Frank Thomas smashed baseball’s in the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Paul Konerko led the Chicago White Sox to their last World Series Championship in 2005. And, Jose Abreu was the most consistent defensive and offensive player in the most recent years for the Sox. To say the White Sox have been spoiled with great first-basemen, is to say the least.
Chicago is in the midst of a young gun already taking over a warm seat at first in former White Sox No. 2 prospect Andrew Vaughn. However, there is an unranked prospect that is taking the minor leagues by storm.
Tim Elko is a 6-foot-4, 240 pound, first-baseman out of the University of Mississippi. Elko was a 2022 10th round pick and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. Despite making a name for himself in the minor league system this year, Elko was already well known at the collegiate level.
The Ole Miss product led the team in home runs (24), RBI (75) and slugging percentage (.642) in his senior season, while leading them to their first World Series Championship in school history.
The 24-year-old is exactly how he sounds, powerful. Elko ranked just outside the top-20 of minor league home run hitters this past season with 28, which would have been the second-most on the White Sox. The Ole Miss Alum smacked a ton of homers but more impressively, he knew how to drive in runs as he ranked fifth in the minors with 106 RBI.
The big man played most of his games in the 2023 season with Low-A Kannapolis. During his time with the Cannon Ballers, he played 66 games and led them in homers (17) and OPS (.916), which finished the season as the team’s best in each category. Elko showed on a daily basis that he deserved the nod to the next level, especially posting a 153 wRC+.
Elko was tossed up to the High-A level in June, and embraced the new challenge. He continued to be dominant from the plate collecting five homers and 26 RBI, in 31 games for the Dash. Elko also garnered his lowest strikeout percentage of his career in 23.7% as well as his highest OPS in .943.
Some would have thought he would show signs of regressing, but not in Winston-Salem. Elko played so well that the first-basemen made the jump to Double-A in half the time it took him to get to High-A. The move was made in August, and he would spend the rest of 2023 with the Barons.
For people who are familiar with the minor leagues, Double-A is the first big transition a player makes. Elko’s numbers declined, however they do not tell the whole story of his time back in the south.
Elko in the first month tied for the third-best batting average on the team with .313, while collecting the sixth-best OPS in .821. The power hitter was one of the most consistent bats on the Barons, which is why he saw himself be placed in the lineup nearly every day as both a DH and at first.
Tim was streaky in Double-A, showing some growing pains as well as star power. Elko was the Barons co-series spotlight for his efforts against the Chattanooga Lookouts. In the series, Elko hit .360 with four RBI, one double, two home runs and an OPS of 1.025. And, in the last series of the season Elko collected nine RBI with two home runs, one being a grand-slam.
He saw his numbers start to dip as the season went on, as expected, jumping through three minor league levels in one season. One part of Elko’s game at the plate that has started to struggle was his strikeout rate. If he can continue to put balls into play with his power, instead of leaving the plate down with three strikeouts, good things will continue to come for the youngster.
The power hitter is impressive at the plate, but way more than just his bat as he has been rather sure-handed throughout his short career so far. Elko has only dipped below the .990 FPCT% mark once in his career, which came in his first season in the minors. He posted numbers above .991 all the way through the 2023 season.
Elko has a lot to prove until he gets looked at for the big leagues. But, how the White Sox are playing and how he is progressing, don’t be surprised if it is sooner rather than later.
The Sox, in general, are not in the best position. They have an aging roster of underperforming players. And, a farm system that just saw the majority of their teams finish towards the bottom of their respective leagues. The last thing that the Sox can do is be complacent.
The southside of Chicago, whether they want to admit it or not, is going to need to go through a rebuild. One that has them taking a good look at all positions. Well, except for center field as Luis Robert Jr. is the one player they are trying to build around. So, let’s do some due diligence.
Vaughn has been coming into his own as 2023 was his first full season as the main first baseman on the team. Vaughn hit .258/.314/.429, and bashed 21 home runs. The most in University of California-Berkeley’s young career, which isn’t surprising as he consistently has ranked as one of the top power hitters in the MLB. Vaughn in 2021 ranked in the top five percent of the MLB for Max Velocity in 115.0 MPH, and ranked top 10 percent in hard hit percentage in 2022 at 48.6%.
We could go on about the promising career of Mr. Vaughn, but that is not the main point of this. The White Sox have long had an up-and-coming first baseman that has had to wait his turn to take over the reins. Thomas passed it to Konerko, Konerko to Abreu and Abreu to Vaughn.
Vaughn is only 25 years old, and deserves his time at first with no distractions.
With that being said, everyone knows the cruelty of being a player. At any moment you could be replaced. Yes, Vaughn needs to be better but so do the White Sox. In order for the White Sox to be the best that they can be, they have to be ready to reload at any position.
Elko gives the southside of Chicago that potential.