Today is the day that Chicago White Sox fans have been waiting for, from stat junkies to the casual fan, the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft marks the next phase of the White Sox rebuilding process. The White Sox are coming off of an above average draft in 2016, coupled with the re-stocking of the farm-system with the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades in December.
The signing of coveted Cuban phenom Luis Robert last month has also added another feather in the cap of Rick Hahn and company, as the club approaches the annual MLB Draft poised to turn the White Sox farm system, one that was once a neglected and often mocked model of what not to do, into the bona-fide number one farm system in all of baseball when all is said and done this week.
Round one of the MLB Draft will commence this evening at 6:00 pm (CT), and the White Sox will pick 11th on the opening night of the 2017 installment of the MLB Draft. Rounds 3-10 will begin on Tuesday afternoon, with the draft wrapping up on Wednesday evening after teams make their selections for rounds 11-40.
The Chicago White Sox, as it stands right now have a plethora of starting pitching prospects that are expected to shape the starting rotation in the next year or two, and will look to solidify some question marks around the diamond this week. The White Sox most pertinent areas of need include the outfield and the corner infield positions, and there are a handful of interesting options for them in the middle-portion of the first round of the draft.
So what’s the move for the White Sox tonight? According to Rick Hahn, the White Sox will continue to follow their motto of aiming to take the best player available when they are one the clock.
My personal favorite player for the White Sox in round one this evening is hands down, Pavin Smith of the University of Virginia. Smith, a left-handed hitting first-baseman with a keen ability to get on base and hit for some pop would fill the White Sox need for a first-baseman and allow the club to slide Jose Abreu into the designated hitter’s role if he is in fact going to be here for the long-term. The pick would also likely be staying in line with their best player available motto, because if Smith is there at number 11, the White Sox will have gotten very lucky.
Smith would give the White Sox a left-handed bat for the middle of the order, one that does not strike out very often, and possesses a solid defensive acumen that could be slotted into the middle of the White Sox order by the time they are ready to compete. Smith has excelled in the prestigious Cape Cod League with wooden bats, and has a freakishly good amount of plate discipline and pitch selection ability, racking up more home runs (12) than strikeouts (9) during his junior season at UVA.
The Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers are the two teams ahead of the White Sox that I see foiling the plan, but Baseball America gives us hope by slotting Smith to fall as far as 18 to the Giants. If in fact Smith is available, he’s the clear-cut choice for the White Sox at number 11.
If Smith is selected inside the top-10 and the White Sox don’t have the opportunity to select him, my next pick for the White Sox is Adam Haseley, a speedy outfielder, and Smith’s teammate at Virginia.
Haseley is another high on-base percentage draft prospect, that has the most project-able future of any of the available outfielders in the opening round of the MLB Draft. Haseley posted an excellent .399 batting average for the Cavaliers in his junior season in 2017, and while he doesn’t possesses an extremely high ceiling, his floor is among the highest of any of the first-rounders that will get the call tonight.
Haseley is projected to have a quick path through the minor-league level, and can be slotted into the top or bottom of any lineup and play all three outfield positions once he reaches the major-league level.
If Pavin Smith is gone, and the White Sox either really want to address a corner infield position, or both Smith and Adam Haseley have been selected, then Jake Burger would be the most sensible choice for the White Sox at number 11. Burger is a big, slugging third-baseman out of Missouri State University, who can actually hit for average pretty well for a big power bat.
Burger is widely considered the best available power bat in this year’s draft, and slugged 43 home runs over the course of his last two seasons with the Missouri State Bears. The White Sox will be moving on from current everyday third-baseman Todd Frazier after this season, and Matt Davidson has failed to show convincing plate discipline through the first two months of his time at the major-league level with the White Sox, and will likely not be the fit moving forward.
I wouldn’t even be surprised to see the Sox take Burger over Haseley or another outfielder, because the presence of Luis Robert, Luis Alexander Basabe, and the emergence of Avisail Garcia this season gives the White Sox some wiggle room in their quest for the addition of talented young outfielders. The White Sox also have Adam Engel, who surprisingly looked like he belonged in his first major-league stint, but was sent back down to Triple-A to make room for the recently acquired Alen Hanson on the major-league roster.
Outside of my top three best fits for the White Sox with their first round selection tonight, Jeren Kendall would be the next best bet, although Kendall is the biggest gamble of all four of the mentioned players to this point.
While Kendall has shown flashes of a five-tool arsenal during his time with the Vanderbilt Commodores, he has an undesirable strikeout tendency that is enough for me to slot him behind Smith, Haseley and Burger on my big board for the White Sox at number 11.
Tonight’s selection will be the first of many important selections that the White Sox will make over the course of the next three days, three days that will mark the next phase of the White Sox rebuild, making a repeat of the success seen in last year’s MLB Draft imperative to the timeline of the clubs rise to success.