The Chicago White Sox put the finishing touches on their 2018 MLB Draft this Wednesday and will now begin the process of negotiating to sign their 40 selections in this class.
That process will take some time and it’s harder to get enthused about the prospects the organization has added because you usually don’t see the impact of a draft class until years after the picks have been made. However, the White Sox did manage to add a few prospects who should aid their rebuild relatively quickly.
As owners of the No. 4 overall pick (compliments of a tough 2017 season), the White Sox knew they’d have the chance to land a future starter with their top pick. And it just so happens that things played out perfectly to land the club the player who is probably closest to making an impact in the big leagues.
Nick Madrigal has arguably the highest floor of anybody available in this class. The Oregon State middle infielder has exceptional bat control and a disciplined approach at the plate that should make him a batting title contender at some point.
He’s likely still got a month left of his college season because he plays for a loaded team, so that will set him a bit behind. However, if the organization felt the need you could still theoretically see him in September if he produces at the level we all think he can.
Instead, he’s more likely to spend a week or two in Arizona before being sent to Winston-Salem to spend time learning shortstop with the legendary Omar Vizquel. And then the White Sox will likely bide their time with him in 2019 both to control his service time and to figure out what position he ultimately fits at with Yoan Moncada serving as a major roadblock at second base, his most natural position.
Still, wherever he lands position-wise, it’s easy to see how he fits into their future because of the likelihood that he can be a fixture at the top of the order. So whenever the White Sox are ready to contend (likely 2020), expect to see Madrigal somewhere in the infield and near the top of the lineup card.
In the third round, the White Sox picked up another collegiate star who should be poised to work through the system rather quickly, as well. Konnor Pilkington doesn’t turn 21 until September, but the Mississippi State pitcher has played top competition in the SEC, the Cape Cod League and with Team USA over the last three seasons.
The White Sox have scores of big-time arms in their system already, so he’ll have some traffic to navigate on his way through the minor-league system. However, he’s a lefty and the organization doesn’t have that many left-handed pitching options to round out their staff.
Pilkington projects as a potential No. 3 or No. 4 starter with an innings-eating profile and that would certainly be welcomed stability as the White Sox try to sort through who out of Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer, Dane Dunning and four or five arms in the next tier of prospects will join Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon in the rotation.
Those that ultimately don’t make the cut will probably get a chance in the bullpen, but Pilkington has a solid frame at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds along with a history of pounding the strike zone with sneaky-good stuff that would seem to indicate he’s going to be a starter. And given everything he’s already accomplished, he should fly through the system and could begin the 2019 season in Double-A Birmingham if all goes well with a path to the majors determined by productivity and the organization’s need as early as that summer.
Madrigal and Pilkington’s track record certainly make them the most likely candidates to get to the majors quickly. Then second-round pick Steele Walker is also a toolsy guy with a track record of success at a big-time program (Oklahoma), but they’ll likely take their time figuring out if he can stick in centerfield just in case Luis Robert eventually has to move to a corner.
And the White Sox also wound up drafting nine other college players in the first 15 rounds with seven of those players being pitchers. So it’s clear they’re looking to throw as many experienced young arms at their pitching problems as possible and hope they find enough guys to stick to form a 12- or 13-man staff and they should get most of the answers they seek on that front in the next 18 months, give or take, which explains their preference for college arms who are closer to finished products.
So you can certainly expect to see some of these names soon as NBC Sports Chicago continues to show Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte games to try to capitalize on the fervor for the youth movement on the South Side.