The Top 10 list for the Sox is top heavy with some studs but the system lacks depth, overall. Still, I’m a big fan of both Jimenez and Cease.
1. Eloy Jimenez | OF | AAA —> In the past, the Sox system was populated by a large group of grip-and-rip hitters with extremely poor plate discipline. Jimenez, although aggressive at the plate, makes a lot of contact — especially for a monster with plus power. Just 21, he hits the ball really hard and generates a lot of line drives, which suggests to me that his higher BABIP might be a little more sustainable than most. He should be ready to settle into a big league role at the beginning of 2019 as a strong-armed right-fielder with the ability to slug 30+ homers.
2. Dylan Cease | RHP | AAA —> Part of the return for Jose Quintana last year, the Cubs probably already regret this deal and Cease hasn’t even reached the Majors. The young right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and improved even more with a promotion from double-A to triple-A. He, like Jimenez, is ready to contribute at the big league level. Overall, he’s used his two plus offerings — fastball and curve — to strike out 140 batters in 112.1 innings. There are some injury concerns with Cease, who has a decent pitcher’s frame, but isn’t the tallest guy, and had Tommy John surgery in his past. There is frontline starter potential here, especially if the third offering continues to improve.
3. Michael Kopech | RHP | AAA —> Flame thrower. That’s Kopech in a nutshell. He can hit triple-digits and sits in the upper-90s. He has a wipeout slider. And a developing changeup. And he struggles with his control enough to make hitters uncomfortable in the batter’s box (but also leads to too many walks). So far at the upper level in the minors he’s struck out 152 batters in 113.1 innings but also issued 60 free passes. He has a big, strong frame and could develop into an innings eater if he can keep the pitch counts down. There are some makeup/maturity concerns from past incidents.
4. Nick Madrigal | 2B | A —> Madrigal gets a lot of love for being the best pure hitter to come out of the college ranks for quite some time. And it’s warranted… He just might reach the Majors in 2019 after being selected in the first round of the ’18 draft. I have some reservations, though. He may have .300+ but he does so with an approach that generates very little power so he’s essentially a singles hitter right now. He makes plus-plus contact and has just one strikeout through his first 22 pro games — but he’s also walked just three times… again placing a lot of pressure on that hit tool that generates singles. With that said, he could still be improving his strength in his wrist, which he broke earlier in the year. If he comes out in 2019 and shows more line drives and improved pop, then he moves up this list.
5. Luis Robert | OF | A+ —> Robert is another player that could zoom up this list in 2019. He’s produced outstanding offensive numbers since turning pro, but he’s also done it against inferior competition and he’s struggled to be healthy. His numbers are also inflated by an otherworldly BABIP which is well above .400 and very unsustainable even with his powerful swing that generates immense line-drive numbers. The strikeout rates are somewhat worrisome but he could offset that concern with hitting more home runs (He has plus raw power) but he currently hits too many balls on the ground. The 2019 season will be huge for Robert, who needs to stay healthy and have a good 400-500 at-bats.
6. Dane Dunning | RHP | AA —> Dunning gets overlooked because he’s not a flame-thrower but he has a firm fastball that can hit the mid-90s and two other pitches that project as above-average. Add in plus control and the ability to avoid the long-ball due to high ground-ball rates, and you have a potential mid-rotation starter with the strong frame to be an innings-eater. He’s currently on the DL after injuring his elbow so hopefully he can avoid Tommy John surgery and losing valuable development time.
7. Alec Hansen | RHP | AA —> The big man looked to be on the cusp of a big league arrival in 2018 but then injuries and command/control issues blew up. In nine, starts he’s posted a 6.56 ERA and issued 42 walks in 35.2 innings. The step back may push Hansen to the bullpen where he could develop into an absolute beast if he can throw enough strikes to be a high-leverage reliever. He can threaten triple-digits with his heater and both his breaking balls have the potential to be plus pitches.
8. Zach Collins | C | AA —> Collins continues to have major contact issues (134 Ks in 358 ABs) but the bar for an acceptable catcher’s offence is pretty low. And he does a nice job of offsetting the low batting average that comes with the strikeouts by getting on base via the walk (91). He also has good raw power and, when he makes contact, the ball goes a long way. Defensively, he projects as average — at best.
9. Luis Alexander Basabe | OF | AA —> The results have been inconsistent to date and we’re still waiting for the light bulb to fully click on but Basabe has a lot of tools and reached double-A in 2018. He has raw power that he has yet to fully tap into and excellent speed that he has yet to fully utilize due to modest instincts. There is a lot of swing and miss to his game but shows a patient approach and has 56 walks in 99 games. Defensively, he has a very strong arm and is well suited to playing any position in the outfield.
10. Blake Rutherford | OF | A+ —> As a former first round selection of the Yankees, Rutherford was probably a little overhyped but some of that shine has come off since moving to the Sox system. He has a chance to be a solid hitter but all his other tools pretty much grade out as average. He’s a good base runner but his aggressive nature at the plate leads to low walk totals (and related low on-base average). I see second-division starter.
Ian Hamilton | RHP | AAA —> Hamilton isn’t a huge guy but he can dial his heater up to the upper 90s. He pairs it with a potentially-plus slider and could eventually develop into a high-leverage reliever at the big league level.
Steele Walker | OF | R —> Walker has a solid track record of hitting as an amateur. And his ability to generate line drives belies his size. It remains to be seen how much over-the-fence pop he’ll generate so he’ll need to continue to keep the strikeouts in check, focus on getting on base and just peppering line drives all over the field to be successful.
Kodi Medeiros | LHP | AA —> Once teams realize Medeiros is better suited to the bullpen I feel like he’ll take off and be a solid big-league contributor. His concentration appears to slip over the course of a game and his inconsistency could be mitigated with shorter outings. He’s a lefty with a firm fastball and a potentially-plus slider.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.