Who is Nick Schnell?
Nick Schnell (six-foot-two, 190 pounds), center fielder from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was named the Indiana Baseball Player of the Year on Tuesday. Jonathan Mayo stated in his most recent mock draft on Wednesday: “The Sox have scouted Schnell heavily of late, and could be a backup plan.” Through 30 games, Schnell has slashed .541/.674/1.212 by batting .541 (46-for-85) with 15 HR, 4 triples, 36 RBI, 50 runs scored and 37 walks. He is also 19-for-20 in stolen bases and is considered solid defensively, with an excellent arm. Schnell is committed to the University of Louisville, which already has a very strong White Sox connection: Adam Engel, Zack Burdi, Lincoln Henzman, Kade McClure, Logan Taylor, and others.
How does Nick Schnell rank?
Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com): 36th to the Rays
Fan Graphs: 37th to the Orioles
Baseball America: 31st to the Rays
Fan Graphs: 41st to the Rockies
MLB Pipeline: 38th top prospect
Fan Graphs: 40th top prospect
What is Schnell’s game?
Perfect Game likes Schnell’s offensive upside:
Schnell has a long and lanky athletic build with lots of physical projection, athletic actions in the outfield with long strides through the ball, very good raw arm strength with accurate on-line throws. Left handed hitter, hits from a wide base, creates lots of raw bat speed and can drive the ball hard to all fields, should keep adding bat speed as he gains more strength.
Baseball America points out that Schnell’s late hype is causing him to rise up the draft boards with a bullet:
Schnell has done more than perhaps any prep hitter to improve his draft stock since last summer, going from a player with a real shot to enroll at Louisville to now being one of the most interesting bats in the class. All he has done since the fall is hit, hit and then hit some more. After a few solid but unspectacular summer events, Schnell began to hit for extra bases with regularity to all fields, using extremely loose hands and a fantastic feel to barrel the baseball. He has continued to hit this spring and was one of the best players at Prep Baseball Report’s Midwest Select event where many crosscheckers and higher-level decision-makers were in attendance. Schnell might not be a true plus runner, but he comes close once he’s underway and also has above-average arm strength from the outfield. He has the chance to play center field at least initially, but scouts think he’s likely to move to a corner position in the future.
2080 Baseball comped Schnell to a current Milwaukee Brewers star after April’s Prep Baseball Report Midwest Select Tournament in Indianapolis:
At 6’2” and 180 pounds, Schnell has a lean, well-proportioned frame, with athleticism that translates well onto the diamond. A centerfielder, Schnell reads the ball well off the bat, and has closing speed to run down balls in either gap. His arm is a plus tool, with carry and accuracy to each base, and he showed it off in a pitching stint during the tournament where he sat 90-to-93 mph early, and topped out at 94. A left-handed hitter, Schnell shows feel for barrel, routinely driving balls into the left-center field gap. While there appeared to be a comfort level in the opposite field approach, Schnell also showed the ability to turn on pitches on the inner half. When putting the ball in play, Schnell displayed plus run times to first base and a long fluid stride on the base paths. One National League scout has compared Schnell’s profile to that of Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich. Ranked 70th on our Mid-Season MLB Draft list, the strong performance a high visibility event could have pushed Schnell into day one territory.
Finally, MLB Pipeline sees possible plus-power in Schnell’s future:
Schnell has a sound left-handed swing and uses the entire field. Though he has mostly gap power right now, he has the solid bat speed and wiry strength to develop average power once he fills out his extremely projectable frame. He currently has plus speed but could lose a step as he gets stronger. Schnell offers a well-rounded defensive package as well. He has the quickness and instincts to stay in center field and the strong arm to also profile well in right.
His highest grade, according to MLB Pipeline, is 60 for both arm and running, adding a 55 for fielding and hitting, and 50 for power. Judging by the analyses above, and by the results in high school, the power grade may actually be low, and may be adjusted after the draft.
What does Schnell look like?
Why should the White Sox draft him?
Schnell is a five-tool prospect who, as that definition implies, does everything well. He is just 18, so there would be a bit of a window in age between our him and our highest-ranking prospects from Kannapolis through Birmingham. Unlike many of the players in the Sox system, he has experience playing in cold weather, which may prevent him from early-season slumps. In selecting Schnell, the Sox would break from recent tradition & avoid taking the risk-free path: With greater risk, the Sox could also obtain a greater reward in return. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, for one, has made a heavy connection between the White Sox and the prep star, despite most projections pegging Schnell as a sandwich round pick in the 30s.
Why wouldn’t the White Sox draft him?
Truthfully, Schnell may actually be too much of a risk here. This is not to say that he isn’t a great player and undeserving of high accolades; it’s just that there are other prep players (including outfielders) that are rated even more highly by scouts: Jarred Kelenic from Wisconsin, Connor Scott from Florida and Jordyn Adams from North Carolina, to name a few. Also, there are always cautionary tales with prep picks. As recently as 2016, Mickey Moniak made the meteoric rise from good high school prospect to No. 1 pick in the MLB draft because of the Phillies’ willingness to get him with under-slot money; he’s struggled so badly since that he’s fallen out of the MLB Top 100 Prospect list completely. While Schnell has significantly more upside than Moniak, preps do pack greater risk.