When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.
Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).
When looking at the Sox first-round pick, there are seemingly very few at this point worthy of the third overall selection. Certainly, catcher Adley Rutschman of Oregon State and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn are the most polished college hitters and would be coveted by the White Sox if they were to fall to #3. However, who would the Sox select if neither fall? Well, judging by most MLB mock draft sites, the top remaining options could well be prep shortstops (gasp!) Bobby Witt, Jr. and C.J. Abrams. Let’s take a look at both players’ skill-sets, their seasons to date, and compare their strengths and weaknesses.
Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).
Blessed Trinity H.S. (Roswell, Ga.)
Baseball America 4
Perfect Game 5
When looking at the Chicago White Sox’s first-round pick, there are seemingly very few players at this point worthy of the third overall selection. Certainly, catcher Adley Rutschman of Oregon State and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn are the most polished college hitters, and would be coveted by the White Sox if they were to fall to No. 3.
However, what happens if neither fall to the White Sox? Well, judging by most MLB mock drafts, the top remaining options could well be (gasp) prep shortstops Bobby Witt Jr. and C.J. Abrams. Let’s take at Abrams’s skill set, his season to date, and where he’ll get selected.
These are Abrams’s prep offensive stats through April 24:
.429/.479/.723, 117 PA, 105 AB, 35 R, 45 H, 14 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 27 RBIs, 10 BB, 6 Ks, 26-of-27 SB
Saying Abrams is fast is the equivalent of saying that Michael Jordan was a decent basketball player. Perfect Game clocked him in the 60-yard dash at a mere 6.29 seconds, and runs sub-4.0’s home to first with little obvious effort. He has game-changing speed, using his quickness to beat out bunts and grounders and ultimately having the instincts to develop into a premium basestealer. The Alabama commit isn’t a slouch with the bat either. His swing is smooth and fluid, he has excellent barrel control with loose hands and consistently hits line drives to all fields with gap power which could lead to a multitude of triples at the professional level. While he won’t be a slugger, he has the bat speed and deceptive strength to hit 10-15 homers on an annual basis.
Abrams has a solid arm, but reviews are mixed as to his defense. Perfect Game says he has smooth footwork in the middle infield, very quick transfers, lots of athleticism, throws from a lower arm slot, and has the tools for shortstop but actually might fit very well at second base. MLB Pipeline states Abrams has “solid arm strength and a chance to stick at shortstop, but he doesn’t have the most fluid actions. He might fit better at second base or center field.” His high school results haven’t been kind to him in this regard, as he’s made 10 errors in 108 chances for a disappointing fielding percentage of .907. To put it in perspective, Tim Anderson made 28 errors in 2017 for the White Sox but had a fielding percentage of .952; if Anderson would’ve had the same fielding percentage that year as Abrams currently has, he would’ve committed a whopping 55 errors. MLB Pipeline grades Abrams’ skills as 75 run, 55 hit, 55 arm, 50 field, and 40 power.
If the Sox aren’t enamored with the other college choices still on board with the third pick, they may have to decide between Abrams and Witt. Here are the numbers for Witt through April 24:
.553/.625/1.191, 112 PA, 94 AB, 50 R, 52 H, 12 2B, 6 3B, 12 HR, 42 RBIs, 17 BB, 7 Ks, 15 SB
Witt only has one error this year in 80 chances, for a .988 fielding percentage; based on that percentage, he would’ve only made seven errors with the same number of chances Anderson had in 2017. Witt’s skills grade per MLB Pipeline as 60 run, 60 arm, 60 field, 55 power, and 45 hit.
This piece isn’t to rave on Witt, or to criticize Abrams in any way. Abrams’ skills are more predicated upon his hitting and running abilities, while Witt’s skills feature significantly more power at the expense of hitting. It’s difficult to compare prep hitting numbers, as they obviously play in different fields and perhaps may have different levels of competition. Both players have tremendous upside, and the White Sox would indeed be ecstatic if either fell to them. There are valid concerns about Abrams at shortstop, however, but he certainly has the arm and range to play a quality center field or second base if the White Sox don’t feel he can be a shortstop long-term.
If Witt is selected with one of the first two picks (assuming Adley Rutschman is selected with the other one), the Sox would likely choose between Abrams, Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn, TCU southpaw Nick Lodolo, or Arizona State outfielder Hunter Bishop. Since the White Sox prefer the more polished college stars, it’d be difficult to envision Abrams being their pick. Without a doubt, though, Abrams will be among the first six or seven players drafted. Shoot, since he fits so well with the Kansas City’s newly-rediscovered focus on speed, he may even be selected second overall.
Below is a video of Abrams participating in last year’s Perfect Game National Showcase in Tampa:
Previously, on Draft Prospects You Should Know
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State University OF
Cameron Cannon, University of Arizona 2B/3B
Matt Cronin, University of Arkansas LHRP
Tyler Dyson, University of Florida RHSP
Daniel Espino, Georgia Premier Academy RHSP
Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian (Ala.) H.S. C
Rece Hinds, IMG Baseball Academy (Fla.) 3B
Jason Hodges, Marist (Ill.) H.S. OF-1B
Will Holland, Auburn University, SS
Jack Leiter, Delbarton (N.J.) H.S. RHSP
Chris Newell, Malvern (Pa.) Prep H.S. OF
Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove (Ill.) H.S. RHSP
Adley Rutschman, Oregon State University C
Landon Sims, South Forsyth (Ga.) H.S., RHSP
Andrew Vaughn, University of California, 1B
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss University OF