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White Sox Draft Preview: Prospects to Know

by Michael Suareo

With the 2024 MLB First-Year Player Draft right around the corner, and the White Sox holding the 5th overall pick, it is time to take a look at who the White Sox could look to add to their ascending farm system.

Since taking over as the head of amateur scouting back in 2020, Mike Shirley has led a much more successful draft strategy than in the years prior. His first-round picks have been an ace in Garrett Crochet, top-tier prospects Colson Montgomery and Noah Schultz, and a prospect in Jacob Gonzalez who has an OPS round .800 at the Double-A level in his first full minor league season. Needless to say, if Mike Shirley thinks a prospect is worth a first-round pick, we should trust him.

Picking 5th overall this year, the White Sox are in a position where no matter how the board falls, there will be a blue-chip prospect available to them. While top draft prospects Charlie Condon and Travis Bazzana are likely to be off the board, there is a group of 6-8 players who would all be worth taking at their pick, which means several are guaranteed to be available.

College Hitters

Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida

While he has had a successful college career as a two-way player, most agree that most of his value is in his bat, which carries arguably the most raw power in the entire draft class. At 6’5” and 250 lbs, Caglianone is unlikely to play anywhere in the field other than first base. That immediately puts more pressure on his bat, however, the tools are there to be an impactful hitter in the middle of an MLB lineup. He led all of Division-I baseball with 33 home runs in 2023 and followed that up with a 35-home-run season in 2024. While he isn’t known for drawing a ton of walks, and he chases pitches a bit too often, his 26 strikeouts in 248 at bats is hard to ignore. That, combined with his raw power, makes him a safe bet to develop into an above-average hitter.

There has been a lot of smoke around the White Sox’s interest in drafting Caglianone, should he be available at 5. While White Sox fans may, understandably, be wary of drafting a 1B/DH, Caglianone’s offensive upside may be worth the lack of defensive value. If he hits his ceiling, he has a chance to be a 40-home-run hitter and excellent run producer at the MLB level.

JJ Wetherholt, 2B/SS, West Virginia

Prior to the 2024 season, Wetherholt being an option at 5th overall would have been a pipe dream. However, a hamstring injury kept him off the field for a significant portion of the season, and it took him a bit to brush the rust off when he did return. Once he got going, however, he showed off why he was such a highly touted draft prospect. Despite missing nearly half the season, he finished with 8 home runs and an OPS over 1.000. While also spending the first couple of seasons playing second base, he moved over to shortstop for his final collegiate season.

Wetherholt has been rumored to be in play for the Cleveland Guardians at 1st overall, however, if they opt for either Condon or Bazanna then he very possibly could fall to the Sox at 5. In this scenario, it would be very difficult for them to pass up on a middle infielder with the type of ability at the plate Wetherholt possesses.

Braden Montgomery, OF, Texas A&M

While an ankle injury unfortunately ended his final collegiate season early, Braden Montgomery had plenty of time to show off why he is a lock to be drafted in the top 10 of this upcoming draft. A switch-hitting outfielder, Montgomery has serious power from both sides of the plate, leading to 27 home runs in 236 at-bats this past season. His batted ball data and exit velocities were up there with the top hitters in the country, showing that those home run numbers should be expected to continue into his professional career.

While only an average athlete, his experience as a pitcher gives him a plus arm, leading him to be a prototypical right fielder moving forward. While many view the other college bats to be better draft prospects, and the added uncertainty of when his broken ankle will allow him to make his minor league debut, Montgomery has every right to be in the conversation at 5 for the White Sox.

Prep Hitters

Konnor Griffin OF/SS, Jackson Prep (MS)

There might not be a prospect with more upside in this entire draft class than Konnor Griffin. The Mississippi hitter, who has plus tools across the board, reclassified from the 2025 class to 2024, making him one of the youngest prospects in this draft. After dominating on the baseball field, he earned the honor of being named Gatorade’s National High School Player of the Year.

At 6’4” 210 lbs, Griffin is an elite athlete who also possesses plus power from the right side of the plate. In the field, he has played plenty of shortstop but many scouts believe he has gold glove potential in center field, where his athleticism gives him plenty of range, and his plus arm would play well. While there are still holes in his swing, he is praised for how he approaches the game and has already improved since dropping football and basketball to focus solely on baseball. With his All-Star ceiling, he will be an enticing option with the 5th pick.

Bryce Rainer,  SS, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

While he may not have the same all-around tools as Griffin, there is plenty of upside with fellow prep hitter Bryce Rainer. While some have looked at him as a two-way player, most agree he is better suited to focus on being a hitter and a shortstop long-term. At 6’3” and 200 lbs, and being a bit older for a prep prospect at already 19 years old, he has drawn some comparisons to White Sox top prospect Colson Montgomery.

With his size comes plenty of raw power from the left side of the plate, and that was further evidenced by his elite exit velocities during the National High School Invitational. He has also shown a patient approach at the plate, although there are still some holes in his swing that could be cleaned up. Defensively, while most middle infielders his size have concerns about outgrowing the shortstop position, he has shown impressive actions and range and has quieted any concerns. He has been rumored to be on the White Sox radar and has earned the chance to be in play with their pick.

College Pitchers

Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

It is possible that Chase Burns will be gone before the White Sox pick, as he is the favorite to be the first pitcher off the board on draft day. After getting off to a rough start during his freshman year, he has developed into one of the most electric arms in all of college baseball. Hitting triple digits on his fastball often, he was top 3 in Division-1 baseball in strikeout rate and was named the ACC Pitcher of the Year.

Along with his elite fastball, Burns also possesses a wipeout slider that generated elite swing-and-miss rates, along with a curveball that grades out as another plus pitch. While he can still improve his command, he has done a better job this season limiting his walks. While there is some risk of him ending up in the bullpen, he also holds true ace upside.

Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas

The consensus top left-handed pitcher in this draft, Hagen Smith ranks right up there with Chase Burns and is seen as a near-lock to be drafted in the top 10 of this upcoming draft. He posted an incredible 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings and held a 1.48 ERA, leading to being named the SEC Pitcher of the Year.

Smith’s success can be credited to his elite fastball/slider combo, in which both pitches earn plus-double plus marks. The fastball sits in the upper 90s and is hard to read with his unorthodox delivery. The slider might be an even better pitch, sitting in the mid-upper 80s and having plenty of movement. He also can use a splitter, and while it is behind his other two pitches, has some intriguing upside moving forward if he continues to develop it. He commands his pitches relatively well and has a chance to develop into a frontline starter when it is all said and done.

Follow us @PipelineTo35th and @SoxOn35th for more throughout the season!

Featured Image: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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