<
>
Insider

Young White Sox hurlers offer fantasy potential

With a recent promotion to Triple-A, hard-throwing White Sox prospect Michael Kopech is one step closer to the bigs. Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This season’s Chicago White Sox occupy last place in the AL Central. The lack of pitching has obviously played a role, as the club’s starters have struggled to a 5.21 ERA, including Monday’s doubleheader. The rotations for the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds are the only ones worse. This isn’t likely to be the case in a year or two, because the White Sox boast several excellent pitching prospects that fantasy owners will want to get to know soon, if they already do not.

The one I’m the most interested in isn’t likely to debut in the majors in 2017. Right-hander Michael Kopech was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte recently and made his first start Monday, allowing single runs in the first two innings, but settled in and tossed five frames, striking out four. Kopech was the No. 7 prospect in Keith Law’s midseason update, and the very first pitcher, so that speaks volumes. He reaches 100 mph with his fastball regularly, struck out more than 11 hitters per nine innings at Double-A Birmingham and should make the majors in 2018. There’s ace potential here.

The other top right-handers are in the majors. Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito came over in the offseason trade from the Washington Nationals involving outfielder Adam Eaton, and each are readily available in ESPN standard leagues. They probably should be, but if you’re in a dynasty format, go get them if they’re somehow available. Lopez piled on the strikeouts for Charlotte and has made two starts for the White Sox, struggling with control but missing bats. Giolito might be more of a mid-rotation starter than promised ace, as he was inconsistent at Triple-A, and he debuts in the majors Tuesday.

The fourth name is Carson Fulmer, a first-round selection in 2015 out of Vanderbilt who, like the others, should amass many strikeouts, but also struggles with control and issues too many walks. Fulmer pitched eight times in relief for last season’s White Sox but struggled this year for Charlotte, as his K rate plummeted and he permitted more hits than innings against both right-handed batters and lefties. He’s 23, so give him time. Fulmer started the second game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Twins, his first innings in the majors this season, and it went poorly. The Twins scored six runs off him in the second inning.

With these four power right-handers plus young lefty Carlos Rodon, who won Monday’s first game with 6 1/3 effective innings and amassed nine strikeouts, the White Sox really do have the makings of a desirable rotation. Kopech would still rank first for me for fantasy purposes among the crew, even over Rodon, a three-year veteran with 61 big league starts. It’s not that I don’t think Rodon can get better, because he should. He throws hard and boasts an elite slider. Kopech could be Max Scherzer. Dare to dream, White Sox fans and fantasy owners.

Meanwhile, we’re nearing September and there will be prospects called up to the major leagues, but as noted in this space last week, I’m not confident many will become instant fantasy stars. Colleague AJ Mass recommended a Triple-A prospect per team in his most recent column, so check it out. One name I’ll add to the list is Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, hitting better than .300 with power since July began, and taking ground balls at third base, perhaps preparing to usurp the starting role from underwhelming incumbent Maikel Franco.

Monday hitting notes

Speaking of White Sox, even though he wasn’t much of a prospect and his promotion to the majors went mostly unnoticed, we have to be intrigued by Nicky Delmonico. He homered again and has six of them in his first 19 games. He hit 12 in 99 games for Charlotte. What interests me: 11 walks versus 13 strikeouts. There was no harbinger of that coming. He’s third base eligible and will add outfield after two more games.

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock homered in Monday’s win, just his sixth in roughly half a season of at-bats, with 22 runs batted in. Pollock, a fantasy superstar in 2015, has durability issues but in the games he’s played this season has disappointed. A sixth-round pick in ESPN ADP this year, he likely leaves the top 100 in 2018.

Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco hit three-run homers in consecutive at-bats over two games Monday, and is hitting .347 over the past month, but it hasn’t been much of a breakout season. Polanco, 23, profiles as someone capable of double-digit homers and steals and might still get there, and his 2018 could be interesting.

Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo missed Monday’s game due to concussion symptoms suffered in a collision with reliever Matt Bush Sunday, and it seems likely a disabled list stint is pending, so be prepared. Only two hitters have more home runs than Gallo’s 35, while three hitters have struck out more. Losing Gallo for a week will hurt fantasy owners desperate for every last home run.

Monday pitching notes

I noted more than a few times watching New York Mets lefty Steven Matz struggle that he must be hurt, for his numbers were simply terrible and that’s not him. He should be really good unless something is preventing it. Something was. Matz hit the disabled list Monday for a nerve issue in his throwing elbow. I hardly think it’s presumptive to declare his fantasy relevance this season is over. Overmatched lefty Tommy Milone will replace him in the New York rotation, so get ready to stack hitters versus him.

Let’s talk Los Angeles Dodgers, both good and bad news. First, the good! Lefty Clayton Kershaw threw a simulated game against teammates Monday, is scheduled to start for Triple-A Oklahoma City this weekend and could actually aid fantasy rosters on Sept. 1 against the Padres. Despite missing the past month he remains the No. 3 pitcher and No. 5 overall option on the full-season Player Rater. And the bad? Lefty Alex Wood has a shoulder issue that figures to land him on the DL any minute now. Don’t cut him yet, but he might be kept in bubble wrap for October.