After turning Chris Sale and Adam Eaton into seven quality prospects in a pair of deals at the Winter Meetings, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn continued to relentlessly pursue young talent as he rebuilds his team. Hahn swung eight trades in July and August, parting with nine veterans and some international bonus pool money to get 13 Minor Leaguers, including three Top 100 Prospects and three former first-round picks.
Outfielder Blake Rutherford, the only player who falls into both categories, is one of several summer acquisitions taking part in Chicago's instructional league program, which began Sept. 16 and will run through Oct. 14 in Glendale, Ariz. He highlighted a four-player package the Yankees gave up for Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson on July 19.
The No. 18 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Rutherford raked in his pro debut after signing for $3,282,000, batting .351/.415/.570 in Rookie ball. He didn't have as much success in low Class A during his first full season, hitting .260/.326/.348 with just two homers in 101 games.
The White Sox aren't worried about his modest power production in 2017. They still see a player with the size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), strength, bat speed and left-handed stroke to do plenty of damage at the plate once he's fully developed. Rather than make any major changes with him in instructional league, they're just emphasizing fundamentals such as staying balanced at the plate and maintaining a proper swing path.
"Blake can hit the ball very hard," White Sox farm director Chris Getz said. "He uses the whole field. Over time, he'll get a better feel of what pitches he's capable of driving. It may take a couple of years. It's not something that is going to change in a couple of weeks.
"We like where he's at. Physically, he's a good-sized kid. He's got strength all through his body, a smooth stroke, a high baseball IQ. He's going to be able to do some things."
Like Rutherford, right-hander Dylan Cease, the White Sox No. 5 prospect, has a high ceiling but also needs time to develop. A potential first-rounder in the 2014 Draft before he blew out his elbow that spring, he had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing for $1.5 million as a sixth-rounder with the Cubs.
The Cubs handled him carefully, pitching him just 110 1/3 innings in three seasons before sending him across town in a July 13 deal for Jose Quintana that also included outfielder Eloy Jimenez, one of the best prospects in the game. The White Sox kept him on tight pitch counts as well, never letting him top 90 in an outing as he lost eight of his nine starts in Class A with his new organization. His record was misleading, however, as he posted a 3.89 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings.
Cease can reach 100 mph and sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, and his power curveball can devastate hitters just as much. His main needs are to add polish and experience. He has made strides with trusting his changeup and streamlining his mechanics, but still has work to do in both areas.
"We're still getting to know Dylan and he's still getting to know us," Getz said. "He's got arm strength and he's got a good curveball. We'll do whatever we can to help him improve his changeup, repeat his delivery, get better fastball command. Pretty standard stuff. He has a chance to be a pretty good pitcher."
Three other prospects from in-season trades are full participants in instructional league. Left-handers Ian Clarkin (a 2013 first-rounder who was part of the seven-player deal with the Yankees) and Andre Davis (one of two pitchers received from the Royals for Melky Cabrera on July 30) are getting more innings after missing time with minor late-season injuries. Athletic infielder Ti'Quan Forbes, obtained from the Rangers for Miguel Gonzalez on Aug. 31, is working on managing the strike zone and making more contact.
Two more trade pickups are part of Chicago's rehab program in instructs. Outfielder Ryan Cordell had back problems and didn't play in the White Sox system after the Brewers dealt him for Anthony Swarzak on July 26, but he has had no issues while in Glendale and should be 100 percent in spring training. Middle infielder Yeyson Yrizarri, plucked from the Rangers in exchange for international pool money on July 15, broke the hamate bone in his left hand in August and the White Sox hope he'll be able to fully participate in their Dominican Republic instructional league in November.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.