The full overhaul of the White Sox continued Wednesday afternoon with the trading of Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals. If there was any doubt after the Chris Sale trade that the White Sox are committing to a full tear down, that doubt was washed away with the news of the Eaton deal.
Eaton becomes the second of the Sox young, controllable, assets to be sent elsewhere following the trade of Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Tuesday. And much like the Sale trade, the White Sox appear to have gotten maximum value for a top level player.
The Sox got three prospects back from Washington for Eaton, all of which ranked among their top-six. The centerpiece of the deal is pitcher Lucas Giolito, the Nats number one prospect and the third overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. Both of the other players involved are also pitchers, so let’s dive into it.
Giolito is a 22-year-old right handed pitcher, and was the 16th overall pick of the 2012 draft. He has long been heralded as a can’t miss type pitching prospect. He has an 80 tool rated fastball, the highest on the scale. To go along with that he has a plus-plus curveball and an above average changeup, which has continued to improve. He is the top rated pitching prospect in baseball for a reason.
As is the case with most young pitchers, Giolito still has some work to do with fastball command and consistency with his secondary pitches. The walk rate of 3.4 per nine in the minors last year isn’t great, and was up a little from the mid-2.0 range his previous two seasons.
Giolito appeared in six games for the Nationals last year, including making four starts. He struggled quite a bit with a 6.75 ERA, a 5.1 BB/9 rate and struck out only 11 batters in 21.1 innings. He also allowed an insane seven homers in those 21.1 innings. The good news is that is a pretty small sample size and we should also keep in mind that he is just 22-years-old.
If there is one other concern about Giolito it is that he has already had Tommy John surgery. The procedure was done right after he signed with the Nationals out of high school. So even though he was drafted in 2012, he didn’t pitch a full season in the minors until 2014. There was some concern as well that his fastball velocity was only in the mid-90’s while pitching for the Nats last season, so that will be something to keep an eye on next spring.
Giolito is probably ready to go right now, and I would expect to see him in the White Sox rotation either to start the season, or shortly thereafter. If he pans out like the scouts expect, he is a potential ace in the making.
Lopez is also a 22-year-old right handed pitcher hailing from the Dominican Republic. He was the Nationals second highest pitching prospect after Giolito and ranks as the number 38 prospect overall according to MLB.com. He has a plus-plus rated fastball with an above average curveball. The changeup needs some work still.
Lopez moved quickly through the Washington system over the last two years going from low-A at the start of 2014, all the way to the big leagues last season. He appeared in 11 games for the Nationals last year, making six starts and posting a 4.91 ERA and striking out 42 batters in 44 innings. The walk rate was high, 4.5/9, but he was between 2.5-2.9 the previous three years in the minors, so I wouldn’t expect the wildness to continue.
His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and has been known to hit triple-digits at times and like Giolito, he has a power curve to go with it.
There is some discussion as to whether or not Lopez’s future will be as a starter or a reliever, but the White Sox clearly believe that he has the potential to be a starter long term.
Lopez is another candidate to either start the season with the White Sox, or at the very least get some run in the rotation at some point during the season. There will likely be some growing pains with him, but his fast rise certainly bodes well for his long term potential.
The final piece in the deal is right-hander Dane Dunning, who was the Nationals first round pick (29th overall) in this past draft. Dunning will turn 22 on December 20th, and pitched collegiately at Florida. Due to the insane depth of the Gators pitching staff, Dunning pitched out of the bullpen for the most part his final year, getting an occasional start here and there.
He has a plus-fastball tool, with an above average changeup. His breaking ball is a slider and that needs some work. The fastball sits mid-90’s with good movement, so I’m sure Don Cooper will enjoy that. The solid changeup will also play well with the Sox philosophy.
Dunning started eight games in the minors after getting drafted last year, with seven of those coming at low-A Auburn. He posted a 2.14 ERA in 33.3 innings in those seven starts, with 29 strikeouts against just seven walks.
The book is still out on whether Dunning will be a starter or a reliever but again, the Sox seem to believe his future is in the rotation. He will likely start the season at either high-A or AA for the Sox and could be a quick riser through the system. His ceiling isn’t as high as Giolito or Lopez, but he does have a chance to be a back end starter.
All three of these pitchers slide into the new, and loaded, White Sox top-10 prospects list. Giolito checks in at number two, Lopez at four, and Dunning at ten. The Sox top-10 now features six top-100 prospects according to MLB.com, and the new top four was all added in the last two days.
The future of the White Sox pitching staff looks very bright. Giolito and Lopez, along with new addition Michael Kopech, and Carson Fulmer are all ranked in the top-60 overall. Add in Carlos Rodon and you’ve got your starting five right there. And in case some of them don’t work out like you think, well that why you got a Dunning or a Spencer Adams (Sox #7) in tow as well. The Sox are stockpiling power arms, and with the way they have developed pitching in the past, that should work out very well for them.
The next step is to bring in some more offense. You might notice I didn’t mention Jose Quintana in the mix above. That is because it appears that he will be the next to go, and this time I expect Rick Hahn to be looking for some bats in return.
The haul the White Sox have gotten in these two deals is impressive. In fact the Sox allegedly got three of the four players the Nats offered them for Chris Sale in this deal for Eaton. Rick Hahn is getting rave reviews from people in baseball for committing to the rebuild and cleaning up with the young talent acquired in these deals. If he can get a couple of top-100 hitting prospects for Quintana, the Sox rebuild will be well on its way.