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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Chicago White Sox

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016

6 – Zack Collins
33 – Zack Burdi
38 – Jameson Fisher
64 – Alec Hansen
94 – Luis Curbelo
266 – Alex Call
357 – Ian Hamilton
418 – Mitch Roman

Complete List of 2016 Chicago White Sox Draftees 

And now a few words on some White Sox draft picks…

1.10 – C Zack Collins

The quick ascension of Zack Collins (6) to High-A ball got me curious as to how often a player reaches that level in his draft year. I decided to look back on every high profile college hitter drafted in the first round since this site started up in 2009 to see which hitters, if any, pulled off the same feat. The last college hitter that I found to get any High-A time in his draft season was Kyle Schwarber, who got 120 PA at levels below A+ before getting 191 PA in the Florida State League. I suppose the Cubs figured that Schwarber could handle a path similar to the one they had Kris Bryant embark on the year before. Bryant, the second overall pick in 2013, got 84 PA at levels below A+ before getting 62 PA at High-A. Pittsburgh’s Tony Sanchez also played at High-A in his rookie year, though his appearance at the level amounted to little more than a late season taste (13 PA). Three additional cases jumped out as particularly unique. Mike Zunino got 133 PA in Low-A before skipping High-A altogether and getting 57 PA in AA during his draft year. Then there’s Christian Colon and Grant Green. Both of the alliterative middle infielders were skipped immediately to High-A after their drafts concluded; Colon played the whole year there while Green, a later sign, managed to get his name on a contract just in time to get his first 20 professional PA there. Then there’s Corey Ray, fifth overall pick in the very same draft as Collins (and a native Chicagoan to boot!), who went right from signing to High-A right around the same time Collins was pulling it off. So, you know, maybe it’s not THAT rare after all, but it’s still kind of cool.

Anyway, Zack Collins! I’ve written a lot about this guy here over the years. Lots of love letters and poetry, but some actual baseball analysis mixed in as well. My favorite two blurbs…

April 2016…

I’m close to out of superlatives for Zack Collins’s bat. If he can catch, he’s a superstar. If he can’t, then he’s still a potential big league power bat capable of hitting in the middle of the championship lineup for the next decade. I realize first basemen aren’t typically sought after at the top of the draft. There are perfectly valid reasons for that. But any time you have the chance at a potential top five bat at any given position, I think it’s all right to bend the rules a little. Positional value is important, but so is premium offensive production. Collins hitting and hitting a lot as a professional is one of the things I’m most sure about in this draft class.

May 2016…

He’s the one I’ve comped to Schwarber stylistically. I actually think Collins is the better catcher and could stick there as a pro. Still might be best moving him out from behind the plate. I’ve just come up with a terrifying comp for him…Joey Votto. Maybe he’s one of those hitters that we shouldn’t compare young guys to, but then again…at the same age, Votto hit .256/.330/.425 with 52 BB/122 K in A+ ball. I could see Collins going to A/A+ this year after the draft and doing similar stuff.

As it turns out, we now know that Collins did go to A+ and do similar stuff! Here we go…

.258/.418/.467 – 25.5 K% and 21.6 BB% – 153 PA
.256/.330/.425 – 23.1 K% and 9.8 BB% – 529 PA

Top was Collins, bottom was Votto. Both were 21-years-old at High-A. Votto obviously had more pro time under his belt being a high school draftee. Votto is also obviously Votto. He’s one of a kind. It’s silly to compare anybody to him. But here we are. If moved to first base, I think Collins can be about 90% as good as Votto as a hitter. As a full-time catcher (give or take), I could see him being 80% as good a hitter as Votto. That’s enough for either a .280/.380/.480 line or a .250/.340/.425 line. The former is a little like 2016 Paul Goldschimdt (minus the steals) and the latter is something akin to fellow Hurricane Yasmani Grandal. That’s not Votto, but it’s still a tremendously valuable hitter.

I wrestled with whether or not there was enough value in the following sentence to bother including it here, but why not…I mean, we’re all pals here, right? My gut still says that Collins has a chance to go full Votto performance-wise if things break right. I just have to get that in writing to see how crazy it looks. I don’t know. I’m leaving it. My takes are typically fairly restrained around here, so I think I’m entitled to a scorcher every now and then. I love Zack Collins as a hitter. I can’t hide it.

1.26 – RHP Zack Burdi

On Zack Burdi (33) from October 2015…

Of all the rankings outside of the top ten, this is the one that could make me look dumbest by June. Burdi is a really tough evaluation for him right now because even after multiple years of being on the prospect stage it’s unclear (to me, at least) what role will eventually lead to him maximizing his ability. I’m reticent to throw him in the bullpen right away — many do this because of his last name, I think — because he’s shown the kind of diversity of stuff to stay in a rotation. Whether or not he has the command or consistency remain to be seen. Still, those concerns aren’t all that concerning when your fallback plan means getting to go full-tilt in the bullpen as you unleash a triple-digit fastball on hitters also guarding against two impressive offspeed pitches (CU, SL). It’s almost a win-win for scouting directors at this point. If he has a great spring, then you can believe him in as a starter long-term and grade him accordingly. If there’s still doubt, then you can drop him some but keep a close eye on his slip while being ready to pounce if he falls outside of those first few “don’t screw up or you’re fired” picks. You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.

I actually try not to quote older stuff in these draft reviews (fine, that’s a lie…), but this felt like a special case to me. Despite a wildly successful junior season at Louisville, I approached Burdi with much the same confusion in June as I did way back in fall ball of last year. Here I sit staring at updated scouting reports and 38.0 quality pro innings (mostly in AA and AAA), and I still don’t know what to make of Burdi. At this rate he’ll be kicking back on a beach somewhere long retired before I make any kind of definitive statement about what kind of pitcher Burdi will be. Thankfully, we don’t have to know anything concrete at this stage of his development; all we need to know is that he’s really good at pitching. That last sentence from October summed it up then as it sums it up now: “You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.” Even with Burdi’s potentially translatable gifts working in a starting role, I would have been way too risk-averse to draft a future reliever early in the draft to make a move on him in the top twenty or so picks. The White Sox took him at twenty-six, a spot that felt just about right — I had him 33rd — when it came to balancing the pros and cons of his two potential career paths.

It occurs to me now that Burdi will enter 2017 in a fairly similar position to the one Edwin Diaz of Seattle came into this present season. Hmm…

2.49 – RHP Alec Hansen

On Alec Hansen (64) from April 2016…

The biggest current question mark in the college game has to be Alec Hansen. He’s steadily pitched his way from the 1-1 conversation to the top five to the top ten to potentially all the way out of the first round. I’m no doctor — just a man who loves him some unsourced speculation — but the dots that connect Hansen’s summer away from the mound (forearm tightness) to his dreadful 2016 start are enough to raise an eyebrow. Truthfully, disclosure of a potential injury might just be the best thing that could happen to his draft stock at this point. I’ve linked Hansen’s rise and (as it has turned out) fall to that of Michael Matuella’s from last year. Still think that’s likely how this all plays out come June, but we’ll see. A healthy Hansen with the right kind of professional coaching could front a rotation.

Both the lack of an officially diagnosed injury and the delightfully aggressive drafting of the White Sox kept Hansen from falling quite as far as Matuella did (78th overall in 2015). I’d imagine Chicago was pretty pleased with that turn of events. All Hansen did after inking his name to a pro contract was pitch his ass off: 13.35 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9 in 54.2 IP (1.32 ERA). Hindsight is a beautiful thing and 54.2 knockout innings do not a career make, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many, many, many teams will regret not risking a second round pick on a talent like Hansen. Heck, I ranked him 64th and I’m kicking myself over not being more daring on draft day right there with them. As we said in April: “A healthy Hansen with the right kind of professional coaching could front a rotation.” We might be seeing that transformation take place right in front of our faces. Good for Hansen and good for the White Sox.

3.86 – OF Alex Call

The White Sox liked Alex Call (266) about six more rounds than I did, and the early returns have made them look smarter than some weird guy on the internet. Good work, Chicago. Call destroyed opposing pitching while at Ball State to the tune of a .358/.443/.667 line with 29 BB/29 K and 17/21 SB in 243 AB. He then went out and hit .308/.394/.445 with 34 BB/58 K and 14/20 SB in 337 PA split between the Pioneer League and Low-A. Not a bad little pro debut for the well-rounded righthander. Whenever I’m off with a guess like Call’s pre-draft ranking, I like to reach out to smarter people than myself to get more information and create a fuller picture of the player I whiffed on. One person said they “couldn’t see Call not” (quoting this part to point out I’m innocent of the questionable yet emphatic grammar choice) being a useful big league player; his floor is a Ryan Raburn type, a handy fourth outfielder who can knock around lefthanded pitching as well as anybody. The most optimistic comp I got for Call was former White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher, minus the switch-hitting. A comp like that warrants a closer look…

.348/.470/.620 with 43 BB/33 K in 184 AB
.358/.443/.667 with 29 BB/29 K in 243 AB

Top was Swisher’s junior season at Ohio State, bottom was Call at Ball State. I wouldn’t have guessed them as being that close going off of memory. Here’s more…

.242/.360/.410 with 39 BB/59 K in 274 PA (majority in High-A)
.308/.394/.445 with 34 BB/58 K in 337 PA (majority in Low-A)

Top was Swisher’s pro debut, bottom was Call’s pro debut. How about that? Call is a fine prospect that I overlooked to a degree because of this year’s loaded college outfield class. When a guy has his kind of approach with average or better tools across the board, you take notice. I’m noticing later than I would have liked, but still early enough in his pro career that I’ll be ready to bust out the extra obnoxious told-you-so’s if he takes off. That’s one of the joys of having a website, after all. I’m only in it for the sweet sweet told-you-so’s.

4.116 – OF Jameson Fisher

I liked Jameson Fisher (38) enough to rank him in my top 500 — 499th, to be fair — in 2015 even as he was coming off an entire season lost to injury. Now that he’s put together an excellent final season at Southeastern Louisiana and a highly successful run in the Pioneer League, I like him even more. A little history, first going back to March 2015…

In fairness, Southeastern Louisiana JR C Jameson Fisher is a really, really good prospect. The injury is an undeniable bummer not only because it’s a year of lost development in a critical time for a player’s long-term future but also because it brings further into question his long-term defensive home (even more than his raw glove originally did). If Fisher can’t catch, I don’t know what to think about him as a pro prospect. Like many college backstops, so much is dependent on how long and how well they can hold up defensively behind the dish. I believe in Fisher’s bat as being potentially league average or better both in terms of contact rates and power upside, but the doubt about his defense is an issue not to be taken lightly. I know nothing about Fisher’s mindset heading into June, but if I had to guess I’d assume that it’s very unlikely that a team will draft him high enough (and offer enough cold hard cash) to get him to leave college after a year away from the field. If that’s the case, we’re in for another year’s worth of “can he or can’t he” defensive debate. Can’t wait.

And then about a year later in February 2016…

I’ve been on record as being a big C/1B Jameson Fisher fan, so consider me damn excited for his return to the field in 2016. If his arm allows him to show off behind the plate this spring, I could see him rising up into that round five to ten area where he belongs.

So much of the conversation about Fisher on this site has been about his glove that I can only explain the lack of chatter about his bat as proof that I never wavered about it being big league quality. Fisher can flat hit. In a perfect world he’d be healthy and a catcher and one of the best prospects in baseball. In reality, he’s an outfielder with enough stick to be a fixture in a big league club’s lineup. That’ll play. Incidentally, I really like my pre-draft comp to Mark Zagunis, especially now that the two are on crosstown rivals.

5.146 – RHP Jimmy Lambert

A weird line in Low-A is what initially caught my eye about Jimmy Lambert: good peripherals (9.10 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9), iffy run prevention (5.76 ERA), and some rotten luck with his record (0-5 in just 29.2 IP). Losing five games in 29.2 innings of work seems kind of hard to do, no? Whatever. Since none of that tells us all that much about his future, let’s get into what convinced Chicago to take him in this past year’s fifth round. Lambert has a live arm (88-92, 94 peak), plenty of baseball smarts (high degree of pitchability, if you care for the term), and solid control. It’s a back-end starter strike-throwing profile that could ultimately prove more effective in a relief role. That’s where I see Lambert making it, if he does in fact make it at all. I’m bearish on his future. Baseball is hard, you know?

6.176 – SS Luis Curbelo

Luis Curbelo (94), drafted as a shortstop, was expected by many (including me) to make the transition to third base sooner rather than later as a pro. So far, that hasn’t been the case as the native Puerto Rican has instead played predominantly short and second in his young career. You never know what you’re going to get with a high school hitter due to the varying levels of competition, so the narrative on Curbelo isn’t entirely dissimilar to many of his 2016 prep peers. The tools — power and arm strength, most notably — are impressive, as is the very high likelihood that he’ll remain an infielder in some capacity be it second, third, or maybe against all odds short. Whether or not he can hit advanced pitching, however, will remain a question until it’s not. There was enough good in his rocky debut to keep the same hope felt pre-draft alive for now.

(I wasn’t sure where to wedge this in above because I’m a bad/lazy writer, so I’ll do it parenthetically after the fact: one of the post-draft comps I got on Curbelo is former third round pick and current Phillies minor leaguer Jan Hernandez. Do what you will with that.)

7.206 – LHP Bernardo Flores

For some players, timing is everything. Bernando Flores, a lefty with plenty of good days and plenty of not so good days this past spring at USC, is one of those players. On his best days, Flores threw darts. We’re talking consistent low-90s heat (up to 95) with a pair of average or better offspeed pitches. On those not so good days, he was more mid- to upper-80s with his fastball with little to no confidence in his otherwise solid changeup. On a good day, that’s an arm worth a top five round pick. On a less good day, it’s a profile more typical of a mid-teens lottery ticket. The White Sox split the difference (favoring the good) and popped Flores in the seventh round. If he can achieve his back-end starting pitcher destiny, then he’ll have done more than enough to justify Chicago’s faith in him. Even if he has to transition to the pen at some point — a distinct possibility as shorter outings could lead to more consistency stuff-wise from game to game — Flores remains talented enough to bring back more than his share of value. I’ll borrow from the White Sox thinking and split the difference: I see him as a fifth starter/swingman good enough to reach the highest level, though perhaps not without a few ups and downs (and maybe a different organization or two) along the way.

8.236 – C Nate Nolan

I say it often, but one of the few pieces of interesting constructive criticism I frequently get here is that I’m too positive. Anybody who knows me in real life would surely disagree with such claims, but when it comes to talking on the internet about young baseball players chasing a dream, I suppose I can get a little too “best case scenario” at times. Well, there’s no way to sugarcoat Nate Nolan’s start in pro ball. The former St. Mary’s catcher had just about as bad a debut as possible. The most depressing thing about his bad start is that it was wholly predictable; there’s a reason why he didn’t crack my top 500 (and landed 66th among college catchers), so when the White Sox took him at 236 I was a little taken aback. There’s no questioning Nolan’s plus raw power and above-average or better arm strength. Those two factors alone are enough to get a chance in pro ball. His approach, however, is a mess.

Nolan hit .264/.364/.481 as a junior at St. Mary’s with 28 BB and 81 (!) K. His college career BB to K ratio was 47 to 167. Then he went out and hit .138/.241/.203 with 14 BB and 62 K in his pro debut. That’s 61 BB to 229 K total. There isn’t a baseball fan among us who doesn’t enjoy catchers with big power and strong arms, but that approach is too much to get past. I don’t understand this pick at all.

9.266 – SS Max Dutto

Everybody who’s into this draft thing knows about Lucas Erceg going from Cal to Menlo College. Few realized (myself included) that he wasn’t the only Golden Bear to jump ship. Max Dutto went from hitting .222/.411/.346 with 22 BB/28 K in 81 AB in the PAC-12 to a far more robust .276/.456/.594 with 44 BB/56 K in 170 AB in the Golden State Athletics Conference. I’ll be honest: his pop, glove, and plate discipline make me mad that I missed on him this past spring. He’s interesting.

10.296 – 3B Zach Remillard

The White Sox continue to be one of the most refreshingly aggressive franchises when it comes to where they opt to place their most recent class of draftees. Getting a tenth round pick like Zach Remillard up to full-season ball (Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League) for 116 PA is Exhibit Z for supporting said aggression. One might wonder about the wisdom of pushing a guy like Remillard — ironically enough, “too aggressive for his own good” was a phrase used in his pre-draft report here — but I support the decision. There are no rules that can’t be broken, but, generally speaking, if you think enough of a college prospect to draft him in the first place, then he should be ready enough to spend at least a little time outside of short-season ball in his debut. Major college players, especially hitters, don’t need to go to rookie ball. Good for Chicago for realizing this.

As for Remillard the player and not the abstract organizational concept, not much has changed from when I wrote about him way back in January 2015…

The breakout season for JR 3B Zach Remillard (Coastal Carolina) is coming. It has to be since it hasn’t happened yet. That’s infallible logic if I’ve ever heard it. Remillard is a really well-rounded talent who sometimes gets himself in trouble by expanding the zone and trying to do too much at the plate. If he can just ease up just a touch with his overly aggressive approach, then he could begin to produce enough overall offensive value to project as a potential regular at the hot corner. The more realistic forecast is as an offense-first utility player capable of playing 1B, 2B, 3B, and maybe the outfield corners.

Still waiting on a true breakout season, so it seems like it is time to accept the reality that he’s a bat-first utility guy if he makes it all. I’m less hopeful than I’d like to be based on his approach, but his physical gifts give him a shot.

11.326 – RHP Ian Hamilton

I’m pretty comfortable with where I finished with Ian Hamilton (357) back in April…

It’s back of the rotation type starter stuff if it continues to come back. Ian Hamilton could have similar upside (or better) if you’re the type who believes in him as a starter at the next level. He’s got the offspeed stuff (above-average 80-86 SL that flashes plus and an average 80-84 CU) to go through a lineup multiple times. He’s also highly athletic. Those are the points in his favor if you like him as a starter. I’m willing to be talked into it, but the way his fastball plays up in short bursts (consistently 92-96, up to 99) as opposed to the 90-93 he sits as a starter has me still liking him more as a fireman out of the pen.

The White Sox had him get a few starts in at Low-A before the season finished, so clearly they want to see him starting up close and personal before making any long-term change to his role. I can certainly appreciate that. It could be because I recently finished up a draft review for Philadelphia, but I can’t help but see some similarities between Hamilton and Grant Dyer, formerly of UCLA and currently part of the Phillies organization. Both profile best (to me) as pro relievers, but were pushed into starting roles by their PAC-12 school for the good of the team. I could see both having long fruitful careers pitching out of big league bullpens, with Dyer being more the middle innings type and Hamilton potentially working the late inning relief. I don’t question Chicago doing everything in their power to make it work in the rotation first, but I still see Hamilton eventually becoming a reliever, though potentially a very good one. All else being equal, give me upper-90s in relief over low-90s as a starter.

12.356 – SS Mitch Roman

Mitch Roman (418) played SS and 2B after signing and pretty well at both spots. As a potential high-contact, solid fielding, above-average to plus running utility infielder, the former Wright State standout was very good value in the twelfth round. I approve.

13.386 – C Michael Hickman

Michael Hickman is living proof that sometimes players fall through the cracks here. That’s the downside of this being a one-man show. Hickman went from being ranked 242 out of high school in 2015 to being unranked after a solid junior college season (.345/.442/.610 with 17 BB/38 K in 177 AB) at powerhouse Chipola in 2016. Technically he was only unranked nationally on the final board; he came in 48th on my college catcher list. Buying Hickman is buying his lefthanded power and impressive bat speed while living with some swing-and-miss and rough defensive edges. At this point in the draft, that trade-off is well worth a shot.

14.416 – RHP Bryan Saucedo

I had nothing on Bryan Saucedo before the draft. Big, Canadian, and a Hard Thrower. That’s what should go on Saucedo’s business cards. He was one of four player selected out of Davenport University, a NAIA school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Davenport University! Of course! I really should have seen it coming. I’ll do better next year.

15.446 – RHP Jake Elliott

The White Sox drafted both Alec Hansen and Jake Elliott from the Sooners staff, so that makes the following from April all the more relevant…

I had some friends come into the season armed and ready with a Jake Elliott is the better long-term prospect than Alec Hansen take. That talk has quieted down as Elliott’s start has just about equaled Hansen’s…and not in a good way. His arm talent is still really impressive: 86-92 FB (94 peak), average 75-80 breaking ball, and a 77-80 change that borders on plus.

Elliott’s disastrous 2016 season at Oklahoma knocked him way down draft boards this spring. The White Sox had him fall into their laps in round fifteen. I’ll bust out the all-caps to announce this pick as one of the draft’s biggest STEALS. There’s no other way to look at it. Elliott has a great arm, great frame, and has shown flashes of great all-around stuff. Whatever issues he had in his draft year — I know nothing concrete, but one source said it was nothing more than “draft year-itis” — seem well on their way to getting sorted out in the professional ranks. Things fell apart quickly for Elliott in the college half of his 2016. Things appeared to come back together just as quickly on the pro side. Things could swing back the other way at some point in the near future. Nobody knows. But gambling on a talent like Elliott figuring things out (again, so far so good here) for the low low price of a fifteenth round pick and $100,000? That’s a no-brainer. This isn’t just one of my favorite Chicago picks, this is one of my favorite picks in the entire 2016 MLB Draft. If the breaking ball doesn’t improve, then stick him in the bullpen and let him do his best Ryan Madson impression.

16.476 – RHP Ben Wright

Ben Wright was challenged with an assignment to Low-A. Ben Wright succeeded in said challenge, holding his own in 30.2 solid if unspectacular innings for the Intimidators. I can’t quite say for sure what drew the White Sox to Ben Wright in the first place (I have no scouting buzz to offer on him and his 2016 college stats were #bad), but, hey, so far so good.

17.506 – RHP Brad Haymes

Upper-80s fastball that can scrape 90, a decent curve, and good size. Those are the things a scout might use to try to sell his or her team on Brad Haymes. A more analytically motivated thinker could point to his outstanding four years at Gardner-Webb, a run that culminated in a year-long stretch of ace-level pitching as a senior. Put those two approaches together and you’ve got yourself a seventeenth round draft pick.

18.536 – RHP Lane Hobbs

I’m not a Lane Hobbs expert. I could pretend, but that would only kill whatever shred of credibility I still possess. I do know that he had a good debut. I also know that the White Sox saw enough in him coming out of Concordia (where I know he had an awesome junior year) to give him a nifty little $80,000 bonus. I know that he’s big. If you didn’t know those things, well, now you do. If you did know them, then maybe it’s time to start your own draft site. I’d read it.

19.566 – 1B Anthony Villa

A fine if otherwise nondescript debut for Anthony Villa’s pro career was made notable (for me) by his starting four games at the hot corner in addition to his regular duty at first base. If he can handle third, a position he does have experience at going back to his days at St. Mary’s (second Gael taken by the White Sox, if you’re scoring at home), then he’s got a sliver of a shot of making it. As a first baseman only, however, it would be a steep uphill battle.

20.596 – RHP Matt Foster

Size doesn’t really seem to matter much to the White Sox as they continue to tick off college relievers with the selection of Matt Foster. What Foster lacks in size, he makes up for with an above-average fastball (90-94) and breaking ball mix. It’s rare that a pitcher from the SEC with good stuff and great results (11.03 K/9 and 2.92 ERA in 40.0 IP) could be this overlooked. Nice work by Chicago here as Foster did more of the same (12.47 K/9 and 0.61 ERA in 29.2 IP) as a pro.

21.626 – LHP Michael Horejsei

Michael Horejsei is on the older side for a recent draft pick — he turned 24-years-old about a month into his pro career — but there’s no denying his effectiveness. His final year at Ohio State: 11.32 K/9 and 2.61 BB/9 in 31.0 IP (2.61 ERA). His first year in the pros, the majority of which was spent in Low-A: 9.23 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9 in 40.0 IP (0.90 ERA). I’ve heard from a source who told me that the White Sox believe Horejsei is more or less ready to pitch in the big leagues now (in part because he’s done developing and is what he is at this point) and expect him to potentially get a shot at doing just that as early as mid-season next year. There’s nothing sexy about taking an undersized matchup lefty lacking premium stuff, but that’s a pretty damn sexy potential outcome for a twenty-first round pick.

22.656 – OF Joel Booker

On Joel Booker from March 2015…

Iowa JR OF Joel Booker remains a bit of a mystery man to me, but crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. Booker destroyed junior college ball the past two seasons (.403/.451/.699 last year) and has adjusted fairly well to big time college ball so far this year. The big question even as he was annihilating juco pitching was how his high-contact, minimal bases on ball approach would play as the competition tightened. It’s still a concern, but it might just be one of those tradeoffs we have to accept in a flawed prospect. Booker’s aggression nature defines him at the plate; pushing him into more of a leadoff approach could neuter his unusually adept bat-to-ball ability just as easily as it could take him to the next level as a prospect.

He wound up struggling for much of his junior season at Iowa before taking off as a senior in 2016. He kept those positive vibes going with a really strong debut pro season. His approach is still a little too aggressive for his own good and his in-game power remains a bit of a question mark, but, as I said back in the day, crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. There’s enough here to think of him as a potential quality backup outfielder.

23.686 – SS Sam Dexter

The pride of Southern Maine, Sam Dexter is now one of the four players named Dexter to get a mention on this site. Previously, they’ve all been first names: Dexter Kjerstad, Dexter Spitsnogle, and Dexter Bobo. Sam Dexter, announced as a shortstop at the time of the draft, played exclusively second and third in his pro debut. He’s also just one of an even dozen players to be drafted out of Southern Maine in the school’s history.

24.716 – 3B Brady Conlan

I didn’t have have Brady Conlan in my notes prior to the draft, but if I had I think I would have championed his cause leading up to the big day. His numbers at Cal State Dominguez were excellent (.413/.469/.550 with 14 BB/12 K in 189 AB), though the usual caution that comes with senior season stats applies for the 23-year-old third baseman. “Older, but a little interesting” is how I jotted down my feelings on Conlan as the draft concluded. Sounds about right.

27.806 – RHP Mike Morrison

I don’t quite know how one of college baseball’s best relievers lasted past pick eight hundred. Mike Morrison has come up huge on the biggest stages of college ball, put up consistently stellar strikeout rates (10.04 K/9 in 2014, 11.37 K/9 in 2015, 12.81 K/9 in 2016), and improved his control with every season at Coastal Carolina. That’s all well and good, one might think, but maybe he’s one of those great college pitchers who lack the stuff to make it in the pros. Lots of guys can get by with junk right up until the exact moment that they can’t. Morrison isn’t that kind of guy. Nobody will tell you he has big league closer stuff (nobody I know, anyway) and nor should they, but what Morrison brings to the mound is more than enough to get pro hitters swinging and missing. Morrison’s average fastball (87-92) plays up thanks to good command, and his 75-78 curve is a potential out pitch against even the most advanced hitting. I’ll admit that it’s at least possible that Morrison will be one of those guys consistently gets results at lower-levels until the moment opposing offenses begin to outclass his stuff (some guys sell their souls for college magic and can never replicate that success in the pros…I get it), but I’m not going to be the one to bet against him. Mike Morrison: twenty-seventh round pick and future big league pitcher.

28.836 – OF Aaron Schnurbusch

It’s hard not to be a little intrigued at Aaron Schnurbusch after his outstanding debut. He gets even more appealing when you consider his two-way past. The big (6-5, 235), athletic, power-hitting lefty could be set to take off now that he can focus 100% of his attention on the finer aspects of mashing taters. Or he could just be another mid-round slugger taking advantage of younger competition in a relatively small sample. Hopefully, some of those questions will begin to be answered next spring. Like Fisher and Booker, Schnurbusch should get a chance to go right to High-A next season. All of these guys will be 23-years-old, so the clock is ticking a little louder than it would normally be for such recent picks. Between those three and Alex Call, the Winston-Salem outfield could be quite interesting next season. I had initially worried that there could be a logjam there, but it should work out. Landon Lassiter and Michael Suiter should both move to AA while Louie Lechich, one of my all-time biggest draft whiffs, could be heading towards unemployment. Micker Adolfo could join the aforementioned four to start the year in the Carolina League, as could Tyler Sullivan. All in all, it’s a fun group. Knowing the White Sox, it wouldn’t be a shocker if one (Call) or more (Fisher) either start the year in AA or move there very quickly.

30.896 – RHP Pat Cashman

Undersized righthander with a nice fastball (up to 93) coming off a senior season with strong peripherals (9.13 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9). That’s Pat Cashman.

32.956 – RHP Sean Renzi

I think the White Sox did very well for themselves as they shopped for late-round senior-sign relief help. The odds against any of these guys making it are obviously quite long, but it seems to me they took some smart chances. Perhaps more importantly, they took a lot of chances. You have to play to win, they say, and more lottery tickets equals more chances at that jackpot. In this case, the big money prize likely amounts to a decent middle reliever, but every little bit of cheap, homegrown talent helps in the big picture. Anyway, Sean Renzi is a big guy with a good arm (low-90s heat) and a delivery that’s tough on righthanders to pick up. He’s got some wildness to overcome, but the raw arm talent is appealing.

33.986 – LHP Ryan Boelter

I’m not sure he has the potential to move quite as quick as Michael Horejsei (see my slightly informed speculation about that above), but Ryan Boelter seems to have the two-pitch combo working enough for him that a quick rise up the chain wouldn’t come as much of a shock. With a solid fastball (86-91) and a similarly useful change, the big lefty can miss bats. He’s the second pitcher selected by the White Sox out of Gardner-Webb here in 2016. That makes the White Sox guilty of doubling up at six different universities this spring: Chipola JC, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma, Southeastern Louisiana, and St. Mary’s. That means 30% of their total 2016 MLB Draft picks came from just six schools. Around 300 universities play DI baseball. Around 500 schools offer junior college baseball. Out of 800+ D1 and junior college schools (to say nothing of the roughly 800 or so combined D2, D3, and NAIA baseball schools), the White Sox found 40% of their college talent from six schools. I don’t know what to make of that. 30% total and 40% college, all from six schools. Are pro teams really doing all that they can be doing to cover as much ground as possible in 2016? Or are we still taking shortcuts and relying too much on narrow views and old school connections?

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Caleb Henderson (New Mexico State), Reese Cooley (Miami), Drew Puglielli (Barry), Tyler Gordon (Prairie View A&M), Zach Farrar (Oklahoma), Leo Kaplan (Northwestern), Justin Lavey (Louisville), Brandon Bossard (Heartland CC), Garrett Acton (Saint Louis), Charlie Madden (Mercer)

Chicago White Sox 2012 MLB Draft Review

Courtney Hawkins was a slam dunk for Chicago in the first round. If that sentence brought back fond memories of the last great high flying dunk artist to play in the Windy City – Rusty LaRue, obviously – you’re alright in my book. Hawkins’ athleticism is outstanding and his physique ranks at or near the top of the entire 2012 MLB Draft class. His arm, speed, and raw power are all well above-average tools. Most impressive of all: the big Texan just kept getting better and better as the spring went on. I think he’s likely to outgrow center, but Adam Jones in right field still sounds pretty darn good to me. A lot can happen in the next few years to make this sound really dumb, but I still can’t believe the Mets passed on him for Gavin Cecchini. You don’t draft for need, but Hawkins is exactly what the Mets need. Heck, as a power hitting plus defending corner outfielder Hawkins is exactly what every time needs. The White Sox got themselves a long-term above-average regular here.

After Hawkins, the biggest bat drafted by Chicago belongs to Keon Barnum. I’m actually not sure if that is literally true — I’m not privy to bat weights — but it works when talking prospect stature. Barnum is old for his class, and, to be frank, he hit like it in his pro debut. We’ll know more about his future next year when he’s tested with a full-season assignment. For now, the power is encouraging, as is his impressive athleticism and physicality. I think the reticence many teams show towards drafting and developing first base only prospects, though perfectly understandable in theory, may have shifted bat-only prospects from overrated to undervalued. Barnum isn’t a great example of this, at least from my vantage point – I had him ranked 203rd overall when Chicago drafted him 48th – but I think the overarching idea has some merit.

The White Sox backed up their selection of a high school first baseman with a college guy. Former Sun Devil Abe Ruiz will have to hit and hit and hit to keep advancing through the system. I think he’s a nice org guy, and there’s no shame in that. Interestingly enough (to me), the White Sox opted not to back up Hawkins with any legitimate college outfield prospects. I realize you can only draft so many guys in forty rounds, but it still seemed like a curious position to totally disregard.

17th round pick Sam Ayala is young, so he has that going for him. Beyond that, he’s an excellent athlete – for any player, not just for a catcher – with the long-term upside of a starting catcher. The gap between what any young catcher is and what they may eventually be is as big as any position player prospect out there, so, as always, take the guess at his ceiling with a great big block of salt. Zac Fisher has teased scouts for years, but has yet to have the breakout performance so many believe is hiding within him. It’ll be interesting to hear about how his defense progresses professionally; he has the tools to be an asset behind the plate, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, hasn’t put it all together yet. I still like his approach at the plate, though it remains to be seen if his raw power will ever move into the present power classification. The White Sox actually drafted Sunnyside HS (CA) C Jose Barraza before either Ayala or Fisher. I think he’s more of a non-prospect catching tweener in that he’ll never defend well enough to play behind the plate every day while falling well short of any of the hitting benchmarks necessary for a first baseman. On the whole the White Sox added some decent talent up the middle of their infield, but came up light in their pursuit of impact talent.

To further that point, look no further (-2 points, repetitive) than the players Chicago targeted to play second base. Just targeting second basemen alone tells you something about their draft strategy. What it tells you, well, that I don’t know…but it tells you something. I do like Joey DeMichele. I wish I could really like Joey DeMichele, but it is hard to really like any bat-first second base prospect who lacks the traditional speed, athleticism, and range of a big league middle infielder. If everything goes as planned, I could see a poor man’s Jeff Keppinger here, right down to the ability to hammer righthanded pitching. If he keeps hitting, he’ll keep getting chances. Micah Johnson is a similar, yet lesser version of DeMichele. Both players are limited by their lack of defensive versatility. Though I think Nick Basto is also likely to wind up at second base, he can at least make the claim to have the athleticism and arm strength to at least entertain the idea of moving around the diamond. I had 24th round pick Tampa 2B Eric Grabe on in-house rankings at various points over the past few years (“good approach, versatile glove” from my notes), but didn’t think enough of him to ever officially rank him as a viable draft prospect. He was too old for Rookie ball, but hit more than enough to get another shot in the organization next year. Division II prospects who last to the 24th round can’t ask for much more than that.

Chicago snagged only one third baseman of note: Kentucky senior Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy pulled off the impressive feat of getting himself ranked by me (80th best third base prospect!), but still managed to be one of the few players I listed without a comment. Like Grabe, it is likely he has already hit enough in 2012 to get another shot next season somewhere in the White Sox organization. Neither McCarthy nor Grabe are prospects in any conventional sense of the word, but their performances, both collegiately and as young professionals, warranted mentioning. I also had to mention them just in case anybody out there plays in a full-minors, 50 team dynasty league with 1,000 man rosters. There’s one in every crowd, after all.

The White Sox did a nice job of accumulating some interesting college arms who slipped further in the draft than anticipated. Landing Chris Beck, a preseason first round favorite of many, with the 76th overall pick exemplifies the idea. I’ve heard some of the anti-cutter crowd explain his decrease in 2012 velocity on an overreliance on the pitch. More empirical data and/or an organization other than Baltimore speaking out against the pitch is needed before I’m willing to go down that road. The return of some velocity and a truer slider would make him a big league starting pitching option once again. I’m optimistic.

Kyle Hansen and Brandon Brennan were both somewhat under-the-radar players who were selected in sensible spots by Chicago. I graded Hansen out as an early third round pick (103rd overall) and he went in the sixth round. I also said that he was likely to go three rounds after his talent warranted. Some simple math shows that I am indeed an all-knowing sorcerer. I still prefer Beck to Hansen in a vacuum, but the gap isn’t as wide as some might think. He has the depth of stuff (four-seam, two-seam, slider, change), size, and athleticism to continue starting professionally. Brennen’s stuff is a tick below Hansen’s, but still good enough to keep starting until he proves he can’t. A part of me thinks Brennen could have been a top-two round prospect if he would have stayed and developed over three years at Oregon, so, needless to say, that same part of me thinks he was a solid idea in the fourth round.

Isler is an interesting gamble that should continue to see his stuff play way up when coming out of the bullpen. I don’t know where Chicago gets their young relief pitching from, but Isler seems like as good an “out of nowhere” (apologies to Cincinnati, both a fine city and university and far from “nowhere”) as anybody else. He’s already got the nasty hard sinker/slider thing going for him. Tony Bucciferro’s report reads much the same way. He’ll throw bowling balls and dare hitters to try to elevate them. Both guys showed off strong groundball tendencies, albeit in small (Isler) and super small (Bucciferro) samples. I was surprised to see Eric Jaffe go off the board when he did. I was even more surprised when the White Sox managed to get a contract signed. He reminds me a little bit of current Sox minor leaguer Jacob Petricka. Jaffe also throws a fastball that is particularly hard for hitters to make consistent square contact on, if can believe it. He uses a curve (an excellent one, by the by) over a slider, but it is a pitch that moves sharply enough that it often gets the same desired results. If even one of the White Sox’ trio of college arms becomes a contributor to a big league bullpen someday, then you’d have to call their round 8 to 14 strategy a happy one.

Chicago went to the college reliever well twice more when they nabbed Adam Lopez and Zach Toney. Lopez has a pro body and is a hard thrower. He’s also a Tommy John surgery survivor who has had a fairly typical return from injury. In other words, his velocity is coming back nicely while his command still has a ways to go. It is still easy to appreciate the pick: getting guys who have hit the mid-90s in round 21 is almost always worth a shot, injury history be damned. Unbelievably, Toney is the only lefthanded pitching White Sox prospect of note to come out of the 2012 MLB Draft. Despite being a lefty, Toney’s prospect profile fits in just fine with the trio of righthanders featured in the paragraph centimeters above. For those with a short memory (or, more likely, those who skim) that would be “difficult to hit fastball, good breaking ball, potential big league reliever, fine pick at this point in draft.”

Last but not least, we have a late round steal from the Division II ranks. Enter Storm Throne. There’s no arguing with Throne’s size, athleticism, and potential for a plus heater. There is some quibbling with Throne’s inconsistent offspeed stuff (though I like his curve a lot more than many peers) and unreliable fastball velocity. On balance, Throne’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses. If it all comes together, he’s a rock solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher capable of getting ground ball outs. Throne is easily the best signed pick of round 25, though I doubt he’ll go off and put that on his business cards. My pre-draft overall pitching rankings went Beck/Hansen/Brennen/Throne, so, 25th round pick or not, he is a prospect worth keeping an eye on. In fact, after the three aforementioned pitchers, only Hawkins, Barnum, and DeMichele ranked higher on my pre-draft list than Throne. Whether or not you should be happy your 25th round pick doubles as your 7th best draft prospect depends on your general outlook on life. Half-fullers can appreciate the value of a late round find while half-emptyers have to wonder what was going on with all those rounds in between Hawkins and Throne.

Of Beck, Brennen, Hansen, Isler, Jaffe, Bucciferro, Lopez, Throne, and Toney, it is definitely worth pointing out that Buccifero is the shrimpiest. The “slender” righthander from Michigan State comes in at a mere 6-3, 200 pounds. I’m less into draft day patterns as I am scouting director preferences, but even a non-sorcerer can deduce that the White Sox have a certain body type in mind when drafting arms. Also of note: “shrimpiest” is not a word, yet “crimpiest” is. If you knew that already, you’re smarter than a sorcerer.

Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note

(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)

C

17.531 La Jolla Country Day School C Sammy Ayala

22. C Sam Ayala (La Jolla County Day School, California): good speed for catcher; good arm; above-average power upside; good athlete; 6-2, 200 pounds

27.831 New Mexico State C Zac Fisher

83. New Mexico State JR C Zac Fisher: bigger scout (and personal) favorite than the numbers might suggest; above-average raw power; advanced bat with a good approach; bat is currently way ahead of glove – still learning the finer points of what it takes to be a catcher, so, if drafted, time will have to be spent bringing his defense up to a more acceptable level; 6-3, 210 pounds

1B

1s.48 King HS (FL) 1B Keon Barnum

5. 1B Keon Barnum (King HS, Florida): plus arm; plus power upside; Ryan Howard comp; solid defender; super strong; surprisingly athletic; compact swing; Jon Singleton comp; 6-4, 225 pounds; L/L

16.501 Arizona State 1B Abe Ruiz

38. Arizona State SR 1B Abe Ruiz: good present power – can really hammer average fastballs, but has big trouble with anything else; average defender; has hit for nice power in three out of four college seasons, but questionable hit tool and substandard approach leave much to be desired; 6-3, 240 pounds

2B

3.108 Arizona State 2B Joey DeMichele

9. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele: decent speed; for the longest time he was a man without a position, but settled in as the kind of second baseman who makes plays on balls hit him and not much more; his plus hit tool is one of the best in his class; above-average power with the chance to hit 15+ homers professionally; 5-11, 185 pounds

9.291 Indiana 2B Micah Johnson

48. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson: good athlete; more raw power than most middle infielders in this class, but currently most of his power plays to the gaps; good speed; average at best defender, but has the chance to get better in time – it is more about concentration and technique than physical tools; limited arm before arm injury, so teams will need to be sure he can stick at 2B before using a pick on him; 5-11, 190 pounds

SS

5.171 Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) SS Nick Basto

25. 2B Nick Basto (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Florida): strong arm, but best utilized at second; some think he sticks at SS

OF

1.13 Carroll HS (TX) OF Courtney Hawkins

4. OF Courtney Hawkins (Mary Carroll HS, Texas): very muscular build; good speed; strong arm; more present power than majority of class; plus raw power; lots of swing and miss and some pitch recognition issues; average or better speed; RF professionally; has improved a great deal across the board in last calendar year, especially on defense; good instincts in CF, but might not be quick enough; plus arm; speed, power, and arm will take him far; reminds me so much of Adam Jones it’s scary; 6-2, 215 pounds; R/R

Pitching

2.76 Georgia Southern RHP Chris Beck

21. Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Beck: 87-93 FB, 95-97 peak; FB velocity was way down in 2012 (88-92, 93 peak) and far too straight a pitch to fool pro bats; 80-86 cutter-like SL with plus upside, has hit upwards of 90, but was above-average at best throughout much of 2012 season; 80-84 straight CU with plus upside; command needs tightening; Dr. Jekyll is a first round pick, but Mr. Hyde barely warrants top ten round consideration – a smart team will figure out what they are getting in advance (or at least that’s the idea…), but outsiders like me can only guess; 6-3, 220 pounds

4.141 Orange Coast CC RHP Brandon Brennan

74. Orange Coast CC (CA) rFR RHP Brandon Brennan: 88-93 FB, 95 peak; average 83-84 SL; average CU with more upside than that for me; transfer from Oregon; 6-4, 225 pounds

6.201 St. John’s RHP Kyle Hansen

52. St. John’s JR RHP Kyle Hansen: 91-93 FB with good life, 94-96 peak; average 79-84 SL that is improving, pitch has plus upside but inconsistent shape: up to 88 on most recent looks and tends to work much better as truer slider at higher velocities than it does as an upper-70s SL/CB hybrid breaking ball; raw 80-82 CU when he started school that is now a really solid third pitch; has learned to use more upper-80s sinkers to complement four-seam heat; I’ve learned to be skeptical of overly large pitching prospects, but Hansen, for whatever reason, hasn’t gotten anywhere close to the kind of hype typically associated with similar pitchers in the past – he’s big, yes, but he is an excellent athlete who repeats his mechanics well and sits at consistent above-average velocities all while staying healthy while at college and putting up outstanding numbers year after year; hard to call a 6-8, 215 pound brother of a big leaguer a sleeper, but Hansen will likely be on the board a full three rounds past where I’d begin recommending him

8.261 Cincinnati RHP Zach Isler

191. Cincinnati JR RHP Zach Isler: fairly generic high-80s FB as starter, but a revelation out of the bullpen: sinking 90-92 FB, 94-95 peak; good low-80s SL; raw CU he can likely ditch as he moves to bullpen professionally; 6-4, 240 pounds

11.351 California RHP Eric Jaffe

184. UCLA rFR RHP Eric Jaffe: 90-95 FB that moves; plus 77-82 CB; has shown interesting 84-86 CU this past spring; disaster of a season leaves him a 100% speculative selection at this point – his signability isn’t supposed to be an issue, but it would be a surprise to see him drafted high enough to make it worth his while unless he really, really wants to play pro ball; 6-4, 230 pounds

14.441 Michigan State RHP Tony Bucciferro

243. Michigan State SR RHP Tony Bucciferro: heavy 86-88 FB, 90-92 peak; has no problem throwing sinkers all day; very good hard SL; developing 80-81 CU that has emerged as solid third pitch with above-average sink; plus control; plus pitchability; better than your average mid-round senior sign with stuff that could play up even more in short bursts; 6-3, 200 pounds

21.651 Virginia Military Institute RHP Adam Lopez

345. VMI SR RHP Adam Lopez: 88-92 FB, 94-96 peak; recovering from TJ surgery; 6-5, 220 pounds

25.771 Morningside HS (IA) RHP Storm Throne

145. Morningside (IA) JR RHP Storm Throne: 90-93 FB, 95-97 peak; good command of above-average 72-74 CB; shows CU; keeps the ball down; good athlete; 6-7, 240 pounds

26.801 Austin Peay State LHP Zach Toney

281. Austin Peay State SR LHP Zach Toney: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; solid CB; interesting splitter; iffy control; 6-3, 220 pounds

Photo via http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn205/chibully/all-time%20bulls/?action=view&current=RustyLaRue.jpg&sort=ascending.

Chicago White Sox 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Chicago White Sox 2011 Draft Selections

Through absolutely no fault of his own, Central Arizona JC (AZ) OF Keenyn Walker (134th ranked draft prospect) drives me nuts. A few months ago I had just finished writing up a particularly insightful piece (if I do say so myself) on 2011’s junior college prospects (Walker included) when a wayward first grader sent my laptop crashing to the floor. Most, but not all, of my work was recovered. Losing my notes on the junior college prospects was rough, but I’ll do my best not to associate that sad, expensive day when evaluating Walker. I wrote about him a bit last year after the Phillies drafted him (see below). I felt that report was fairly positive, but I now feel even better about Walker’s prospects. He should be an above-average defender in center with top of the lineup speed and double digit home run power.

I like him more than your typical toolsy junior college outfielder because of his history dating back to his high school days as a guy with serious thunder from the left side. Whether or not that power plays professionally remains to be seen, but his plus athleticism, good speed, and strong arm will all help if the bat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Guys like California RHP Erik Johnson (205th ranked draft prospect) are what make scouting tricky. At his best, Johnson looks like a mid-rotation horse with two quality offspeed offerings that flash plus. On his rougher days – like the day I saw him throw this past spring – he is a one pitch pitcher (fastballs only) that profiles best as a reliever. I realize this could be said about so many prospects, but I’ll state the obvious anyway: so much of this player’s development will come down to his adjustment to the pro game. If Johnson stays in shape/drops a few pounds and finds himself a consistent release point on the mound, he’s a big league starter. If not, he’s a reliever at best.

California JR RHP Erik Johnson: heavy 90-92 FB, 93-94 peak; emerging 76-78 CB that is now a weapon; 81-84 CU needs work, but is now plus pitch with added velo; command needs work; decent 85-88 SL that could also be a cutter; no sure fire consistent plus offering; 6-3, 240 pounds

Johnson County CC (KS) RHP Jeff Soptic (250th ranked draft prospect) is like a watered down version of the guy taken by the White Sox one round earlier. He’s got a big league fastball and has shown flashes of quality offspeed stuff, but has struggled with consistency, both command and control, and his mechanics.

Johnson County CC SO RHP Jeff Soptic: 93-96 FB, 98-100 peak; flashes plus 83-84 SL; average CU on his best day; control issues; 6-6, 200

Kent State RHP Kyle McMillen and Stanford LHP Scott Snodgress are more than just quality pitching prospects; they are data points for those (like me) who make the case that the 2011 draft had a once in a generation group of college pitchers. These two guys were buried on the college pitching prospect depth chart, but they both have big league talent. Snodgress, the more likely of the two to remain a starter, is particularly interesting as a lefthander with an above-average to plus fastball and the makings of a pair of average or better offspeed pitches. McMillen lacks a putaway breaking ball at this point, but has a solid heater and outstanding athleticism.

Kent State JR RHP/1B Kyle McMillen (2011): 89-92 FB, 93-94 peak; decent SL; average CU; power potential; 6-2, 185 pounds

Stanford JR LHP Scott Snodgress (2011): low- to mid- 90s FB, touches 96; potentially above-average CB and CU; 6-5, 210 pounds; sitting 90-92 in 2011; also at 88-91, 92 peak

I’m not a huge fan of California SS Marcus Semien (utility infielder ceiling), but he’s decent value as a sixth rounder. Pittsburgh C Kevan Smith (186th ranked draft prospect), however, is a totally different story. I’m an unabashed huge fan of his and consider him way more than just decent value as a seventh rounder; he’s a flat out steal. The tools have turned into skills, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I think Smith is a future big league starting catcher.

Semien is considered a draft sleeper by many, but I don’t see it. He probably has the range and arm to stay at short, so that’s a plus, but without much in the way of a hit tool, power, or speed, there isn’t enough there to project him as a big leaguer at this point.

Smith has been awesome at the plate and on the base paths (10/11 SB). It is great to see a player with such special physical gifts who is able to translate raw upside into big time college production. I never really have much of a clue how actual big league front offices view draft prospects and I haven’t heard any buzz about Smith’s draft stock, but I sure like him. Definitely on my short list of top senior signs.

Not signing eight round pick Angelina JC (TX) RHP Ian Gardeck is rough. I’ve seen him a few times over the years, from his time at Dayton to his days playing summer ball up in New England, and always came away impressed. His biggest current issues are, in order, poor command, a violent delivery, and a lack of any semblance of a third pitch. I tend to think his command has a chance to at least ramp up to average if his delivery – featuring a pronounced herky jerky head movement – gets cleaned up. That takes care of the first two issues. If, and that’s an “if” with a capital I, the coaches at Alabama can help with his delivery/command, Gardeck will be in the running for first college reliever off the board next June. That, in a way, takes care of the third issues; no need for a third pitch when you’ve got two plus offerings as a reliever.

Angelina JC SO RHP Ian Gardeck (2011): 91-93 FB, 94-96 peak, now hitting 98; good mid- to upper-80s SL; huge command issues; good athlete; Dayton transfer; holds velocity really well; violent delivery; 6-2, 210

Northwest Florida State JC (FL) LHP Matt Lane continues the trend of Chicago selecting big pitchers with quality fastballs and questionable breaking stuff. Unsigned Santa Fe CC (FL) LHP Ben O’Shea also happens to be a big pitcher (6-6, 250 pounds) with a quality fastball and questionable breaking stuff, though his change is more advanced than Lane’s. He’ll head to Maryland and be eligible for next year’s draft.

On account of the White Sox frugality and unwillingness to bust slot, there are a ton of college prospects outside of the top ten rounds to discuss. For reference’s sake, a “ton” in this case is equal to 32 rounds worth of college or junior college players. That’s crazy. Kicking things off we have California C Chadd Krist (Round 13). Krist has the defensive chops to play pro ball, but will have to ply his wares at the college level another year. He’s a backup catcher at best for now, but continued offensive improvement would make him an easy top ten round senior sign catching prospect in 2012.

Krist’s defense has been dinged as inconsistent in the past, but having seen him play a couple times in 2011 I have to say I think he’s underrated behind the plate. His arm might not rate above average and his power upside is limited, but he does enough just well enough to have backup catcher upside.

Chicago also couldn’t sign their next pick Oklahoma State 3B Mark Ginther (Round 14). Ginther has a world of untapped upside who could emerge as a top five round prospect and future big league starter at the hot corner.

I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.

James Madison SS David Herbek (Round 15) was good value in the fifteenth round as a high floor player with the upside of an offense-first infielder off the bench. The Bill Mueller comp from last year represents his absolute ceiling.

Last year I wrote: “Herbek is a certifiable draft sleeper. He currently has gap power to all fields, but his beautifully level line drive stroke (reminiscent of Bill Mueller’s righthanded swing) has me thinking there is double digit home run potential if he can add some strength in the coming years.”

I didn’t anticipate that double digit home run totals to come in just over 200 senior year at bats, but there you go. His bat ranks up there with almost any other college shortstop in his class, but the relatively low ranking can be owed to his occasionally spotty defense. As an offense-first infielder off the bench he’ll do just fine.

Arkansas OF Collin Kuhn (Round 17) does everything pretty well but throw. Jack of all trades, master of none players often find homes as reserve outfielders if they show enough of the hit tool early on.

Arkansas JR OF Collin Kuhn (2011): strong hit tool; good runner; good power; great range; good approach; great athlete

Connecticut RHP Kevin Vance (Round 19) was outstanding value this late in the draft. I like his stuff at least as much if not more than Chicago’s fourth round pick, Kyle McMillen. The evidence that we just witnessed a crazy strong college pitching draft continues to mount.

Connecticut JR RHP/3B Kevin Vance (2011): 88-92 FB; plus CB; plus command; has some experience behind plate; average power; 6-0, 200 pounds

Still think I prefer JR UTIL Kevin Vance as part of a battery, whether that be behind the plate or on the mound, than at the hot corner. I like his above-average fastball/plus curveball combo and plus command as a potential relief arm down the line. If he sticks as a position player, I think that arm would be best served as a catcher. Surprised to see his batting line as weak as it is because I really liked his level, powerful, and well-balanced swing. A team could gamble on his upside, but it is starting to look like his down junior year could keep him a Husky for another season.

Between rounds 20 and 25 the White Sox selected college players from the state of California with five out of six picks. Two of those players are Southern California 2B Joe DePinto (Round 21) and UC Santa Barbara OF Mark Haddow (Round 24). DePinto fell as a prospect due to an ACL injury, but is now back to full health. Haddow was a nice senior sign who shows flashes of four of the five tools, but the one that is lacking (the hit tool) is a biggie.

UC Santa Barbara SR OF Mark Haddow (2011): good athlete; plus power potential; too many K’s; good runner; solid-average RF arm; 6-2, 215 pounds; (263/365/409 – 22 BB/48 K – 17/21 SB – 198 AB)

JR OF Mark Haddow (2010 – UC Santa Barbara) offers up plus power potential, but also strikeouts about as much as you’d expected from a raw college player with plus power potential. Luckily, power isn’t his only claim to fame. Haddow can also rely on his solid athleticism, better than you’d think speed, and slightly above-average big league right field arm. He has the raw tools to dramatically rise up draft boards, but first needs to take a more disciplined approach at the plate to show big league clubs he’d cut it as something more than a backup outfielder professionally. If he begins even to hint at improvement in those deficient areas in his game, I’d bet good money some team out there will draft him with the idea that he’ll be a big league starter in right someday.

West Virginia 3B Grant Buckner (Round 26) went from relative unknown (to me, at least) to legitimate senior sign draft pick. His arm and raw power are his two best tools, but what I like most about him as a prospect is his defensive versatility.

Valhalla HS (CA) C Bryce Mosier (Round 33) will go down in the history books as Chicago’s first American high school draftee in 2011. He’s also a solid catching prospect who many teams didn’t think of as signable after round 15. The White Sox, much to their credit, did their homework and stuck with him as he fell down the board. I’m a big fan of his ability behind the plate and believe his arm is one of the best of any 2011 high school catcher. The White Sox followed up the pick of Mosier with another prep player, Washington HS (IA) RHP Dakota Freese (Round 34). Don’t go uncorking the champagne just yet because, unfortunately, they didn’t sign him. He’s off to LSU-Eunice where he’ll have the opportunity to pitch early and put himself in position to go in the top ten rounds in 2012. Irresponsible anonymous source alert: a scout friend praised his stuff this past spring before quickly saying they couldn’t recommend him to higher ups because of questions about how he’d handle the professional part of pro ball.

RHP Dakota Freese (Washington HS, Iowa): 88-90 FB, 92 peak; good CB; 6-4, 190

Our quick high school interlude is over; like young adults all over the country this week, it is time to head back to college. I’ve written a disproportionate amount on Virginia RHP Cody Winiarski (Round 36) over the years. He looks like a solid minor league arm at this point. Liberty RHP Keegan Linza (Round 38), he of the bigger fastball, looks like he could be a little more than that.

Virginia SR RHP Cody Winiarski (2011): high-80s fastball, 88-90, 92 peak; good 81-83 CU; average SL

Liberty SR RHP Keegan Linza (2011): low-90s

The unsigned trio of Helix Charter HS (CA) RHP Jake Reed (Round 40), Lawrence County HS (KY) RHP Chandler Shepherd (Round 41), and Madison JC (WI) RHP Joel Effertz (Round 43) all should be heard from in the coming years. Reed and Shepherd are especially intriguing prospects; both are athletic, have frames to put on some size, and better than expected (for late round high school pitchers) breaking stuff.