The south side features an underrated system for fantasy purposes with plenty of openings on the big league side for the intrepid young hitters.
1. OF Oscar Colas | 24 | AAA | 2023
I suspect you’ll see Colson Montgomery in the one spot everywhere else, and that’s cool if you’re not in any rush to collect stats from your prospects. I’m open to the case that Montgomery is the buzzier prospect stock at the moment, but Colas has dominated every step of the way and finds himself on the escalator this winter, by which I mean he could start the season hot and cruise right up the lists. Montgomery could climb quickly as well, but he’ll be doing so in Double-A, which won’t help us win in 2023 unless we can flip him for a redraft asset. How long will it take the dynasty world to notice if Montgomery comes roaring out the gate? Not long, probably, but Colas could open a sell-high window early in spring training with just a few good games. And even then, with offers raining down on you after Colas hits his second spring home run, you might struggle to move the 6’1” 209 lb left-handed bat with a chance to make the opening day lineup. He hit 23 home runs in 127 games across three levels last year, batting above .300 at every stop. Chicago has been tough on hitters the past few seasons, but Colas has enough thump to threaten 20-plus bombs if he gets the gig early.
2. SS Colson Montgomery | 21 | AA | 2024
A 6’4” 205 lb left-handed hitter, Montgomery fits the new mold of enormous humans playing shortstop. Chicago snagged him with the 22nd overall pick in 2021, and Montgomery has made them look smart for it, graduating three minor league levels in about 1.2 seasons of professional baseball. He didn’t respond well to a late promotion to Double-A in 2022, slashing .146/.192/.292 with a 19 wRC+ in 14 games, but that’s just 14 games, and he had just posted a 125 wRC+ in 37 games at High-A and a 152 in 45 games at Low-A. My only hesitation: it’s a patience-powered profile. Montgomery isn’t hunting pitches to pull just yet, and that’s fine. That comes late for a lot of hitters, and I’m wondering if working on that was partly responsible for some of the struggles. Chicago has a new, late-season developmental plan called Project Birmingham, where many of the organization’s instructors work with their chosen prospects at Double-A. I just feel like Montgomery is being ranked as if he can already access his significant raw power in games against good pitchers, and we just haven’t seen that.
3. SS Jose Rodriguez | 21 | AA | 2023
For a couple years now, Rodriguez has been the most underrated prospect in an underrated system. I ranked him first in last year’s Chicago White Sox Top Ten Prospects for 2022 Fantasy Baseball, and he didn’t disappoint, slashing .280/.340/.480 with 11 home runs and 40 stolen bases in 104 Double-A games against older players. His most impressive stat is probably the 13.6 percent strikeout rate, which pairs well with the 7.9 percent walk rate. Rodriguez isn’t just swinging at everything to keep the K’s down. The club is currently planning to let Romy Gonzalez contend for the 2nd base gig, which leaves a little room for Rodriguez to elbow his way into the picture. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him playing everyday in Chicago by July.
4. SS Lenyn Sosa | 23 | MLB | 2022
The 6’0” 185 lb Sosa could earn a share of the second base job with a solid spring. He doesn’t offer any speed, but he hit 24 home runs in 130 games across three levels last season, and he struck out just 17.4 percent of the time (7.3% BB) in 57 Triple-A games after posting even better plate skills in 62 games at Double-A (13.8% K, 7.3% BB), where he slashed .331./.384/.549 with 14 home runs. Sosa hadn’t flashed that type of topside before, but he’s been adding strength over the past couple seasons and might be able to add a little more this winter. Interesting sleeper prospect for redraft leagues in 2023.
5. 3B Bryan Ramos | 21 | AA | 2024
Ramos is a plus athlete at 6’2” 190 lbs, but it’s a little concerning that he stole just one base in 2022 after swiping 13 the prior year. Could be the muscle he added between seasons (I’d bet he was bigger than 190 this season) sapped him of some footspeed. Could be he just wasn’t focused on baserunning. Either way, he gets some love around the fantasy game because always been young for his level and shown plus plate skills. He continued the trend in High-A last season (122 wRC+) before flopping for a month in Double-A (70 wRC+). Ramos makes four straight guys on this list with plate skills they’ve demonstrated across multiple years and levels, carrying strikeout rates under 18 percent and walk rates above seven percent. All four are in the upper minors on the kind side of the age-to-level curve. Everyone in the top five has a major league regular outcome on their spectrum of possibilities. Fun group.
6. OF Luis Mieses | 22 | AA | 2024
Luis Mieses always looks good to me. Nothing flashy about his line, or even his game, I suppose, but whenever I watch the games, he catches my eye. The profile is swing-intensive at the moment, and it’s getting to the point where I don’t know if he can change that. He’s got kind of a Jesus Sanchez problem. He can make contact with a lot of pitches, even if they’re out of the strike zone, so he swings at a lot of pitches, even if they’re out of the strike zone. Fouls a lot of them off, to his credit, and he’s big enough (6’3” 220 lbs) and quick enough through the zone that he could do major league damage if he becomes selectively aggressive.
7. OF Yoelqui Cespedes | 25 | AA | 2023
Cespedes has power and speed like his brother, but the plate skills have a long way to go. The age-to-level curve will never favor him after Cespedes lost some key seasons to the defection process and then the pandemic, but prospect development is not linear, and I’m half-expecting a leap of some kind in pitch-selection. Can certainly get into trouble going down the rabbit hole of reps lost while trying to realign age-based expectations, but here we are, in the rabbit hole together, and it’s not so bad, so far. Cespedes hit 17 home runs and stole 33 bases in 119 games. Didn’t get a late-season bump to Triple-A, but now that we’re here I can safely speculate that it was related to Project Birmingham. Struck out 30.1 percent of the time. Walked just 5.7 percent. He knows what he needs to work on, and one nice thing in his favor is a double-plus throwing arm that helps make him an impact defender even if he’s slumping. I feel so optimistic at the end of this blurb at the bottom of this rabbit hole with you. Weird year already.
8. LHP Noah Schultz | 19 | NA | 2027
The 26th pick in the 2022 draft, Schultz is a 6’9” 220 lb lefty with a low three-quarters release who happens to throw in the upper nineties. He’s also got a slider with extreme sweep. Could be the Puk that was promised. Who, by the way, I recently traded for in the Highlander Dynasty Invitational: AJ Puk. Cost is low. Topside is high. Good time to try it, I thought, and still do, and figured I should mention here in the Schultz blurb where it’s relevant. Guys built like this are more likely to become relievers than starters, probably, but if they ever do find command, health and a rotation job all at the same time, like Puk seems to have now, I’ll be looking to acquire their services.
9. RHP Gregory Santos | 23 | MLB | 2022
A shoulder, a groin, and a PED suspension walk into a south side bar. It’s Gregory Santos. He orders a shot of tequila, slams it, and orders another. “Heard you’re looking for a closer,” he says.
“You heard wrong, friend,” says the barkeep, pointing to a signed Liam Hendricks jersey on the wall. “Don’t need a set-up man, either,” he adds, turning his back to show the letters GRAVEMAN written across his shirt.
Cut to Santos, devastated, wishing he were somewhere warm.
Sorry, got carried away there. Been a long road for Gregory Santos, is all I’m saying here. Once a coveted young starter, he’s now on a one-way ticket to bullpensville, where he’s no lock to be effective despite a high-90’s fastball and double-plus slider. Good pickup for the Sox nonetheless, I think. Maybe they can help him find something that pairs better with the slider than his current fastball does.
10. RHP Norge Vera | 22 | AA | 2023
Vera looked good early in his first full season and graduated High-A on his own merit after eight starts with a 1.88 ERA. Things didn’t go as smoothly after that, but the outcomes were still more positive than negative. His 2.13 WHIP in eight Double-A innings doesn’t matter, even if it gets a little stuck in my brain as I type it out. I’m trying to calibrate myself to this Project Birmingham thing, but it’s a bit awkward. Vera remains a high upside fireballer with a smooth delivery and a relative lack of innings on his arm who didn’t make it into the fifth inning one time this season.
Thanks for reading!