KATOH Projects: Chicago White Sox Prospects

Last week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Chicago White Sox. In this companion piece, I look at that same Chicago farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Tim Anderson, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through First Six Seasons: 6.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55

At the plate, Anderson’s 2015 at Double-A strongly resembled his 2014 at High-A. He struck out in over 20% in his plate appearances, walked in less than 5% and hit for an unremarkable amount of power. While he improved his walk rate to near-respectability — from 2% to 4% — he sacrificed a chunk of power in the process. Last year, however, he complemented his relatively empty .300 average with a boatload of steals, which speaks to the 22-year-old’s athleticism. Anderson’s undeveloped bat still gives KATOH some pause, but shortstops with top-notch speed don’t need to hit much to be productive.

Here’s a look at his top statistical comps based on Anderson’s 2015 season at Double-A, which I generated using a series of weighted Mahalanobis distance calculations. As always, the lower figure represents the more similar comparison. In constructing this list, I considered both shortstops and outfielders. The former is his current position, while some speculate he’ll ultimately wind up playing the latter.

Tim Anderson’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Wtd Mah Dist PA WAR
1 Roger Bernadina 0.15 1,480 1.2
2 Wayne Lydon 0.18 0 0.0
3 Willy Taveras 0.21 2,644 6.0
4 Derrick Robinson 0.24 216 0.3
5 Randy Winn 0.24 6,878 28.1
6 Jeremy Hazelbaker 0.25 0 0.0
7 Julio Ramirez 0.27 103 -0.5
8 Marland Williams 0.29 0 0.0
9 Felix Martinez 0.29 731 -0.1
10 John Raynor 0.29 11 0.0

2. Spencer Adams, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55

Adams did a fine job in his first full season as a pro. The 2014 second-round pick pitched to a 3.22 FIP between two levels of A-Ball on the strength of a 17% strikeout rate and sparkling 3% walk rate. Adams’ performance to date has been encouraging, but KATOH will remains skeptical until he shows a bit more in the strikeouts department. Still, considering he’s just 19, he has plenty of time to figure out how to miss more bats.

3. Jordan Guerrero, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50

Guerrero split 2015 between two levels of A-Ball where he pitched to a stellar 2.73 FIP in 149 innings. His most impressive attribute was his 25% strikeout rate, which mirrors his 24% mark from 2014. Guerrero has yet to throw a pitch above A-Ball, so he’s likely still a couple of years from the show. But his ability to miss bats in a starting capacity bodes well for his future.

4. Trey Michalczewski, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45

Michalczewski had a breakout season in 2014, but took a small step back last year. His batting average and power output both ticked down as he advanced from Low-A to High-A. Even so, KATOH’s intrigued by his acceptable numbers as a young-for-his-level third baseman in A-Ball. However, his strikeout numbers make him something of a long shot to succeed in the major leagues.


1-2 WAR Players

White Sox Prospects Forecasted for 1-2 WAR
Rank Name Position WAR thru First 6 Years Dan’s FV
5 Corey Zangari 1B 1.6 45
6 Chris Beck P 1.4 45
7 Jeremy Dowdy C 1.1 Unranked
8 Cleuluis Rondon SS 1.0 Unranked

Zangari is likely the most interesting player in this quartet. He slashed .323/.356/.492 in Rookie Ball last year, although he did so with a concerning strikeout rate. Chris Beck could stand to miss a few more bats. Dowdy signed as an undrafted free agent after his senior season at Appalachian State in 2012, and has served as an organizational catcher ever since. However, he hit a respectable .264/.344/.339 (99 wRC+) with nearly equal strikeout and walk rates in 111 games the past two seasons. I’m interested to see what he’d do with regular playing time. Cleuluis Rondon hit terribly last year, but is a good defensive shortstop, and hit less terribly as recently as 2014.


Remaining 45 FV or Higher Prospects

Adam Engel, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 0.7 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50+

It isn’t hard to see why KATOH’s way down on Engel. He’s posted strikeout rates north of 21% each of the past two seasons, while hitting for very little power. Furthermore, he did so as a 22- and 23-year-old in A-Ball, making him significantly older than most prospect-age hitters. However, as Dan noted, Engel unveiled a new swing in the AFL, so his 2015 stats may not do him justice. KATOH sees a player who’s all speed with little ability to hit, though there’s reason to think Engel isn’t that player anymore.

Tyler Danish, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 0.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+

After a solid 2014 campaign in A-Ball, Danish’s performance regressed in his first taste of Double-A. He struck out just 14% of batters faced and walked 10%, resulting in a 4.50 ERA and 4.60 FIP. Danish has the stuff to be much better than his projection, but statistically speaking, there was very little to like about his 2015.

Remaining 45 FV Prospects
Name Position WAR thru First 6 Years Dan’s FV
Jacob May OF 0.8 45
Courtney Hawkins OF 0.6 45
Brian Clark LHP 0.5 45
Jason Coats OF 0.4 45
Eddy Alvarez SS 0.3 45

While Jacob May possesses excellent speed, KATOH is turned off by his complete lack of power. Courtney Hawkins posesses an enticing combination of power and speed, but very few hitters succeed with strikeout numbers as ugly as his. Brian Clark pitched well last season, but not well enough to outweigh the fact that he was a 22-year-old reliever in A-Ball. Jason Coats and Eddy Alvarez both performed well last season, but KATOH dings them for being 26-year-olds. Although, you can probably throw out the projections for Alvarez given his newness to baseball.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH Projects: Chicago White Sox Prospects by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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The names on the comp list might as well have been randomly generated. Maybe I haven’t been following baseball enough.