As things get better, the draft pick gets worse.
That’s the trajectory of a successful rebuild: utilizing high draft picks, which come from losing a lot of games, to win a bunch of games and stop picking at the top of the draft. The White Sox used the Nos. 4 and 3 picks in the last two drafts to take two players, Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn, who they hope will be franchise cornerstones.
While the 89 losses from 2019 are nothing to crow about, the White Sox won’t be picking so high when the 2020 draft takes place next month. They own the No. 11 pick, and they aren’t expected to land “the best all-around player in college baseball” this time around.
This year’s draft is going to look a lot different than normal, with only five rounds as owners look to cut costs. Revenues are expected to dip dramatically with the 2020 season impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and eliminating the many millions handed out to draft picks as signing bonuses is one move amid the financial maneuvering. But nonetheless, when the first round is all said and done June 10, the White Sox will walk away with a talented player to add to their bright future.
Who will they take? Baseball teams don’t draft for need like NFL and NBA teams do, so looking at the big league roster and even the minor league system, as a whole, offers little in the way of clues to even what position the White Sox will spend their top pick on.
So here’s a look at the top 20 prospects in the draft, as rated by the folks over at MLB Pipeline. One of them could be the next hyped White Sox prospect.
1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State University
Another power-hitting Pac-12 first baseman, Torkelson is getting compared to Vaughn. He hit a combined 48 homers during his freshman and sophomore seasons and walked 31 times in just 17 games before his junior season was halted by the coronavirus. The White Sox likely won’t have the opportunity to draft him, though, and could instead soon see him as a division rival. MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo has Torkelson going No. 1 overall to the Tigers in his mock draft.
2. Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt University
Described by MLB Pipeline as “the best pure hitter in the draft,” Martin has plenty of versatility. He played third base, center field and a few other positions at Vandy. But the bat’s the thing. He posted a .410 batting average and a .503 on-base percentage in 59 games during the 2019 season. Mayo’s got Martin going No. 2 to the Orioles, who took college baseball’s best player, Adley Rutschman, with the No. 1 pick a year ago.
3. Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M University
A hard-throwing lefty, Lacy dominated during his sophomore season, with a 2.13 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 130 opposing batters in 88.2 innings. And he was on his way toward following that up this year, too, having allowed just two runs in his first four starts of the season. Mayo has Lacy going to the Marlins with the No. 3 pick.
4. Emerson Hancock, RHP, University of Georgia
In his first 10 starts last season, Hancock allowed just eight runs. A lat injury knocked him out for two weeks, but his numbers still looked mighty good at season’s end: a 1.99 ERA with just 20 earned runs allowed in 14 starts. He struck out 97 and walked only 18. Mayo’s projection has Hancock going to the Mariners with the No. 6 pick.
5. Nick Gonzales, SS/2B, New Mexico State University
The MVP of last summer’s wood-bat Cape Cod League, Gonzales can hit. He put up insane numbers as a sophomore, with a .432 batting average, a .532 on-base percentage and a bonkers 1.305 OPS. In the small sample size that was the 16 games he got to play as a junior, he was even more ridiculous, getting on base at a .610 clip and homering 12 times in 16 games to contribute to a mind-scrambling 1.765 OPS. The White Sox might not want to hold out hope of landing him and should instead be fearful of where he ends up: Mayo’s got him going to the division-rival Royals at No. 4.
6. Garrett Mitchell, OF, University of California-Los Angeles
He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he plays center field. Sounds like the kind of guy a lot of big league clubs would want to mold into a star. Mitchell had 12 triples, 41 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 62 games as a sophomore last year for the Bruins and a .984 OPS that will make anyone pay attention. But he didn’t hit that many homers, and that’s why Mayo has him all the way down at No. 17 in his mock draft.
7. Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek High School (Florida)
Rated as the best high school hitter in the draft, Veen is a lefty who MLB Pipeline said has “reminded some of Cody Bellinger offensively.” That sounds good. They say he might not stick in center field, but he’s got enough talent to rank as the lone high schooler in the site’s top 10 list. Mayo’s got him as the fifth player off the board, going to the Blue Jays.
8. Reid Detmers, LHP, University of Louisville
An Illinois native, from Chatham, south of Springfield, MLB Pipeline calls Detmers “the most polished left-hander available.” A strong sophomore season helped the Cardinals reach the College World Series last year. He logged a 2.85 ERA in 17 starts, with 162 strikeouts compared to just 27 walks. Before this season came to a sudden end, he struck out 48 batters in only 22 innings. In his mock draft, Mayo has Detmers heading to the Pirates with the No. 7 pick.
9. Max Meyer, RHP, University of Minnesota
The Twins drafted this Land of 10,000 Lakes product back in 2017. But he didn’t sign, and after winning 100 games last season, they likely won’t get a crack at Meyer this time around. He was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in the middle of last season, and in 16 appearances overall, he posted a 2.11 ERA. He was doing more of the same this year, with a 1.95 ERA in four starts. MLB Pipeline says he’s got the best slider in the draft, so he might not slide very far down the board. Mayo’s got him going to the Padres at No. 8.
10. Heston Kjerstad, OF, University of Arkansas
MLB Pipeline says Kjerstad, who reached the College World Series in each of his first two college seasons, is second only to the top-ranked prospect, Torkelson, when it comes to power. He might not be the fastest, but he can mash, with 30 home runs and 108 RBIs in 132 career college games. He was off to the races this season, with a 1.304 OPS in 16 games. If Mayo’s mock hits, Kjerstad could see those college power numbers become big league reality, forecasted to go to the Rockies at No. 9.
11. Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit High School (Oregon)
Welcome to White Sox territory. The South Siders own the No. 11 pick, and while one or more of the top 10 prospects could still be around when they go on the clock, they’re guaranteed at least one of the players ranked in the top 11, a number that gets bigger the further down the list we go. Would they take a high school pitcher? Maybe. They did it in both the second and third rounds last year, and now Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist rank in the top 12 prospects in the organization. The highest ranked high school pitcher in the draft, Abel was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the Beaver State after winning the state title there. Mayo has him going to the Giants at No. 13.
12. Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio High School (Texas)
The top-ranked high school pitcher when the year started, Kelley is said to be the Lone Star State’s finest high school arm in a decade. The kid can chuck, and MLB Pipeline says he “has the look of a frontline starter who could reach the big leagues before he turns 21.” OK then. Mayo has him falling to the Mets at No. 19.
13. Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny High School (Pennsylvania)
With plenty of left-handed power, Hendrick could one day be a heavy-hitting right fielder in the majors. MLB Pipeline says “there isn't a high school hitter in the country with more upside.” Strikeouts are mentioned as a concern, but as long as he keeps hitting balls into the seats — or if Mayo’s mock comes true, onto Sheffield Avenue — teams will keep wanting him. Mayo has him going to the Cubs at No. 16.
14. Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East High School (Pennsylvania)
An early high school graduate, when Bitsko’s drafted next month, it will come a few days before his 18th birthday. It could be a very nice birthday present for the 6-foot-4 17-year-old, who got a rave review from MLB Pipeline for his command. But Mayo doesn’t even have him going in the first round of his mock draft, perhaps a reflection of Bitsko’s commitment to the University of Virginia.
15. Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel High School (Illinois)
A Chicago native and member of the Jackie Robinson West team that finished runner up in the Little League World Series in 2014, Howard is an alum of the White Sox ACE (Amateur City Elite) program. And there are plenty of fans who would love to see the hometown team take a local kid at No. 11 in the draft. MLB Pipeline describes him as a “smooth defender” with quick hands and a strong arm who makes “repeated strong contact” to go along with good speed and a high baseball IQ. He’s now the Land of Lincoln’s Gatorade Player of the Year, too.
Congratulations to Ed Howard on being named the 2019-2020 @Gatorade Illinois Baseball Player of the Year! He joins Alek Thomas as the 2nd Player of the Year from @MountCarmelHS.https://t.co/g8m0upjfI0#GatoradePOY #WeAreMC pic.twitter.com/xHNCoWT4T9— Caravan Baseball (@CaravanBaseball) May 21, 2020
But will the White Sox grab him if he’s there at No. 11? Mayo has Howard sliding all the way to No. 27 — where the division-rival Twins, who employed homestater Joe Mauer for quite some time, could provide a reminder for the White Sox on why not to pass on the kids from your own backyard.
16. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence High School (Tennessee)
Described as “the best pure hitter in the 2020 prep class,” the left-handed hitting Hassell starred for Team USA last September. He’s also a bit of a two-way star, with MLB Pipeline calling him “a legitimate prospect as a pitcher, as well,” though a much better one as a hitter. He’s committed to reigning College World Series champion Vanderbilt University, but Mayo has him mocked as a top-10 pick, going to the Angels at No. 10.
17. Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State University
Mayo has the White Sox selecting Bailey with the No. 11 pick, which would make Bailey the second catcher they’ve drafted with a top-11 draft choice in the last five years. They took Zack Collins out of the University of Miami with the No. 10 pick in 2016. Bailey is expected to be the first catcher off the board, and his offensive numbers from college are pretty excellent: a career .322/.429/.602 slash line in 84 games with the Wolfpack. His 13 homers as a freshman two years ago set a school record. But unlike Collins, who received rave reviews for his bat coming out of college, Bailey’s strength is his defense, with MLB Pipeline saying “he's more athletic and moves better than most catchers.” Again, baseball teams aren’t often thinking about a big league need when making a draft selection, so if this is how things play out, don’t worry that the White Sox just signed Yasmani Grandal to a four-year contract.
18. Garrett Crochet, LHP, University of Tennessee
Towering at 6-foot-6, Crochet can whip it, with his fastball reaching triple digits last fall. Striking out 81 batters in 65 innings, he pitched the Volunteers to the program’s first-ever win in the NCAA tournament last year but raised some red flags this year, limited with shoulder soreness. Mayo has him going to the Rangers at No. 14.
19. Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High School (California)
The backup catcher on his own high school team, Soderstrom is described as a better hitter than he is a defender. But he’s good enough with the bat — “polished” is the word MLB Pipeline used to describe the left-handed hitter — to rank pretty high among the draft’s best prospects. Mayo has him going to the Phillies at No. 15.
20. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake High School (California)
If the name of that high school sounds familiar, it’s Lucas Giolito’s alma mater. And it’s becoming a bit of a baseball factory. Giolito was on the same team as Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty and Braves pitcher Max Fried. Crow-Armstrong is set to be the fifth player drafted out of Harvard-Westlake in the last nine years. How high will he go? Strikeouts and power are listed as potential concerns, but he’s fast and MLB Pipeline says he “might be the best defensive outfielder in the class.” Mayo’s got him going to the Diamondbacks at No. 18.