With the college baseball season wrapped up, the 2022 Major League Baseball first-year player draft is just around the corner. More than 600 young baseball players will see their hard work pay off and get a chance to earn their way to baseball’s highest stage.
Typically held in the month of June, this year’s draft will run from July 17th to 19th and will be broadcast on MLB Network. After winning the AL Central and making the playoffs for the second straight season in 2021, the White Sox will be picking 26th this year, and many have speculated about what type of player they may be looking to acquire. A farm system ranked 30th in baseball by most pre-season media outlets could use whatever influx of talent might be available for them.
Around the league, the word is that the White Sox have been attached to quite a few names with their pick – it’s been hard to pinpoint any single name that the White Sox are more attached to than others. As the White Sox get closer to their decision day, here are some possible names that the White Sox could target with pick #26.
As a reminder: scouting grades for each player below are on the typical 20-80 scale.
Drew Gilbert, OF, Tennessee
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 55 | Power – 45 | Run – 55 | Arm – 60 | Field – 55 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 32 | Baseball America – 21 | Prospects Live – 16
As a junior this year at Tennessee, the left-handed-hitting Gilbert batted .362 with 11 homers. The 21-year-old OF is listed at just 5’9, but his quick hands and good plate discipline make up for power that will probably stay average. He doesn’t strike out often and puts the barrel on the ball a lot. Defensively, Gilbert has good speed and an above-average arm and should have no issue sticking in CF. The ceiling for Gilbert seems to be a good batting average, 15-20 homers, and solid defense in the outfield.
Gilbert was drafted in the 35th round by his hometown Minnesota Twins back in 2019 but elected to honor his commitment to Tennessee instead, a move that has definitely paid dividends for him. The White Sox are known for doing heavy scouting in the midwest region, and Gilbert played on the White Sox area code team in 2018. There are many who believe Gilbert won’t make it to pick 26, but if he’s available, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see the White Sox pounce. It’s also worth noting that Rick Hahn reportedly made a trip to Tennessee a few weeks ago to watch both Gilbert and his teammate Jordan Beck.
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Tri-City Valley Cats
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 60 | CB – 60 | SL – 70 | CH – 50 | Control – 50 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 38 | Baseball America – 19 | Prospects Live – 21
This has to be one of the more interesting names for the early rounds of the 2022 draft. The son of NFL player Tracy Rocker, Kumar put up big numbers throughout his career at Vanderbilt and was drafted 10th overall by the New York Mets in 2021. Rocker and the Mets had reportedly agreed to a deal, but the Mets backed out at the last second over concerns about his medicals. The 22-year-old then joined the Frontier League’s Tri-City Valley Cats for the 2022 season, making him draft-eligible for the second straight year. Rocker’s been projected everywhere from top-10 to the second round, so it really is kind of a toss-up where he ends up. However, a couple of mock drafts have had the White Sox taking him at 26. Rocker has looked good in a few starts in independent ball, with a fastball sitting mid-to-high 90s and sharp breaking stuff. At 22, he’s seen as one of the more big-league-ready prospects in the draft, so he’d be a good boost to a contending team looking for someone who’s close. However, the medical red flags still remain, and it’s unclear how teams view him compared to this time last year.
Overall, we cannot eliminate the possibility of the White Sox taking him 26th, and if so, it would certainly be an exciting pick.
Jordan Beck, OF, Tennessee
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 45 | Power – 55 | Run – 55 | Arm – 60 | Field – 55 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 23 | Baseball America – 33 | Prospects Live – 23
Like his college teammate Gilbert, Tennessee OF Jordan Beck is projected to be a late first-round pick this year. Though they’re both outfielders, Beck’s skill set is quite a bit different from Gilbert’s. Beck is listed at 6’3 and played mostly right field in his junior season at Tennessee. He’s quick for his size, and has an above-average arm, but will probably be limited to a corner OF spot in the majors. The tool that jumps out the most is his raw power, as he hit double-digit homers in each of his first three college seasons. With his size and bat speed, his power could develop even further. His swing isn’t without flaws though, as he does have a high swing-and-miss rate, and sometimes has trouble laying off junk.
Overall, Beck is one of the best pure power hitters in the 2022 class, and if he learns to lay off bad pitches, he could develop into one of the best overall bats. The White Sox would be happy to land him at 26.
Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Gonzaga
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 60 | SL – 55 | CH – 50 | Control – 50 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 26 | Baseball America – 20 | Prospects Live – 22
Undrafted as a two-way player coming out of high school in Idaho, Hughes focused on pitching after beginning his career at Gonzaga. The 6’4 right-hander has three above-average pitches and has cut down on walks in each of the past two seasons. He’s also increased his strikeout rate by 10% since his collegiate career began. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and has reached triple digits on occasion, and he pairs it with a plus slider and above-average change-up. He’s also working on a curveball, though he doesn’t use it very often yet.
At 21, he’s pretty polished and isn’t terribly far off from the big leagues, but some are concerned about the lack of competition he faced playing in the WCC. Still, Hughes is regarded as one of the top college arms in a bat-heavy class, and the White Sox would be excited to land him with the 26th pick.
Tucker Toman, 3B, Hammond HS (Columbia, South Carolina)
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 55 | Power – 50 | Run – 40 | Arm – 50 | Field – 45 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 35 | Baseball America – 41 | Prospects Live – 44
The 2022 draft class is loaded with talented college players, but there are some prep guys to keep an eye on as well. Some of the latest mocks have the White Sox going with a prep position player for the second straight year and selecting Tucker Toman. The South Carolina high-school infielder is listed at 6’1 and projects primarily as a 3B, though he has played some SS too. He’s a switch-hitter who projects to have more power from the left side, though he registered triple-digit exit velocities from both sides of the plate. He’s got good hands and feet on defense and a very accurate arm.
There’s a lot of upside in a pick like this, but prep players are always riskier. The Sox made a very similar pick last year with Colson Montgomery, and it’s worked out well for them so far. If he’s still on the board at 26 and the White Sox like the upside, don’t be surprised if they snag Toman.
Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 60 | SL – 70 | CH – 50 | Control – 55 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 25 | Baseball America – 38 | Prospects Live – 26
Connor Prielipp was originally drafted in the 37th round back in 2019 by the Boston Red Sox; however, he chose to honor his commitment to Alabama at that time. At this point, it seems like that was a pretty good decision on his part. Prielipp is a name that has risen again recently thanks to some recent performances at the MLB Draft Combine. After throwing 21 scoreless innings in his COVID-shortened freshman season, Prielipp entered 2021 as a must-watch arm for the 2022 class. Unfortunately, Prielipp was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery in May 2021. He returned to the mound with a bullpen workout in late May of 2022 and showed that he had fully regained his stuff three weeks later at the previously mentioned Draft Combine.
Before the injury, Prelipp was on a path to being a potential top ten pick in the draft according to James Fox of FutureSox. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with one of the best sliders in the class that serves as his wipe-out pitch. He receives higher praise than most at this tier of talent for his control, but his third pitch – a changeup – serves as a developing pitch. While his fastball sat at an approximately 2200-2400 RPM pitch, his slider was reaching elite levels of spin – as high as 3100 RPMs.
Scouts won’t be afraid to take a chance on this elite-level lefty in July, given his intriguing pitch metrics. He’s likely to be the first college lefty off of the draft board; however, teams will have to decide if they’re willing to buy into his limited track record. Between lanky left-handers (Chris Sale) and left-handers with a limited track record (Garrett Crochet), this certainly isn’t an area the White Sox avoid. He could be an interesting name if no one before the 26th pick takes a chance on him.
Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 60 | CB – 50 | SL – 60 | CH – 55 | Control – 50 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 27 | Baseball America – 28 | Prospects Live – 25
Blade Tidwell is a power pitcher in every sense of the word, possessing some of the most electric stuff in the class. He has a fastball that can touch 99 – while averaging 96 – and an extensive resume as a college starter. He refined his arsenal from 2021 to 2022, improving his ERA from 3.47 to 3.00, and seeing a drastic increase in K/9 (8.2 K/9 in 2021 compared to 11.8 K/9 in 2022). Tidwell did suffer from shoulder soreness to start the 2022 season, and although he did return from this later in the season, he served a more limited role for the Volunteers. However, his stuff didn’t appear to suffer on his return.
Tidwell throws from a higher arm slot and release height that creates a downhill plane and less deception on his fastball than teams would like, though the pitch has efficient spin and induced vertical break around 18 inches. He has done some work on it recently, but this is likely something teams will keep in mind – perhaps similar to a Ty Madden situation from the draft last year. His main offspeed pitch is a 2500-2800 RPM slider, and he also features a curveball and changeup, both of which he threw less than 10% of the time this Spring. There is work to be done on his command according to scouts, but he did decrease his walk rate from 2021 to 2022.
Tidwell’s shoulder injury adds to the risk of this pick, but he has some of the most electric stuff in the draft while also having one of the better starter resumes. Should the White Sox be looking for another power pitcher to add to Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech down the line, they could call Tidwell’s name at #26.
Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 60 | CB – 50 | SL – 65 | CH – 45 | Control – 50 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 24 | Baseball America – 32 | Prospects Live – 14
Cade Horton has some of the most upside of any college pitcher in the draft. He came to Oklahoma as a two-way player, but never got the chance to play in 2021 due to Tommy John Surgery. This season, he played third base until getting on the mound in late March. He only slashed .235/.323/.324 as a hitter, but still got this high on draft boards because of his incredible end-of-season performances. After struggling through his first nine appearances to the tune of a 7.94 ERA, Horton finished his season with five appearances totaling 31 IP, 9 ER (2.61 ERA), 49 SO, and just 6 BB.
What changed for Horton? A change in pitch mix. He decreased his fastball usage from up around 63% all the way down to 43% usage before the College World Series. With that, his slider usage increased – it was simple, use your best pitch more often. Within the CWS, he had starts that included an 11 strikeout performance against Notre Dame and a 13 strikeout, zero walk performance against eventual champion Ole Miss. By the end of the season, he was throwing a 94-95 mph fastball that reached as high as 98 mph. His best offspeed pitch is the aforementioned high-80s slider that was even touching 90 mph by the end of the season with some tinkering. He also throws a curveball and changeup, with the curveball showing far more promise than the changeup – though both have the potential to be legitimate offerings. All of his pitches feature high-spin profiles.
Because Horton has just 53.2 innings under his belt, teams could vary on how far up the board they would select him, but he was getting consistent top-two-round chatter in late June, and plenty of scouts like his arm talent enough to put him in the first round. Horton would be a great fit for a White Sox organization lacking in upper-level pitching prospects.
Justin Campbell, RHP, Oklahoma State
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): FB – 50 | CB – 55 | SL – 50 | CH – 55 | Control – 55 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 36 | Baseball America – 20 | Prospects Live – 22
An 18th-round pick by the Astros out of a California high school in 2019, Campbell might be one of the safest college starters in this class, according to James Fox of FutureSox. While at Oklahoma State, Campbell started as a two-way player, hitting .414/.485/.586 in 33 plate appearances in 2020, but falling down to just .269/.398/.388 with more playing time in 2021. As more of an on-base guy, he became a full-time pitcher in 2022, posting a 3.82 in 101.1 IP this season and compiling a 3.37 ERA in a total of 205.2 IP at the college level. He finished seventh in D-I play with 141 strikeouts this season, and his college resume includes a no-hitter against Kansas back in 2021.
Campbell’s fastball sits in the low-90s but can get up to the mid-90s and has even touched 97. Regardless of what the radar gun says, the fastball explodes out of his hand thanks to effortless mechanics on the mound. His next best offering is his curveball, followed closely by what may be the best changeup in this year’s draft. He also features a slider that serves more of a show-me pitch to right-handers. Given his makeup, track record, and stuff, Campbell projects “safely” as a backend starter with plenty of potential to become more.
It’s no secret that pitching is an organizational weakness for the White Sox, which is why Campbell is one of many college starters that the White Sox have explored. Which ones are available at #26 will definitely play a role in which direction they take in the draft, and based on draft boards, there’s a chance Campbell may be available – however slight that chance may be.
Justin Crawford, OF, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 55 | Power – 40 | Run – 70 | Arm – 55 | Field – 60 | OVR – 55
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 13 | Baseball America – 17 | Prospects Live – 27
Justin Crawford is the son of former major league outfielder Carl Crawford, so his profile here shouldn’t be too surprising. One of the best athletes in the draft class, Crawford has posted some eye-popping speed metrics while remaining highly projectable at 6’3 and 175 pounds. At the plate, the left-handed hitter has very good bat-to-ball skills, showing the ability to make adjustments. He’s more of a slap hitter now, content to let his legs do the work, but there’s some whip in his swing and he can sit back and drive the ball the other way, with added strength to help him in the power department in the future. Even if he never hits for power, he should develop enough of it to consistently find gaps.
Crawford is committed to Louisiana State but is pretty likely to forego this commitment due to his current draft stock. His athleticism will likely result in him going much earlier in the draft than #26, but if the White Sox have a chance to take him, either he’s strengthened his commitment to college or the Sox will have an opportunity to add a true diamond in the rough to their prospect pool.
Sterlin Thompson, RF/3B, Florida
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 55 | Power – 45 | Run – 45 | Arm – 50 | Field – 45 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 29 | Baseball America – 37 | Prospects Live – 32
Coming out of high school during the shortened 2020 draft, Thompson has always shown an ability to hit. He continued that trend while at Florida, hitting .332/.424/.524 across 517 plate appearances in two college seasons. He’s shown a very good approach from the left side of the plate, using the whole field and driving the ball to gaps. His home is most likely in the outfield, though he has shown the ability to play third base at Florida and came to college as a high school shortstop. Regardless, it will be his bat that carries him wherever he goes.
The question in terms of his offensive profile, according to MLB Pipeline, comes in trying to project how much power he’ll have. Talent evaluators are clear in that they see a significant amount of raw power; however, he has failed to translate that to game power, often displaying a hit-over-power approach as well. Some of this may be because of his mechanics at the plate – according to Prospects Live, some believe altering his load to a moderate stride would help Thompson extend better and pull the ball with more authority.
The White Sox are historically short on left-handed-hitting outfielders, so whenever one presents itself in the first round, it’s likely that the Sox are going to at least take a look at him. However, with other athletic bats likely available at this spot – along with a plethora of college arms – it doesn’t appear on the surface that the White Sox would pounce here despite the recent connections.
Dylan Beavers, OF, California
Scouting Grades (MLB Pipeline): Hit – 45 | Power – 55 | Run – 55 | Arm – 55 | Field – 50 | OVR – 50
Draft Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 22 | Baseball America – 26 | Prospects Live – 37
The White Sox are no strangers to California hitters, and Beavers was one of the best PAC hitters in 2021. He followed up his 1.031 OPS in 2021 with a 1.060 OPS in 2022, and in 557 college plate appearances, Beavers has hit .294/.409/.615 with 36 homers – all but one of which were hit in 2021 and 2022. According to MLB Pipeline, while he’s big at 6-foot-4, Beavers is an above-average runner who has the chance to stay in center field, though his near-plus arm would work just fine in right.
During the spring of 2021, he started to remind some scouts of Christian Yelich as a left-handed hitter who makes good swing decisions and hard contact in the strike zone. But using a bit of an unorthodox setup with lower hand positioning, he does have some timing issues and there are some holes in his swing. Most believe his swing is going to need some sort of overhaul if he is going to be successful at the next level. However, if he makes these adjustments, he has 30-home run potential.
It’s unclear if Beavers will even be available at this point in the draft, given his upside, but most mocks put him in this range. He is one of several college left-handed outfielders the White Sox are considering, but once again, a lot of it comes back to what the White Sox view as their most pressing need and who the best talent available on the board is come draft time. However, Beavers has plenty of potential to dream on.
With a week still to go until the draft, there is still so much that can change. Unlike in recent years, when it’s been pretty obvious who the White Sox were targeting, there are quite a few names here with connections to the White Sox. Much depends on how Rick Hahn and the rest of the staff view the current state of the farm system and how immediate a need might be for the team.
Throughout this week, we will have you covered with more draft coverage, White Sox draft history, and an interview with Tyler Jennings of Prospects Live to get a rundown of some of the chatter heading into the draft next weekend. Make sure to stay tuned in for more, and get ready to watch the draft starting Sunday, July 17!
Follow us @SoxOn35th for more coverage leading up to the draft!
Featured Image: The Knoxville News Sentinel / USA Today