Are the Rebuilding White Sox Ahead of Where the Cubs Were in 2014?

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Are the Rebuilding White Sox Ahead of Where the Cubs Were in 2014?

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News, MLB News and Rumors

In 2014, Welington Castillo played catcher for the Chicago Cubs while Rick Renteria managed the team from the dugout. Soon after that, however, both saw their time on the North Side come to an end and eventually made their way to the South Side baseball team.

Obviously, that means they missed out on the semi-surprise-contention of the 2015 team, the World Series win in 2016, and the victory lap last season, but that doesn’t mean they’re in a bad place.

Anyone who follows baseball closely, which I have to imagine is anyone reading this post, knows that the White Sox have pulled off a solid rebuild over the past few years. They now have an excellent cache of young prospects in the upper minors, as well as some talented youngsters already at the big league level.

Forgive me if I’ve forgotten someone (highest level reached and MLB Pipeline Top 100 ranking accompanies each name):

  • Yoan Moncada, 2B (MLB)
  • Tim Anderson, SS (MLB)
  • Lucas Giolito, P (MLB)
  • Carson Fulmer, P (MLB)
  • Eloy Jimenez, OF (Double-A) – #5
  • Michael Kopech, P (Triple-A) – #10
  • Luis Robert, OF (Rookie) – #23
  • Blake Rutherford, OF (A-Ball) – #40
  • Dylan Cease, P (A-Ball) – #58
  • Alec Hansen, P (Double-A) – #91

That’s one really nice group of young players to build around, isn’t it? Yoan Moncada is a star in the making, and he shares the middle infield with the 24-year-old Tim Anderson, who was a top 50 prospect (and the White Sox #1 prospect) as recently as 2015. His first two years have been uneven, but there’s plenty of promise.

Also at the Major Leauge level, you have a couple of former top pithing prospects in Giolito and Fulmer, the first of which carved out top ten status as recently 2016. And it’s only then when the prospect fun really begins.

According to MLB Pipeline, the White Sox have six top-100 prospects, including three in top 25, alone. We all know Eloy Jimenez and what he’s capable of doing, and we know that the flame-throwing Michael Kopech is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Luis Robert might not have a ton of experience in the states just yet, but as an international free agent, he received a $26 million signing bonus from the White Sox (second only, as an amateur, to the $31 million Moncada got) and figures to be a very fast riser. In fact, MLB Pipeline seems to believe that Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada share a lot of similarities, including the overall upside.

I won’t belabor the point by going player-by-player, but clearly, you can see that the Sox have a lot going for them – and at just the right time, given the huge free agent class available next winter.

But that’s not what this post is entirely about.

Instead, I wanted to note some quotes from Welington Castillo, who claims the Sox are in a better place now than the Cubs were in 2014 – when he and Renteria were still with the Cubs: “In 2013, when I was with the Cubs, we weren’t even close to what we’ve got here,” Castillo said via the Chicago Sun Times. “In 2014, [the Cubs] started changing; you started to see more about the big prospects. But they still weren’t really coming to the big leagues. The White Sox, our prospects are already here, and they’re building together. This organization is still a step ahead of the Cubs [in 2014].”

Castillo added, “I see as much young talent here as I’ve ever seen anywhere.”

So … is that true? Do we agree? Are the White Sox about to be even more loaded than the Cubs of this window?

Well, before getting into any specifics, I’d say it’s pretty easy to say it’s not a crazy statement, by any means. The White Sox have clearly followed the path of the Cubs’ rebuild, but unlike many teams (cough, Marlins, cough) they’ve done an especially good job turning their big league assets into possible future stars … and still adding some lottery ticket upside beyond that.

Back in 2014, the Cubs did not yet have a lot of the prospects with which they’d eventually wind up (for just one example, Ian Happ was not yet drafted), so we have to be careful how we look back. Moreover, Kyle Schwarber wouldn’t be drafted until June, Addison Russell wouldn’t be acquired by trade until the Fourth of July, Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres were only *just* making their debuts as teenagers in rookie league, and Kris Bryant had just one year of minor league ball under his belt.

The Cubs did, however, have Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora in the system, and, together with several others, they formed some pretty significant prospect power.

Here’s a list of the Cubs top 100 prospects that year, according to MLB Pipeline:

  • Kris Bryant, 3B – #3
  • Addison Russell, SS – #5
  • Albert Almora, OF – #36
  • Jorge Soler, OF – #48
  • Carl Edwards, P – #53
  • Kyle Schwarber, OF – #72

*Javy Baez lost prospect eligibility by the end of the 2014 season, but he started the year as a top ten prospect in baseball, so I think it’s fair to include him in the group of players above. The Cubs also had 24-year-old versions of Kyle Hendricks and Anthony Rizzo breaking out in the big leagues at this time, which matters a lot in this comparison.

So, compared to the White Sox, the Cubs also had six (or seven, if you include Baez) top 100 prospects, including two of the top five guys and four of the top 50. The sure-fire star power was there in the form of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell (at the time, both were very highly regarded prospects) and there was plenty of top prospect depth behind them.

With Rizzo on his way to a 5.7 win season at the age of 24 and Hendricks debuting with a 2.45 ERA … I think you could give the edge to the Cubs, in terms of overall future talent. Though, if Castillo’s point was that the White Sox prospects are closer to the big leagues, he might have a point?

It’s hard to say, because although their timelines were accelerated, each of the Cubs’ top 100 prospects from 2014 made the Major Leagues by 2015, except for Albert Almora. Frankly, I think I’d still take the Cubs group and future from 2014 over what the White Sox have today, but it is definitely VERY close, and both systems are very impressive.

Hopefully, things work out just as well for the White Sox (except perhaps in a crosstown World Series, if that were to happen), and Castillo/Renteria stick around long enough to enjoy it.

Read more from the former Cubs catcher and skipper at The Chicago Sun-Times.


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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.