The big questions about the White Sox’ top draft picks

The skill sets of Nick Madrigal and Steele Walker may clog up the depth chart, which isn't a bad thing

Nick Hostetler has overseen three full drafts for the White Sox, and his crew has chosen the college route each time on Day 1.

Monday’s strategy fits right in:

In case you didn’t believe that a coincidence would turn into a trend, Hostetler telegraphed it in April by telling James Fegan in April, “We’re not going to get cute.”

It makes sense to some extent. With Jake Burger being lost for the year-plus with a pair of surgeries on the same Achilles tendon, the Madrigal pick gives the depleted infield ranks a fast riser. Madrigal probably has the best hit tool in the system along with good defense at second base, so he may not require all that much maintenance.

If you expected Hostetler to say he got his guy, you won’t be disappointed. The budget limitations of the White Sox’ social video team forced Hostetler to lean heavy on exposition in the dialogue, telling Madrigal on the phone, “I told you sitting in that meeting that you were my favorite player I scouted in a long time, if you remember correctly.”

(Speaking of video, my first impression of Madrigal post-draft is that he can talk with a camera on him without sounding like he’s under oath in a murder trial. Casey Mize and Alec Bohm struggled with this.)

The biggest immediate question with Madrigal is a bigger question for the organization. Madrigal excels at second base for Oregon State, but Yoan Moncada has locked down that spot for the White Sox. The Sox are going to send Madrigal to the minors as a shortstop in order to make sure they’re not inheriting somebody else’s roster restriction, but that’s where Tim Anderson plays. Anderson’s defense leaves some to be desired, but it would’ve taken a Gold Glover to bump him off the position at the college level. Something may eventually have to give.

“Eventually” may imply “necessarily,” but it isn’t “immediately,” not for a White Sox organization with Eddy Alvarez and Juan Perez in Charlotte, and Danny Mendick and Trey Michalczewski at Birmingham. If Anderson and Moncada turn into a rock-solid double-play combo and Madrigal fulfills his scouting report (great bat, just not a third baseman), the Sox will either have depth-chart insurance or the good kind of roster issue to address. A successful rebuild has both.

As for Steele Walker, the biggest question there is “Where did he get his bible?”

https://twitter.com/timmarchman/status/1003981743928565761

Well, that and “Isn’t there a limit to how many fringe center fielders the White Sox can carry in A-ball?” Winston-Salem’s outfielder logjam was perhaps the most compelling reason for the White Sox to target a high school prospect early in this draft. Grab an Alek Thomas or a Jeremiah Jackson or some other prep player I wasn’t aware existed until last week, and let him start in Arizona while the roster congestion solves itself.

Instead, Hostetler steered right into Hurricane Luis. Hostetler wants to start Walker as a center fielder, and there’s room for that in Great Falls, but not so much above. Luis Gonzalez already is biding his time in Kannapolis due to the logjam, and Luis Robert isn’t going to alleviate that particular issue when he joins Winston-Salem, even if his arrival displaces one or more of Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call, Blake Rutherford or Joel Booker.

Again, depth-chart congestion isn’t that great of a concern in the big picture. All of the aforementioned active outfielders are performing reasonably well, even if you include Micker Adolfo, who has been relegated to DH. It’s not something that should stop the White Sox from pursuing value, and Hostetler thinks he found that here:

“Steele had huge success last year with Team USA with the wood bat, so I don’t expect any sort of delay in his development in regards to getting adjusted to the wood. I think he’s going to be a guy that hits the ground running from the left side. His speed is going to help him as well. It’s not positive where we would have him go, obviously. Everyone knows there’s a log jam a little bit in the outfield in the minor leagues. [Director of Player Development Chris Getz] Getzy will find him playing time. That’s on him now, so I just made his job a little bit harder. That’s a good thing. Hopefully we’ll continue to give him good players throughout this draft the next two days that he’s going to have a hard time getting in lineups. That’s our goal is to make it as hard as possible for these guys to find playing time because that means all the players we’re bringing in are good.”

And maybe he did. I’ve just been skeptical of Hostetler’s proclivity for polished collegiate talent because the supposedly safe route has left them little margin for error. When Burger’s wheel suffers two blowouts, it’s not going to be any easier for him to stay at third. When Collins’ hit tool disappears, his entire MLB future is in doubt. When Sheets hits just two homers over the first two months at Winston-Salem, he has little recourse besides “start hitting homers.” When Call loses a year to a chest muscle strain, there isn’t one element of his game that he can unlock to make up for lost time. That lack of upside is the reason why just about all of the Sox’ top prospects have been acquired via trade or now-prohibited signing bonuses.

At this moment, though, I can’t pretend I know more about Hostetler’s picks than Hostetler does, so I’m merely registering a counterpoint. And even adopting a pessimistic mindset, a few things can be acknowledged. Madrigal is going to be fascinating, and well before he starts knocking on the 25-man roster’s door. He and Walker aren’t destined for first base, so that’s an improvement over last year’s first day.

And between the Sox picking Madrigal over Brady Singer (despite rumors of “more decorated people” preferring the latter) and resisting the urge to draft the son of the team’s director of conditioning, the fan base’s Kennyphobes have little to complain about. Well-qualified family ties were on the board and the Sox instead chose a college player, so it’s pretty clear the organization is letting Hostetler do his thing.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Willardmarshall

And they resisted the temptation to draft this guy….https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/03/us/dancing-fbi-agent-gun-discharge/index.html

boyd

It’s a nice change from years past when you looked at the minors and had to squint to find mlb quality talent at more than a few positions.  

lil jimmy

Well the horse is out of the barn on the first two picks.

Top of Day 2
We pick 3rd, and have two of the first 30 picks.
“signable players”
Number one with a bullet
Adam Kloffenstein RHP
Then
Konnor Pilkington LHP
Tristan Beck RHP
Richard Palacio SS
Raynel Delgado Inf
Terrin Vavra SS
Kendall Logan Simmons SS

evenyoudorn

my eyes immediately went to pilkington when i looked at the top remaining guys from the sox MO perspective. it would be more exciting to take a chance on gingery.

Josh Nelson

I know Wilcox and Rocker have announced they are going to college. I haven’t heard anything about Kloffenstein yet, but I wonder what that dollar amount will be.

Otter

Also doesn’t seem like the Sox will save much, if anything, on Madrigal and Walker.

lil jimmy

They will save some on Madrigal. Plus the 5% over, plus at least one senior signing(they always do) They could find a million.

PauliePaulie

I think Kloffenstein had a big velo drop and there are injury concerns. Scaring teams off his asking price.

PauliePaulie

Are you not big on Blaine Knight?

lil jimmy

I’d be fine with Blaine Knight.

Otter

I think you’re being a tad too pessimistic, but I also get it considering how the 2017 draft picks look at the moment. Two years out, I think the 2016 draft looks solid as all three are still on track to be contributors. I’m higher on Collins than I was a year ago even if the dream of him catching is pretty much dead. Burdi’s injury is unfortunate, but he should recover and be with the Sox next year. And Hansen continues to be good/great even after this slight bump in the road. They even went back and traded for Rutherford, Dunning, and A. J. Puckett (the Sox some how have six of the first 67 picks of the 2016 draft in their system, how did I not realize this?)

A year out and the 2017 draft is a whole other story. It’s unfortunate that Burger blew out his Achilles twice, and I wouldn’t count on him being apart of the rebuild at this point—he’s losing so much developmental time and any loss of athleticism is going to put a ton on the bat which had okay, but not great, returns last year. While there are positives with Sheets, the lack of power is a bit concerning considering age and level.

Grab an Alek Thomas or a Jeremiah Jackson or some other prep player I wasn’t aware existed until last week, and let him start in Arizona while the roster congestion solves itself.

Amen and same (well I Thomas has been lurking because of the family connection).

Otter

I agree with this. I don’t have any issues with the Madrigal pick, but the Walker pick does bring about some pessimism.

The Sox have yet to show any creativity when it comes to playing with bonus pool money, so my theory of drafting Liberatore like arm and then using the $2m in savings across the rest of the draft ended up being a crazy (and wrong) theory. And the Rays and Royals (and a certain extent the Indians) probably made this harder to do because of all the picks and $$$ they have.

metasox

That is part of what I get out of Hostetler’s remark, “we’re not going to get cute.” Don’t expect much creativity right now.

PauliePaulie

This assertion is patently false!
The Sox saved $500k+/- on Jake Burger and plowed that $ right into signing Gavin Sheets.
Shrewd

asinwreck

We need Hurricane Luis t-shirts RIGHT NOW.

gibby32

Off the wall take on how this congestion sorts itself out: Sox trade Anderson and three or so minor league guys (none of our first twelve) for Manny Machado. It won’t happen (big surprise), but here’s my rationale: Machado isn’t coming here unless without having been here for two or three months, and probably not even then. Baltimore needs to rebuild, and the Sox are in a position to provide them with several relatively strong minor league pieces and Anderson, who is starting to produce and is signed for several years at a reasonable price. The price for Manny is relatively low, but that’s because Baltimore waited too long to make him available. The Sox would be dealing from minor league depth. The obvious risk is that they have MM for a couple of months and some combination of the guys they give up become stars. Oh, and, they don’t have a replacement for Anderson in 2019. But if they’re ready to offer him 300M, getting him here for a couple of months might be the only way to make it work. As you dismiss this scenario, note that I was the only guy that said the Cubs made the most sense in a Quintana deal two days before the deal came together.

Reindeer Games

Machado is getting traded to a contender, and I’d rather not give up Anderson (who is good) and prospects for the chance to resign Machado.

gibby32

Machado will get traded to whomever gives them the best return. The rumors have been Cubs or Phillies. The Cubs can not compete with what the Sox can offer, although they probably would be more motivated. I don’t know enough about what the Phillies can offer.

Reindeer Games

That’s an awful trade for the White Sox. Trading someone who is already a good player, plus prospects, so we might be able to resign a great player is bonkers.

gibby32

I have to admit: I’m surprised by that reaction.

Patrick Nolan

I have to agree with RG here. In the event that Machado leaves, you’ve punched a massive hole in your roster, plus lost some minor league depth with nothing to show for it. It is only an idea to consider if the deal is contingent on Machado agreeing to an extension, which he probably wouldn’t do.

gibby32

Yeah, they would have to have a shortstop plan for 2019 in the event that they couldn’t sigh Machado. Rondon probably doesn’t cut it. As I said above, I’m surprised. Given the Manny love here and on SSS, I thought the reaction was going to be “you’ll never get Machado for that package.” I guess there’s more Timmy love here than I thought.

Reindeer Games

By bWAR and fWAR, Tim Anderson is on pace for an almost 4 Win season. It’s not more Timmy love, but recognizing he’s absolutely a valuable and good player.

gibby32

“Timmy love” is not a pejorative.

As Cirensica

Just because of this, Machado won’t be traded. He is gonna want to test the free agency. Nobody is gonna unload the farm for a half year of Machado and a “maybe”

Greg Nix

Um someone will definitely trade for him.

karkovice squad

If only they’d been able to convince Baltimore to take Giolito.

tommytwonines

Re-sign. 

Otter

Tim Anderson has six more seasons of control after this year for just under $50m. If you think he’s a 2 win player over those six seasons, and we’ll say an average of $9m per win (which might be low), then he has approximately $108m in value. So Anderson has something around $60m in surplus value over the next six seasons, and that might be conservative since he may be closer to a 3 win player than a 2 win player.

Machado has about 100 games of control left and owed ~$10m. If you think he’s going to be worth 5 wins the rest of the way, he’ll provide about $30m in surplus value. So the Sox would lose this trade if Anderson is just average and Machado continues to be a MVP and that’s before we included a single minor leaguer.

The reality is that Anderson has more value than Machado to most MLB teams.

mikeyb

Off topic a bit, but has anybody done an analysis recently on the value of a win? I know it was skyrocketing there for a few years, but I’m curious as to what impact (if any) this past offseason does to WAR valuations.

Amar

Matt Swartz is probably on it

zerobs

The problem is some of the analysis values each win the same, which defies market reality. There are typically plenty of 1 and 2 WAR players available, the number of 5 and 6 WAR players is pretty small. Supply and demand still rules.

The way the market went this off season, the first win was worth about 2MM (annually), the second win an additional 3MM. Even the third win was only an additional 6-7MM. The 4th win is about 8-9MM. When you get the the 5th and 6th win the value really starts jumping, but they also skew the “average” win too high.

gibby32

It’s obviously a bad deal if it doesn’t lead to re-signing Machado. But it’s a deal that they can afford. It might well turn on what one thinks Tim Anderson will be. I’m pretty agnostic. He might be productive, he might be a relative flop.

gibby32

Yeah, it would. But the countervailing point would be that it might allow the Sox to get him for an offer comparable to other teams. Right now, I think the Sox have to be the best offer by a lot to get Machado. It would not work to simply be the highest by a couple of million.

Otter

The Sox best (and probably only) chance to get Machado to sign was last winter when they could have bought out his final year of arbitration plus 2019 with an insane salary ($50m per) since they don’t have much salary on the books this year and next.

Otter

Anderson looks like a .275/.325/.450 with good defense short stop. His BABIP this year is much lower than you’d expect for someone with his speed (he could be trading some average for power though and thus, I’m high on his BA and OBP a little).

I’d love for the Sox to field a team of 4+ WAR guys across all positions. But I’m pretty happy with a 2/3 win short stop, especially if we can find a 4+ win types at second, center, and right (which granted, is optimistic thinking).

Patrick Nolan

Feel like wetbutt23 and KatyPerrysBootyHole also felt like it made sense, but I can’t prove that they didn’t take the idea from you.

As you dismiss this scenario, note that I was the only guy that said the Cubs made the most sense in a Quintana deal two days before the deal came together.

rhubarb

Dang, are you accusing the giblet of plagiarizing?

Patrick Nolan

Of course not.

gibby32

If there were three of us, I apologize. That wasn’t my recollection, but, hell, I’m old.

MrTopaz

I can see them trying to pull this with Arenado in the offseason. Supposedly he wants to go back to California, and if that’s true, Hahn and co. might want to work on him over a season.

Cerpin Taxt

I already apologize for asking a question that has probably been asked before and is also more than likely stupid. Is Moncada at 3B completely crazy?

PauliePaulie

I think the Red Sox, White Sox and Moncada would all say YES.

CanOCorn

You never know…If Madrigal posts similar numbers in AAA as in his college career, since they do need a lead-off man, they might try Yoan at 3rd…However, my hunch is they will first try Nick at SS…Anderson will do just fine in the outfield…

Lurker Laura

I do think Tim could make a good outfielder. Has the speed and arm for it. It’s the learning curve that’s a concern. And the disruption of a DP combo with Moncada that seems to be finding its rhythm.

Otter

I would guess they’re more likely to move Moncada to third or center than Anderson to center.

Cerpin Taxt

I didn’t see much of Yoan when he was back in Boston. Would love to see him play a few innings at 3B before season’s end. What’s the worst that could happen – we don’t make the playoffs? He’s always physically looked like a 3B to me.

lil jimmy

My guess,
We first see him when somebody is hurt. Then as utility, until he forces his way into every day play.

Greg Nix

I think there was also some concern he’d grow out of 2B as his body “matured.” That might still be the case. He’s thicc.

CanOCorn

I guess it was a matter of choosing between ‘What do we need?’ and ‘Who’s the best left on the board?’…Obviously, the latter question took precedent lately and it is what it is at this point…Probably they have some plan with the resulting positions’ logjams…Only time will tell if this one will actually succeed…

Lurker Laura

I predict there’s only an outfield logjam for the rest of this year. At least two of them will be traded in the offseason to some team who has an infield logjam. Which will give us the opportunity to pick apart whether they traded the right ones.

CanOCorn

Can’t wait for it…Afterall, they truly deserve to have all their decisions dissected…Lack of results are grounds for dismissal pretty much everywhere else except in JR’s world…

jorgefabregas

For all of the White Sox’ faults, I’m pretty sure they won’t have Heimlich on their board. But just in case, can we make a fandom suicide pact where, if they draft him, we all quit the White Sox and Jim turns this into a curling and bathroom remodeling page? I’ll maintain my modest Patreon subscription in such a scenario.

Lurker Laura

I’m in.

As Cirensica

This team seriously does not need this kinda person. Baseball can ban for life a player for drugs, you can be banned for life for gambling, you can be banned for being racist. I would expect that a player should be banned for sexual abusing a minor.

PauliePaulie

Forgot where I read it, but getting a registered sex offender permission from MLB to play will be an issue for any team that decides to take him.

zerobs

“the supposedly safe route has left them little margin for error”

The only thing that leaves no margin for error is draft picks not developing or not signing. That can happen with a high schooler or a college player.

If I’m in Hosetler’s position, I avoid drafting high schoolers in the top 100 until the system starts paying consistent dividends – there’s too much signing risk. I can get high-ceiling/low-floor teenagers from Latin America in the meantime. Once the system provides one or two players annually on a consistent basis, then I can take a higher-risk prep kid in the top 100 on occasion. I wouldn’t even dream of drafting a high schooler in the top 100 until 2021 at the soonest.

zerobs

I think the penalty expires in 13 months.

lil jimmy

That’s my thinking

PauliePaulie

“This year” is the July 2 2017 to July 2 2018 signing period. It Hasn’t expired yet.

metasox

So will the Sox be expected to trade additional international money next signing year?

jorgefabregas

A dude they signed in February played shortstop for the DSL team today and had 4 hits and 2 stolen bases. Nice!

sgp2204

I agree with this 100%. I’d love to take a chance on high upside high school players, but I don’t think it’s the right time. We have a bunch of talent in the minors right now, but most of it is at the lower levels. Once these guys start moving up and the talent is in the high minors and/or majors, then we should start taking chances on guys that are further away. But for right now, I’m happy with the strategy we’re going with. 

It’d take a truly special high school player for me to take them over a similarly ranked college player, even if the college guy has a slightly lower ceiling. That being said, as of right now, Witt Jr. would absolutely be at the top of my draft board next year. I also would’ve taken Liberatore over Singer if we were looking at pitchers.

Greg Nix

I’m interested in the fact that despite cashing their best trade chips, the Sox have still been taking on relatively high-upside guys in minor deals. Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri are less likely to make good on their promise than first round high schoolers, but it’s a savvy strategy — especially if they’re going to continue with college-heavy drafts.

Greg Nix

Minor league outfield guessing game:
– Everyone stays where they are until June 20th (day after the Barons host the AA All-Star game). Then…
– Eloy and Polo –> AAA
– Basabe and Call –> AA
– Gonzalez (plus Robert’s return) –> A+
– Walker –> A

PauliePaulie

I love this decision.

evenyoudorn

luis gonzalez has a bag packed, i’d hope.

jorgefabregas

Interesting. I’d bet he won’t be there long.

Greg Nix

I picked a bad time to start my guessing game.

zerobs

I’m expecting the inevitable Barnum release before a Polo promotion.

karkovice squad

I think the analysis of the Sox college draft strategy might benefit from digging a bit deeper into the difference between variance and upside–something, IIRC, Callis discussed about Mize in one of the pre-draft podcasts.

I think the Sox have struggled with both parts in recent drafts. The college bats they’ve selected were supposed to be low-variance, which isn’t a bad thing if the expected performance is good enough. But the expected ceiling for their selections has also been underwhelming. Then compound that with the players struggling to develop in the early going, when they ought to be thriving, and the entire draft strategy looks suspect.

But I don’t think it’s the strategy itself, an approach backed up by most of the recent data analysis, so much as the execution. I’m not convinced they’d do any better with a different approach without first improving their ability to execute any approach.

Anyway, I’m relieved the Phillies took Bohm out of the equation and glad the Sox didn’t out-think themselves into taking India. Poor man’s Ian Kinsler wouldn’t be the worst outcome.

Sox2020

I would be a lot more comfortable with the rebuild if we could bring in developers with a better track record