Justin Jirschele managed many of the top prospects in the Chicago White Sox farm system last season at Double-A Birmingham.
“The talent speaks for itself — on paper and on the field,” Jirschele, whom the Sox recently promoted to manage Triple-A Charlotte, said during a video conference Friday. “For me, there’s a ton of optimism and a ton of excitement with what’s coming.”
Some players, such as Oscar Colás, could be called up to the big leagues very soon. The outfielder is expected to compete for the opening in right field. Sean Burke is an option to provide pitching depth. And shortstop Colson Montgomery, the team’s first-round pick in 2021, continues to work his way through the minors.
All three will be at Sox spring training as non-roster invitees. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15, while the first full-squad workout is Feb. 20 at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.
Here is a closer look at the trio of prospects.
From late April to mid-July, all Montgomery did was get on base.
The organization’s top prospect according to Baseball America put together a 50-game on-base streak with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem. He posted a .344/.448/.519 slash line during the stretch.
“As far as makeup and tools, the biggest thing that jumps out for me is how natural things come to him on both sides of the baseball, offensively and defensively,” Jirschele said. “He’s always comfortable in the sense of the game doesn’t speed up on him, physically or mentally.”
Montgomery, 20, slashed .274/.381/.429 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 96 games last season at Kannapolis (45 games), Winston-Salem (37 games) and Birmingham (14 games). He joined the Barons in late August, taking part in “Project Birmingham” as some of the organization’s top prospects spent the final weeks of the 2022 season at Double A.
Baseball America ranks Montgomery No. 39 on its list of the top 100 prospects.
“He’s always eager to learn because he knows that’s how he’s going to get himself better on the mental side of the game, and that will ultimately help him physically as well as he moves on,” Jirschele said. “He’s just got a mature approach about everything he does, especially for a kid who is not 21.”
Colás’ 2022 began by agreeing to a deal with the Sox that was announced during the international signing period in January. His year included representing the organization at the All-Star Futures Game and homering at three minor-league levels.
The organization’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, Colás’ 2023 might include becoming the starting right fielder for the Sox.
The 24-year-old had a combined .314/.371/.524 slash line with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs in 117 games last season with Winston-Salem (59 games), Birmingham (51) and Charlotte (seven).
“He’s a guy who has really good hands at the plate, certainly has power, has a good arm, he loves to compete and plays passionately,” assistant general manager/player development Chris Getz said during a video conference on Jan. 31. “He has a chance to be an impactful major-league player.”
Baseball America ranks Colás as its No. 89 prospect.
“Everything he does is next level,” Jirschele said. “He can carry a team both offensively and defensively. He brings a ton of energy, he’s a competitor, he wants to win.
“He shows up every day wanting to win. His teammates love him. He’s a spectacular talent and excited to see what’s in store for him coming up.”
Last year, Davis Martin emerged as a dependable arm when the Sox needed more pitching. This season, the Sox might look to Burke, a third-round pick in 2021, to aid in that department.
“He’s got a power fastball, he can land an above-average breaking ball (and) his slider continues to get better,” Getz said of Burke, the Sox’s No. 5 prospect per Baseball America. “He’s a guy that’s been working hard with his changeup as well. He’s a guy that’s going to be able to add innings.
“Last year he had a very productive year. Certainly one of our better starters in the minor leagues and worked his way up to Triple A. He’s a guy that we view as a rotation piece fairly soon and can be for the foreseeable future. We’re excited for Sean’s 2023.”
The 6-foot-6 Burke, 23, went 4-10 with a 4.75 ERA and 137 strikeouts while starting in all but one of his 27 appearances last season for Winston-Salem (five starts), Birmingham (19 starts) and Charlotte (two starts). He was the Southern League Pitcher of the Month in August with a 2.57 ERA in five starts, striking out 38 in 21 innings during that span for the Barons.
“Big, strong, power arm and another guy, on the pitching side of it, who the game is never too fast for him,” Jirschele said. “He’s able to slow it down. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s got great secondary stuff to go with the good fastball.
“He’s that type (of) guy where it’s: ‘I’m out here. I’m better than you. Here I come. I’m going to give you my best stuff, regardless of how I’m feeling this day and this inning, this pitch.’ Just a fierce competitor and looking for him to continue to propel in the right direction on his path to Chicago.”
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