For the upcoming episode of the South Side Sox Podcast (subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud), I talked to Doug Laumann, the White Sox' director of amateur scouting, about the 2015 MLB draft on Monday. The succession of mock drafts throughout the process have tied the Sox only to collegiate pitchers with the eighth pick, and I asked him whether that was fair to expect on draft day:
"I would think so," Laumann said. "Part of that speculation is, number one, due to our history. Secondly, looking at the field of position players and bats that are in this draft, there are three or four that we are probably expecting to be gone before our pick at No. 8, which narrows our pool down to some of the pitchers that are left.
"If there's a surprise along the way and one of the three or four position players happens to fly past somebody, we will certainly be prepared, and have done our due diligence, in terms of being ready to select those guys. But, the way we're projecting it at this point, it's kind of pointing to a pitcher."
We've been girding our loins for that outcome here, as the specific players associated with the Sox across mock drafts are all pitchers:
- Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
- Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
- Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
- Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
- Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
- James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
But Laumann raised the possibility of a player sneaking through, and the Diamondbacks might start a weird chain if they make an unexpected decision, so we may as well cover all the bases. Here are 10 interesting position players -- and, as you read these capsules of projected top-10 or top-15 picks, you'll realize how unbankable this draft class is.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
While he isn't considered a particularly strong top draft prospect, Rodgers is the consensus favorite, doing as much as he can to prove himself within the constraints of high school competition. He's 6 feet and 190 pounds, but he's getting bigger and stronger, with the bat speed and power picking up. The downside to that physical projection is that it's questionable whether he'll be able to stick at short, but he makes the plays right now.
MLB.com likens him to Addison Russell. BA says Manny Machado is a comp. Either player is pretty good. The question is whether the team doing the drafting needs a shortstop sooner or later. If the timetable is accelerated, there are a couple college players worth considering.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
Swanson is relatively new to shortstop, at least at the collegiate level. He played second base for the Commodores last year, and was one of the driving forces behind their College World Series championship run. This year, he shifted over to shortstop, and while arm strength was the chief question, he's answered it well enough that scouts say he'll stay there.
His offensive upside is limited by a lack of raw power (it's considered gap-to-gap), but he does everything else well enough -- contact, batting eye, and running -- to put together an interesting offensive profile without homers. He's hitting .348/.443/.656 in the highly competitive SEC. He's projected to go within the first five picks.
Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Another SEC shortstop, Bregman is said to have the tools to play it in the big leagues, but he might be more cut out for second base. His listed height (6 feet) seems to be optimistic, and so he draws comparisons to Dustin Pedroia for his aggressive style of defense, his control of the strike zone (36 walks to 20 strikeouts this year), his surprising strength, and his grit, hustle, leadership, and all other forms of intangibles. BA calls him one of the safest picks in this year's draft, and his flat swing might be a bigger governor on his offensive upside than his size.
Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas
Benintendi is a great example of how weird this draft class is. Look at his rankings, then compare him to where he's going in mock drafts -- usually in the No. 7-11 range, and always as the first collegiate outfielder taken.
He's a draft eligible sophomore, and he more than doubled his slugging (.385/.493/.725) from his freshman year (.276/.368/.333) It's caught a lot of teams by surprise, as Benintendi didn't even play summer ball last year. He has above-average speed (23-for-27 stealing bases) that can stick in center. He has a nice left-handed swing, but the power is new and unexpected from his 5-toot-11-inch frame, so teams need to decide quickly whether it's here to stay, especially at the professional level.
Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati
As you can see from the bipolar rankings, there isn't a clear consensus on Happ (Kiley McDaniel says Happ has been all over his own No. 5-20 range). It's hard to say what he can do defensively, as he's moved from shortstop to second to outfield over his collegiate career, and has even played some third base. It'll take work on his mechanics to keep him in the infield, and he doesn't have the speed to play center. Maybe he's an everyday second baseman, or maybe he's only feasible in left field. That's the rub.
As a hitter, Happ doesn't have as many questions. He hits for average and power from both sides of the plate, he's done it with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League, and his performance jumped this year despite injuries (.369/.492/.672). Strikeouts are the only flaw. He's not whiffing at an alarming rate in isolation, but since Happ is another 6-footer, scouts will have to determine if the power will play enough to offset those whiffs.
Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant (Tampa, Fla.) High School
The younger brother of Houston's Preston Tucker, MLB.com says Kyle is undoubtedly a better prospect. He has a beautiful left-handed swing from a 6-foot-4-inch, 175-pound frame, and he can cover the plate with oomph (he has an all-fields approach, but he's figuring out the power game more). He might have to move to a corner as he gets bigger since he's not the fastest guy, but he has the arm for right if needed. He's regarded as the clear second-best high school hitter behind Rodgers.
Daz Cameron, CF, Eagle's Landing (McDonough, Ga.) Christian Academy
The son of former White Sox center fielder Mike Cameron has been on the draft radar for years, but there's a pretty dramatic range of opinions for a guy who has been watched that closely. The optimists see him with foot speed that makes him a legit center fielder and useful on the basepaths, and bat speed that could generate more power than he's shown in high school. The pessimists don't see a standout tool, or enough standout performances against elite competition.
Complicating matters further, he's a Florida State recruit who might pose signability issues for teams that don't take him in the top five (Jim Callis told us on the podcast he's heard a $5 million price tag).
Garrett Whitley, CF, Niskayuna (N.Y.) High School
Keith Law calls Whitley "the leading tools-position player in the class," as he's a strong 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound outfielder who has the speed to excel in center field. The track record is what holds him back. Unlike Cameron, who has been followed his whole career, Whitley just emerged on the showcase scene last summer after some tweaks to his swing. Spring took forever to get to upstate New York, which already doesn't offer the level of competition the Florida prospects get, and so there's less of a feel for how good he is.
The reports are encouraging though, although sometimes phrased a little backhandedly ("surprisingly advanced pitch recognition skills for a player from upstate New York"). He's from the next town over, so of course I want the Sox to draft him.
Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice (Bloomfield, Mich.) HS
Another cold-weather player, Plummer has the makings of a hitter with a combination of an advanced approach, good bat speed and simple mechanics. He's on the shorter side (5'11"), but he has plus power potential thanks to a strong build. That same build will likely force a move out of center field, so scouts need to have a good idea that he'll hit enough for a left fielder.
Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS
Stephenson is the only catcher anybody is excited about in this draft, and it's mostly because of his defensive skills. Normally, you'd assume that a 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound catcher with big raw power would be destined for first base, but Stephenson grades out as an above-average defender, both receiving and throwing.
His hitting is what holds evaluators back, as he's another high school guy without a long track record on the circuits. His swing has loft, and it can get long, so it could take him some time to figure out how to make enough contact to make the power really play. There's nothing wrong with that for an 18-year-old, but as a catcher who could potentially be picked first overall by the Diamondbacks, there are definitely bigger questions than the last prep catcher to be selected at No. 1 had to face (Joe Mauer).
If the catching-starved Diamondbacks don't take him first as part of a money-spreading strategy, then he could last for a while. The Sox have some measure of interest:
Doug Laumann watched high school C Tyler Stephenson in Georgia a couple weeks ago. Might be hard for Sox to pass on if available— Scot Gregor (@scotgregor) June 6, 2015
And based on this bat flip, maybe you should, too.