White Sox prospects hope to live up to hype

Cheered at SoxFest, young players realize they have room to grow

White Sox prospects hope to live up to hype

CHICAGO -- One by one, the plethora of top White Sox prospects were introduced and walked down the runway to the massive stage during SoxFest opening ceremonies at the Hilton Chicago on Friday.

Fans gave thunderous responses and countless low-fives to Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, some of the new kids on the White Sox Top 30 block courtesy of the Chris Sale trade with Boston and the Adam Eaton deal with Washington. The cheers continued for Zack Collins, Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Charlie Tilson and Tyler Danish, who were in the organization before this offseason.

Preparations for '17 Draft well underway

And the plaudits didn't stop for the next three days. That energy became a form of extra motivation for a group who have combined to play 26 games at the big league level and are working to develop their Major League chops, despite now occupying six positions in MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.

Top Prospects: Kopech, CWS

"It's tons of motivation," said Kopech after his final question-and-answer seminar Sunday with Danish, Tilson and Matt Davidson. "These [fans] are coming up to me and telling me and Giolito when we were walking around together, 'You guys are the future.' It's like, I haven't pitched an inning in Double-A yet.

"That's incredible to have fans that are that dedicated all the way through the system. For us, it's very motivating. To be expected to be a part of this is extremely motivating."

White Sox supporters wholeheartedly backed a rebuild in the midst of a postseason drought dating back to 2008. They watched the process work to a championship caliber on the north side of Chicago and do very well in Houston. They watched general manager Rick Hahn raise a burgeoning but still bottom-half Minor League system with two trades following a great '16 Major League Draft class and a strong international signing period.

An off-the-charts level of excitement is understandable, but these young players won't totally get caught up in the frenzy. They can't get to the Majors before they reach Double-A, which is the case for some of these impressive talents.

Moncada named No. 2 prospect

"I came in and I expected the fans to not pay too much attention to me, and it's almost like I'm one of the main focuses here. The fans are unbelievable," Kopech said. "Wherever you go, they are right there on your tail asking you questions.

"They are dedicated, very dedicated. At the same time, I have to realize that you know I'm not here yet. So I can't get caught up in all of this. Eventually I will be here and you know, it's cool to see how dedicated they are right now. But I have to realize I'm not a star. These guys are treating me like I am right now, but I'm not yet."

This young core was part of Friday's SoxFest-induced workout on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus for coaches and front-office members. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper liked what he witnessed with side sessions involving Kopech, Giolito and Burdi, to name a few, and the fans, without seeing many of these players throw a single pitch live, hold the same affinity for their ability.

As Hahn pointed out, this rebuild is an ongoing process. It's a true statement for development, as well as celebrated acquisitions.

SoxFest energizes team, fans

"What we want people to understand is that development isn't always linear. There's going to be setbacks," Hahn said. "Some of these guys are going to come quickly and some will take longer. None of us are smart enough to know which ones are which just yet.

"Our job is to acquire as many of them as possible to get fans excited about the variety of different guys and know some will fulfill that promise, and some will surprise for the good and some of them might not pan out the way we hope. We get enough of them, we are going to be all right."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.