Understandably, almost all of the attention given to the 2014 White Sox draft class was directed at Carlos Rodon. Heading into Draft Season, Rodon was the highest profile prospect and he represents the White Sox' highest draft pick since they took Harold Baines number one overall in 1977. But the White Sox also made a significant pick in the second round, the 44th player taken in the draft as a whole - Spencer Adams.
I was surprised that Adams was still available at the 44 pick. Baseball America had him as their 23rd-best player in the draft in their Top 500 Preview. Clearly, a number of front offices disagreed, but there is a lot to like about the high school arm from Georgia. While he had a commit to UGA, I don't know that teams were scared away by signability issues, seeing as he wound up signing exactly for slot value.
Like the overwhelming majority of high school pitchers, Adams presents a lot of risk. He's really far away from the majors and doesn't really have much as far as secondary stuff. At 6'3'' and about 170 pounds with a lot of athleticism (draft previews made a point of mentioning his ability to dunk while playing basketball), much of his value comes in the form of projection. The velocity is there as he apparently sits low to mid-90s and has been clocked as high as 96. He gained velocity as the spring season progressed and as his eighteenth birthday came and went in April. Adams' second-best pitch is his slider and his change up is decided a Work In Progress.
The athleticism is part of what makes him more interesting than your run-of-the-mill velocity high schooler. Although there are a number of factors that go into it, athleticism is important for a pitcher because it can help them repeat their delivery, which helps with command and control.
After signing, Adams pitched 41.2 innings in rookie ball, and the results were positive but reflect the pitcher he is right now. He was hittable, surrendering 49 hits over that stretch, and gave up just under one home run every 9 innings. It suggests that this was a result of him just pounding the zone with his plus velocity and seeing what would happen. Turns out that in a league where the average age of the competition was ~2.5 years older than he is, that was a formula for success.
The White Sox second rounder struck out 59 batters while only walking 4, good for a cartoonish 14.75 K/BB ratio.
For high school prospects in Rookie Ball, you really just look for them to learn, stay healthy, and make the myriad on-field and off-the-field adjustments of going from being a high school student to a professional athlete. The fact that Adams was so stingy with walks is promising. Granted, if nothing changes, this approach won't be sustainable at higher levels where hitters can handle his velocity, and more of his fastballs in 3-ball counts will be punished for extra base hits than Arizona League hitters could manage. But at the same time, it's a good sign that it looks like he can throw a strike with his fastball when he needs to already, and that he has the confidence to attack the zone the way he does.
Adams is a long way away, but pitchers like this can have a high ceiling if they work out. I'm very excited to see what he does next year. There is a huge problem though - there was a mediocre player in the 1920s named Spencer Adams, which makes one of the White Sox' more exciting prospects annoying to search for on Baseball Reference.