No. 2 in your hearts: Matthew Thompson is ranked 14th among White Sox prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
While most of the top right-handed starting pitching prospects finished the season with Winston-Salem or higher, there are some intriguing arms in the rookie levels as well — especially in the AZL. The players’ ages listed below are as of April 1, 2020.
Great Falls Voyagers
Morgan had the ill fortune of missing the entire 2018 season, both collegiately and professionally, due to injury. His stats were consistent for the North Carolina Tar Heels up to that point, averaging a 4.01 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 9.7 BB% and 15.4 K%. Those relatively modest numbers, along with his injury, caused Morgan to fall to the 35th round of the 2018 draft.
Once healthy, Morgan had the unenvious task of beginning his professional career in 2019 at hitting-friendly Great Falls, but held his own despite not possessing overpowering stuff. In 14 starts totaling 75 innings, Morgan posted a 4.68 ERA and 1.37 WHIP by allowing 83 hits (.285 OBA), 20 walks (6.3%) and 33 strikeouts (10.3%). While allowing many hits and inducing few strikeouts, Morgan limited the damage against him by keeping the ball down (54.5% ground ball rate) and allowing few free passes. Baseball Draft Report in 2017 listed Morgan’s arsenal as including a low 90s fastball, good firm changeup (83-87 mph) and two average off-speed pitches — a 75-81 mph curveball and low-80s cut slider. Based on the fact that lefties hit him far better (.327) than had righties (.262), Morgan’s changeup may need more work.
So Morgan didn’t have a bad initial campaign, especially considering he hadn’t pitched in 2018. However, he will need to find a way to miss more bats in order to succeed in the full-season leagues.
Solesky struggled in his sophomore season at Tulane, as he tried to rush back from Grade 1 spinal spondylolisthesis — a slipping of vertebra that occurs most commonly at the base of the spine. As a result, Solesky’s results tanked. While Solesky enjoyed a better junior season, it still wasn’t as good as he had hoped because he was trying to alter his delivery. But a 5.05 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, to go along with 66 strikeouts in his 67 2/3 innings in the Green Waves rotation, was enough to convince the White Sox to select him in the 21st round of the 2019 draft.
A first look at Solesky’s numbers with Great Falls (6.17 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) would tell you there’s not much to get excited about. However, when looking at his strikeout and walk totals, there may be something there after all. With 45 strikeouts (24.6%) and just 12 walks (6.6%) over just 42 1/3 innings, Solesky managed a nifty 3.75 K/BB ratio. He’s clearly got the stuff and control, but he obviously needs the command to limit damage. It may also help to have a little good luck as well, as Solesky vastly underperformed his 4.77 FIP.
With more repetition using his new delivery, Solesky should attain far better results in 2020. Solesky was about five months younger than the average Pioneer League player this year, so a return to Great Falls for next year wouldn’t be out of the question. With that said, expect to see him pitch for Kannapolis before 2020’s end.
Despite having solid and consistent numbers (each season saw his ERA in the low threes) for all four years, Sean Thompson was undrafted as a senior from Virginia Commonwealth. The White Sox signed him as an undrafted free agent (UDFA), and he performed well in 2018 for the AZL Sox (3.68 ERA and 1.34 WHIP) despite peripherals showing a much bleaker picture.
Though many of Thompson’s peripherals were eerily similar to last year’s, his 2019 results have been far less pleasing. In 14 starts spanning 80 innings, Thompson posted a 6.08 ERA and 1.45 WHIP while surrendering 101 hits (.301 OBA) and 15 walks (4.2%) as opposed to 66 strikeouts (18.6%). Thompson’s FIP was just 4.51, so he likely pitched in bad luck (the Great Falls defense this year was atrocious). Thompson’s repertoire features an upper-80s fastball and a power curveball with a 12-6 break according to Baseball Draft Report. To succeed in the future, Thompson will need to find a way to neutralize lefties as they hit him at a .321 clip.
He was 17 months older than league average this year, so it’s difficult to imagine Thompson returning to Great Falls for 2020. The best he could hope for would be a promotion to Kannapolis 2020, with a likely switch to a long-relief role.
Like the aforementioned Thompson, Love was also an UDFA last year — in Love’s case, a graduate of the College of Charleston. This was a bit surprising, since as a senior in 2018, Love posted an incredible 1.38 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings of relief as he surrendered just 54 hits and nine walks while fanning 57. More than likely, the reason was that Love’s fastball rarely exceeded 92 mph although it was complemented with an above-average changeup and curveball. Love enjoyed a terrific year (primarily with the AZL Sox) in 2018, surrendering 51 hits (.254 OBA) and just five walks (2.4%) while fanning 62 (29.8%) as he compiled a superb 2.66 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 50 2/3 innings.
This year was a different story, though, as Love posted a sky-high 7.92 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in just four starts at Great Falls totaling 13 2/3 innings. In those innings, he ceded 22 hits (.361 OBA) and two walks (3.1%) while striking out 13 (20.3%). His last outing was on July 3, and since Love finished the year on the active roster, it’s assumed he was injured for the last two months of the season. (Players in the rookie leagues don’t get placed on the injured list because they have have expanded rosters that could easily absorb the loss.)
Anyway, an injury would explain Love’s struggles this year. With his age and ability to throw strikes, Love could have the future of an organizational swingman or long reliever going forward — provided he remains healthy.
AZL White Sox
Thompson, a graduate of Cypress Ranch High School in Houston, certainly dominated in his senior year. Dominated, you say? Try this: He was 13-0 in 15 starts with a 0.87 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 72 2/3 innings, allowing just 23 hits (.095 OBA) while fanning 124 (42.6%). The only real blemish against Thompson this year was his high walk total of 41 (14.1%). To sign an over-slot bonus with the White Sox after being selected in the second round, Thompson eschewed his verbal commitment to Texas A&M.
The White Sox are treading carefully with this young arm, and have thereby limited his work on the professional level. In two starts totaling just two innings, Thompson relinquished two hits and no walks while fanning two — not much to go on. It’s likely that he’ll be given extended spring training before earning a call-up to Kannapolis by either May or June next year, in order to limit his innings. With the high elevation at Great Falls, it’s unlikely Thompson will be sent there and suffer through unnecessary lumps.
Thompson’s fastball currently tops out at 96 mph according to MLB Pipeline, but typically runs in the low-to-mid 90s. There’s not much movement to it, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Thompson develop a two-seam fastball to complement it. He possesses an easy, fluid delivery, throws from a high three-quarter slot with electric arm speed that provides a bit of deception to an otherwise straight fastball, and shows great feel to spin the baseball.
Thompson throws a low-80s slider that has hard, late break and two-plane action that routinely draws whiffs and causes batters to expand the zone. He also showed some feel for a solid, 76-79 mph curveball with 11-to-5 break, according to Baseball America. Many scouts consider the curveball Thompson’s best pitch thanks to its tight spin, good power and depth, and his ability to throw it for strikes. The curveball is a knee-buckler and is especially devastating to right-handed batters. MLB Pipeline grades Thompson’s fastball at 60, curveball at 55 and changeup at 50. His changeup is still in the rudimentary stage, as he really hasn’t had to throw it much against his lesser prep competition.
Despite his high walk total in high school, Thompson has solid command for his age — graded 50 by MLB Pipeline. Speaking of MLB Pipeline, Thompson is currently ranked 14th among its Top 30 White Sox prospects.
Dalquist’s 2019 prep stats for Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. are difficult to come by. His junior stats were nice (1.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 25.8 K%), but that was when he possessed a slightly above-average fastball. It’s likely those numbers improved greatly during his senior season, however, not just because Dalquist was another year older but because his fastball velocity jumped to 91-95 mph during offseason tournaments and varsity competition. Dalquist was verbally committed to the University of Arizona, but reneged on it to sign an extremely over-slot deal with the White Sox as the team’s third-round selection in this year’s MLB draft.
Like the aforementioned Thompson, Dalquist was handled delicately by the Sox organization. In three starts totaling the same number of innings for the AZL squad, Dalquist allowed nary an earned run as he surrendered just two hits and two walks while striking out two. He likely will begin next season with Kannapolis, but probably won’t begin work there until May or June in order to protect his arm.
Dalquist’s repertoire features both the four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and while his fastball doesn’t have elite velocity at this time, the extension on his delivery is deceptive enough to seemingly add a bit more oomph on the fastball. His mid-70s curveball, like his fastball, is graded at 55 by MLB Pipeline thanks to its depth. He also features a 50-grade changeup and slider, which should only get better with increased usage at the professional level. Like Thompson, Dalquist’s command also grades at 50, which isn’t a surprise due to his youth.
Nevertheless, it seems Dalquist has an above-average arsenal from which to work on. He just needs the experience to harness his repertoire effectively. MLB Pipeline currently ranks him 15th among White Sox prospects.
As a freshman at Georgetown, Burke struggled mightily out of the bullpen with a 10.12 ERA and 2.53 WHIP. However, he elevated his game as a swingman during his sophomore campaign and enjoyed a solid junior season for the Hoyas in 2019 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.27 WHIP as he relinquished 83 hits and 25 walks while fanning 86 during his 85 innings. This earned him the notice of the White Sox, who selected him in the 17th round of this year’s MLB draft.
Burke’s overall numbers were decent but unexceptional. In his 12 games for the AZL Sox (eight starts), he posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by ceding 63 hits (.288 OBA) and 18 walks (7.5%) while striking out 42 (17.4%). The numbers can be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Burke’s 139 combined collegiate and professional innings nearly tripled his combined totals of his freshman and sophomore years. With that said, his best monthly numbers came in August, when he posted a 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 18 strikeouts during his 20 innings.
Lefties hit him especially hard (.311), while righties held their own against him, at 2.76. His starting stats (3.31 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) easily bested his relief work (6.27 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) for the AZL squad, which essentially echoes his work at Georgetown. Burke, with his strong finish, should be a strong candidate to begin next season with Kannapolis.
Bradford had some of the most underwhelming college stats in this year’s White Sox draft class. While his freshman year with North Florida was actually quite respectable (2.79 ERA, 1.51 WHIP), Bradford slipped badly in his sophomore season to a 6.41 ERA and 1.78 WHIP as he allowed 48 hits and 25 walks while fanning 35 over his 39 innings.
Bradford transferred to Florida Southern for his junior season, where his numbers again disappointed despite healthy strikeout totals: 5.58 ERA and 1.67 WHIP over 80 2/3 innings while relinquishing 78 hits and 57 walks in striking out 89. Sox scouts saw enough in Bradford, however, to select him in the 13th round of this year’s draft.
For the AZL Sox, Bradford actually outperformed his college stats — especially with his control. In eight starts totaling 30 innings, Bradford posted a 4.80 ERA and 1.53 WHIP by surrendering 37 hits (.303 OBA) and just nine walks (6.8%) as opposed to 35 strikeouts (26.5%). His control certainly improved as evidenced by his reduced walk total, although command still needs work as shown by his high OBA. In looking closer at Bradford’s numbers, his OBA and WHIP were actually quite good with nobody on (.253 and 1.18 respectively). However, with runners on base, his OBA and WHIP soared to .383 and 2.00. Thus, in order to improve his future results, Bradford will need to focus on perhaps improving his mechanics while in the stretch. This also means he’s best suited as a starter for the time being. Expect him to begin next season with Great Falls, although a return trip to the AZL Sox certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.
Rodriguez, a native Venezuelan, signed an international contract with the White Sox on June 1, 2018 and promptly found his way to that year’s DSL squad. Unsurprisingly, for someone of his combination of youth and size, Rodriguez struggled with his control in his first professional season. In 16 games (10 starts) encompassing 50 innings, he relinquished just 44 hits (.238 OBA) but walked 38 (16.5%) while fanning 48 (20.9%).
In seven outings this year for the DSL squad spanning 30 innings, Rodriguez’s numbers improved greatly, to the tune of a 4.34 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, as he allowed 30 hits (.256 OBA) and just nine walks (7.0%) while striking out 29 (22.5%). He earned a promotion to the AZL Sox on July 8, but struggled with a 6.54 ERA and 1.83 WHIP over 31 2/3 innings. In those AZL innings, Rodriguez surrendered 39 hits (.300 OBA) and 19 walks (12.5%) while striking out 24 (15.8%). Rodriguez actually held his own against lefties (.250 OBA), but struggled immensely against righties (.322 OBA).
It’s difficult to learn a new culture and language at midseason, and it’s possible that impacted Rodriguez’s results somewhat. Based on the numbers, he’s got good stuff but it’ll be his ability to command that stuff will impact what he can achieve. Rodriguez likely will return to the AZL Sox for 2020.
Isaiah Carranza did not pitch in 2019 due to injury, which is the second year he’s missed since being selected in the 12th round of the 2018 draft.
DSL White Sox
Since signing a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2016 season, Venezuela native Castro has done nothing but excel in the Dominican League in both relief and starting roles. After enjoying a sensational 1.25 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings for the DSL Rangers in 2016, he began the 2018 season with the AZL Rangers. After a rocky three outings, he returned to their DSL squad where he continued to excel with an ERA hovering around 2.02. Then, on July 31, Castro was traded to the White Sox along with Joseph Jarneski for veteran reliever Nate Jones.
In three outings for the DSL White Sox, of which two were starts, Castro dazzled with a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, allowing just seven hits and two walks while fanning 13 in nine innings. His combined stats with the DSL Rangers and White Sox were a 2.01 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over 12 games spanning 44 2/3 innings, allowing just 30 hits (.183 OBA) and 17 walks (9.2%) while striking out 45 (24.5%). Castro really hasn’t pitched many innings in his career, which may speak more to the depth of the Rangers DSL squad than anything else. That depth may explain why Castro was given so little leash in 2018, when he got off to a sluggish three-game start.
Due to his age, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Castro begin the 2020 season in Kannapolis as a reliever. He’d be way too old to begin next year with the AZL Sox, and Great Falls wouldn’t be beneficial to a pitcher whose ground out rate was less than 30% last year. Since he’s pitched less than 111 combined innings over his four-year professional career, it’d make the most sense to have Castro begin next year in a relief role.
Cruz, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the White Sox in October 2018. Cruz acquitted himself relatively well this year in his first season of professional ball, as he posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his 63 innings. During that span, he allowed just 57 hits (.237 OBA) and 25 walks (9.3%) while striking out 65 (24.1%). Lefties were his bugaboo as they hit .278 against Cruz’s offerings; righties, however, hit just .208 against him. While his control wasn’t great, it was decent enough for his first year. At 53.6%, Cruz’s ground out rate was particularly impressive. Cruz should begin next season with the AZL White Sox.
Jimenez didn’t have an especially great year, but he improved in nearly all areas from his difficult initial 2018 campaign. That year, Jimenez posted a 6.81 ERA and 2.12 WHIP over 39 2/3 innings as he relinquished 35 hits (.235 OBA) and a whopping 49 walks (23.7%) while fanning 46 (22.2%). This year, Jimenez improved to a 4.82 ERA and 1.45 WHIP as he surrendered 39 hits (.273 OBA) and 15 walks (9.2%) while striking out 30 (18.4%). Also, his ground out rate improved from 45.0% to 51.9% this year. By sacrificing a few more hits and fewer strikeouts, Jimenez improved his game by simply throwing the ball over the plate. It’s likely he’ll return to the DSL White Sox for 2020, but he could earn a promotion to the AZL White Sox later in the season if he continues to progress.
While the aforementioned Jimenez improved from a difficult rookie campaign of 2018, the same cannot be said of Benitez. Last year, Benitez attained a 6.10 ERA and 1.80 WHIP over 38 1/3 innings by ceding 26 hits (.200 OBA) and 43 walks (22.9%) while striking out 43 as well (22.9%). For 2019, Benitez suffered through an even worse 8.06 ERA and 1.79 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings by allowing 19 hits (.238 OBA) and 21 walks (19.3%) while fanning just 14 (12.8%). What’s more, his ground out rate worsened from an already low 46.3% to an abysmal 26.7%. Benitez finished the season on the restricted list for undisclosed reasons, and if he returns to the organization in 2020, it’d likely be with the DSL White Sox for a third year.
Mena, who won’t turn 17 until December, could be next year’s right-handed version of Ronaldo Guzman for the DSL White Sox. Mena didn’t pitch for the DSL Sox this year, but should join the rotation in 2020. He struck out six of the 11 batters he faced at the Mejia Top 10 Showcase in Las Vegas, and threw 86-88 mph at the event with a devastating curveball, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.
Erick Bello like Mena, signed with the White Sox in International Signing Day on July 1, 2019 and didn’t pitch for the organization. Little information is availabe about the 5´11´´, 170-pound Dominican native.