A Sox Fan’s Early 2021 Mock Draft
With so many Sox prospects no longer found in MLB Pipeline due to graduation this year (i.e. Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, Garret Crochet and Yermin Mercedes), the top-heavy White Sox prospect list has suddenly become razor-thin. The White Sox have recently paid over-slot bonuses to select prep hurlers Matthew Thompson, Andrew Dalquist and Jarred Kelley; while I strongly agree with those decisions, it has meant that the team has had to basically punt its subsequent choices for extreme under-slot choices far down the prospect scale (thereby hurting the team’s overall minor league depth). Also, the Sox haven’t selected any position players among its first five picks during the past two years. Finally, due to injuries and bullpen ineffectiveness, the Sox may need to sacrifice what little minor league depth it has in order to attain players who can help the team during its race to the post-season. A combination of all these factors highlight the significance of this draft.
While I look at FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline for their prospect lists, Baseball America has the most detailed (and arguably most-respected) such list in the country (MLB Pipeline’s list doesn’t update much until the draft is less than 30 days away). While it rarely if ever works this way, my choices are based upon where Baseball America ranks these players. Inevitably, college players tend to ascend the lists while the prep stars do the opposite, as it’s deemed that prep players are more likely to honor their collegiate commitments. With that said, based solely on the Baseball America lists, here’s who I would select in the upcoming draft.
Round 1, Pick 22: Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East H.S. (East Amherst, NY). When you draft this late, it’s possible that players may drop unexpectedly and fall into their laps. Aside from Seby Zavala, the Sox are woefully short on catcher prospects. If Louisville catcher Henry Davis or fellow prep catcher Harry Ford fall to this spot, (which doesn’t seem likely), I’d take them in a heartbeat. With that said, because Mack’s glove is much better, I’d go with Mack over Miami backstop Adrian Del Castillo. This is what Baseball America says of Mack, "Mack has a chance for plus power potential and is similar to recent Northeast bats like Bo Naylor and Grant Lavigne—though Naylor’s pure hit tool is a bit more advanced. A strong, physical catcher, Mack’s best defensive attribute at the moment is a plus throwing arm. He’s gunned runners with sub-2.0 second throws to the bag in games and has the soft hands necessary to develop into a strong receiver."
Best available collegian: Gunnar Hoglund, Mississippi. A consensus top 10-pick, he will drop after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery. He possessed great stuff before the surgery, and while the surgery carries significant risk, the Sox would get an incredible talent relatively late in the first round. All Hoglund did this year in the powerful SEC was post a 2.87 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 62.2 innings allowing just 40 hits and 17 walks while fanning 96. I also thought about Miami catcher Adrian Del Castillo, but don’t believe his defense his good enough to combine with his surprising lack of power.
Round 2, Pick 57: Gavin Williams, RHSP, East Carolina. It’s possible that Williams doesn’t advance this far, as MLB ranks him #42 on their list while Baseball America lists him at #67. Since Williams had primarily been a relieve, and one with some control issues, the differential is likely based upon whether he’s seen as a starter or reliever going forward. His results this year have been sensational with a 1.48 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 61 innings – allowing 39 hits and 16 walks while fanning 98. The six-foot-six, 255 lb. hurler has touched triple digits in the past. If he’s not available, Michigan southpaw Steven Hajjar could be a viable alternative.
Best available prep player: Maddux Bruns, LHSP, UMS-Wright Prep, Mobile, AL). It’s possible, and perhaps even probable, that Bruns gets selected before 57. MLB ranks him as the 40th top prospect, but as I mentioned earlier, prep players (especially pitchers and catchers) tend to drop below their rankings due to higher risk factors. He already throws mid-90s with a 12-to-6 curveball and a power slider. Control issues may ultimately cause him to drop here Another option, should Bruns be unavailable would be USC recruit Eric Hammond, a power-pitcher from Keller, Texas who wields a solid three-pitch repertoire including a mid-90s fastball.
Round 3, Pick 94: Tyree Reed, OF, American Canyon H.S. (CA). This is what Baseball America said of Reed: "One of the top outfielders in the 2021 class, Reed has plenty of tools and lots of upside, but hasn’t been seen as much this summer as he would in a typical, non-coronavirus year. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Oregon State commit has loads of athleticism and a lean, projectable body. He already has at least three plus tools in his defensive ability, speed and arm strength. Those supplemental plusses should make him an impact defender in center field and a dangerous baserunner, but it’s his offensive upside that makes him one of the top players in the class. Reed has great bat speed and scouts believe he will grow into power very quickly in the future. He starts with an open stance in the box but evens up during his load and fires his hands quickly, with natural loft in the swing. There’s a bit of a hitch in the load and he has a high back elbow, but evaluators don’t seem too concerned about those mechanical quirks and believe he can grow into a true five-tool player." It would be a tough sign from Oregon State, but by drafting him here instead of later rounds (he’s ranked 120th and 167th by Baseball America and MLB respectively), the White Sox could perhaps avoid paying significant over-slot cash to win his services.
Best available collegian: If the Sox pursue a more conventional route here, they wouldn’t go wrong with Ohio State southpaw Seth Lonsway. At six-foot-three and 200 pounds, the Buckeye possesses great stuff with a mid-90s fastball, along with a solid change-up and curveball. He’s fanned 85 in 58 1/3 innings this year but has suffered with control by offering 33 free passes. If he can harness his control, he could be a steal here.
Round 4, Pick 125: Parker Chavers, OF, East Carolina. Because of his age (23) and an injury to his throwing shoulder at the end of 2019, his stock has fallen a bit. Chavers, who was once considered a first-day possibility in 2020 has dropped due in part to a drop in his power numbers. The outfielder, who has the range and arm to play any of the three outfield spots, slugged .320/.435/.621 with 15 homers in 2019 but dipped to .318/.403/.494 this year with five homers. While the aforementioned Reed may take a while to advance because of his youth, Chavers should be a rapid riser in the Sox system as he’s curtailed his strikeouts significantly. There are a lot of similarities between him and former draft picks Steele Walker and Luis Gonzalez.
Best available prep player: Hagen Smith, LHSP, Bullard H.S. (TX). A six-foot-three. 200-pound commit with the University of Arkansas, the White Sox may have to pay him at least third-round cash to pry him loose from the Razorbacks. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball and an outstanding slider. He did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2019, which may give teams second thoughts when drafting him.
Round 5, Pick 155: Bryce McGowan, RHSP, Charlotte. McGowan features a four-pitch repertoire which includes a mid-90s heater, slider and curve. His stats haven’ been overwhelming (3.99 ERA and 1.49 WHIP thanks to a high walk rate. This year in 76 2/3 innings, he surrendered 65 hits and 49 walks while fanning an impressive 98. The Sox could try starting him in the lower minors, but he could be a potential high-leverage reliever if he is able to improve his command and control in the professional ranks.
Best available prep player: Jose Pena, RHSP, Tampa Prep. Baseball America Athletic says of him, "Athletic with a quick arm, Pena has been up to 95 mph this spring and flashes an above-average curveball. He looks like he’ll throw harder in the future and he’s had a lot of scouting heat this spring". I believe Pena would forego his commitment with Florida International if he’s selected in the fifth round or higher.
I would have liked selecting a shortstop here, and perhaps in the next mock or two I do, I will select one for the Sox. With that said, if the primary picks go through as mentioned, the Sox would gain two athletic outfielder in different stages of development, their catcher of the future who can combined offense and defense, and two power arms (one for the rotation and one in the bullpen. The next mock I do will be a little deeper and go ten rounds.