2020 MLB Draft: Which strategy will the White Sox use?

In just a few hours, Major League Baseball will begin the 2020 MLB Draft under a lot of uncertainty. It doesn’t appear negotiations between the owners and players association are making any ground in a compromise to play in 2020, and because of money issues, some teams may spend as little as possible in this year’s draft.

There is an opportunity for a team like the White Sox to take advantage of by spending the cash to restock their farm system.

Strategy: Repeat 2019

After signing Andrew Vaughn to the full slot value ($7.22 million), the White Sox last year went over the bonus slot amount for Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist. Both received around $2 million each, and to stay within the draft pool budget, the White Sox used round 5 – 10 picks on college seniors who had no leverage when negotiating bonuses. Six players received $10,000 each, and the White Sox took the $1,351,000 saved to sign both Thompson and Dalquist.

Fast forward to 2020, and the White Sox don’t have the same luxury of working with 40 rounds to pull this same strategy off. However, they could use an adjusted version of last year’s plan. The approach would give the first-round pick full slot value ($4,547,500). In rounds 2 and 3, the White Sox go over their slot values to draft prep players. Pick 47 has a slot value of $1,580,200, and Pick 83 has a slot value of $733,100.

Pick 112 in the fourth round has a slot value of $517,400, and the final pick has a slot value of $386,600. Knowing that after the draft players can only sign to a maximum of $20,000, the White Sox could use the fourth and fifth-round picks on college seniors offering $20,000 to $25,000. That’s far below the slot value, but possibly more than what these players could sign for undrafted. If the White Sox can sign two players for $50,000, they could use $854,000 in savings to go over the slot amount in the second and third rounds.

Split the savings in half and distribute evenly, and the White Sox could offer $2,007,200 for Pick 47 and $1,160,100 for Pick 83. Those amounts would equal to Pick 37 and Pick 60 in the draft, and it could be enough to entice prep players to forgo their college commits. Possible options would be RHP Jared Jones for the second round, and 3B Yohandy Morales in the third round.

What the White Sox draft class could look like using this strategy:

Round 1LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville
Round 2 RHP Jared Jones, La Mirada HS
Round 33B Yohandy Morales, Braddock HS
Round 4 RHP Luke Smith, Louisville
Round 5RHP Brian Van Belle, Miami

Strategy: Give It the Old College Try

From 2013 to 2018, the White Sox only selected four prep players in the first five rounds. They went heavy on college players, and after the coronavirus shut down baseball in March, it is a realistic possibility the White Sox return to this strategy.

One problem with this strategy is the White Sox won’t be alone. Many analysts are expecting close to 80 percent of the players selected in this year’s draft to come from the college ranks. They have long track records, many got a chance to play games in 2020, and negotiating bonuses is more straightforward. White Sox could just stick with the bonus slot values and don’t have to play games signing draftees.

What the White Sox draft class could look like using this strategy:

Round 1LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville
Round 2 RHP Cole Henry, LSU
Round 3 OF Joey Wiemer, Cincinnati
Round 41B Bobby Seymour, Wake Forest
Round 5OF Grant Richardson, Indiana

Strategy: Shoot the Moon

This strategy is a nod to our friends over at From the 108, where they enjoy chaos.

What if the White Sox decide to ignore the budget and decide it is worth the financial penalties for going over the slot amount on every pick? No team in the first round wants to give Jared Kelley Top 20 money? The White Sox sign him for $3 million at Pick 47. Does no team want to provide Jared Jones $2 million? The White Sox dish out the dough for Jones at Pick 83.

What would be the consequences of going this bold? The penalties for going over the allocated draft pool:

<5% of draft pool: 75% tax on the amount over
5.1% to 10% over: 75% tax on the amount over and loss of 2021 first-round pick
10 to 15% over: 100% tax on the amount over and loss of 2021 first and second-round picks
More than 15%: 100% tax on the amount over and loss of 2021 and 2022 first-round picks

The White Sox 2020 Draft bonus pool is $7,764,800, or displayed by penalty levels:
<5% = $8,153,040, $291,180 in tax penalties
10% = $8,541,280, $582,360 in tax penalties and loss of 2021 first round pick
15% = $8,929,520, $1,164,720 in tax penalties and loss of 2021 first and second round picks
More than 15% = General Manager can start packing their office

Admittingly it would be fun to see a team blow up their draft pool and going all-in on one draft class. Very unrealistic and most likely would cost a general manager their job. Still, it would be fun for everyone else watching it unfold. It would most likely be an all prep class as they are more expensive to sign later on in the draft.

What the White Sox draft class could look like using this strategy:

Round 1RHP Mick Abel
Round 2 RHP Jared Kelley
Round 3RHP Jared Jones
Round 4RHP Nate Wohlgemuth
Round 5C Daniel Susac

Strategy: Go Under Slot in Round 1

By far, the most popular questions leading up to the draft are “What if Team X signs a player under the slot amount in the first round? Who could they sign later with the savings?”

This strategy is more plausible for a team like Baltimore that has the second pick but also pick 30. Most likely, there still will be first-round graded prep players on the board that wants Top 20 pick money that teams passed on. Instead of Austin Martin, Baltimore could pick 2B Nick Gonzales and sign him to $6 million. That’s a savings of $1.7 million that they could push to Pick 30 and offer $4 million to a draftee. That’s a route that could land a prep player like Austin Hendrick or Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Back to the White Sox, if the draft team wanted to take this route, this is where picking SS Ed Howard makes sense. His talent would help address a need within the farm system (middle infield depth), and Howard is the best shortstop in this draft class. In my mock draft, I have Howard going to Cleveland at Pick 23, which has a slot value of $2,926,800.

Let’s say it takes $3.5 million for Howard to sign at Pick 11. The White Sox would save $1 million that they could use at Pick 47 to offer $2,580,000, which is late first-round money. Again, they could draft and sign a prep pitcher like Jared Jones, or convince a college pitcher like Auburn’s RHP Tanner Burns to wait a day to have his name called.

On paper, it seems like an easy job to pull off. In reality, there are many moving parts, and all it takes is one team to blow up the entire strategy taking your player regardless of signability.

What the White Sox draft class could look like using this strategy:

Round 1SS Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS 
Round 2 RHP Tanner Burns, Auburn
Round 3RHP RJ Dabovich, Arizona State
Round 4SS Zavier Warren, Central Michigan
Round 5RHP Kyle Hurt, USC

Draft Preference

Josh: If I were in the White Sox virtual war room, I’d be an advocate of trying the 2019 Draft strategy again. I have a feeling many prep players are going to fall as teams are uneasy making commitments on anyone who didn’t see any action this spring. This could be an excellent opportunity for the White Sox to take advantage and add better talent in rounds 2 and 3.

My wish for the first-round pick is Reid Detmers. I think he will be a dependable starting pitcher and will be major league ready in 2022. Adding Detmers would greatly help the White Sox address their starting pitching depth.

Jim: I’d be more for two or three prep players if I were certain what the lowest rungs of the MLB development ladder are going to look like. If short-season ball is completely quashed in favor of complex clubs, it might not affect immediate plans, but I don’t have as strong a concept of what rosters will look like, nor the level of competition. I don’t think I want to overcommit to that uncertainty.

Of the pitchers likely to be available, I like Detmers more than Crochet. I get the appeal of Crochet — especially if he can be signed under slot — but I don’t believe the White Sox have a preternatural ability to keep high-octane arms healthier than the rest of the league. For similar reasons, I’m not convinced high school pitchers are a great call.

I think I’m more drawn to the idea of Tyler Soderstrom, whose ability to cover different positions where the Sox lack depth gives him more ways to survive the grind. Ed Howard also has that going for him up the middle. There’s the Amateur City Elite pull, but Corey Ray is a cautionary tale for getting hung up on that one element. Beyond that, Baseball America has the Dodgers on him, and Jeren Kendall aside, I’ll have what they’re having.

That’s a lot of names, so let me hedge less and put it in an order: Soderstrom, Detmers, Howard.

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Eagle Bones

This is the same guy the Sox have a supposed agreement with, correct? This sounds problematic.



Their big signing this year is rumored to be Norge Vera. Different recent Cuban defector.
Shocking how they always have the vast majority of their bonus pool unspent just months fron J2 signing day.

Eagle Bones

Ah that’s right, thanks! Getting these guys confused. False alarm, my apologies folks.


Vera is the one with all-but-official word on an agreement, but there are rumors connecting Colas to the Sox as well as SS Dyan Yamel Jorge (who did a workout video wearing Sox swag).

lil jimmy

The Colas rumors seem to be coming from people close to Colas. I’d call that a plant.


Was that workout after Jorge “signed” with the Rockies?


No, those reports came just about the time everything shut down in March. There’s also the Cespedes kid brother, and who knows when this can all become official? Could be January.

lil jimmy

It seems to be going off as planned. July 2.

lil jimmy

there are two other players that have been foreshadowed for about 1 million total. Future Sox wrote it up about 3 weeks back.

Right Size Wrong Shape

My money is on the strategy that gets them the most Louisville players.

Jim Margalus

How many Zacks can I put you down for?


What’s the collective noun for a group of Zacks? A Louisville? An Attack?


I believe it is a “zilch of Zacks”

Eagle Bones

Longenhagen’s last second mock is out. He’s got Crochet with Bailey and Abel in the mix.



Noob question, and I’m almost positive I’ve seen it asked recently but did not stick around for the reply:

or convince a college pitcher like Auburn’s RHP Tanner Burns to wait a day to have his name called.

I hear this a lot, and I don’t get it. What is to stop another team from drafting him before he gets to the Sox? How does Burns have any control or choice to “wait”? I’m not asking in the specific context of 2020 where a team may punt – I just mean in general, I don’t understand the dynamic in baseball where I seem to hear about players having agency in the draft. I’m not mad about it, sounds like a good thing… just confused.


Thanks! Yeah, I think this year someone could screw everyone’s plans trying (or not actively avoiding) that outcome. Appreciate the explanation.