Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, MiLB.com takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives.
Already boasting one of baseball's strongest farm systems, the White Sox did not identity any glaring deficiencies that needed to be addressed immediately by this unusual -- and limited -- Draft. Instead, the South Siders and first-year amateur scouting director Mike Shirley identified a pool rich with big-time arms and opted to take advantage.
So with 13 hurlers occupying spots among the team’s top 30 prospects -- and the likes of Michael Kopech, Zack Burdi, Ian Hamilton, Bernardo Flores, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and Tyler Johnson already in The Show or on the cusp -- Chicago capitalized on adding further depth to its pitching.
And in a big way.
The White Sox used all five of their picks on arms and, although only two of the organization’s five selections, were ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects -- Garrett Crochet and Jared Kelley -- Shirley believes the team acquired a pair of top-of-the-rotation talents. And that wasn’t an opportunity he anticipated or was willing to pass up.
“We don’t look at our system as being short, but obviously arms for any Major League team is a priority in this league,” said Shirley, who's been a part of the White Sox scouting department since 2010 and served as assistant scouting director for two years before his promotion last September.
“So when we looked at the Draft, from our perspective, this was a pitching-rich Draft and there were a lot of arms that we did like. We still evaluated position players, but the way our board lined up when it was time for us to pick it was pitching that jumped out at us the most. So we decided to provide the system with a little more depth based on the richness of the pitching. And in some cases it was a situation we couldn’t pass on some of these guys to help develop our system as a whole, especially with Kelley.”
First round: LHP Garrett Crochet (No. 11 overall)
Two weeks from his 21st birthday on Draft night, the 6-foot-6, 218-pound southpaw fell to the White Sox at pick No. 11. Sporting an upper-90s heater that can reach triple digits and rides in against righties, the University of Tennessee product also has a wipeout slider and developing changeup that are considered at least plus pitches.
Crochet was struck by a line drive that fractured and dislocated his jaw last season but missed only two weeks and led the Vols to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2005.
However, the one-time nuclear engineer major was shut down after one 3 1/3-inning appearance this spring as a precaution over a sore shoulder. He did not return before the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic. The injury probably was the reason he fell out of the top 10.
Arguably one of the best athletes on the mound, Crochet already had drawn comparisons to former White Sox first-rounder Chris Sale for his size, deceptive delivery from the left side and overpowering stuff.
“Garrett was a guy we thought had some of the best pure stuff in the Draft,” Shirley said. “Elite athlete, elite stuff and being a lefty, he was a target that we identified and zeroed in on, for sure.”
It’s not out of the question that Crochet could get an invitation to camp on July 1 and make a rapid ascent to the bigs as a bullpen cog during the shortened season.
“That’s still being processed. Everyone is still doing their due diligence. But I think he would [be invited to camp],” Shirley said. “The stuff he brings to the table, 95-100 mph fastball, slider that’s a legit weapon and a rapidly developing changeup -- he has the skills that can play at a Major League level quickly. His needle is progressing forward rapidly, we think, but we won’t make that determination until we’re off and running and see how it all fits together.”
Second round: RHP Jared Kelley (No. 47 overall)
Rated as MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 Draft prospect, Kelley was being considered by the White Sox with their first pick. When Day 1 ended and the Refugio High School flamethrower was still on the board, Shirley began to believe something special was brewing.
“When we left the Draft room that first night and we noticed he was still on the board, that’s when we started pinching ourselves,” he said. “He was part of the deep discussion of players we considered for the first pick, so when we saw him there at the start of Day 2, about 10 picks out, that was something we were very excited about. He’s another front-line, top-of-the-rotation arm.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder showcases what many scouts refer to as “easy gas.” He possesses an effortless 65-grade fastball that averages 98 mph, a 60-grade changeup and an average slider that's developing. And he puts it all together with 55-grade control.
Named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year in May, the Texas native went 3-0 this spring with a 0.00 ERA and 34 punchouts against three walks over 12 innings. Over his prep career, he was 32-2 with a 0.43 ERA and 23 hitless appearances.
Before focusing on baseball as a junior and senior, Kelley was a standout track star and threw 54 touchdown passes as the Refugio quarterback. During his sophomore year, he led the football team to a state championship.
“He’s another top-of-the-rotation-type guy and we couldn’t be more excited to have him,” Shirley said. “We really liked what we saw from his fastball and changeup last summer, and then this spring we saw his breaking ball coming along. It had more depth and more shape to it. And he was using it with more intent. And we felt that third pitch really separated him and just got really excited to have the chance to get him here.”
Third round: RHP Adisyn Coffey (No. 83 overall)
Perhaps looking to save money after signing Kelley well beyond his slot, the White Sox went with Coffey, who was not ranked among the top Draft prospects by MLB Pipeline or Baseball America. The Muncie, Indiana, native will look to join the ranks of Shohei Ohtani, Brendan McKay and Jared Walsh as two-way players in the pros.
A standout shortstop during his prep career at Delta High School, Coffey signed with Arizona State, where he played eight games as a freshman and made a pair of appearances on the mound. He transferred to San Jacinto College last summer before making his way to Wabash Valley Junior College this spring.
At the plate for Wabash, Coffey batted .289 with two doubles and a pair of RBIs in eight games. He also gave up three runs on three hits with five strikeouts across 3 1/3 innings in four appearances on the bump.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder possesses a mid-90s heater and moved on to the University of Louisville before the Draft.
“Adisyn is an elite athlete. A guy we’ve seen a bit in workouts, and he’s got a great arm,” Shirley said. “We’ve seen him line up at short, second, third and center in his career, he’s multi-versatile and he’s also got a bat that adds traction as well as an electric arm. His arm speed is off the charts. We’ve seen him throw 100 from shortstop and we believe that if he can make that transition to the mound we’re looking at something special. He’s got elite skill and a needle pointing in the right direction.”
Fourth round: RHP Kade Mechals (No. 112 overall)
Another surprise pick, Mechals underwent Tommy John surgery in May and will spend all of 2021 rehabbing. Before the injury, however, the Grand Canyon University product sported a three-pitch mix that was spearheaded by an 88-92 mph fastball. Having drawn comparisons to Mike Leake for his fearlessness and bulldog mentality on the bump, Mechals appeared in 19 games and made 18 starts in two seasons at Grand Canyon. He went 12-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 118 punchouts over 107 innings.
“We really liked his pitchability and he possesses skills that transition for us. We really like his competitiveness, his makeup. He’s wired right to make a difference for himself,” Shirley said. “He’s got good carry on his fastball, he can pitch with it both north and south, and we felt good about his medical reports. We think he’s an intense worker and he’s wired right to get past this hurdle.”
Fifth round: LHP Bailey Horn (No. 142 overall)
From one player who just underwent Tommy John surgery to another who bounced back from the procedure, the White Sox took this hard-throwing lefty with their final pick.
The Waco, Texas native missed the 2018 season at McLennan Community College following elbow ligament replacement surgery but broke out with Auburn last year. Armed with a four-pitch arsenal, Horn possesses a 90-94 mph fastball, a plus-slider that keeps hitters off-balance and a curveball and changeup that have both been deemed average offerings.
In four starts this spring, Horn was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 27 punchouts and five walks over 17 1/3 frames. While he projects as a reliever at the next level, his arsenal should give him a shot at staying in the rotation.
“He’s got a lot of things that we valued,” Shirley said. “Big, power arm, left-handed, great fastball-breaking ball mix. We’ve seen him touch 95 with that fastball, and it’s got good vertical carry. We also really liked his makeup, being a junior college pitcher and going through that grind to having success at Auburn. He’s going to get a chance to solidify himself as a starter, but his intangibles and how he uses his stuff is only going to move him forward quickly. Whether that’s as a starter or reliever will be determined.”
Overall outlook: Since dealing Sale to the Red Sox in December 2016, the White Sox have been diligently stockpiling young talent through trades and the Draft to rebuild their farm system. Those seeds are clearly in bloom, but no single transaction or previous Draft may match the impact the South Siders made in this truncated process.
Adding not one but two potential front-of-the-rotation arms with the ability to move quickly through the system and be cost-controlled assets for years to come is not only invaluable but also incredibly rare. It may only be a matter of time until the White Sox break a postseason drought that dates back to 2008 and become perennial contenders again in the AL Central. And the players drafted this month have the potential to play key roles.
“With the limited amount of players available this year, we felt good about the guys we targeted, that we really wanted to acquire,” Shirley said. “You do your best to plan based on the quality of players on the board and try to execute from there and always be in a position to strike if you can at your higher rated guys that are available to you. We feel like we were able to do that.”
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.