After Michael Kopech made his debut last week, many are already looking forward to the next young pitcher to make their debut for this new era of White Sox baseball.
On Aug. 21, the White Sox took another step toward the future as prized prospect Michael Kopech made his major league debut. Although he pitched two innings, the four strikeouts he threw gives many a glimmer of hope.
Throughout this rebuild, we have seen a couple of exciting young pitching prospects make their major league debut: Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Amongst them were those who were apart of the rebuild, but didn’t generate as much hype as the two aforementioned: Carson Fulmer and Dylan Covey.
Among the plethora of prospects the White Sox have traded for over the last few years, the pitchers have been making their debut, with the exception of Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada. And now with Kopech on the south side, it begs the question: who’s next?
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The 26th-ranked prospect in the White Sox farm system, Spencer Adams is a commanding young pitcher. This year in the minors, Adams has 87 strikeouts and 58 walks in 145 innings pitched. He does, however, have a hard time limiting the hits. His opponent batting average is .262 and he’s given up 18 home runs. He’s also given up 145 hits, which is an average of exactly one hit an inning.
Going into this season, given the other talent playing alongside with him, it was viewed that Adams would be no more than an innings eater in the front end of the bullpen. But with his ability to get swings and misses on all of his pitches, he may work into a role holding more responsibility.
At 22 years old, and with an ERA of 3.18 in 13 games started at Triple-A Charlotte, Adams could be next to make his debut in Chicago.
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Ian Hamilton has turned into a pleasant surprise. And by pleasant, I mean shockingly great. At 23 years old, Hamilton can have his fastball sit anywhere between 95-99 mph with a hard sinking motion. His slider is above average that can top out at 90. Though his changeup needs some more work, it’s still solid.
In 20 games with 23.1 innings pitched for Charlotte, Hamilton has held his own. Striking out 25 batters and only walking four, Hamilton has limited his opponents to a .207 batting average.
Projected to break into the majors in 2019, Hamilton’s 1.93 ERA may be helping his case for a September call-up.
Expected to primarily pitch out of the back end of the bullpen, Hamilton would be a nice set-up man for closer Nate Jones or perhaps take that role for himself.
Riddled with numerous injuries and setbacks, including a Tommy John surgery in July of 2017, it seemed we may never get to see Zack Burdi in White Sox pinstripes. Once the 11th prospect in the organization, Burdi has since dropped to number 17. Once viewed as the team’s future closer has left some to doubt his ability to keep healthy.
But just as setbacks do, one could imagine is the fuel that drives Brudi.
On the 20/80 rating scale, Brudi’s fastball is graded 80. His slider a 60. Although his changeup is graded 55, hitters can look awfully silly swinging and missing at it while sitting on his fastball or even slider. His control has been an issue, even a little before the surgery, but as his elbow continues to strengthen, so will his ability to shut hitters down.
Currently on his rehab assignment in the Arizona Rookie League, in seven games and 6.1 innings pitched, Burdi has struck out seven and walked four. Although it may not seem shut-down-like, holding opposing hitters to a .217 average with a WHIP of 1.42 is a glimmer of hope in what was otherwise a dark journey Burdi’s been on since the surgery.
Drafted in 2015 Jordan Stephens has crawled his way up the White Sox organization. He started his 2018 season at Double-A Birmingham. After seven games with an ERA of 2.95, he was called up to Triple-A Charlotte.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the same success in Triple-A as he had in Double-A. After 19 games, all started, he holds an ERA of 4.58 in 96.1 innings pitched. Despite allowing 103 hits, he has tremendous command. At Charlotte, he’s struck out 90 while walking 37. He’s only given up eight home runs.
What his opponent batting average number, .271, compared next to his eight allowed home runs tell us that long balls aren’t his problem, which is a good thing. Hitters, unfortunately, are making solid contact against him. When he learns to be more commanding with his shutdown pitches like his curveball, cutter, and changeup, hitters will have a harder time making that solid contact.
And with a little help and time spent with pitching coach legend, Don Cooper can definitely help in Stephens’ case for the majors.
Ranked sixth in the White Sox organization, 63 in the MLB Top 100, Dane Dunning is on the verge of his debut.
Drafted 29th overall by Washington in 2016, Dunning was acquired in the Adam Eaton trade in 2016. Hiding in the shadows of Lopez and Giolito who headlined the trade, Dunning made a name for himself.
This year, with 62 innings pitched at Double-A Birmingham, Dunning has posted a 2.76 ERA and 69 strikeouts. He still needs to work on his command allowing 23 walks in his 11 starts, but his .243 opponent batting average is something for him to build off of.
His fastball that can touch 96 has been the base of his development. Improving on his slider and changeup has been the focal point of his time in the minors.
Viewed as the most polished prospect, his timetable to the majors was delayed when he had a moderate elbow sprain in late June. Despite this, it is possible Dunning could be called up when the rosters are increased to 40 in September. If not then, he may make the 25 man out of spring next year.
There’s a lot to be excited for in terms of pitching on the Southside. Even those who haven’t been mentioned. Names like Dylan Cease the team’s fifth-ranked prospect and 44 in MLB’s Top 100, Alec Hansen and Konnor Pilkington. But these three, along with the other seven pitchers in the Sox top 30, still need time to develop. Just like the rebuild in general, there’s a lot to be excited about in the coming years at the corner of 35th and Shields.