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Draft Prospects You Should Know: Jonathan French

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With rock-solid defense, this prep backstop needs to establish his offensive game to climb the draft charts this June

Catching on: Jonathan French is one of the highest-ranked prep catchers in this year’s MLB draft.
Leaf

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).

Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).


Jonathan French

Parkview H.S. (Lilburn, Ga.)
Catcher
Age 18
Bats Right
Throws Right

Rankings

Baseball America 90
MLB Unranked
FanGraphs Unranked

French is considered one of the finest prep catchers in this year’s draft. How high he’ll be selected will largely depend upon his bat, as his defense is considered top-notch. At 5´11´´ and 210 pounds, he’s already got the classic physique of a backstop. He has very quick feet behind the plate and shows his athleticism well (he runs the 60-yard-dash in 6.91 seconds, according to PerfectGame). French has shown plenty of flexibility, has upper body quickness as well in his exchange and release, good arm strength, and has an above-average 1.89 best pop time per PerfectGame. Stats aren’t easily available for his defense this year, especially regarding success in thwarting base stealers; however, he has had 230 total chances through April 28 with 213 putouts, 15 assists and just two errors for a rock-solid fielding percentage of .991.

Reports vary in regards to his offensive abilities. According to PerfectGame, French has a smooth swing with some extension and bat speed through contact, a low-effort repeatable swing, and pull to mid-field contact. Baseball America seemed more concerned, however, citing that “while he does have some power and utilizes the opposite field well with deep fly balls to all fields, he does strike out frequently and will need to more fully establish his hit tool in the spring in order to garner more early-draft consideration.” In the meantime, here are his nifty stats through April 28, which should be taken with a grain of salt based on his competition level in high school (most numbers, particularly the slash line, are significant improvements over last year’s totals, which at least is a good sign):

2019: .447/.561/.882, 114 PA, 85 AB, 10 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 41 RBIs, 23 BB, 13 Ks, 0-0 SB

French could easily be drafted anywhere from the third to fifth rounds, depending upon how teams rate his hitting. He is verbally committed to Clemson. Would the White Sox consider drafting him? Perhaps if he falls to the fourth round, but the White Sox’s history of turning around hitters with swing-and-miss tendencies is extremely spotty, at best. Most of the system’s best catchers are offense-oriented, so it’s conceivable he could move up quickly if his defense stays stellar and offense proves credible.

The closest White Sox comp would be a more powerful, lesser-contact version of Kannapolis catcher Carlos Perez.

Here’s French at the 2018 Under Armour All-American Showcase via Baseball Factory:


Previously, on Draft Prospects You Should Know

C.J. Abrams, Blessed Trinity (Ga.) H.S. SS
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