Dynasty Baseball

2021 Chicago White Sox Diamonds in the Rough

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Welcome to the sixth installment of my series 2021 Diamonds in the Rough. Last time out, I took a look at some of the Chicago Cubs prospects.

In this article, I will take a trip down to the South Side and break down two hitting and two pitching prospects from the Chicago White Sox farm system.

In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.

To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team’s latest MLB.com Prospect Rankings.

Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.

2021 Chicago White Sox Diamonds in the Rough

Hitters

Elijah Tatis, SS (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 45 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 50 Arm
Age: 19
Highest Level: Dominican Summer League
ETA: 2024

This is not the first Tatis with promise that has been in the White Sox system. In 2016, White Sox GM Rick Hahn acquired James Shields and $31 million of the remaining $58 million on his contract from the Padres for right-hander Erik Johnson and a shortstop prospect named Fernando Tatis Jr.

Despite the loss, the White Sox were able to add Fernando’s younger brother, Elijah Tatis, during the 2019 international signing period $500,000.

Per a club representative, “Elijah is more like his father than his brother as a player”. For reference, Fernando Tatis Sr.’s 162-game average stats are .265/.344/.442, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 73 R, and nine SB over 521 at-bats. Though not the gaudy numbers we have come to expect from Fernando Tatis Jr., those are still very solid numbers.

In his 2019 Dominican Summer League debut, Tatis posted an unsightly .187/.300/.213 with zero HR, 10 RBI, 15 R, and five SB over 75 at-bats. Tatis displayed minimal power, evidenced by a SLG that was 77 points lower than his OBP. Further, Tatis only managed two extra-base hits, both of which were doubles.

However, there were a few silver linings to Tatis’ 2019 debut, throughout which he was only 17 years old. First, Tatis managed to swipe five bags in only 25 games. In addition, Tatis displayed advanced plate discipline and control over the strike zone. Tatis posted a very respectable 13/16 walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/K), an “Above Average” 17.8 strikeout rate (K%), and a near “Excellent” 14.4% walk rate (BB%), per Fangraphs Sabermetrics Library.

At 19 years old and standing at 5-foot-11 and only 155 pounds, Tatis’ frame has significant room for projection. Further, Tatis has drawn praise for his repeatable swing and should develop more power as he fills out his frame.

Tatis is very polished defensively and has displayed above-average prowess at second and shortstop. Some scouts expect a bulked-up Tatis to wind up at third, but his defense will be a plus regardless.

Maybe it’s just dad talk, but according to Fernando Tatis Sr., “Elijah Tatis is more talented than his brother (Fernando Tatis Jr.) and that is saying a lot, many people will say that I am crazy. When he has his chance, he is going to be a great player too, he just needs to play to show his extraordinary talent.”

That being said, it is tough to imagine Tatis making the impact that his older brother has to this point. Yet, his incredible pedigree alone makes him worth monitoring and will make him a hot name in deep dynasty circles. Tatis has a long way to go before his major league debut. However, if everything clicks, Tatis has the tools to reach 15 HR/15 SB upside with the potential for more.

Bryce Bush, OF/3B (#30)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 45 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 55 Arm
Age: 21
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2023

The White Sox drafted Bryce Bush out of High School in the 33rd round (978 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft. Interestingly, the White Sox had evaluated Bush as a fifth-round talent, so they were elated to grab him all the way down in the 33rd round.

In 2018, Bush was named Michigan’s High School Player of the Year. Per reports, Bush was so dominant in high school that his dad would often throw him batting practice for scouts in attendance so they could see something other than Bush being pitched around all game.

During his 2018 professional debut, Bush compiled a fantastic .309/.396/.453, with three HR, 18 RBI, 24 R, and four SB over 139 at-bats. In addition, Bush displayed elite plate discipline, with a 18/25 BB/K.

Unfortunately, Bush was unable to repeat his debut performance in 2019. In 2019, Bush struggled against more advanced pitching to the tune of .194/.276/.335, with five HR, 33 RBI, 39 R, and four SB over 263 at-bats. Further, Bush lacked the plate discipline he displayed in his debut, with a substantially declined 27/94 BB/K. However, it is also worth noting Bush was about two and a half years younger than his average competition.

Bush has tons of pedigree with elite bat speed that generates violent swings and high exit velocities. In addition, Bush has an athletic 6-foot, 200-pound frame with a remaining projection that is built for power. According to his Perfect Game profile, Bush has “very quick hands [that] create outstanding bat speed, [the] ball explodes off the barrel…[he] has barrel control and the ability to drive the ball long and far, high ceiling hitter.”

Further, out of all 2018 high school draftees, Bush placed in the 96.67% percentile for max barrel speed, 98.86% for impact momentum, and 93.08% for max acceleration. However, Bush has posted excessive ground ball rates in his first two professional seasons, and he will need to add more loft to his violent swing to maximize his power potential.

Though Bush played exclusively third base in his 2018 debut, he committed 12 errors in only 30 games. In 2019, Bush played only 10 games at third base (where he committed nine errors) compared to 37 games in right field. Bush is a below-average fielder, which will likely relegate him to first base or a corner outfield spot. Further, Bush’s weakness in the field will place pressure on his bat and ability to reduce his 2019 strikeout rate.

Despite his sophomore struggles, I view Bush as a prime bounce-back candidate with big-time breakout potential. There may not be a better time to buy Bush, as his price may increase significantly after another successful season.



Pitchers

Isaiah Carranza, RHP  (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 45 CH | 45 CB | 50 SL | 50 CNTRL
Age: 23
Highest Level: College
ETA: 2023

The White Sox drafted Isaiah Carranza out of Azusa Pacific University (CA) in the 12th round (348 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft.

After being drafted out of high school by the Texas Rangers in the 35th round (1,038 overall) of the 2015 MLB draft, Carranza chose to attend the University of Oregon.

On the surface, Carranza struggled through two years at Oregon, compiling a poor 4.43 ERA and only 34 strikeouts in 65 innings. However, Carranza also showed some positives during his time at Oregon. As a true freshman in 2016, Carranza made 19 appearances, including two starts. Over those 19 appearances, Carranza posted a 3.63 ERA with 18 strikeouts and eight walks over 34.2 innings. In addition, Carranza ended the season on a tear. Carranza tossed 6.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts over his final four appearances.

Though Carranza only started two of his 19 appearances as a freshman in 2016, Carranza started seven of his nine appearances as a sophomore in 2017. In Carranza’s first six appearances as a sophomore, he posted a perfect 2-0 record with one save and a stellar 1.44 ERA. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in Carranza’s final three appearances. In his final three appearances, Carranza he went 0-3 and gave up 13 runs over just 4.4 innings.

In 2018, Carranza transferred closer to home to Division II Asuza Pacific University. At Asuza Pacific, Carranza started all 13 of his appearances, compiling a fantastic 9-1 record to go with a 3.89 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 86/31 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 74 innings. After not posting over 4.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) through his freshman and sophomore seasons at Oregon, Carranza posted an elite 10.5 K/9 at Asuza Pacific. Despite the increased strikeout total in 2018, Carranza also displayed significantly less control. In 2018, Carranza issued 31 walks in 74 innings, after issuing only 13 walks in his prior 65 innings.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Carranza has a strong arm and a very projectable pitcher’s frame. Carranza’s best pitch is his fastball, which sits 93-95 MPH and touches 97 MPH. Further, Carranza’s fastball may pick up velocity as he grows into his frame, though he is already 24 years old. Carranza also sports a wipeout mid-80s slider with late downward break. Though Carranza also possesses a mid-to-late 70s MPH curveball and low 80s MPH changeup, those pitches are works in progress.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, Carranza finally appears set to make his professional debut in 2021. There is a fair amount of reliever risk with Carranza because of his lack of secondary stuff beyond his slider. Further, Carranza has displayed some control issues, particularly during his last full season at Asuza Pacific.

To reach his potential as a starter, Carranza will need to display improved command and develop his curveball and changeup. However, I am intrigued by Carranza’s fastball-slider combination, with the potential for even more velocity as he adds muscle.

Add those ingredients to the fact that Carranza is already 24 years old and his strikeout numbers skyrocketed in his last full season (where he served exclusively as a starter) and we have the recipe for a potential breakout pitcher who can rise quickly through the White Sox system.

Taylor Varnell, LHP  (Unranked)

Bats: L | Throws: L
Tools: 50 FB | 50 CH | 55 CB | 45 SL | 50 CNTRL
Age: 25
Highest Level: High-A
ETA: 2022

The White Sox drafted Taylor Varnell out of Oral Roberts University in the 29th round (858 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft.

After a solid first two seasons at Oral Roberts, Varnell struggled mightily during his 2018 senior season. During his senior season, Varnell compiled an ugly 5.95 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 59 innings, including 11 starts out of his 18 appearances. Particularly troublesome was the return of Varnell’s control issues, evidence by a ballooned 4.6 BB/9. Further, Varnell plunked 11 batters over just 59 innings, compared to just 3 batters over his prior 51.1 innings.

However, Varnell rebounded in a major way in his 2018 professional debut and dominated Arizona League hitters. In 2018, Varnell posted an amazing 1.97 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 61/10 K/BB in 10 starts across 45.2 innings. Moreover, Varnell demonstrated a combination of strikeout stuff and control with an elite 33.2 strikeout percentage (K%) and minuscule 5.4% walk percentage (BB%). For some perspective, those would have been tied for the sixth-highest K% (tied with Aaron Nola) and the seventh-lowest BB% amongst all qualified starting pitchers in 2020.

Varnell followed up his stellar 2018 debut with another solid professional stint in 2019. In 2019, Varnell compiled an impressive 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 136/44 K/BB in 24 starts across 127.1 innings. However, Varnell also saw his BB/9 rise back to 3.1 BB/9, after settling at 2.o BB/9 in his 2018 debut. For reference, according to Fangraphs Sabermetric Library, while a 2.0 BB/9 is considered almost “Great” (the second-highest rating), a 3.1 BB/9 is considered almost “Below average” (the third-lowest rating).

One big reason for Varnell’s success is his slow, looping curveball. According to Varnell “[t]he curveball may not be my best pitch, but it’s my favorite pitch. I grew up watching Barry Zito, and he had this big curveball, I tried to replicate it.” Further, according to Trevor Wilt, radio broadcaster and baseball operations executive for the Kannapolis Intimidators “[Varnell’s] curveball is something that is very impressive. He’s got that heavy bite on that slow-breaking pitch. It backdoors those righties, they just can’t stay in there long enough. It almost looks effortless.”

If you grew up watching Barry Zito torment hitters with his knee-buckling 12-6 curveball like I did, you can’t help but get excited by Zito curveball comps. If you didn’t, take two minutes to enjoy the filth that is Barry Zito’s curveball:

Now that we’re all cleaned up, let’s get back to business.

In addition to his signature curveball, Varnell sports a low-90s MPH fastball that can get up to 94 MPH. Further, Varnell possesses a fading changeup that has flashed above-average potential and a developing slider.

When the White Sox drafted Varnell, they announced him as a reliever. Yet, Varnell has started all 34 of his professional appearances in the White Sox organization. Though Varnell is almost 26 years old, he has never pitched above High-A. However, there is no denying how impressive Varnell has been to this point in his professional career.



Varnell will need to continue developing his command to maximize his back-end starter potential, but he has a quality three-pitch mix and that curveball a thing of beauty. I think that 2021 will be a big year for Varnell. With a good showing to start the year, Varnell could rise rapidly through the White Sox system and have many wondering why he was not higher ranked in the first place.


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About Matt Wiener

Matt is based in New York and is passionate about fantasy baseball and New York sports. He is a fan of the Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Knicks, St. John's, and Ohio State. You can follow Matt on twitter at @mattydubbz13.

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