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Over the last few years, the White Sox have moved from avoiding high-end prep talent to giving in to the upside. They’re not bold (or some would say reckless) enough to spend first-round capital on a high school player, but the selection of Jared Kelley marked the third year of using $1 million of their draft pool on teenagers, and the second year of truly aggressive investment.
Size it up year over year, and 2020’s total only lags behind due to the draft’s five-round nature.
- 2016: $700K
- 2017: $200K
- 2018: $1.7M
- 2019: $5.4M
- 2020: $3M
The pandemic struck at a particularly damaging time, at least when it comes to those hoping to see some reward from this shift in direction. The winter’s biggest trades involved young talent, but the lack of a 2020 minor-league season prevented the Sox’s recent picks from building their stocks. The hope is that the reward is merely delayed, and not denied.
Either way, the Sox have selected enough promising prep players in recent years to warrant their own post. A few years ago, it probably could be covered in 300 words. Starting with the most recent selection, but not in any particular order after that…
The pandemic limited Kelley to 12 innings of high school ball, striking out 34 of the 36 batters he retired, but it’s easier to spin his situation as a positive. For one, had he been able to build up his body of work, he probably wouldn’t have been available for the Sox to draft in the second round, even for an over-slot bonus. Also, he seemed to be able to get the same kind of hands-on, innings-light training that the previous year’s prep selections received, except in Schaumburg instead of Arizona.
He’s not lacking for velocity…
His immediate to-do list sounded kinda like Dylan Cease‘s recent offseasons, where he’s trying to make sure that high-90s heat isn’t wasted with the wrong kind of spin. He’s also trying to find a breaking ball that works for him, as that was the biggest knock on an arsenal that features an advanced changeup for his age.
The White Sox’s second- and third-round picks in the 2019 draft were dealt a worse hand by the cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season, because this was supposed to be the start of their workload-building. Instead, they had to settle for another year of back-field development.
The reports from prospect rankings reflect progress made in spite of the circumstances. Both are seeing the radar-gun readings rise toward the mid-90s, which is an especially important development for Thompson, whose draft stock took a hit due to worrisome dips. Inconsistency is still there in readings and release point, which Eric Longenhagen took as evidence that they’re still trying to make the tweaks to their delivery and pitch design feel natural. Thompson’s slider seems to rank ahead of Dalquist’s curveball as the best secondary offering.
It’d probably also help to face live, angry hitters in real competitive conditions. Chris Getz made it sound like all three pitchers will be targeted for Kannapolis, or some form of A-ball, for most or all of the 2021 season.
In 2019, he ranked in my top 10 with only a little irony. In 2020, he ranked in my top 10 to make a point. He’ll be on the outside looking in this year because he’ll be further removed from brief but legit offensive bursts that were nullified by flaws (swing-and-miss, defense) and bad luck (illness, foul balls off the foot).
Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to like, especially if he’s freed up from trying to handle third base and can make right field his permanent home. The power remains exciting, and while it sucks that he’ll be year behind on refining it, players like him will have plenty of company around baseball.
The lost year is a little more damaging to a guy like speed-based players like Weaver, because that’s a harder tool to hold through the aging process, and he didn’t get a real chance to start compensating with the shoring up of other skills. When we last saw him, he was treading water in Great Falls, hitting .254/.317/.377 at 19. That line reflected improvements in power despite issues against more experienced pitching.
The 2018 sixth-rounder shows up at No. 21 on Baseball America’s list, because they’re encouraged by the increased strength, as well as a shortened swing that should cut down on the swing-and-miss. His speed should keep him in center field for the foreseeable future, and he’ll probably roam the new park in Kannapolis to start the season.
Beard has some of the same concerns as Weaver — fast as hell, short on reps — but he’s speedier and one year younger, so he’s got more runway to pull this thing off. He is further away as a hitter than Weaver, as he hit just .213/.270/.307 in his AZL debut with a 39-percent strikeout rate, so he’ll probably open the season in complex ball. Even in a year with a lot of ostensibly challenging assignments, a full-season affiliate feels like a reach.
When we last saw Delgado, the 2018 fourth-rounder was surprising us with his ability to play shortstop most of the time in Great Falls, but not so much with his strikeout rate (37.5 percent) and struggles tapping into his strength (.103 ISO). 2021 will be his age-22 season, albeit barely. That’s why Getz said that Delgado is likely to receive a surprising assignment to Kannapolis, even if that kind of pitching feels like a reach for him.
The immense power that Gladney showed in his 2019 AZL debut carried over the instructional league, where he hit three homers in his first three games and peaked with an 114 mph exit velocity according to Baseball America. Everything else remains a project, from pitch recognition to footwor to throwing arm. He’s the argument against drafting too many first basemen, because it presents an escape pod for somebody like Gladney with loud tools, even if defense isn’t one of them.
His pro debut in 2019 — 4-for-21 with a walk and six strikeouts at Great Falls — doesn’t stand out, but he’s added followers over the course of the 2020 season. He earned First Team honors in the CarShield Collegiate League, the St. Louis-based circuit that Jake Burger briefly played in to get his feet under him.
The White Sox invited him to instructional league, and his work there got him the final spot on Baseball America’s Top 30, saying scouts were “mildly intrigued by his bat speed and potential for lefthanded power because of his strength and knowledge of the strike zone.” The White Sox were intrigued enough to buy him out of a commitment from Missouri State for $190,000, so he’s worth monitoring.
Like Krogman, Glass received overslot money on Day 3 of the 2019 draft, receiving $175,000 in the 22nd round to thwart a commitment to Oklahoma State. Also like Krogman, he participated in instructs. He’s right-handed and had a bigger strikeout-to-walk disparity in his AZL debut (.284/.342/.403, but two walks to 23 strikeouts over 73 plate appearances), so he may have the later full-season emergence of the two.
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(Photo of Jared Kelley by Josh Nelson)