2017 MLB Draft

White Sox hope dive into water polo pool pans out

White Sox hope dive into water polo pool pans out

The White Sox went so far outside of the box with draft pick Sam Abbott that they wound up in the pool.

Whereas 34 of the team’s 40 picks were spent on college players with proven track records, the White Sox bought a lottery ticket with a potentially huge payoff when they selected the three-time Washington high school water polo MVP in the eighth round of last week’s draft. The White Sox know they possess a work in progress in Abbott, who officially signed with the club on Monday and reported to the team’s facility in Glendale, Ariz. But scouts and club officials feel if Abbott can ever tap into the potential he put on display in a workout earlier this month that gambling on the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder would be worth the risk.

“This is one of the most unique stories we’ve ever drafted,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “This is going to take some time, there’s going to be some patience. But this is one of those high-risk, high-rewards where if this hits, it’s a story good enough for a movie.”

Though the White Sox think it could take Abbott time to develop into a bonafide power hitter, it’s no surprise to Abbott’s high school baseball coach that he quickly chose baseball over water polo. Curtis High School (Tacoma, Wash.) coach Bryan Robinson said other area coaches wondered about what Abbott might do after the White Sox selected him with the 237th pick in the draft, a pick with a $161,600 slot value. Abbott had committed to play water polo at Long Beach State on a partial scholarship. He’d helped Curtis High win consecutive state titles. And he’d had success immediately after setting foot in the pool as a freshman.

But Robinson suspected that Abbott would sign immediately with the White Sox, who had flown him to Chicago for a June 4 workout at Guaranteed Rate Field. Even though he was a stud in the pool, Robinson knew Abbott loved baseball as much as the other sports.

“His freshman year he was the Washington state player of the year in water polo,” Robinson said. “He had a ton of success in the pool. But at the same time was playing baseball in the spring and summer ball. Swimming and water polo were just kind of taking the driver’s seat in terms of him getting noticed a little bit.”

“I didn’t even question (if he’d sign). The White Sox made a really big commitment. That’s something you don’t turn your back on.”

[MORE: What Carlos Rodon still needs to accomplish before he returns to White Sox] 

The White Sox initially noticed Abbott when area scout Robbie Cummings went to see an opposing school’s pitcher. Cummings immediately liked Abbott’s frame and his power potential and began to push Abbott on Hostetler. Ultimately, Cummings convinced the White Sox to bring Abbott to Chicago for the workout and that’s where Jim Thome, the club’s special assistant to the general manager took notice.

“He was hitting balls so far Jim was standing there and (asked) ‘Who is this kid?’ ” Hostetler said. “I even had to pull out the roster to look.”

Once Thome heard Abbott’s backstory he was further intrigued. Abbott had never spent more than a few months a year playing baseball as swimming is a year-round sport in Washington. Abbott also had never participated in a baseball-specific conditioning program because swimming always got in the way --- not that Robinson minded.

“We knew that he was actually probably getting a better workout by being in the pool,” Robinson said.

And then there’s the sheer raw power Abbott brings. Thome liked how Abbott put on a show, hitting a number of balls out to left-center field at Guaranteed Rate Field. Abbott is one of several power bats the White Sox added through the draft along with first-rounder Jake Burger and second-rounder Gavin Sheets.

“The bat does speak,” Thome said. “It’s exciting to think where a kid like this has come from. He doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear.

“It’s exciting to see what he could potentially be.

“It’ll be fun to see how this translates.”

The White Sox plan to be patient with their project. Hostetler said Abbott could spend as much as two seasons at rookie ball in order to create a steady foundation.

“It’s going to be a long process for Sam,” Hostetler said. “He wasn’t on the circuit. He wasn’t an Area Codes guy.”

Patience and concentration on baseball alone is all Robinson thinks his player needs. Abbott has also worked out in front of Nomar Garciaparra this year and the ex-All-Star shortstop had “good things to say.” Robinson loves Abbott’s approach at the plate because he knows his strike zone well and what pitches he does damage on. Abbott knows how to let the ball travel and the ball jumps off his bat. And Robinson thinks Abbott’s mindset is perfect for baseball because he knows how to hit the reset button and start over the next day.

All it took was someone else seeing it, a process that began with Cummings and picked up with Thome’s observations.

“We knew he could play at the next level just with his swing,” Robinson said. “Honestly it was a matter of if he wanted to.

“I overheard the conversation he had with Jim Thome and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really going to take off.’”

“Eighth round, that was something special.”

From Burger to King, why White Sox are pleased with a whopper of a draft

From Burger to King, why White Sox are pleased with a whopper of a draft

The White Sox wrapped up their 2017 MLB Draft on Wednesday by drafting, among others, an alum of the team’s ACE program and the sons of legendary talk show host Larry King and former Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean. 

Riley Crean, a 6-foot-3 right-hander from Bloomington, Ind., was a 35th round pick; Chance King, a right-hander from Beverly Hills, Calif., was a 39th round pick and Angelo Smith, a left-hander from Harold L. Richards High School in Calumet Park, were among the 30 players drafted by the White Sox in rounds 11-40. Those three aforementioned players are high schoolers and aren’t expected to sign, though it’s nonetheless an honor to be picked. 

“Riley is 86 to 90 (miles per hour), good breaking ball at 78,” Hostetler said. “There's a lot of projection on Riley, 6-foot-4. Tom has become a close friend of mine, we've talked in detail about it. Riley is going to go to school but he was also on our Area Code team. 

“The breaking ball shows us, because how hard he throws it, there's projection with the fastball. It was an exciting time. I had a chance to call him and they sent me a video they had taken, it pulls at my heartstrings to watch a kid get drafted, the excitement of the family and the parents and everybody.”

Some of Wednesday’s earlier picks were singled out by director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler as being intriguing prospects, including:

— 11th round Indiana State right-hander (and Riverside, Ill. native) Will Kincanon, who “is a big power arm righty from Indiana State that we were excited to get,” Hostetler said.  
— 14th round South Carolina outfielder Alex Destino, who Hostetler said has “big power” and was at one point on the White Sox draft board as a potential third-rounder. 
— 16th round Louisville center fielder Logan Taylor is, on the 20-80 scale, a 70 runner, Hostetler said. 

The White Sox drafted 22 pitchers (14 right-handers, eight left-handers), two catchers, nine infielders and seven outfielders in a draft skewed far more toward college players (34) than high school (six). While the team’s top picks — first-rounder Jake Burger and second-rounder Gavin Sheets — will deservedly garner most of the attention, Hostetler wrapped up the 2017 draft feeling optimistic about the newest additions to the White Sox farm system. 

“We added high-impact, power, middle of the order bats that really control the strike zone,” Hostetler said. “That was our key. We started adding some guys who can run today and we had some big power arms. Hopefully a few of those develop into starters but we definitely got some solid big time bullpen pieces today.”

MLB Draft Tracker: White Sox stockpile farm system on Day 3

MLB Draft Tracker: White Sox stockpile farm system on Day 3

The White Sox went with a heavy dose of productive college players on the first two days of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Sam Abbot, a first baseman out of Curtis High School, is the only preps player the White Sox have selected during the first 10 rounds of the draft.

With final day of the draft underway, CSNChicago.com is tracking all the players the White Sox add to their farm system Wednesday afternoon:

Round 11: Will Kincanon (RHP), Indiana State

The Chicagoland native went 5-5 with a 5.24 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP with 93 strikeouts in 14 starts with the Sycamores this season.

Round 12: Justin Yurchak (3B), SUNY-Binghampton

After transferring from Wake Forest, Yurchak had a slash line  of .320/.474/.442 with a 41/12 K/BB ratio in 2017.

Round 13: Tate Blackman (2B), Ole Miss

In his junior season at Ole Miss, Blackman had nine homers and 30 RBI. He also added nine stolen bases.

Round 14: Alex Destino (OF), South Carolina

Destino belted 26 homers with 135 RBI during his three years with the Gamecocks.

Round 15: Tyler Frost (CF), Gonzaga

Frost had a .284/.372/.442 slash line with nine homers and 39 RBI in 2017.

Round 16: Logan Taylor (CF), Louisville

Taylor becomes the third player the White Sox have selected out of Louisville in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Round 17: Blake Battenfield (RHP), Oklahoma State

The 6-foot-3 right-hander made 22 appearances for the Cowboys in 2017 and had a 5-4 record with a 4.91 ERA.

Round 18: Hunter Kiel (RHP), LSU

No relation to former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel or D2: The Mighty Ducks star Gunnar Stahl.

Round 19: Anthony Herron (RHP), Missouri State

Before transferring to Missouri State, Herron had a 15-4 record with a 2.41 ERA and 219 strikeouts at Jefferson College.

Round 20: David Cronin (2B), UIC

The Sandburg High School graduate batted .313 and had six home runs and 32 RBI for the Flames.

Round 21: John Parke (LHP), South Carolna

The 6-foot-3 left-hander had an 8.53 ERA in 14 appearances with the Gamecocks this season.

Round 22: Joseph Benitez (LHP), South Carolina Aiken

Benitez was named PBC Pitcher of the Year and was a first-team all-league selection in 2017.

Round 23: Mikey Duarte (SS), UC Irvine

Duarte had a .320/.395/.448 slash line with a 19/19 K/BB ratio in 2017.

Round 24: Vince Arobio (RHP), Pacific

In 24 appearances, Arobio had a 3.86 ERA with 44 strikeouts.

Round 25: Jose Garcia (OF), Texas Rio Grande Valley

Garcia led the Vaqueros with seven homers and was third on the club with 33 RBI.

Round 26: Michael Staudinger (OF), Azusa Pacific

Staudinger batted .359 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI.

Round 27: JJ Muno (SS), UC Santa Barbara

Muno had 31 stolen bases in his three years with the Gauchos.

Round 28: Laz Rivera (IF), Tampa

After transferring from Chipola College, Rivera had four home runs and 32 RBI in his first season with the Spartans.

Round 29: Joe Mockbee (LHP), Michigan State

The Ohio native made 28 appearances out of the Spartans bullpen had a 5.15 ERA in 2017.

Round 30: Ryan Erickson (LHP), Iowa

Erickson started 12 games for the Hawkeyes in 2017 and had a 3.00 ERA in 75 innings.

Round 31: Parker Rigler (LHP), Kansas State

Parker made Wildcats history this season when he tossed the program's first no-hitter since 1991 in a 14-0 victory over Eastern Illinois in March.

Round 32: Greg Minier (LHP), Washington

Minier had a 3.53 ERA with 41 strikouts out of the Huskies bullpen

Round 33: Kevin George (LHP) Menlo College

Can't confirm, but there's a chance he could be a distant relative of Curious George.

Round 34: Michael McCormick (RHP), Eastern Illinois

McCormick had a 1-6 record with a 7.45 ERA in 12 starts last season.

Round 35: Riley Crean (RHP), Bloomington High School

Riley Crean is the son of former Indiana basketball head coach Tom Crean.

Round 36: Alex Widmer (RHP), Norwayne High School

The right-handed pitcher is committed to play baseball at Malone University. 

Round 37: Ted Andrews (RHP), Tulane

Andrews had a 6.06 ERA in 15 appearances for the Green Wave in 2017.

Round 38: Dylan Horvitz (C), New Trier

Horvitz helped the Trevians to a 4th place finish in Illinois.

Round 39: Chance King (RHP), IMG Academy

Chance King is the son of television personality Larry King (from his eighth marriage).

Round 40: Angelo Smith (LHP), Richards

Smith was on the pitching staff at Richards High School in the Chicagoland area.