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South Side Sit-Down: DJ Gladney

Prolific power-hitting prospect DJ Gladney discusses defense, discipline, and hometown pride

Heading into his fourth professional season, outfielder DJ Gladney has a lot to smile about.
| Winston-Salem Dash

Not all 16th-round picks can spark excitement across an entire organization. Then again, not all 16th-round picks are DJ Gladney.

The White Sox selected Gladney in the 2019 draft out of Illiana Christian Academy in Lansing, Illinois. He was heralded as a talented, toolsy prospect with plus bat speed and insane raw power potential. Despite those impressive assets, concern about his defensive skillset and his ability to consistently make contact led to few people in the organization expecting him to take to professional ball and achieve success without the benefit of a season or two of experience in the lowest levels of the minors to hone his craft.

His debut in professional baseball proved those skeptics wrong.

At 17 years old, nearly three whole years younger than his average competition in the ACL, Gladney clobbered 15 extra-base hits to go along with an impressive .264/.309/.428 slash line over just 50 games at the rookie level. Despite his success, a number of errors at the hot corner and a strikeout rate that hovered around 40% showed that Gladney, who was not yet old enough even to vote, had some work to do to become a more complete hitter.

Now in his age 21 season, DJ is in the process of producing his most successful campaign yet. Across 91 games in High-A Winston-Salem, he’s slugged 19 homers to go along with 15 doubles and six triples. His strikeout rate is a career-low 27.4%, and he’s even swiped 11 bags. The latter figure is exceedingly impressive, considering speed was never supposed to be a significant part of the young power hitter’s game. In addition to becoming more disciplined at the plate and more aggressive on the basepaths, Gladney has shifted to a full-time outfield role where he’s produced significant defensive value and highlight-reel-worthy catches.

South Side Sox’s Salina Rae Silver sat down with the surging Sox prospect on the heels of an impressive two-homer performance to discuss his breakout season in Winston-Salem.


SRS: DJ, thank you so much for taking the time to talk ball with me. Let’s get right into it. You made the jump to High-A this year and haven’t missed a beat. As a matter of fact, you’re turning in the best performance of your professional career. How has the transition to Winston-Salem been for you?

DJG: It’s been pretty good. A little bit of ups and downs, but I’ve been trying to be as consistent as I can be.

SRS: It seems to be paying off for you! You’re rocking a career-low strikeout rate AND producing the best power numbers of your career. How have you been able to produce more consistent contact without sacrificing power?

DJG: This whole year, I’ve just been trying to work on my swing decisions. [I’ve been] swinging at more pitches in the zone that I can do more damage on.

SRS: Defense was a huge knock on your game when you were younger, but you’ve done a complete 180 since shifting to the outfield. Can you describe your growth defensively since transitioning to an outfield role?

DJG: I feel like I’m more free in the outfield. [I feel] more loose and relaxed, which gives me more time to react and think on my feet to make any play that’s hit to me.

SRS: In addition to playing solid defense, you’ve also swiped 11 bags to go with six triples in High-A this year. What has gone into making speed and baserunning aggressiveness a part of your game? Has it helped you in the outfield?

DJG: I think being aggressive is just in my game. I think I’m an aggressive person when it comes to anything I do on the field, so it just comes natural to me, and it also translates to the defensive side as well.

SRS: You’re a Matteson, Illinois native, and the White Sox scouted you as a part of their ACE program early on in your baseball career. Do you take pride in being a homegrown talent in the White Sox system?

DJG: I do. I take a lot of pride in being a homegrown guy, and it’s nice to have the people you played with and grew up with cheer you on and watch the team we all grew up watching together.

SRS: You got a taste of Double-A ball as a part of Project Birmingham last year. How did it feel to be a couple of levels closer to the majors?

DJG: It honestly felt amazing just to be a part [of it] and see the types of talent around. But it also put into perspective that I have to work harder, and I have a lot of things I need to clean up, too.

SRS: You decided to sign with the Sox out of high school, and you’ve consistently been a year or two younger than your average competition as you’ve moved through the system. Is that age gap something that you think about as a player?

DJG: Not at all. Growing up, I’ve always been one of the youngest players on the team, so I quickly got over the whole age gap thing when I was younger.

SRS: Speaking of growing up, were there any baseball players that you looked up to or modeled your game after as a kid?

DJG: [Francisco] Lindor mainly. At the time, I was a shortstop as well, and I loved the way he played shortstop. [He plays] with energy and heart.

SRS: By all accounts, your energy and heart made you a fan favorite in Low-A Kannapolis. How did it feel to graduate to High-A, leaving Kannapolis in your rearview?

DJG: Moving up felt good, but it was also sad leaving behind a great fanbase and a great fan atmosphere. I really enjoyed playing in Kannapolis those two years; it was a lot of fun.

SRS: Do you have any mentors in the White Sox organization?

DJG: I have a lot of good people that have helped me and who help me try to achieve my goals. Everyone here has been a great helping hand for me.

SRS: Let’s end things with a bit of a softball. Who’s the funniest teammate you’ve had as a professional ballplayer over the past few years?

DJG: The funniest teammate that I’ve been around is probably James Beard. Me and him were both drafted in 2019 and have been good friends ever since, but I enjoy any joke from any of my teammates.

SRS: DJ, it’s been a ton of fun! Congratulations on a stellar season and a torrid hot streak at the dish this week.

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