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Many baseball draft writers are assuming that the White Sox will continue their current first-round trend of selecting a college player, at least if the mock drafts are any indication. Selecting college players is what they mostly have done since Rick Hahn has taken over general manager, except for Tim Anderson in 2013 (junior college).
That trend could very well continue in 2020. Louisville left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers has been on the White Sox radar for some time, and some mocks seem him falling to Pick 11. I wrote him up, along with a few other collegiate players:
However, when I ask others what they hear regarding the White Sox draft efforts, it’s mostly been high school targets. In case the White Sox shock the industry, here are the prep players in consideration 11th overall.
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High School (CA)
The sweet-swinging catcher from California is gaining some helium heading into draft day. Soderstrom’s balanced approach at the plate has caught a lot of eyes. He’s currently a gap-to-gap left-handed hitter. The bat has 60-grade potential with room to grow for more power. For Team USA this past summer, Soderstrom hit .294/.350/.353 with 10 RBIs.
Defensive is the big question for Soderstrom. If you believe he can stick behind the plate, it will require more development time. He has a strong arm but needs more polishing with framing and blocking pitches. It also takes time for catchers out of high school to learn how to handle a pitching staff and call games. If a team can be patient with Soderstrom’s development, there is a chance he can stick at catching. Other options are at third base, where Soderstrom has seen playing time, and there is enough athleticism for him to play right field.
The White Sox are considered Soderstrom’s draft ceiling, with most analysts believing he will be selected sometime in the mid-first round.
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio High School (TX)
I already tried to make a case for Jared Kelley in my first mock draft. He’s a big Texas right-hander who can hit 98 mph with the fastball. Pair it with a plus changeup, and he has the makings of becoming a starter. Kelley was flat-out dominant in his prep season this spring, earning Gatorade National Player of the Year honors. In 12 innings, Kelley struck out 34 batters and didn’t allow a hit. Those two outs that didn’t result in a strikeout were a comebacker and a groundout to second base.
Unlike Soderstrom, Kelly’s stock seems to be falling. As we discussed in the Sox Machine Book Club, drafting high school pitchers is risky business. There is concern that Kelley physically is maxed out, and his breaking pitches might be average at best. As far as destinations, Kelley himself has reported that he’s had Zoom meetings with the Marlins, Royals, Pirates, and Angels. Some mocks see him slipping to the Mets (Pick 19) or the Braves (Pick 25).
Austin Hendrick, RF, West Allegheny High School (PA)
The best power prep bat in this draft class belongs to Austin Hendrick. He caught my eye at the Under Armour Showcase this past summer. During the home run derby, Hendrick belted seven with the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field, including one off the right-field scoreboard. There is very little doubt about his power, but I didn’t see it during the game. When I followed the U18 Team USA during the summer tournament, Hendrick struggled to make contact and finished with a slash line of .056/.320/.056.
Despite the lack of results, any team looking to add an explosive bat in their farm system should take a long look at Hendrick. He needs more experience against better pitching than he faced in high school.
Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel HS (IL)
There is a contingent of White Sox fans hoping the hometown kid gets selected at Pick 11. As I mentioned in the first mock draft, Howard has a great defensive skill set. If his bat were at the same level, he’d be a comfortable Top 10 pick in this draft class. But it’s not, and many believe that Howard could slip into the back half of the first round.
When looking at the White Sox farm system, its depth up the middle is shallow. At shortstop, only Yolbert Sanchez and Lenyn Sosa appear in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 White Sox prospects. Sanchez is already 23 years old and hasn’t played stateside, and Sosa played at Kannapolis last year, hitting .251/.292/.371 spanning 501 at-bats. Neither should be considered the White Sox shortstop to take the baton from Tim Anderson.
Speaking of Anderson, he is under contract until 2024 (club options in ’23 and ’24). He would be 31 when the deal expires. If the White Sox wanted to have a contingency plan, one could make the case of selecting Ed Howard at No. 11. They can give him ample time to develop his hitting skills better with a fixture already at the position.
Longshots for Pick 11
Zac Veen, CF, Spruce Creek HS (FL)
I give it 100-to-1 odds of Zac Veen making it to the White Sox at Pick 11. Just like Mickey Moniak, Austin Beck, Jarred Kelenic, and Riley Greene, Veen’s stock has him going in the first five. Kansas City and Toronto are the most popular landing spots, but Baseball America cites rumors that Baltimore could take Veen second overall to save money for picks 30 and 39.
Veen does everything well. He went toe-to-toe with Hendrick in the home run derby at Wrigley Field. He possess terrific athleticism to cover center field and has a strong enough arm to stick at the position. One comparison you’ll hear on draft night is Christian Yelich. That’s an incredibly high bar for any prep player, but Veen has the skill set for teams to dream big.
Robert Hassell, CF, Independence HS (TN)
Robert Hassell was awesome for Team USA this past summer, hitting .514/.548/.886 with two of the team’s three home runs during tournament play. He sprays the ball to all fields with the potential to have 60-grade contact. There is a question about his power potential, and his other skills grade out at 50 to 55 grade. I think he’ll start in center field but may have to move to left field if a team has a better defensive option that can cover more ground.
There is a question about signability. Hassell has a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt, and with a fastball clocked at 93 mph, he might attempt to be a two-way player in college. If Hassell demands top-10 money, I could see the White Sox passing if he falls.
Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
Whenever I ask anyone about Mick Abel, it’s always a glowing review. He has an ideal 6-foot-4-inch pitcher’s frame and a chance for four-plus pitches (four-seam, two-seam, curve, and changeup), He’s also not lacking for power, with a mid-90’s fastball topping out at 97 mph during showcases. The difference between Abel and Kelley is the breaking pitch. Abel was consistently posting better spin rates than Kelley during the showcases, and that gives him the edge for many analysts.
Abel could be available to the White Sox at Pick 11, but there is a good chance he could go to Pittsburgh at Pick 7 or San Diego at Pick 8.
Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS (PA)
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel did a huge favor for Nick Bitsko by sharing his TrackMan data that MLB teams didn’t have. His fastball comp is Lucas Giolito, the curve is like Chris Paddack’s, and the slider matches up with Luis Castillo’s. That’s only three of the best young pitchers in major league baseball.
Bitsko is only 17 years old.
It’ll be fascinating to see where Bitsko ends up because I could see some team’s changing entire draft strategies for him. He was regarded as the third-best prep pitcher in the class for a long time, though he didn’t get the exposure in front of scouts as Abel or Kelley, but many thought Bitsko would be part of the 2021 draft class. Now that he’s reclassified, and has very impressive TrackMan readings, Bitsko could follow Abel into the Top 10.
(Photo of Tyler Soderstrom by Steven Silva)