Draft, pandemic help White Sox prospects list gain, retain depth

BATON ROUGE, LA - APRIL 13: Tennessee Volunteers pitcher Garrett Crochet (34) throws a pitch during a game between the LSU Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 13, 2018. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

In a world where the 2020 MLB season is humming along, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and/or Michael Kopech all would have graduated from the lists of top White Sox prospects. Remove the top players from a top-heavy system, and the rest of the list would’ve been at the risk of floating into the great unknown by the middle of May.

Instead, with all progress more or less frozen, the White Sox didn’t have to take two of their best prospects out of the original packaging. And now with the draft more or less behind us — the signings of so many undrafted players means it’s not entirely closed — the White Sox also got a chance to fill out the middle of their list.

That’s one of the rare opportunities the pandemic afforded the White Sox. Another one: With the shortness of track records being the biggest concern for each, perhaps a full 2020 season would have made the drafting of Garrett Crochet and Jared Kelley mutually exclusive.

As the season played out — or didn’t — teams generally tried to avoid compounding the uncertainty of the lower minor leagues with the most uncertain draft profiles, so the White Sox were able to fit both pitchers into their budget.

The decision to hinge an entire draft on two pitching prospects embraces considerable risk, but it’s a lot easier to give the system’s pitching depth a shove with two arms instead of one. The focus on upside also pays immediate dividends, in that the White Sox’s hopes for exciting arms in the post-Kopech era no longer rest primarily on Jonathan Stiever.

The White Sox’s farm system looks thicker around the middle, but in a good way, like how Italian grandmothers want their grandchildren to look. You can quibble with the exact order, but my list looks something like this.

BeforeRankAfter
Luis Robert1Luis Robert
Michael Kopech2Michael Kopech
Andrew Vaughn3Andrew Vaughn
Nick Madrigal4Nick Madrigal
Jonathan Stiever5Jared Kelley
Dane Dunning6Garrett Crochet
Bryce Bush7Jonathan Stiever
Matthew Thompson8Dane Dunning
Andrew Dalquist9Bryce Bush
Norge Carlos Vera10Matthew Thompson

For a team just coming out of a rebuild, I’d prefer using a top-10 list to give one off-the-radar favorite a nod, rather than two. This is a more encouraging amount of depth, and it’s good for at least several weeks. Andrew Vaughn is no longer responsible for maintaining the reputation of the White Sox farm system by his lonesome.

This all assumes that the White Sox will be able to afford Kelley, but the White Sox wouldn’t have wasted such precious capital without knowing they could do it. Mike Shirley didn’t invite doubt about any of the five picks in his conference call with reporters.

Speaking of which, while Auburn lefty Bailey Horn might be the most exciting of the three remaining pitchers selected by the White Sox, Shirley sold fourth-rounder Kade Mechals a little more than everything else we knew about his profile would suggest.

“His stuff was really ticking up and then the surgery occurred,” Shirley said. “This guy has elite carry on his fastball and a really good breaking ball. His ability to pitch north and south will give him a chance. Just an interesting piece to this puzzle today.”

(Photo of Garrett Crochet by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

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HallofFrank

“…but it’s a lot easier to give the system’s pitching depth a shove with two arms instead of one.”

How could anyone prefer the writing of another White Sox blog?

Eagle Bones

There’s another one out there?

Drdoctor

Feel the same about Italian grandmothers. I can, um, *relate* to that.