Who the White Sox will take tonight at #4 overall is pretty much a mystery to the draftniks and the prognosticators leading up to the pick. Though the thought is Madrigal or Singer, last year the thought was Jeren Kendall and JB Bukauskas – both players the Sox were entirely out on the week of the draft. That said, there are still names tied to the Sox – names we will cover in here – but again, there is far from a consensus. And frankly, since Nick Hostetler has taken over, the White Sox first pick hasn’t been a guy that has been heavily attached leading up to the draft. So, who should they take?
If you hear any Amateur Scouting Director do an interview – and I am sure White Sox Head Scout Nick Hostetler would be no different – it’s very likely you will hear “best player available.” It seems pretty straight forward but does “best player available” really mean anything in baseball? Given today’s collective bargaining agreement, teams aren’t going to pass on the best player available if he does have an intention to sign. But still, the MLB draft isn’t exactly meritocratic where the best players go in order like we see with the NBA and NFL (generally speaking). But why do we still hear the phrase so often? It seems like “best player available” is really just a tag for “don’t draft for need” and something the Scouting Director can fall back on to get through with their media hits. Essentially, you wouldn’t want the Sox to draft a 3B solely because the team has spent the last decade throwing Orlando Hudson, Brent Morel and the Gillaspinger two-thronged attack at the hot counter. I think that’s widely understood.
In terms of prospects already in house, when does it become rational for a team to look at the cupboard full of youth and consider where a given draft pick would fit among those pieces? I beg this question because the White Sox farm system – ranked as the third best in baseball by MLB pipeline – is in the hoarding stage of their rebuilding effort where they are trying to reach the “critical mass” of depth GM Rick Hahn has been striving to achieve since the beginning of his time as General Manager. In our preseason top prospect list, the White Sox had 9 outfielders in the top 30. In terms of young starting pitchers, the White Sox already have spots tied up by Rodon, Lopez, Giolito and have guys like Kopech, Dunning, Cease and Hansen coming up quickly. That’s not even considering wild cards like Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Dylan Covey. Of course, you can still never have enough pitching. Past pitching and outfielders, the White Sox have have spent their past two first rounders and their past second rounder on Zack Collins, Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets. If you’re being objective, you have to admit that there’s a good chance that there are a couple eventual 1B-only guys there. So drafting a corner bat with position risk probably isn’t the best idea. Really, looking across the system, the White Sox really only lack in prospects who play 2B and SS. With that said, they have at least 5 years of control after this year on both of their exciting parts of the double play combo in Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada.
So to be clear, and it should go without saying, the White Sox really can go any direction they desire. They are not limited in any respect. Unless the White Sox opt to go significantly under slot with a surprise – say someone like Nick Schnell – you can rest assured that at least the prevailing voice in the draft room believed the player they take is the best player available.
So let’s go through the options. Starting with the teams that pick before the White Sox. These are my guesses with a mix of industry sentiment, inside information and team history. I am in no way an expert here and I am just looking to layout a map of possibilities after the clock strikes 6 (central) tonight.
1.) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers, who put on an incredible tank effort in the second half of 2017 to get this first overall pick, are at the very beginning of their rebuild. They have largely been tied to Auburn’s RHP Casey Mize.
1.) Casey Mize, RHP Auburn University
This is the safe and obvious pick. At points, Mize has been looked at as the consensus 1-1 pick. Whether it’s coordinated or valid, Mize has been dragged through the mud a little bit as we’ve have gotten to this date. Smart money says this is the call. Mize is going to be a quick mover and brings a full repertoire of pitches with an ideal pitcher frame. For a team in the initial calendar year of their rebuild, I am sure it’s not ideal that the best guy is a quick moving safe college starter but I can’t imagine they’re going to quibble over it. They’ve been tied to a few others guys, and it could be just an agent/financial play, but let’s look at some other options.
1a.) Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech University
Bart is widely expected to go in the top two. He has the defensive ability to cut it behind the plate in the big leagues and has considerable power from the right side. From my novice eye, he seems to have some work to do with off-speed offerings. Bart is not the sexiest option at the top of the draft but given the status of catching in the league there will be value for the team that grabs him tonight.
1b.) Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West, HS (WI)
There was early buzz of Kelenic going here. I haven’t heard any of that and it seems like the industry has quieted down on this front as well. It seems the Tigers may value Kelenic more than most, but perhaps not enough to make this leap. His ceiling seems to be the New York Mets at #6.
1c.) Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge, HS (AZ)
I don’t believe it has been reported by anyone to this point, but the Tigers have been in contact with Liberatore’s representation within the last week. It’s very likely they know the figure it would take to sign Liberatore and the money they would save by doing so. Liberatore strikes me as one of (if not) the most underrated players in the class.
While this applies to Liberatore here, the following note applies to plenty of draft hopefuls and should be stressed. Teams talk with plenty of players’ representation and understand the figure it would take to get a given player. A couple of years ago there was one team that had two different prospects in their owner’s suite the week leading up to the draft. Neither of these players were drafted despite being available when that team took the podium. Simply put, that team was ready for all scenarios. So when the Tigers did check on Liberatore’s contract wishes, it could be just them covering all their bases. In essence, don’t read too much into it.
2.) San Francisco Giants
2.) Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech University
Bart, who is touched on above, is by far the most popular pick here at #2. It is widely speculated that Bart will not get past the Giants at#2. However, there is a non-zero chance the Tigers surprise and take him #1. If they did, there isn’t a whole lot of smoke about the Giants.
2a.) Cole Winn, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS (CA)
Cole Winn is the trendy pick at #2 away from more popular Bart pick. Winn, who doesn’t have a whole of of buzz in the top ten outside of this #2 pick, has put together a year nothing short of incredible. Winn has absolutely dominated in America’s hottest bed of prep prospects down in Southern California and has some pretty safe-looking mechanics despite being the draft’s riskiest demographic. His adviser(s) have been in touch with the Giants and are more than likely hoping the Giants pull the trigger on the prep righty.
2b.) Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn University
It’s unclear what the Giants would do if Mize were still on the board. It seems like they would be between Winn and Mize but if Detroit surprises with Bart, I wouldn’t necessarily bank on Winn despite all the smoke there.
3.) Philadelphia Phillies
3.) Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Like Bart to the Tigers, this is far away the most popular pick mocked for the Phillies. Despite that, I am not particularly sold that it is as much as of lock as implied by some. Bohm has one of the higher ceilings in the draft as a huge 3B with power, patience and more athleticism than he’s given credit for.
3a.) Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn University
Mize stops here. The Phillies would be absolutely thrilled to pull down this arm and add them to their budding team on a regular basis as soon as possible. This scenario would be reminiscent of the White Sox taking Carlos Rodon in 2014 given they pick #3, he’s #1 on the Phillies board and they don’t have a second or third round pick. If somehow Mize gets here, it’s been described as a lock given Mize can help in the bullpen this fall and the rotation next year.
3b.) Brady Singer, RHP, University of Florida
For all the reasons described above with Mize, you would think the Phillies would like Singer as well. Obviously Singer, despite his talents, has some risk and could be evaluated differently than his peer. It doesn’t seem like there is much smoke here, but it passes the sniff test.
3c.) Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State University
As the safest college bat in the draft, it’s somewhat surprising that Madrigal is considered a tertiary option for the Phillies who pick third. They do have a crowded infield already but as a value driven team, you can’t rule them out for this spark plug.
4.) Chicago White Sox
I am going to touch on everything I have heard here. Per usual for the Sox in the Nick Hostetler era, there is no go-to guy for most of the mocking community. That being said, Florida’s Brady Singer is the most popular option,
4.) Brady Singer, RHP, University of Florida
I think this is a pick that the White Sox fan base is primed to hate whether it happens or not. Lazy comparisons to Carson Fulmer are scaring some fans with the violent arm action scaring off others. Health concerns aside, Singer is one of the safer picks out there as a tested performed at a top flight program. With whispers about varying opinions in the White Sox draft room swirling, Singer would probably be the preference of old-school baseball types who appreciate the pedigree, solid pitchers frame and the bulldog mentality over the 5’7″ second baseman.
4a.) Nick Madrigal, 2B, University of Oregon State.
I’ve found myself becoming more enamored with Madrigal the further we get in the draft process. He’s the type of guy you watch play and just like more and more. He doesn’t come off as your typical #4 overall as a scant 2B but he’s definitely got some “magic” as scouts have said. Detractors will knock his size and his fans will talk about his gold glove potential at second base and the fact that he’s struck out just five times in 119 ABs. He’s not going to be Jose Altuve because he’s 5’7″ and he’s not going to flame out in the minors because he’s 5’7″. At the end of the day, this is the best ball player in this draft. That doesn’t mean highest ceiling, but he’s good. The White Sox have been on his tail as we reported recently.
#WhiteSox General Manager Rick Hahn was in Los Angeles to watch Oregon State face off w/ USC. Hahn gets his looks on Nick Madrigal – one of the top bats in the upcoming #MLBDraft. I can see the #WhiteSox drafting Madrigal with the intention of playing him at SS as a professional.
— Brian Bilek (@BrianBilek_) May 19, 2018
Past Singer and Madrigal, let’s touch on the other possibilities.
Alex Bohm, 3B Wichita State
One of my favorites in the draft. Big time offensive potential and K/BB numbers which the White Sox have focused on in recent drafts. He gets underrated on his athletic ability because he’s 6’5″ but he’s a high potential bat in one of the absolute safest demos in the draft.
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS (WI)
The White Sox have scouted him extensively over the years but backed out of a workout with him in May. It just doesn’t seem he’s the guy.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge, HS (AZ)
One of my absolute favorites in the draft, Liberatore is an exceptionally polished high school arm. However, I was told the White Sox were one of the only teams in the top ten who were not frequenting his last starts. I wouldn’t hold your breath if this is your preferred guy.
Before the draft, read James Fox’s draft primer where he lays out all the rules and considerations of the draft.
After the draft, follow the results and the eventual signings with our annual draft tracker.
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