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Looking ahead to the 2019 draft

A way-too-early peek at some prospects for the White Sox’s high pick next year

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Cal State Fullerton vs Oregon State
Backstop Backup Plan: If Zack Collins or Seby Zavala flag behind the dish, snagging OSU Beaver Adley Rutschman next year might be the ticket.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

After the Chicago White Sox got terrific early grades from our 2018 draft from such sites as Bleacher Report (OK, it’s Bleacher Report, but they gave only us and the Tampa Bay Rays A+ grades), now what?

During a rebuild, fans have little to anticipate other than seeing players progress through the minors — especially when the major league squad is displaying an inferior product. Hopefully, fans’s patience will show dividends within the next two years.

In trying to keep the optimism going and looking ahead to next year, who may the White Sox look into drafting in 2019? While it is entirely likely that this list may be entirely different many months from now, here’s an extremely early peek nonetheless into players who may get the Nick Madrigal treatment a year from now.

Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State

Can’t get closer to Madrigal treatment than being an Oregon State Beaver, right? This pick would seem to make perfect sense if 2019’s draft were to be held today. Rutschman (six-foot-two, 216 pounds), according to Jonathan Mayo, “might be the best all-around backstop in the class. He’s a plus defender, with a gun for an arm and excellent receiving skills. He’s a switch-hitter with bat speed, and plenty of raw power to tap into.”

What are Rutschman’s stats so far this year in 218 at-bats? He’s hitting .380/.479/.577, with 18 doubles, three triples, six homers, 66 runs batted in, 44 walks and just 35 strikeouts. Excluding power, Rutschman may be as good if not better a prospect than Joey Bart if he either maintains or improves those numbers next year.

Here’s Rutschman hustling for a game-winning inside-the-park home run earlier this year:

Bobby Witt, Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage H.S. (Texas)

Son of 15-year MLB hurler Bobby Witt, his namesake son is out to make a name of his own as a shortstop. According to Mayo, “The Texas high-schooler has five-tool potential, with the ability to stay at shortstop long-term. One evaluator put at least a 60 (on the 20-to-80 scale) on all of his tools.”

Witt Jr. (six-foot-one, 185 pounds) “is an outstanding defensive SS and can really hit. Every time he hit this summer you almost expected a 100+ exit velos and extra bases” according to Perfect Game.

After an Under Armour All-American appearance this past summer, Baseball America stated, “Witt did not disappoint during his two days on the field at the preseason tournament, primarily playing his natural shortstop position for the North Texas squad. He’s a potential five-tool player, with at least his speed, arm and raw power grading as plus tools. His 6.6 timing in the 60-yard dash was one of the top times from the first day of the event. Witt showed off his ability to use his quick, strong wrists to flick balls over outfielder’s heads during several of his at-bats.”

Zack Thompson, LHP, University of Kentucky

Thompson, at six-foot-two and 225 pounds, is not to be confused with the tall, Winston-Salem reliever with the same name. Scouts peg his fastball in the mid-90s, and also boasts an average change and dynamic curve. He hit the ground running as a frosh in 2017 by going 8-3 for the Wildcats, with a 3.45 ERA and 96 strikeouts, and got several First and Second Team All-American accolades as a result. Thompson was a prep selection in the 11th round of the 2016 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, but the southpaw bet on himself and enrolled at UK. According to Sporting News, “the question surrounding Thompson is whether he can stay healthy because, if he can, he has the potential to be a No. 1 starter in the big leagues for years to come.”

Here’s Thompson pitching against Sam Houston State earlier this year:

Matt Wallner, OF, Southern Mississippi

Wallner (six-foot-five, 220 pounds) has posted exceptional results during his first two years with USM. As a sophomore, he hit .351/.474/.618, with 13 doubles, 16 home runs, 67 runs batted in, 48 walks, 53 strikeouts and two stolen bases in 228 at-bats. According to an article in D1Baseball last year, Wallner is a sweet-swinging lefty with a “Will Clark” swing. Mississippi State head coach Andy Cannizaro says that Wallner “looks like Russell Branyan in the box; plus power and a solid runner. Played center field and closed against us at 94-97 (mph) with a plus breaking ball.” Mayo makes note that Wallner is quite athletic despite his large stature. While Wallner does indeed throw hard, it’s his bat that will be his calling card.

Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson

The six-foot-three, 185 pound Davidson won a ton of awards even before getting to Clemson, named the top prep of 2016 in North Carolina and being drafted in the 30th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. As a Tiger freshman, Davidson hit .286 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 2017 and won First Team All American honors from at least two media outlets. In 2018, the switch-hitting shortstop hit .292, with 15 homers and 46 RBIs and earned Second Team All-ACC and Third Team All-American honors. Sporting News says, “While he’s yet to hit above .300 in his collegiate career, scouts love Davidson’s power — from both sides of the plate — and his natural ability at short.”

Here’s Davidson homering from both sides of the plate in a gamer earlier this year against Notre Dame:

While it’s way too early to know who the best players in next year’s draft will be, these players are just a tiny sample of who may be worthy of consideration. Others include RHP Tyler Dyson from Florida, catcher Shea Langeliers from Baylor, LHP Nick Lodolo from TCU, third baseman Drew Mendoza from Florida State and LHP Hunter Barco from The Bolles H.S. (Fla.). It’s likely many other athletes (particularly collegians) will insert themselves in the upper-first round picture as well.