CHICAGO -- Recent conversations about the fast-rising White Sox Minor League system have centered on the elite players acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton deals, marking the start of the franchise's rebuilding process.
That attention becomes understandable when talking about Yoan Moncada, the top prospect in all of baseball per MLBPipeline.com, and Lucas Giolito, No. 3 in those same rankings and tops among pitchers, as two examples. But while the White Sox system wasn't even ranked in the Top 20 before these deals came together with the Red Sox and Nationals, it certainly wasn't barren in regard to Major League help in the near future.
Take Zack Collins, as an example.
While the White Sox continue searching for their catcher of the present, they believe their backstop of the future was selected 10th overall in the 2016 Draft. Collins, the club's No. 6 prospect, batted .258 with six home runs, seven doubles and 18 RBIs over 120 at-bats for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem last season. He also hit .227 with two home runs during limited Arizona Fall League action for Glendale, where Collins caught more bullpen sessions than he worked in games.
If it was only about offense, Collins is considered close to big league ready. But the 21-year-old left-handed hitter also believes in his ability behind the plate.
"Well, I have to get better at everything: Hitting too," Collins said during an AFL interview. "But I feel like I can catch at the big league level this year. I've got a lot better catching the past couple of years. In my opinion, it's a little bit easier to catch at the big league level because they throw a lot more strikes and put the ball where you need to put it."
"He's got a ton of talent," said Aaron Rowand, who managed Collins with Glendale. "Behind the dish, he looks outstanding as far as blocking and throwing. Offensively, he's got some serious pop. I think there are some things that need to be cleaned up in his swing, but he's got a long time to get that done."
The White Sox haven't had a consistent catching presence since A.J. Pierzynski's tenure from 2005-12. Collins is aware of that absence, but he feels a good sort of pressure to fill the void.
"I feel like I could be that guy. That's pretty much my goal with my career," Collins said. "I don't really try to have a timetable because if something goes wrong, you feel screwed up.
"I'm going to do my thing every day and whatever they want to do with me it's fine with me, and hopefully I get up sooner than later. If not, great. If I do, great. I'm just enjoying the time with the guys and having fun."
Zack Burdi, the team's 26th pick overall in '16, stands as the closer of the future, and the team's No. 8 prospect. He could join the White Sox early in the '17 season. Right-hander Alec Hansen had a dominant start to his professional career out of the same Draft class.
Let's not forget Carson Fulmer, now the team's No. 5 prospect after being ranked No. 1 prior to the rebuild. He struggled in his Major League debut as a reliever, but he still holds the club's confidence as a starter. These solid previous prospects remain, but the system simply has grown deeper in rich talent.