Though it feels weird to be discussing this without a season in sight, the show must go on – in this case, the June 10th MLB First-Year Player Draft. The White Sox have the 11th pick in this year’s draft, which has presented an unprecedented set of circumstances for all involved. For high school players, their season was almost entirely cancelled in cold-weather states, while some warm-weather states may have gotten a few games in. At the college level, players only got about 15-20 games to show their growth from 2019. In short: players were hurt by lack of exposure, and scouts/teams will now have to primarily rely on 2019 scouting to draw conclusions about a player in 2020. Fun times indeed.
Regardless, this year’s draft has been touted for its strength, particularly at the prep level. MLB Pipeline has 9 prep players in their top 20 rankings alone, and No. 11-16 are all prep players. As teams try to figure out how to best manage a draft with only five rounds, many believe that a desire to save money might lead to teams at the top drafting prep players at under-slot values.
Let’s focus on the White Sox and their #11 pick, however. First, we will talk about what type of player the Sox might take in the first round, and follow this up with my analysis of many of the players connected to the Sox in some form or another at this pick. I’ll end with my final recommendations for the Sox, as if Rick Hahn and Mike Shirley are reading this article (but just in case you are: Hi, how are ya?).
Let’s start with the pick in general: which type of player will the Sox be picking at 11?
High School? College? Position Player? Pitcher?
The tough part about this series of questions is that around the 11th pick is when the draft begins to really open up. More often than not, most of the top 10 is pretty projectable – the order may not be, but the top players are there for a reason. After that, no one really knows what will happen.
The White Sox have a history of picking college players in the first round – the last high school player they picked in the first round was Courtney Hawkins in 2012. They also picked a high school player in the Competitive Balance Round that year (also considered part of the first round): Keon Barnum. 0-for-2. The last before 2012? Gio Gonzalez in 2004, who was also part of the Competitive Balance Round. So, the Sox don’t have a long history of prep players in the first round, very clearly preferring to take players with lower risk in the crapshoot that is the MLB Draft.
However, rumblings around the league – from Jim Callis and Keith Law, just to name two – are reporting that the White Sox aren’t necessarily guaranteed to take a college player with their first round pick this year. Mike Shirley has hinted at the fact that the White Sox have done their homework on high school players:
“It’s a deep draft. It’s a heavy pitching draft and it’s a depth of college pitching and there are high school pitchers we really like. So, the bulk of what we think the depths of this thing will be in five rounds – the pitching is out front.”Mike Shirley
With any player that is drafted, there is a considerable amount of risk taken on by every team with every pick they make – unless your name is Bryce Harper, you’re pretty far from a “sure thing” to become a major league star. So, in the effort of minimizing risk, teams will often take the players they consider the least risky; you can’t build a major league ballclub without hitting on some draft picks.
College players carry considerably less risk than high school players do. There are plenty of studies that back this up, but think of it more generally here: players who have experienced success at the college level have proven that they have the ability to succeed past high school. High schoolers have not had this chance. At the age of 18/19, words such as “growth,” “projectability,” and “development” are thrown around all the time – “He will grow into his body and tap into his projectable power,” is a quote you can find on plenty high school scouting reports. There’s no data to back up these claims, which is a red flag. Certainly, scouts should be trusted to do their jobs, but having data to back up their claims is helpful.
I also understand the mentality of the growing number of fans who want to see a high school player in the first round: with the Sox being competitive at the highest level, the farm system needs to be re-stocked in order to build towards the future. “Sustained success” only happens with continued reinforcements at the major league level.
Here’s the problem with that mentality, at least for now: the White Sox have not yet proven they will be competitive at the highest level. Certainly, they’ve made every move to be successful, but they haven’t actually done it yet. Additionally, the system currently does not have the depth to sustain an injury at the major league level. Who comes up when Eloy Jimenez needs to take a couple weeks off? How about Tim Anderson? The answer is not pretty, and that’s the problem. High school players who are 4-5 seasons away from making it to the major league level do not make sense for a team that needs to ensure its competitive window actually remains open in practice rather than just in theory. A lack of depth at the beginning of a competitive window is the easiest way to shut a competitive window on yourself.
So, here, in order, is what I would like the Sox to take in the first round this year: 1) College Pitcher; 2) College Position Player; 3) High School Position Player; 4) High School Pitcher. I’ve seen what the high school system does to pitchers’ arms, and because of that, I will never feel comfortable taking a high school pitcher with a high pick in the first round. If they can make it through college without an arm injury, then let’s talk. It’s also worth mentioning that I have absolutely no issue with the Sox taking prep arms/bats in any round after the first. However, with the 11th pick in the draft, the Sox have to do whatever they can to get a player that has the best chance of contributing at the major league level. This is likely the highest pick they will have in the next 5 or so years.
I would be happy to see the White Sox shift to a more prep-focused mindset in the first round in the next two years, so long as the competitive window is securely open. Building depth at the major league level comes first, then building depth at the lowest levels of the minors. Keith Law put it best: the Sox tend to take biggest risks when the opportunity cost is lower. I would prefer this to remain the strategy this year.
Now, let’s talk about the players.
The top five here was incredibly difficult for me – any one of these Honorable Mention players could have easily found their way into my top five. Because of that, I decided to give some sort of short breakdown on each of these players as well, and explain my reasoning for why they fell outside of the top five. All scouting grades are from MLB Pipeline.
Max Meyer, SP, Minnesota; Reason: Likely Unavailable
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Changeup: 55 | Slider: 70 | Control: 55 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 9 | Keith Law: 4 | Baseball America: 10
To have two 70-grade pitches is incredibly rare; for context, neither of the pitchers projected to go before Meyer – Asa Lacy and Emerson Hancock – have even one 70-grade pitch. Hence, I don’t really think Meyer will be available for the Sox to draft. If he were, I’d have a hard time not putting him at the top of my Top Five.
Meyer, according to MLB Pipeline, owns the best slider in the draft. His fastball hit up to 99 mph during the spring before the shutdown, and his changeup is a more than competent third pitch. Evaluators express some concern about his ability to start long term, whether because of his height (just 6’0) or the high amount of slides Minnesota asked him to throw. Let’s look at some video.
Pretty quiet mechanics, and that slider is as nasty as advertised. Sadly, I just don’t think he will be available at #11. There’s too much clear upside here. If he is, I’d jump at the chance to draft him – he could legitimately pitch in the majors this year.
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS; Reason: Projectability, Defense
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 40 | OVR: 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 19 | Keith Law: 25 | Baseball America: 18
Soderstrom has become one of the hottest prep names among White Sox fans, and many are clamoring for the Sox to take him at #11. Son of former #6 overall pick in 1993, Steve Soderstrom, Tyler is a bat-first left-handed hitter. Scouts believe in his ability to tap into his power and he has shown the athleticism to play 3B or OF. This will likely be important for Soderstrom, as he is not the best defensive catcher, with very raw skills in blocking and game management – he served as the backup catcher on his high school team.
Let’s take a look at some video:
Judging him based on last year’s film isn’t necessarily fair when he’s posted videos such as this one:
Let’s break it down though. Besides blocking, I’m not incredibly high on his mechanics behind the plate nor his receiving abilities. His swing shows A LOT more pop in his released video than in 2019 video, though the fact that this was soft toss shouldn’t be ignored. His swing feels a bit slow/long to me at times as well. I can see why the hit tool is so highly regarded, but I feel that he could be making a substitution of power for contact based on his recent video, which takes away from some of his appeal. His hands looks much slower through the zone in that video than they did last year in his official scouting videos.
Overall, he looks good, and could very well be a productive bat at the major league level at 3B. I just think there will be players with more upside available at #11.
Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA; Reason: Power Potential, Age
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 6 | Keith Law: 12 | Baseball America: 6
Mitchell has been one of the most polarizing players in the draft: Sox fans either want him, or want nothing to do with him. He’s clearly a highly regarded player across multiple evaluators, and because of that, he almost snuck his way into my top five.
Mitchell was highly regarded out of high school as a prospect, though evaluators were concerned about his swing. Over his time at UCLA, Mitchell took strides in answering doubts about his hit tool, slashing .327/.393/.478 in 121 games. However, he hit just 6 homers over his time as a Bruin, leaving many to wonder if he will ever tap into that raw power scouts have felt he’s possessed since high school. However, Garrett’s calling cards are his defense and elite speed – he has a very high probability of staying in CF.
Mitchell has a very quick swing and quick hands, and his line-drive approach is very apparent here. I like his swing a lot. Obviously swing changes could be incorporated to help him tap into his power potential, however, a short, compact stroke would serve him well at the next level. His ability to hit to all fields leads me to believe he has a good approach at the plate as well.
The problem here for me is two-fold. First, while he has high grades for power, Mitchell has yet to tap into that power. He could develop it, however, the second part is that he’s already going to be 22 in September, so time is not on his side when working to develop power. Personally, I don’t have issues with the fact that he has Type 1 Diabetes, as he has proven this has not prevented him from succeeding at every level. Ultimately, the lack of power kept him out of my top 5, which is a tad unfair, because Mitchell has the makeup to be very good player at the next level.
Because of this, I would be very happy if the White Sox decided to go with Mitchell at #11. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t available for the Sox – he’s got top 10 talent that will likely fall due to question marks. He’s a safe bet to provide some sort of value in the majors.
Cade Cavalli, SP, Oklahoma; Reason: Metrics, Injury History
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Curve: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 45 | OVR: 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 22 | Keith Law: 13 | Baseball America: 22
Cade Cavalli is an interesting name to keep an eye on in this draft. At 6’4 and 218 pounds, he’s got the ideal build for a pitcher. A 22-year-old out of Oklahoma, his fastball gets up to 98 mph with a wipeout slider as a strong secondary pitch. Interestingly, Cavalli spent most of his freshman year at first base before focusing on pitching during his sophomore year. Throughout his time on the mound, Cavalli was 9-7 in just over 100 IP, walking 53 while striking out 114.
In a short video, there’s a lot to like here. I like Cavalli’s mechanics a lot. They’re clean and quiet, delivering a smooth 98 mph fastball to the plate. His curveball is devastating, as is his slider. Those are two REALLY good off speed pitches, while his changeup also plays incredibly well. His pitches also look as if they tunnel really well, based on how off balance he kept some of the hitters. I honestly think those pitches should be rated at 60+ from an evaluator standpoint. The pure stuff is excellent, and it is clear why Cavalli would be considered among the top college arms in the draft.
I do have some concerns here. The first are some of his pitch metrics. Evaluators worry if there is any deception to his delivery because of how easily hitters square up his 98 mph fastball sometimes (he had a .281 AVG against in 2020 across 23 innings). In short, it has sort of baffled evaluators. To me, this points more to subpar pitch metrics (spin rate, spin efficiency). If he’s throwing a fastball without any vertical movement, it doesn’t matter how hard he’s throwing it. Rectifying this will require an overhaul in mechanics for someone who has already struggled with throwing strikes. The second is his injury history. He rarely pitched during his senior year of high school because of lingering back issues and also missed time in 2019 due to a stress reaction in his arm. Finally, he has historically had an inability to throw strikes, though it looked as if he had started to figure it out this spring.
Because of these concerns, Cavalli is likely to fall more towards the mid-first round, despite his top-tier pure stuff. Again, he is likely to be there for the White Sox; however, much like some of my other Honorable Mentions, I think there will be more polished talent available on the board at the time. However, in watching Cavalli, I like what I see more and more each time I watch him. Whichever team drafts him will get someone with a ton of upside without the track record most would like to see.
The Top 5
Now we get to the main list. When considering players for my top five, those who were listed here had some combination of these four characteristics that was higher than those in the Honorable Mentions section:
- Availability: Of course; Spencer Torkelson would be in my top five otherwise.
- Projectability: If I picked a HS player, I likely believe more in their development potential.
- Previous Results: Stats matter to me, especially for college players.
- Raw Ability/”It” Factor: There’s something about a player’s makeup that I believe in.
Without further delay, let’s get to the list:
5. Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny High School
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 13 | Keith Law: 21 | Baseball America: 9
Austin Hendrick has the unquestioned best prep power in the draft and the quickest pure bat speed in the class. The 18-year-old from Pennsylvania is a 2020 high school preseason first-team All-American who is committed to Mississippi State, though it is unlikely he will honor that commitment based on his likely draft position. Hendrick has played all three outfield positions, but profiles as a corner outfielder. Scouts have questioned his results given that he’s from Pennsylvania – a cold weather state with a lower competition level than his warmer state counterparts. However, the talent level is undeniable.
Looking at the video, it is clear why he is one of my top 5 players for this draft. The bat speed and power and are elite at such a young age. He has incredibly effortless power that has been further tapped into when he added a leg kick to his swing. He has an interesting hitch in his swing that reminds me a little of Joc Pederson.
It should be no surprise to you that Hendrick posted some of the best batted ball profiles of all prep players, with exit velocities upwards of 105 mph. For context, 90 mph is widely considered as “hard hit” at the college level. What also shouldn’t surprise you, then, is the clear swing and miss problems that could develop for Hendrick. With that sort of loft in his swing comes the undeniable swing and miss potential, which evaluators have been quick to point out. However, his consistency with the bat, according to Baseball America, leaves fewer question marks than other prep players in this draft.
Hendrick has the most upside of any of the prep options that would be available to the White Sox, in my opinion, while also taking on the higher risk of swing and miss potential and the fact that he’s older than most prep players (he will turn 19 shortly after the draft). However, if the Sox are taking a risk, they could do worse than someone with clear 30+ homer potential. He fits well into a system that has seen a lot of outfielders fail to establish themselves as legitimate contributors at the major league level, so adding Hendrick to the system could place some added pressure to some of the Tier 2 prospect in the Sox’ system to turn up their game.
MLB Comparison: Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Garrett Crochet, SP, Tennessee
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Changeup: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 50 | OVR: 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 18 | Keith Law: 39 | Baseball America: 15
Scouts and fans are pretty split on their opinions of Garrett Crochet. A lefty from Tennessee, Crochet doesn’t have the track record that many of the other college arms in this draft have. After starting just 12 games across two seasons and accumulating over a 4.60 ERA while also pitching out of the bullpen, Crochet was limited to just 3.1 innings to start this spring with an unspecified shoulder injury. Because of his lack of track record and pedestrian results, scouts have been rather split on his long-term outlook.
However, here’s what the previous paragraph misses: previously, Crochet had topped out around 97 mph on his fastball and sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range. However, during the fall, Crochet vaulted his status as a draft prospect, routinely hitting 96-100 mph on the gun and registering spin rates at an absurd 2500-2600 rpm that led to him being named the player with the best fastball in the draft. For context, this would place him among the top 30 arms in baseball in terms of average spin rate. He pairs this offering with an absolute wipeout slider that you can see on the video below. His third pitch – a changeup – is solid, but is thrown a bit too hard at around 90 mph. Crochet will have to work to establish more of a velocity difference between his fastball (96-100 mph) and that 90 mph changeup.
Mechanically, Crochet worries scouts. He has a high leg kick in what is an overall pretty violent delivery. He hides the ball incredibly well and has average control, but lacks the command to make his repertoire as devastating as it can be. Because of this, many believe Crochet might wind up as a reliever rather than a front-end starter. If you feel like you’ve heard some of this before, it’s because this is similar to some of the concerns surrounding his MLB comparison during his times as a potential draftee.
The risks associated with Crochet will lead to him falling farther than someone with his repertoire should. There’s little doubt that Crochet will be available to the White Sox at 11, the question remains of whether or not the Sox should be taking such a risk on a college pitcher in this spot. I personally believe the risk would be worth the reward and would not be upset if the Sox took a leap of faith. Much like Meyer, Crochet is a pitcher who could find himself pitching this year if all goes right.
MLB Comparison: Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
3. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence High School
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 16 | Keith Law: 9 | Baseball America: 16
While Austin Hendrick has been named the prep player with the most power in this draft, Robert Hassell is the clear best pure hitter in the class. A left-handed outfielder committed to Vanderbilt University, Hassell put himself firmly in the top of this class after batting .514/.588/.886 against some of the best U-18 talent in the world in the U-18 World Cup in South Korea in September.
Looking at his swing, there’s a ton to like. His swing is smooth and easy, showing flashes of Bryce Harper throughout. It’s also a very quiet swing, with a nice leg kick to add to pop without a hitch in his hands. However, if you watch some of the at-bats in this video, he starts to get himself into some trouble when his mechanics break down as the result of trying to hit for more power. Indeed, many evaluators wonder how much power Hassell will eventually add to his frame – the age old question when evaluating prep players. However, even Hassell’s biggest critics believe he will still hit for at least 15 homers a year.
As for Hassell’s other tools, it remains to be seen if he can stick in CF long-term. The arm strength is there, but scouts are split on whether or not his glove is anything more than average. Regardless, Hassell’s value is very clearly in his swing, with the hopes that he will develop some power somewhere down the line.
Hassell represents the typical risk of a high school player: solid bat, above-average glove, but no assurance that he will develop physically in order to compete at the next level. However, Hassell is no doubt among the best talent that is likely to be available around the White Sox’ pick, and if the Sox take him at #11, they would be getting one of the best prep bats from this year’s class. Is the risk worth the potential reward? That’s for you and the White Sox to decide.
MLB Comparison: Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners
2. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 45 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 10 | Keith Law: 11 | Baseball America: 13
Spencer Torkelson and Austin Martin are no doubt the best two college hitters in this draft. Heston Kjerstad finds himself firmly in the second tier of college hitters, even though he might have the the best raw power of all of them. Kjerstad has been Arkansas’ RF since 2018 while also playing a few games at 1B.
After hitting 31 home runs over his first two season at Arkansas, Kjerstad added some wood bat success to his resume. He hit incredibly well in wood bat leagues with Team USA, slashing .395/.426/.651 during the previous summer. He was off to a hot start in non-conference play before the COVID shutdown, slashing .448/.513/.791 in 67 at-bats, while striking out at just a 12% clip.
In watching the video of Kjerstad, his unorthodox swing stands out for both the casual fans and evaluators. It breaks up into two parts with a leg kick that sort of interrupts his timing. However, Kjerstad does have a track record of success hitting the ball to all fields. His approach at the plate is solid and his hands are quick through the zone, though his mechanics are a bit unorthodox. Perhaps as a result of his mechanics and how easily he could get off timing, Kjerstad has a bit of a strikeout problem – he struck out around 22% of the time in college before his abbreviated 2020 season. Kjerstad is likely to always strike out at a decent rate, but he has also shown he has the ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields.
Kjerstad’s value is no doubt in his bat, but he is a decent athlete who can provide adequate outfield defense with a solid arm. He will likely be available for the White Sox at #11, and they will have to decide whether or not his 30+ homer potential is worth the swing and miss potential. Kjerstad has proven he can hit at the college level, which I believe gives him a leg up over the prep players who have additional question marks surrounding their game. With Kjerstad, it’s pretty clear the type of player the Sox are getting, and it will be up to them to decide how he projects long-term in a system that does not yet have the reinforcements necessary to sustain injuries or create enticing trades for the final piece of a championship puzzle. Kjerstad looks like a player who could do either of those things.
MLB Comparison: Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets
1. Reid Detmers, SP, Louisville
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Curve: 55 | Control: 55 | OVR: 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline: 8 | Keith Law: 8 | Baseball America: 8
In my opinion, there’s nothing better than a polished college arm coming out of the draft – someone who can fly through the system and contribute at the major league level as soon as their development deems possible. In an era in which a team can never have too much pitching, Reid Detmers is exactly the type of player any team would want.
A southpaw out of Louisville, Detmers has become well known by baseball fans due to the insane amount of times one of his curveballs appeared on Pitching Ninja’s Twitter. Detmers is no doubt the most polished pitcher in this year’s draft class and enters the draft after setting Cardinals’ records for wins and strikeouts. He followed up his 2019 performance by starting the 2020 season ranked second in D-1 in strikeouts and first in strikeouts per nine innings (19.6).
After watching Detmers’ videos, it’s easy to see why teams are so high on him. He has an easy delivery and commands all of his pitches with ease – look how few times the catcher has to move his mitt too far from his original set up. Detmers’ curveball is clearly his calling card, and he throws it at a couple different velocities to prevent hitters from being able to sit on it too easily – when he throws it a bit harder, it looks more like a slider than a curveball. The two concerns surrounding Detmers: he only sits 90-94 mph on his fastball, making him reliant on command, and his curveball doesn’t tunnel well with his other pitches. However, Detmers has a deception to his delivery that has allowed him to be incredibly successful without lighting up the radar gun. This will allow him to be successful at the next level. With Detmers, it is much harder to find signs of risk – he’s really as polished as they come.
If Detmers is available when the White Sox pick at #11, there is no reason he should not be their choice. Detmers would fly through the system and give this team and system some much-needed reinforcement in the rotation. As more and more mock drafts have seen Detmers falling more in this range, I’ve felt more and more certain that he should be the pick here. His makeup, mound presence, command, and previous success all make him the highest-probability major leaguer available to the White Sox.
MLB Comparison: Brendan McKay, SP, Rays / Drew Pomeranz, RP, Padres
The following list of players are all players that I did research on due to their connection to this pick. Between these three lists, you have an exhaustive collection of all names who could somehow find their way on the South Side. The ones on this list are players I think would be reaches for the White Sox given their current draft position, players I don’t consider in my personal top 9 or 10, or fall within a category of player that I don’t necessarily love:
Ed Howard (SS, Mt. Carmel HS), Jared Kelley (SP, Refugio HS), Patrick Bailey (C, North Carolina State), Pete Crow-Armstrong (OF, Harvard-Westlake HS)
To comment on one of these players: Patrick Bailey has been pretty connected to the Sox in the mock draft setting. Most mocks will tell you they put him there because of the history the Sox have of drafting high school players. We have a breakdown of Bailey in our Sox On 35th draft preview and predictions article here, but I really don’t feel Bailey will be on the South Side. He’s a quality player, and is somewhat “safe,” but I really believe that there will be better options there on the draft board once the Sox are on the clock. There are quite a few players with higher upside that I would prefer.
The White Sox will certainly have many options available to them when they’re on the clock on June 10th. Given the uniqueness of this draft and the current state of the roster/organization, the White Sox should be looking to minimize the amount of risk they take on with a pick as high as #11. If Reid Detmers is somehow available after the first 10 picks, the White Sox should absolutely jump in on a guy who could fly through the system. After him, it becomes a little more difficult. I would like to see the Sox take Heston Kjerstad if Detmers is not available, or even Garrett Crochet depending on how the first ten picks go.
Honestly, this year more than ever, my reaction to who the Sox draft will be entirely dependent on the first ten picks. There is a case to be made both for and against any one of the players I just broke down, and I would prefer the Sox pick the ones who minimize the amount of risk the organization assumes. Remember how important depth is to any championship run, and consider what the White Sox have now. Adding someone who could be ready in the near term is much more valuable at the start of a contention window.
Until the Sox are on the clock, let the debates continue. It will be fun to look back at this draft in 3-5 years and see what side of history everyone falls on in what is sure to be one of the more memorable drafts in recent history for White Sox fans.
Share your thoughts below or find me on Twitter @jlazowski14
For more on the 2020 draft and players who are available, check out the crew’s comprehensive preview and predictions article!