With the end of May quickly approaching, so is Major League Baseball’s 2019 first-year player draft. The annual event is set to begin on Monday, June 3rd and last through Wednesday, June 5th. For those who aren’t too familiar with the draft, it will include a total of 40 rounds, as well as five additional rounds for compensation picks and competitive balance lottery picks. This year’s draft is of particular importance to the White Sox because they have the third overall pick.
There has been much speculation as to which player the organization will target recently. Last week, scouting director Nick Hostetler revealed the following to Scott Merkin of MLB.com:
From the esteemed Nick Hostetler on the White Sox No. 3 pick: “We’ve probably got 6 right now we would feel very, very comfortable in taking … The big thing is of those six, getting the top three in order.”
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 22, 2019
More Hostetler: “There’s a pitcher still involved in our mix at No. 3 that we are evaluating heavy. It’s a college pitcher .. The more pitching we can add, the better. We would be doing a disservice to the club to not include pitching in that mix at 3.”
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 22, 2019
Hostetler on potentially taking a catcher at No. 3 with Zack Collins and Seby Zavala in place: “Sure. Regardless of what position they play, whether it’s a catcher and we have Zack and Seby, whether it’s a shortstop and we have TA, whether it’s a second baseman …
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 22, 2019
More Hostetler: “… when we took Nick Madrigal, we are going to take the best player regardless of the position.”
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 22, 2019
With that being said, here’s our best guess at six players that we think may be getting targeted by the organization in the upcoming draft.
Adley Rutschman | C/IF | Oregon State
DOB: 2/6/1998 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 216 lb. | B/T: S/R
Scouting Grades – Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 60
Perhaps the best player in the draft, Rutschman has been at the top of nearly every mock draft recently. The switch-hitting sophomore and former teammate of Nick Madrigal played a key role on last year’s championship Oregon State team, collecting 17 hits and wining the College World Series Most Outstanding Player honors. As a junior, he has continued his progression into becoming an elite college player both in the batter’s box and behind the plate.
Let’s begin on the offensive side of things. When he first arrived at Oregon State, Rutschman’s primary focus was his catching and defense, which led to an underwhelming .234/.322/.306 slash. After an entire offseason of work, Rutschman completely transformed his swing into something deadly. The catcher’s switch hitting ability, power potential, and overall great eye now makes him one of the most dangerous hitters in the draft.
If you take a look at his current stats, Rutschman is slashing .419/.580/.765 during his junior season with nine doubles, 17 home runs, and 57 RBI through 179 at-bats/55 games. His most impressive stat might be his walk to strikeout ratio, which sits at 73 to 37. He has really worked over the years to develop a selective eye, which has led him to even more success this season.
On the defensive end, Adley Rutschman has worked wonders behind the plate for the Beavers. Over the past few seasons, he’s helped guide the pitching staff towards having one of the lowest ERAs in the nation. He’s a great framer and has very quick hands, allowing him to make the fast transfer and nail runners with his cannon of an arm.
For the White Sox, not only would they get a great leader behind the plate, but an extremely disciplined bat. This would obviously be a huge get for a team that has lacked a catcher with true offensive ability since the departure of A.J. Pierzysnki. Of course, there are guys like Zack Collins and Seby Zavala who are already rising through the system but as Hostetler has said many times over the past few weeks, the team will select the best possible player.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 1
In addition to the highlight video, here’s a short feature on the catcher that aired on the Pac-12 Networks:
Bobby Witt Jr. | SS | Colleyville Heritage HS
DOB: 6/14/2000 | Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 180 lb. | B/T: R/R
Scouting Grades – Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 60
Son of Bobby Witt, the Oklahoma commit is the top prep star available in this year’s draft. The soon to be 19-year-old has been floating near the top of mock drafts for a while now, mainly projected as going second to the Kansas City Royals. Many scouts have tabbed Witt as being a potential five-tool shortstop down the road, making him a very tempting pick-up for any of the top teams in this year’s drafts.
As you’ll notice on the scouting grades, Witt’s a 50-grade hitter which puts him 10 points lower than Rutschman. This is due to his very aggressive approach at the plate that yields a lot of swings and misses. As he matures, many believe that he can become more disciplined and boost his average. While this is a big question mark, the thing that isn’t is Witt’s above average power for someone at the high school level. In his senior season for Colleyville Heritage High School, MaxPreps lists Witt as having 14 HRs to go along with 44 RBI and a .519/.598/1.160 slash. He also has 16 stolen bases, which is attributed to his plus-speed.
On the field, Witt has very quick hands and a strong arm. Mix that with his speed and he has great range up the middle to make some of the long plays required of a shortstop. As mentioned earlier, Witt Jr. has been shown as going within the top 2 of this year’s draft so it seems unlikely that he falls to the White Sox, though anything could happen.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 2
Andrew Vaughn | 1B | California
DOB: 4/3/1998 | Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 214 lb. | B/T: R/R
Scouting Grades – Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60
This is where things start to get interesting for the Sox. Many will argue that Vaughn is the best fit for the organization given his body of work at the college level. Mock drafts are trending towards him being selected third, though there’s still some question marks about the certainty of that happening since CJ Abrams is also floating around.
If we’re talking about best hitters in the draft, Vaughn is right there. The first baseman has been so consistent during his college career, hitting for average while also seeing his power numbers increase. This season, he’s hitting .387 with 15 homers, 14 doubles, and 49 RBI. Vaughn also is know for his great eye, walking 58 times while striking out 32, nearly a 2:1 ratio.
In the field, Vaughn’s saw some brief action on the mound during his early seasons, but has been primarily used as a first-baseman. Expect him to stay at there at the next level despite his strong arm.
Given the White Sox track record lately of staying away from high schoolers in the first round (the last was Courtney Hawkins in 2012), Andrew Vaughn seems like a very serious candidate for the third pick. He is a much safer pick than CJ Abrams, leading many to think the organization is leaning towards him.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 3
CJ Abrams | SS | Blessed Trinity Catholic HS
DOB: 10/3/2000 | Height: 6’1″ | Weight: 178 lb. | B/T: L/R
Scouting Grades – Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 75 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60
Abrams is a left-handed hitter who profiles to have a more line-drive oriented approach at the plate. His velocity across the infield was clocked at 91 mph, and many scouts have reported that he is one of the most exciting young athletes to watch among this draft class. The Alabama commit also has elite speed, as he ran a 6.29 60 yard dash – which is an incredibly solid number that has earned him his 75 speed grade on the 20-80 scale.
That being said, drafting Abrams doesn’t come without its risks. He is a slap hitter who needs to add muscle before he could ever be considered someone who would hit for power. Though he was given a 40 grade for his power, so was Nick Madrigal – a comparable player in terms of power and hit tools (for reference, Madrigal had a 65 grade hit tool, compared to Abrams’ 55). It seems as if, with time, Abrams would most likely profile as a player like Dee Gordon – minimal power but a good hit tool.
On the field, the shortstop is able to use his plus-speed to range over and make the long plays required of the position. His arm is strong enough but it’s likely a shift over to second base could happen at some point over his career as he’s better suited there.
According to Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs, it appears there is a 75% chance the White Sox take Abrams with their third overall pick. We’ll see if they are buying into what the high schooler is selling, take a risk, and go for upside.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 4
JJ Bleday | OF | Vanderbilt
DOB: 11/10/1997 | Height: 6’3″ | Weight: 205 lb. | B/T: L/L
Scouting Grades – Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
J.J. Bleday is an outfielder from Vanderbilt University. He led the charge for the Commodores through the 2018 season, hitting .368/.494/.511 with limited home run power (4 HR all season). However, Bleday tapped into his power potential in 2019, leading all of Division I Baseball in home runs while still maintaining a .467 OBP and an outrageous .395 ISO.
Baseball America describes Bleday as a player with “a balanced stance, smooth swing, solid bat speed and a refined approach with more walks than strikeouts in his college career…” He profiles as a corner OF who has the ability and instincts to handle CF if necessary. Most mock drafts have him going in the top 5, with him and Hunter Bishop battling to be the first OF drafted this year.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 5
Nick Lodolo | LHP | Texas Christian
DOB: 2/5/1998 | Height: 6’6″ | Weight: 185 lb. | B/T: L/L
Scouting Grades – Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
Nick Hostetler said the Sox were considering a pitcher as one of their six targets, leading us to believe it’s Nick Lodolo, the top arm in the draft. Lodolo was the 41st overall pick back in 2016, but the Pirates failed to sign him. Instead, Lodolo went to Texas Christian University, where he has held a long track record as a starter. He had really only been an average pitcher in his first two seasons at TCU, posting a 4.35 ERA in 2017 and a 4.32 ERA in 2018. This season, however, has been a standout year for the left-hander, posting a 2.68 ERA with just a .202 batting average against him and a 21:125 BB:K ratio.
At 6’6″, 180 pounds, Lodolo profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the rotation. As Baseball America writes, “Lodolo’s stuff isn’t quite as loud as the typical top college starter of a draft class, but he is a high-probability major leaguer with above-average control of three pitches that are current average offerings but could be plus pitches in the future.”
Lodolo doesn’t seem to have as high of a ceiling as Carlos Rodon did when the Sox took him back in 2014; thus, he profiles as a Top 10, but not Top 5, draft pick. He is most likely the pitcher still on the board in Hostetler’s draft room, but it is unlikely the White Sox take this route.
MLB Pipeline Draft Rank: 8
Sox On 35th Predictions
Now, let’s get to the fun part of this article. A few members of the Sox On 35th crew offered their insight and gave their predictions for who we’ll see join the organization on June 3rd. For what it’s worth, three out of our four members predicted Nick Madrigal correctly last year, so we’ll see if we can successfully foresee the future once again.
Nik Gaur: CJ Abrams
Assuming that Adley Rutschman does not fall to the White Sox, I predict that high school shortstop CJ Abrams will be the selection. First baseman Andrew Vaughn is a tempting option, but Abrams offers more versatility and has been flying up draft boards over the past few months.
While Abrams is raw and certainly a few years away from being ready for big league baseball, he also offers a higher ceiling than Vaughn, who is more of a “sure thing” but may never be a true star. In selecting Abrams, the White Sox would be swinging on upside like they did when they drafted Tim Anderson in 2013.
Ryan Wilson: Andrew Vaughn
It’s no secret that White Sox’ young pitching staff have took a hit over the last year. Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Carlos Rodon have all fallen victim to Tommy John surgeries. They are all expected to make full recoveries, and if they can get fully healthy, could boast one serious pitching rotation once Dylan Cease gets into the mix.
With that being said, I think the White Sox will look to add hitting, and when it comes to this year’s draft, I see them going with Andrew Vaughn. In 2017, he won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and last season took home the Golden Spikes Award for the NCAA’s best collegiate player.
Through 48 games this year, he’s hit 15 home runs, knocked in 49 runners and has a .385 average. One thing to really like about him is his ability to get on base as opposed to striking out. He’s walked 53 times and only struck out 30 times.
It appears that the White Sox are looking to keep Abreu as a South Sider for the remainder of his career. It’s not unrealistic that at some point he’ll take over the DH spot, leaving Vaughn as the first base occupier moving forward.
Joe Binder: Andrew Vaughn
With so much offensive talent available at the top of this draft class, the White Sox will undoubtedly be aiming for a position player. If Rutschman and Witt are off the board, then I believe the organization’s ultimate decision will come down to Andrew Vaughn and CJ Abrams.
Out of those two, I think that Andrew Vaughn makes the most sense for where this organization is at. He’s shown what he can do with his bat at the college level, providing plenty of pop to all fields. Mix that with his experience at first-base and I think Vaughn checks a lot of boxes for an organization that should start preparing for Jose Abreu’s successor.
While I really like Abrams and think he probably has more upside, the safe pick here is to go with the advanced hitter in Vaughn. Get ready to see him donning the Sox uniform on Monday night if Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr. are off the board.
Tim Moran: Andrew Vaughn
Though many feel the Sox will draft C.J. Abrams, all signs point to Andrew Vaughn being the most logical fit for the South Siders. With that said, I think Hahn and co. select Vaughn in the upcoming draft, though Abrams is still a highly possible outcome. This is predicated on Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr. going ahead of Chicago.
In general, Vaughn is ultra-talented and highlights prove his excellence at the plate. Vaughn is, importantly, a more proven hitter than Abrams, having mashed every single year in college. With the front office feeling more pressure from fans over the lack of results from the rebuild, they might be more inclined to pick a higher-floor, closer-to-the-show type player in Vaughn. Furthermore, the Sox lack organizational depth at the first base position, and Vaughn would fit that hole and hopefully grow into a perfect replacement for Jose Abreu. Time will tell if that comes true, but I do still see Vaughn being chosen at number 3.
Jordan Lazowski: Andrew Vaughn
I went back and forth when making this pick, and I decided on Vaughn over J.J. Bleday – even though I am well aware the choice in the draft room is most likely between Vaughn and Abrams. I absolutely love Vaughn’s swing, as he makes the most of his power potential with a high leg kick and the full use of his upper and lower body. Much like when the Sox took Madrigal, they should once again be taking who they feel is the best player available in the field. Between Vaughn and Abrams, that is no doubt Vaughn.
The White Sox have too high of a draft position to be drafting a “high upside” guy like Abrams. With a top 5 pick, you have to hit on these guys. When you sit outside of the top 5, you have the ability to take a swing at “high upside” guys, like the White Sox did when they took Tim Anderson 13th overall. Assumedly, this will be the last draft in awhile when the White Sox have a top 5 pick. Play it safe one more time and keep this rebuild moving forward. Or, do what I’ll be doing and pray that Rutschman falls to #3.
Of course these are all just our predictions for the team’s third overall pick. The White Sox will also be picking here in the first five rounds:
- Second Round: 45th overall
- Third Round: 81st overall
- Fourth Round: 110th overall
- Fifth Round: 140th overall
If you would like to watch this year’s draft, it will be broadcasted on MLB Network beginning on Monday, June 3rd at 6:00 PM CT/7:00 PM ET. For additional draft coverage, be sure to follow our social media accounts @SoxOn35th.
Also, we would love to hear who you think the White Sox will select with the third overall pick! Leave your predictions in the comments below.
Featured Photo: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images