The White Sox selected a pair of college closers on Day 2 of the baseball draft and immediately announced their plans to start them.
The White Sox selected four more position players in between the third and 10th rounds and four right-handed pitchers. All but one of the eight players selected spent the 2017 season at the collegiate level. The one who didn’t, eighth-rounder Samuel Abbott, is an elite water polo player who is considered a long-term project and reportedly was stunned by the team’s decision to draft him.
Some were equally surprised the White Sox would draft college relievers and make them starters. But amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler thinks fourth-rounder Lincoln Henzman and fifth-rounder Tyler Johnson can handle the challenge.
“Lincoln started some last year for Louisville,” Hostetler said. “He started in the Cape. We’ve seen him start a lot. (Louisville coach Dan McDonnell) believes he’s a starter.
“Tyler Johnson has big, big stuff. His stuff is better than Lincoln’s. Lincoln has a little bit more feel and pitchability, but Tyler has the mechanics that can start. He just needs to be stretched out. He had a long little layoff from an injury and came back guns a blazing. He has looked great since.”
The White Sox had the same idea about Single-A Winston-Salem starter Dane Dunning, who mostly pitched in relief at Florida. The White Sox wanted to draft Dunning last year but drafted Zack Burdi instead. They acquired Dunning from Washington in the Adam Eaton trade.
The White Sox were also very pleased to find New Mexico outfielder Luis Gonzalez available in the third round. The White Sox knew early on in the process they liked Gonzalez’s talent. Though Gonzalez has spent his collegiate career in a hitter friendly park at altitude, Hostetler said the White Sox analytics department believes his numbers haven’t been drastically skewed.
“I wouldn’t read too much into altitude and playing in that conference,” Hostetler said.
The White Sox were also extremely pleased to find Libertyville-product Evan Skoug available in the seventh round. MLB.com ranked the Texas Christian University catcher the No. 48 best player in the draft.
“He’s a very driven kid,” Hostetler said. “He’s using this as a little bit of a slap in the face. He’s excited to come back home. He’s a Libertyville kid. He’s driven right now. There’s going to be a little chip on his shoulder. I expect to see some pretty impressive College World Series out of him. He’s ready to get going.”
The White Sox were willing to take a shot on Abbott, a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder who is new to baseball. Abbott has a water polo scholarship to Long Beach State and was so unprepared to be drafted that he had to be pulled out of class to hear his name called.
“The parents were in the athletic director's office, they had to go get him out of class so he could listen to it when we drafted him,” Hostetler said. “So we gave him the heads up and mom and dad were excited, the kid was excited.”