Not a lot happened for the Chicago White Sox on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings — or for many other teams, for that matter.
SOME things happened, but when THE most notable thing is Jon Heyman tweeting “Arson Judge is signing with the San Francisco Giants” and then having to walk it back a mere seven minutes later, you do not have that invigorating moment of the Winter Meetings … yet.
Yes, the Cubs made some noise inking Cody Bellinger to a 1-year/$17.5m deal and Jameson Taillon to a 4-year/$68m deal late on Tuesday night, but the vibe exuding from the 2022 Winter Meetings is dull.
Most people would view the Rule 5 Draft as dull too, but not this year. With the pandemic canceling the draft in 2020 and the self-imposed lockout of 2021, the Rule 5 Draft will return more loaded than ever.
What does White Sox General Manager, Rick Hahn think of the upcoming draft on Wednesday at 4 pm C.T.,?
“Oh, we’ve got names upon names,” Hahn said at the Winter Meetings. “NI wouldn’t rule it out, I would say anyone we would select Rule 5 would be someone we can envision contributing in ’23 at the big league level, not just sort of a guy you stash and try to capture the upside. There’s a couple of names that are intriguing, we’ll see.”
The White Sox will select 15th in the Rule 5 draft, but four teams ahead of them (Kansas City, Texas, Los Angeles Angels, and Arizona) have full 40-man rosters, so unless they make a trade before the draft, there will only be 10 teams to select before the South Siders.
Knowing the White Sox have holes in the outfield, at second base, and a need for a left-handed pitcher and backup catcher, let’s see if the Pale Hose can patch some of them through the Rule 5 Draft.
Dominic Canzone, OF/1B, Diamondbacks (19th prospect in AZ system according to MLB.com)
Rick Hahn addressed the Sox desire to add left-handed bats this offseason, “It’s of interest. I’ve said this before in the past: You don’t want to shoehorn someone into it who’s an inferior hitter just because they happen to swing from the left side. It’s about production. And from that standpoint, you’re trying to address, let’s say, top production against right-handed pitching, so you want to come up with the best producer against right-handed pitching, regardless of handedness. More often than not that’s left-handed, but again, open mind.”
Not only do the White Sox need to improve their production against right-handed pitchers, but they also need to add an outfielder. When looking at the current 40-man roster for the White Sox, they list four current outfielders; Eloy Jiménez, Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn, and Luis Robert.
Let me introduce you to Dominic Canzone.
Canzone was selected in the eighth round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Ohio State University and since Minor League ball resumed in 2021, Canzone has been one of the best hitters v. right-handed pitching. In his last 584 plate appearances v. RHP, Canzone has a +.900 OPS with around 43 percent of his hits being of the extra-base variety.
Does he differ enough from Gavin Sheets though for them to select Canzone? Like Sheets, Canzone profiles as a corner outfield/1st baseman. For the sake of Canzone being two years younger, I would rather see Canzone as the Sox starting left fielder over Sheets.
Blake Sabol, C, Pirates (NR in PIT system according to MLB.com)
After shelling out the largest contract in franchise history to Yasmani Grandal, the White Sox are hoping for a bounceback performance in his final year of that record-setting deal.
“Yaz didn’t have the year that we’ve seen in the past. He, certainly when healthy, has the talent to remain one of the elite catchers in the league. He’ll be the first to tell you that due to health and other reasons, he didn’t perform at the level that he’s accustomed to in ’22 and him bouncing back in ’23 is important.”
After Grandal caught over 4,000 innings from 2016-2019, it should not be surprising that Grandal’s knees and back are starting to give out on him. After a 2022 season with an OPS+ of 64, it should not be surprising to the White Sox if the 34-year-old catcher doesn’t bounce back.
What is the backup plan if Grandal can’t perform as he did in 2021 or 2020? Do we love the idea of Seby Zavala and Carlos Pérez being this team’s catchers in ’23?
While Zavala had a career year at the plate in 2022 and Pérez hit 20+ home runs in Triple-A last year, do the White Sox have their catcher of the future in the organization?
Blake Sabol could be that future.
Sabol is an incredible athlete. In high school, he was a top-catching prospect, until he was moved out to the outfield after his freshman campaign at USC. Since 2021, Sabol (139 wRC+) is in the top 10 for wRC+ at the catcher position in the minor leagues. Along with the power, Sabol also ranks Top 10 in speed for catchers. Could he be a wonderful blend of position versatility need (corner outfield and catcher) and handedness? We will have to wait and see…
Korry Howell, CF/2B/SS, Padres (8th prospect in SDP system according to MLB.com)
Lenyn Sosa? Yolbert Sanchez? Romy Gonzalez? Danny Mendick? Jose Rodriguez? I am not sold on any of the current in-house solutions for the White Sox at second base. When asked yesterday about the internal options at second base, Rick Hahn said, “we have a couple of internal options. I’ve mentioned Romy, mentioned Leury, and also Lenyn Sosa as possibilities. We made no secret that it’s also a possibility that we wind up going outside to add to that mix.”
I think addressing second base through the Rule 5 Draft could make a lot of sense.
Rick Hahn keeps harping on the Sox being active in the trade market, but with Kolten Wong now in Seattle, I find it hard for the Sox to be able to fill that need through a trade. Jean Segura is likely the only interesting free-agent option available for a contender, but he will be pricey.
The easiest route to add a new second baseman to the roster is through the Rule 5 Draft.
While there are plenty of options to choose from, I think bringing Homewood-Flossmoor’s own, Korry Howell, could be the most interesting.
Howell, who grew up a White Sox fan admiring Frank Thomas, is a stellar athlete. According to Fangraphs, Howell ranks fifth in speed over the past two years over every level of affiliated minor league ball. Combine that with his .460 slugging percentage over the past two years in the minors and Howell has an intriguing athletic makeup to build off of.
The biggest question mark around Howell would be his ability to play second base. Howell came out of Kirkwood Community College as a middle infielder, but Milwaukee wanted to take advantage of Howell’s athletic prowess and started him in the outfield for a large majority of his playing time. He has started 167 games in the outfield in his minor league career, compared to just 26 games started at second base.
Eddinson Paulino, 2B/SS/3B, Red Sox (13th in the BOS system according to MLB.com)
Since Fangraphs started tracking minor league stats in 2006, only seven players have drawn over 60 walks, had isolated power over .200, and a speed score over 7 in their age-20 season or younger. Those players were: Zac Veen in A ball in 2021, Fernando Tatis Jr. in A ball in 2017, Addison Russell in A ball in 2013, Trevor Story in A ball in 2012, Sean Coyle in A ball in 2011, Jurickson Profar in A ball in 2011, and most recently, Eddinson Paulino in A ball in 2022.
Veen is currently the number 1 prospect in the Rockies organization. Tatis, Russell, Profar, and Story all found their own success at the Major League level. Coyle, a former third-round pick of the Red Sox, was consistently a Top 20 prospect in their organization before flaming out in 2015.
While Paulino will not dazzle you with his glove, SoxProspects.com describes Paulino’s fielding in their scouting report as, “Looks most comfortable at second base right now but has also played shortstop and third base. Not a standout defender, but will not hurt you either. Potential average defender at second base or third base.”
Paulino will not turn 21 years old until July 2. It would be an extremely risky move for the Sox to select Paulino in the Rule 5 Draft and start him at second base, but Fangraphs projects Paulino’s MLB ETA to be 2024. The White Sox would be rushing another prospect, but at least it wouldn’t be their homegrown prospect?
Antoine Kelly, LHP, Rangers (13th in TEX system according to MLB.com)
Outside of position players, the White Sox have a need for left-handed pitching. The current rotation projects as Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Mike Clevinger. All right-handed starters. The only left-handed pitchers in the bullpen are Aaron Bummer, who has struggled to throw over 100 innings over the past three years due to injuries, Jake Diekman, who had a 6.52 ERA after coming over from Boston, and Garrett Crochet, who is coming off Tommy John Surgery.
Another local product out of Maine East High School, who was selected out of Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, IL in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, Kelly screams Rule 5 selection.
Kelly has a fastball that can touch 98 and a sweeping slider in the mid-’80s. Both pitches received an above-average grade on Fangraphs’ prospect report.
While there are concerns about Kelly’s mechanics, delivery, and lack of third pitch, there are concerns about every left-handed thrower on the Sox roster. Is adding another concern-laden lefty one too much?