The White Sox selected outfielder Alex Call in the third round (86th overall) of the 2016 Amateur Draft. Call played three seasons with Ball St. establishing himself as one of the better college bats around coming into the draft. His strong batting eye and ability to spray the ball to all fields give him an advanced bat that’s already played in pro ball. After some early success with Rookie affiliate Great Falls, Call received a promotion to Class A Kannapolis and has continued to swing a strong stick. The right-handed Call has solid gap power but has shown even more home run pop as of late. Plus defense in center field and playable speed rounds out an already promising profile. Call was ranked the 15th best prospect in the system as of FutureSox’s Midseason Rankings.
The outfielder was kind enough to speak with FutureSox about the draft process, his influences, base stealing technique, and the key behind his emerging power.
Owen Schoenfeld: Let’s start with draft day. What was that whole experience like for you? Where were you when you got the call and how much of a mystery was your final destination?
Alex Call: I mean you never really know. I knew that the White Sox were high on me and that they always liked me. I went to the pre-draft work out in Chicago and I think I made a good impression. I thought the third round was probably the peak of where I could go. I was at a Perkins Restaurant in my hometown River Falls with my family when I got a call from my area scout who said they were going to take me with one of the picks that day. There were some things that had to be worked out and I actually didn’t hear from him again until later when they picked me. It ended up being a pretty big rush and by that time I was back at my house in rural Wisconsin with my family and girlfriend. It was just a fun experience.
OS: You played football, basketball, and baseball in high school but was baseball always your main sport or the one you thought you’d eventually play at a high level?
AC: Football was kind of my first love. I’m a big Packers fan. I wanted to be the next Brett Farve in Wisconsin but then I kind of looked at how I wasn’t getting that big. I’m 5’11”, I mean guys do it, but it’s also a lot tougher to play when you’re not as big. With baseball that’s not the case. I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I’ve always been extremely athletic and had great hand eye coordination so baseball was both something that I loved and something that I thought I could do for real.
OS: You have very good plate discipline. Did you always have a feel for the strike zone or is that something you developed overtime?
AC: I feel like I can honestly hit every pitch, which hurts some of the time, but I’ve always had a knack to put the bat on the ball. So I get a lot of two-strike hits. I’m still trying to get my zone in pro ball a little more locked in but it’s really just something you work on. You play a long time, get a feel for what you can do, continue to develop and now I’m to the point where I’m at now.
OS: As far as pro ball, you’ve had a lot of success early on. Is there anyone in particular you clicked with, a coach or player who took you under their wing? What’s fueled your success?
AC: I’m always self-driven. It’s always been that way. I have high goals, high expectations for myself and believe that I can get it done through hard work and dedication. I take pride in that. Really it’s just about coming out here, getting your time in, getting a feel for things while taking it all in, and just playing the game. There’s a little bit of an adjustment curve but now I feel like I have my timing down to where I’m hitting the ball hard and playing like I can. I’ve been kind of left alone a little bit too. There hasn’t been an extreme amount of instruction but just enough to let you know that you’re doing things the right way and to keep going about your business. But it’s been great. I made a lot of friends in Great Falls and miss those guys, but there’s also a good group of guys in Kannapolis that are fun to play with.
OS: What are some of the main differences between college ball and pro ball from the little taste of it you’ve had?
AC: Well everyone in the line up was either the three-hole hitter or the lead off hitter with their college teams so there’s no guy that you look at as an easy out. There are a couple hitters in college where you have to look out, where you know they can beat you, but here everyone’s good and has a lot of talent. Everyone can play the game. Otherwise, it hasn’t been too different. I think the game speed is pretty much the same. Guys maybe have a better feel for their breaking stuff but really it’s not too big of a difference where I’m at now.
OS: And is pro ball what you expected it to be like, off the field too?
AC: Yeah, “the grind” they call it. I love it, just everyday you’re playing ball. It’s fun and I like the camaraderie and the whole experience. Outside the long bus rides, it’s always a good time.
OS: You played some second base in the Cape Cod League, but you were drafted primarily as an outfielder and that’s where you’ve been. Do you feel you have defensive versatility or is there a certain position that you prefer?
AC: Yeah, I prefer center. It’s the easiest to play. I think right and left are actually harder. I feel best in center, get better reads out there, and just feel more comfortable. I think I’m athletic enough where if I had to play second base I could probably do it through some hard work. There wasn’t any talk about it when I was getting picked so I don’t think it’s on the radar, but whatever it takes. I think that I can hit at a high level and I don’t want anything to stop me from getting to the big leagues.
OS: You stole seventeen bases as a junior and you have twelve already through 56 games. Can you take me through your process on the basepaths?
AC: It’s basically what the pitcher’s going to give you. If he’s 1.1 to the plate, I’m not going to steal. But if he’s going 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, then the green light gets to open up, and if you find the right count, you take off. If you think you’ve got a little bit of a tell on the pitcher then you see it, trust your instincts, and get that jump. That’s all it takes. You get the lead and the jump; you get the base, so long as he’s not a one-slider or one-home.
OS: Your power has steadily climbed. Last year in college you kind of broke out with thirteen home runs and you already have six this season. Do you think that’s just something that comes along as you mature and grow into your frame or did you make a mechanical adjustment that enhanced some of that gap-power into home run power?
AC: I do pride myself in the weight room. I can lift a lot of weights and I work hard there but most of it came from a swing adjustment. I went from mostly swinging somewhat down on the ball and just using hand eye coordination to swinging level and slightly up to generate that optimal launch angle when your barrel hits the ball. When the barrel is to the ball, it just goes further. Making sure you’re on plane with what the pitcher’s throwing is really the key. I used to just try to kind of punch some ground balls through the infield and if you do that three-out-of-ten times they call you good hitter but when you start driving the ball into the gaps and over the fence that’s when you can really make a name for yourself. When I did that last summer at the Cape with my hitting coach [Benny Craig], he’s a great mentor and a great teacher, it took off.
OS: Speaking of mentors, who else has influenced your career so far?
AC: My two high school coaches, Brian Bishop and Mark Hallberg, they were both great helps. They helped me get recruited and coach [Rich] Maloney was tremendous at Ball St. He was a great mentor, a good man. Benny Craig in the Cape, along with Mark Hallberg who was in the Cape as well. Again, those guys were big for me in helping me mentally and physically develop in the game.
OS: Is there a player in the game today that you’ve tried to structure your game around or think you have natural similarities too? In other words, who is your major league comp?
AC: He’s been hurt most of the year but A.J. Pollock, hopefully. That’s kind of who I like to think about as far as potential. Plus defense in center and he got some more home runs last year. I think I can do that one day if you gave me 162 games. So something like that hopefully.
OS: People often talk about how baseball is a business and that was your major at Ball St. Do you ever think about that side of the game, during the draft process or just in general? Some players have early interest in the front office, albeit hopefully way down the road, but does that interest you at all?
AC: When I’m done playing I’ll definitely have some kind of business of my own. As far as the front office I don’t know, maybe, depending on how it goes (laughs). We’ll see, but I enjoy business. I look at the world differently than the average person. I look at it from other different perspectives, particularly the perspective of opportunity and disadvantages. It’s always on my mind. I’m always thinking business so it’s definitely something I’ll pursue when it’s over.
OS: Usually I’d ask about specific goals to finish out the year, but you’ve already got a .939 OPS, so I guess just keep doing what you’re doing, right?
AC: Yeah, I want to finish strong. You always like to hit more home runs, more doubles, steal more bags but sometimes you’ve just got to take what the game gives you and try to hit the ball hard. That’s basically what it’s about, finishing strong for sure.
FutureSox would like to thank Alex for taking the time to talk to us. We’d also like to extend a thanks to Josh Feldman and the Kannapolis Intimidators for making this interview possible. To find out more about Alex, you can check out his prospect profile here.
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