We're just about two weeks clear of the deadline for team to sign players selected in June's MLB Draft (or not sign, sorry Astros), so the prospect hounds are out updating their lists of top players in each organization.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights surrounding the White Sox, shall we?
Both ESPN.com's Keith Law and MLB.com's Jim Callis slotted Rodon in as the White Sox's No. 1 prospect immediately upon his selection (and subsequent signing) with the team. This should come as no surprise, as Rodon is the team's highest draft pick in more than two decades and the kind of low-ceiling selection who, if things go as planned, should see the majors sooner rather than later.
While both Law and Callis are high on Rodon's chances of being an impact art in the White Sox's rotation, their mid-season rankings differ. Law put Rodon at No. 10 on his Midseason Top 50, while Callis has him at No. 23 in MLB.com's Top 100.
As for why Rodon's road to the majors may not take long, Law offers this:
Rodon's slider is filthy, a grade-80 pitch in his best outings but more consistently a grade-70 pitch. It's a wipeout offering with late bite that I've seen hit 92 mph, even though his fastball is usually just 90-94 mph. I can't imagine minor league hitters will be able to touch him.
Callis echoed those sentiments, but interestingly marked his ETA for reaching the majors as 2016.
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.
Rodon, by the way, has been hanging out in Arizona with the White Sox's Rookie League team. While the numbers don't mean much — it's more about conditioning and getting familiar with the organization — he's struck out five in three innings, allowing two earned runs in the process.
White Sox Top 20 Prospects
1. Carlos Rodon (LHP)
2. Tim Anderson (SS)
3. Francellis Montas (SP)
4. Micah Johnson (2B)
5. Courtney Hawkins (OF)
6. Spencer Adams (RHP)
7. Tyler Danish (RHP)
8. Matt Davidson (3B)
9. Trey Michalczewski (3B)
10. Carlos Sanchez (2B/SS)
11. Chris Beck (RHP)
12. Jacob May (OF)
13. Trayce Thompson (OF)
14. Adam Engel (OF)
15. Keon Barnum (1B)
16. Adam Lopez (RHP)
17. Micker Zapata (OF)
18. Braulio Ortiz (RHP)
19. Andrew Mitchell (RHP)
20. Kevan Smith (C)
The White Sox's first-round pick in 2013 is making some noise as well. While Law's mid-season report only goes to 50 (and did not include Anderson), Callis' Top 100 featured its second White Sox player, slotting the speedy shortstop in at No. 89.
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.
For the time being, Anderson is being labeled the White Sox's "shortstop of the future," which is notable only because there were questions as to whether he would stick at that position after he was drafted.
He's committed 31 errors in 302 chances this year at High-A Winston-Salem. Errors aren't everything, as we know, but it will be interesting to monitor how the White Sox view him positionally as he climbs through the system.
As for Callis' point about working the count, it's heartening to hear as based solely off the numbers one might worry he's another White Sox prospect hacker, having accumulated just seven walks against 68 strikeouts in 300 plate appearances this season.
Anderson is currently on the disabled list with a fractured right wrist that the White Sox say will not require surgery.
Remember him? Davidson dropped from No. 2 to No. 8 on Callis' rankings of the White Sox system after a rough first half at Triple-A Charlotte. Couple that with Conor Gillaspie being better than average this season and Davidson's time table to reach the majors went from "soon!" to soon?"
It'd be foolish to not worry at least a little bit about Davidson's struggles. The strikeout numbers will always be there — you can live with it so long as the power is there — but his OPS in Charlotte is currently .695 after it was north of .800 each of the last three seasons in Arizona's organization.
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.
For an organization with a propensity to rush hitters through the system, the fact that they didn't do this with Davidson appears to be a blessing. It's completely possible that season is an anomaly and we'll see him mashing dingers at U.S. Cellular Field before long — he did OPS .768 in a small sample size with Arizona a year ago — but his slide is troubling and definitely worth monitoring for the foreseeable future.
Other dudes to watch
Francellis Montas jumped from No. 19 all the way up to No. 3 in Callis' organizational rankings after the 21-year-old put together an impressive 10-start stretch with High-A Winston-Salem. The numbers are great (62 IP, 1.60 ERA, 56 Ks, 14 BBs), but what has impressed scouts is his improved command and the development of his repertoire, according to Callis, who says "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."
While the selection of Rodon grabbed the headlines, Spencer Adams could end up being a real steal for the White Sox when he slipped to No. 44 overall because of signability questions. He debuted at No. 6 on the rankings of Callis, who offered this: "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."
Some of my favorite prospects to watch progress are international signings whose talent is impossible to project because of their young age. Micker Adolfo Zapata is a guy I've been following since the White Sox signed him to a $1.6 million bonus at the young age of 16. He sits at No. 17 on Callis' rankings after being at No. 16 prior to the season. Still just 17-years-old, he made his debut with the AZL White Sox this season and is hitting .215 with a .443 slugging percentage in 88 plate appearances. Per Callis: "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." Again, with guys this young it's very difficult to predict if they'll ever contribute at the major league level, but it will be fun to watch him progress nonetheless.