White Sox back to tracking magic number instead of draft order

The White Sox hadn’t made the postseason since 2008, but they hadn’t even contended into September since 2012, so there’s so much about the month that’s just about brand new to me.

For instance, I really hadn’t given draft order an ounce of thought. There hasn’t been one game that the White Sox won that I half-wish they lost, if only to slide ahead of some other wayward club for the privilege of drafting one spot higher with a couple hundred thousand dollars more to spend. It’s very refreshing!

Jeff Passan is the one who brought it to mind with his latest “20 questions” column for ESPN. It sounds like the league is sticking with the traditional reverse draft order, which only is newsworthy because there was a chance the league could use other criteria if teams couldn’t complete enough games to establish a rough order of quality.

While MLB has yet to announce whether teams’ 2020 records will determine draft order, a source familiar with the league’s thinking said that the clause written into MLB’s March agreement with the players’ association that gave the league the right to determine draft order was a contingency in case the season was canceled well before records were indicative of much. Even though 60 games doesn’t give the full picture of who’s really good and who isn’t, the source said it’s highly likely that the draft order will be determined by this year’s record.

If the season ended today, the White Sox would draft 28th, and even if they slide a little, they’re not going to escape the bottom 10. That could make the drafting of Jared Kelley all the more useful. When the White Sox paid him the bonus of a late first-rounder to draft him in the middle of the second round, it wasn’t even clear whether Major League Baseball would have a season.

It turns out the league is on the verge of completing one, and the White Sox have enjoyed more success than most thought possible. Whatever the draft turns out to be next year, the White Sox probably won’t have the capital to get two solidly first-round types, at least without foregoing the remainder of their picks. The early returns of Garrett Crochet and Kelley would be a fine way to make the most of a lost year. It’d also help if Matthew Thompson or Andrew Dalquist could convert some of their prep athleticism into prospect stock earlier than later as well.

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Speaking of Kelley and others, those who haven’t been able to participate at the alternative training site in Schaumburg will be able to make up for at least a little of the lack of action with instructional leagues next month.

Baseball America’s Josh Norris has the details for Cactus League clubs, and he says it’ll be the closest thing to a minor-league season most prospects will get.

The number of games each team plays will vary—some teams won’t begin playing games until as late as Oct. 14 and the Athletics, White Sox, Reds and Indians will all wrap up on Oct. 31.

But everyone will get between 17 games (the Cubs) and 40 games (the ambitious Padres who doubled up for two games on six different days) against outside competition. The games will provide needed innings and at-bats for minor leaguers, especially for those who did not get invitations to the alternate sites during the MLB season.

Norris has the White Sox conducting their season from Oct. 10 through Oct. 31.

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For White Sox prospects who have seen at least a bit of action in MLB games, Eric Longenhagen provided short capsule summaries of his first impressions over at FanGraphs. He said he’s toying with the idea of adding Dane Dunning to his top 100, but the most compelling reaction is to Jonathan Stiever, because of all the debuts, his is the only one that didn’t quite measure up with previous scouting reports.

The summary isn’t particularly pessimistic, even if Stiever’s stuff came up a little short.

Jonathan Stiever’s promotion was instructive because we got to see his velocity coming off of the forearm soreness that ended his spring. He sat 91-94, which is a little below his peak 2019 breakout when he would touch 6’s and 7’s. His changeup looked good, though, and it was a stabilizing force during a jittery first start. He’ll need to locate his slider more consistently for it to be effective, and the same goes for his heater if it’s going to live around 93. Stiever also incorporated his secondary stuff more often in his second outing — that’s probably the long-term strategy if this is where his fastball velocity is going to live.

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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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