The Chicago White Sox earned some praise for how well they rounded out their top ten on the second day of the 2017 amateur draft. Nick Hostetler and his staff focused primarily on college performers and they landed 9 of them with their first 10 picks. With the hitters in particular, the team placed an obvious emphasis on college bats with strong plate discipline throughout. That trend continued on the third and final day of the draft and the scouting staff may have unearthed a diamond in the rough.
In the 12th round, the White Sox selected 3B Justin Yurchak out of SUNY-Binghamton, a Division 1 program in the America East Conference, but that’s not where his college career began. As a Freshman, Yurchak attended Wake Forest and played in 47 games. He hit .313 and posted an .OBP of .424 with 5 homers, 33 RBI, and 30 walks with only 22 strikeouts in the elite ACC. The left-handed hitting third sacker was named to the 2015 ACC All-Freshman Team. While he excelled in his one year for the Demon Deacons, it just wasn’t the right fit for him long-term.
“I just didn’t think Wake Forest was quite the right fit for me and Binghamton was a school much closer to home and I knew the coaches from high school at Binghamton. It just seemed like a better fit.”
Justin had built a pretty strong relationship with Binghamton Assistant Coach Ryan Herba dating back to his prep days at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, New York. After transferring, the righty had to sit out the 2016 season. He did play in 43 games in his redshirt Sophomore season in 2017 though and hit .320/.474/.442 for the Bearcats in almost 200 trips to the plate. He walked 41 times and only struck out in 12 plate appearances. Yurchak spoke about the draft and pre-draft process and even mentioned that he was unsure if he would be selected at all.
“Yeah, it was kind of a tough situation because it’s in the midst of your school season and you’re trying to talk to all these scouts and work with your advisor and everything. I had no idea who I would be drafted by or if I would get drafted at all so when the White Sox called it was a great feeling.“
Joel Grampietro is the White Sox Area Scout who covers the Northeast for the organization. He has worked for the White Sox since 2014 and previously worked for the Toronto Blue Jays. Some of the players that he signed while working in Toronto inclde Anthony DeScalfani, Drew Hutchison, Adam Lind, and Daniel Webb. Grampietro was named Scout of the Year for the White Sox in 2015 by the organization. While Yurchak was not sure what would happen in the draft, he did recall speaking with Grampietro at one of his college games.
“Yeah. I talked to Joel Grampietro who is the Sox Area Scout. I left one of my games to use the bathroom actually and I got to introduce myself so it was nice to get to know him.”
Grampietro obviously liked what he saw and the White Sox used their 12th round draft pick on the Binghamton product. Yurchak quickly signed for an overslot deal of $150,000 more in line with the 8th or 9th round. There was a change in the MLB Draft rules this year regarding money spent beyond the top ten rounds – the limit on bonuses to not hit the pool was raised from $100,000 to $125,000. So the Sox used $25,000 of their pool towards Yurchak – that he might be a guy worth following. The former Bearcat was assigned to the Great Falls Voyagers in the Pioneer League and picked up right where he left off. The 20-year-old has played 60 games for the Voyagers and hit .345/.448/.520 on the season. The Upstate New York product hit 8 homers, 13 doubles and only struck out 33 times compared to 43 walks. He was also named the Pioneer League Player of the Month in August after compiling a video game line of .449/.546/.744 with 35 hits and 18 walks on the month. The White Sox farmhand possesses tremendous plate discipline and he credits many along the way for that part of his game.
“I credit everyone who has helped me along the way. Dad. Coaches. Brothers. Friends. They’ve all kind of put in their input and kind of made me the hitter that I am. I try to keep a simplistic approach, make contact, stay up the middle and whatever happens from there happens.”
Justin played 19 games at first base, 12 games at third and served as the Designated Hitter in 29 games. As a high school player in upstate New York, Justin was primarily a shortstop. He played exclusively at 3rd at Wake Forest and at Binghamton as well. It will be interesting to see where the White Sox have him slated to play during the Fall Instructional League in which he will be taking part. The organization has not said specifically where they see him fitting best but Justin feels comfortable in either spot. The White Sox have used him more at First and DH recently but he started off playing the hot corner when he arrived in Great Falls.
“I’m pretty comfortable in either corner. They haven’t really spoken about that but I was more 3rd in the beginning and more 1st recently but I’d be fine with either considering the opportunity that they’ve giving me.”
The Voyagers have advanced to the Pioneer League Championship Series and are down 1-0 in the three game set, in their first appearance in the title round since 2011. When I interviewed Justin, he spoke about the thrill of playing in a minor league playoff race in his first season and reflected on how the team wasn’t playing its best baseball at the time. He also spoke about the camaraderie on the team.
“It’s been great. We haven’t been playing our best baseball recently and fell back in the standings but it’s fun. Everyone is ready to play and so are the competitors so it brings out the best in everyone. It’s awesome the way the guys gel in the locker room considering the amount of guys that have gone up and down. The new guys feel accepted the same way I did when I got here. It’s just a good group of guys that enjoy playing baseball like me and it’s fun to be around every day.”
Yurchak turns 21 years old on Sunday (he shares a birthday with me which is pretty cool) and he’s age-appropriate for the Pioneer League. His over-slot bonus and previous college commitment to Wake Forest help in making him a prospect that should clearly be on the radar.
Of course There have been many mid to late round college position player draftees that have excelled in short-season ball and then went on to flounder at a full-season affiliate. The same could be true for this 12th rounder, but he does have the skill set to continue his ascension at higher levels. Yurchak can really hit and has shown an elite ability to reach base at every level of baseball he’s participated in, with that plate discipline being a postive indicator. His bat provides more value at the hot corner than it does at first base but the bottom line is that the bat should play going forward.
Justin will likely start the 2018 season in Kannapolis with the Intimidators in Low-A ball, where he may have been promoted already if not for the presence of Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets there currently. Meanwhile he gets to stay in Montana and help his team try to grab a trophy.
Yurchak was forthright about the process the White Sox are embarking on and he’s excited at the prospect of possibly moving his way through the system with a group of young players that will hopefully be counted on in the near future.
“It’s awesome. Growing up in New York I saw the Jeter’s and Pettitte’s and it was talked about how they came through the system together and I didn’t understand what that meant. But being around these guys helps me now understand what it would be like to move up with them and go through the same things as them and experience everything.“
Want to know right away when we publish a new article? Type your email address in the box on the right-side bar (or at the bottom, if on a mobile device) and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.