White Sox: Strategy for 2018 MLB Amateur Draft
The question for the White Sox in this year’s Amateur Draft is not Who the Sox should draft but How they should draft.
My friend and White Sox fan Zach begged me over the phone to write about who the team should pick in the upcoming MLB draft in June. There’s not a lot of speculative content on the 2018 Amateur Draft, save for Baseball Draft Report’s fantastic talent summary and the mock draft which is definitely a worthy read.
Perhaps the reason for the lack of speculation is just that: it’s just speculation and no one knows how the results will end up. When Dustin Ackley was ranked no.2 before the 2009 draft on the same list that Mike Trout showed up at no.22 proves the point.
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So how should the Sox approach the coming draft? What should their strategy be? That’s more important than the specific players they draft. What will their approach be and how should we think about the infusion of more young baseball talent into an already stocked system? What are their options in this strategy?
There are different ways to consider talent assessment. First and foremost, the farm system needs to feed the major league team. Of course, that’s obvious, but a more accurate statement would be the farm system needs to feed the major league product. This means the business.
One can look at prospects through three lenses. First, what position do they play (or expect to play at the top ceiling level)? Every team has a depth chart of the organization that allows doing succession planning to determine gaps. For example, the Sox could be facing a gap at third base. Quick, without mentioning Matt Davidson, Yolmer Sanchez, Nicky Delmonico or Jake Burger – name another third baseman anywhere in the Sox organization. Thought so. Me neither.
Second, how quickly will they make it to the majors? A team could be stacked at starting pitching for example that is too young to have an impact on the major league club for the next several seasons. That team might want to draft or trade for some college pitching that could be considered more conditioned and ready than high school prep athletes.
And third, which specific profile talents would be valued independently of position or arrival date? Items such as whether they bat right-handed, left-handed or switch hit. Another is if they bring speed to the club. Or walks, power, defense, multiple tools, and so forth. On pitching, whether they are a projected starter or reliever, right-handed or left-hand, power vs. finesse, strikeout vs. ground ball, etc.
It’s fair to say that White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is building his team’s overall capital, a combination of developable and marketable (ie. tradeable) talent. With the amount of young starting pitching the team has amassed, would it make sense to continue adding starting pitching depth? Sure – if the team determines the player drafted would have the highest value to the team, or that starting pitching would be the most marketable talent to trade for those necessary assets the team isn’t able to develop or sign via free agency.
Will the Sox make a run at Manny Machado if he’s on the open market next offseason? Quite possibly. Will they sign him? It’s less probable than possible. Why? Because he will be cost prohibitive and a poor risk vs. reward valuation. Any single player with a long-term contract in the neighborhood of $20 million or more per year or more is simply is too expensive. The team could procure that type of production across all their players more cheaply than sinking that level of investment in a single player with diversification and fewer carrying costs.
To sign him would be placing too much investment in a single asset while amortizing that production across eight other hitters would be more efficient and a less risky strategy. The team will likely look to continue developing Jake Burger in whom they’ve already invested via a top draft pick, and find other trade targets who can be acquired with their young capital.
Next: How Critical is Development of Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson?
It all comes down to options and choices. By drafting the best available talent, Hahn will maximize those options. And everything is on the table. This is what makes Hot Stove so fun and rebuilds so exciting. We’re watching not baseball but a game of strategy at this point, and all the moves are Hahn’s. I’m excited to see what other moves take place from now until the team breaks camp and heads into the regular season. As the overall market develops and plays out, the strategy will reveal itself.