistent contact and fully tap into his immense power. Barnum especially struggles against offspeed pitches and left-handers.
Barnum doesn't have much speed, but he's agile and displays soft hands around the first-base bag. He has a stronger arm than most first baseman, though moving to the outfield isn't an option.
16. Adam Lopez, RHP
Preseason rank: 12
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Lopez was an afterthought in the 2012 Draft, a 21st-rounder who signed for $2,500 after recording an 8.40 ERA as a Virginia Military Institute senior. Yet he was a revelation in his first full pro season, averaging 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in low Class A -- a rate that would have led the South Atlantic League if he hadn't been a few innings short of qualifying. When the White Sox moved Lopez from the bullpen to the rotation in late July, he responded by going 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA in seven starts.
Lopez can miss bats with both his fastball and slider. He can run his fastball from 88-96 mph with cutting action, and his sharp slider reaches the mid-80s. Lopez's changeup gives him a reliable third offering.
With his big 6-foot-5 frame, Lopez does a nice job of creating plane and angle on his pitches, making him more difficult to hit. His control and command improved after he transitioned to starting, and Chicago will keep him in that role going forward. The White Sox thought Lopez might not need much more than another year in the Minors, but offseason knee surgery and elbow issues had prevented him from pitching in a game before the All-Star break.
17. Micker Zapata, OF
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 60 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
A bonus-skimming scandal wrecked the White Sox Latin American program in 2008, and the club hired special assistant Marco Paddy three years later to turn the program around. Paddy's biggest move yet came last July when he signed Zapata, MLBPipeline.com's No. 2-ranked international prospect, for $1.6 million.
Zapata could have more raw power than any prospect on the international market last year. He has a very quick bat, long levers, loft in his swing and a very projectable 6-foot-3 frame. Zapata is still somewhat raw at the plate -- understandable, considering that he's just 17 -- and will have to improve his pitch recognition.
Zapata runs well for his size, though he figures to lose a step as he fills out. With his strong arm, he figures to end up in right field.
18. Braulio Ortiz, RHP
Preseason rank: 20
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 35 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
One of the few legitimate Latin American prospects the White Sox signed while their international program was rebuilding in the aftermath of a bonus-skimming scandal, Ortiz has developed into one of the hardest throwers in the system. He usually pitches at 93-95 mph and peaks at 98 with his fastball, which features good sink to go with all that heat.
The rest of Ortiz's repertoire isn't as impressive, which led to him getting shellacked in high Class A at the end of 2013. His slider has its moments, but his changeup is rudimentary, and he shows little faith in it.
At this point, Ortiz is more thrower than pitcher. He doesn't repeat his delivery or throw strikes on a consistent basis. Yet Ortiz's fastball alone could make him a useful reliever if he can't make it as a starter.
19. Andrew Mitchell, RHP
Preseason rank: 18
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 65 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
One of several potential steals the White Sox found in the 2013 Draft, Mitchell surprisingly slipped to the fourth round amid projections that he could go in the supplemental first. Scouts are split on whether he's a future starter or reliever, though in the latter role, he would have the upside of a closer.
Mitchell had the best curveball among college pitchers in last year's Draft. It's a power breaker that reaches the low 80s, and it can vary between unhittable and uncontrollable. Hitters can't just look for Mitchell's curve, because he has a 90-94 mph fastball that has soared as high as 98 when he has come out of the bullpen.
For Mitchell to remain in the rotation, he'll have to significantly upgrade his changeup and command. He throws from a low three-quarters angle that makes it difficult for batters to see his pitches and for him to harness them.
20. Kevan Smith, C
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 45 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
Smith originally attended Pittsburgh to play college football, and he started at quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and broke Dan Marino's school record for passing yards in a debut with 202. Smith played three seasons of baseball for the Panthers, and he was nearly 23 when he signed for $60,000 as a seventh-rounder in 2011. He has made steady progress in the Minors, and he could help the White Sox in the near future.
Smith consistently has hit for average and power as a pro. His best tool is his raw right-handed power, though at times he can get too aggressive at the plate, and his swing can get too long. Smith doesn't offer much speed, as would be expected from a 230-pound catcher.
Bigger than most backstops, Smith doesn't move especially well behind the plate, but he has made strides as a receiver, and he has enough arm to combat basestealers. While Smith may not profile as a starter, he could be a useful backup who can provide some pop off the bench.