This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshmen contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.
In a Nutshell: The White Sox loaded up on talent from the 2014-15 free agent market and will field a veteran-heavy club in 2015. However, the organization also boasts some intriguing upper-level prospect talent that could help bolster the 25-man roster in the coming year.
1. Carlos Sanchez, 2B: This freshman second baseman has a chance to enter 2015 as the only rookie on a club looking to make it deep into the playoffs after investing heavily on the free agent market. He’ll have to contend with a couple of off-season signings in Emilio Bonifacio and (retread) Gord Beckham but neither of the veteran players is overly well suited to regular action. Sanchez, 22, doesn’t have loud tools but he’s a smart player and he drove the ball better in 2014 at the Triple-A level. He’s historically shown an ability to hit for average and could steal 15-20 bags in a full season.
2. Carlos Rodon, LHP: The most talented prospect in the White Sox system, Rodon has just nine games of professional experience after being selected third overall in the 2014 amateur draft. He’ll likely need a little more minor league seasoning before trying to break into the starting rotation at the big league level. The club currently has solid depth amongst its starting pitchers so it may take an injury — or an extremely bad performance — from one of the Top 5 for Rodon to earn a shot in 2015. Once he settles in, though, he has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Tim Anderson, SS: The big league shortstop gig is currently spoken for thanks to the presence of Cuban infielder Alexei Ramirez. However, the veteran provides modest offensive production and is in the final guaranteed season of his four-year (plus an option) contract. As a result, the organization may be willing to ease Anderson into the big league picture in 2015 with an eye on saving much of the $10 million that it would cost to retain Ramirez in 2016. The 2013 first round pick reached Double-A in his first full pro season and should open the ’15 season back at that level. He has solid pop and can steal some bases.
4. Micah Johnson, IF: Although Sanchez should be the first rookie to receive a crack at the second base job, he is by no means the only prospect that deserves a shot. Johnson, 24, split the 2014 season between Double-A and Triple-A and has always produced solid offensive numbers. He’s known for being a strong base runner but that part of his game fell apart last year. After nabbing 84 bags (in 110 tries) in 2013, Johnson managed to nab just 22 bags in 35 tries. A significant amount of his value is derived from his legs so he’ll have to get back on that horse in 2015.
5. Chris Beck, RHP: Rodon is a pretty signifiant talent so he’ll likely receive the first shot at filling in for a starter at the big league level — especially since the playoff-hungry club will want to field the best team possible, regardless of service time concerns. Beck, though, should be in line for the second shot. The former second rounder isn’t flashy and doesn’t strike many guys out but he throws strikes and trusts his defenders. The 24-year-old hurler could develop into an innings-eating, back-end starter.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.