A raft of minor news adrift in a sea of inactivity and apathy, the still relatively newly-minted White Sox Scouting Director Nick Hostetler spoke with Dan Hayes about how he's feeling about the 2016 draft class.
On where he felt the draft was the strongest, Hostetler said "High school arms, high school hitters and college bats." I don't believe the distinction between "hitters" and "bats" is a significant one, for the record. The absence of college pitching from mention here is significant, though. For reference (from Baseball Reference, coincidentally):
Of 21 first and supplemental round picks the White Sox have made since 2000, there are nine college pitchers selected here, including two in a row, compared to four prep players of any kind taken during that span. The last two of which were Courtney Hawkins and Keon Barnum, which didn't exactly encourage a return to the practice.
Hostetler was promoted in August, pushing longtime company man Doug Laumann up to a nebulous position higher in the front office. Much like the Rick Hahn signing, he offered the possibility of some limited reform--promoting a younger guy who has been in the org for years and not even removing his former boss is a relative revolution in Sox terms--and gave some quotes about being more willing to invest in high school talent. That's good! There's lot of talent in high school baseball.
Looking for the 2016 draft as a direct indication of that is probably taking this too far. We want the White Sox to be in on everything to confirm that they are truly going after the top talent after their cheap, signability-focused policies of the early portions of this millenium, but selecting Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer back-to-back does not give off the same warning signs that Lance Broadway and Kyle McCulloch did. Things have already changed, very not coincidentally around the same time that draft rules tightened everyone's belts to a degree the Sox were comfortable with.
Also, as much as I'm opposed to fatalism about the Sox ability to develop hitters becoming an organizational policy, factoring in your coaching and development staff's assessment of a draft prospect is worthwhile. The Sox knowing they would be able to fix Carlos Rodon's command issues quickly and clear his path to No. 2 starter potential would theoretically kick up his value to them, and roster balance only matters on the MLB club. You don't draft an outfielder because Avisail Garcia stinks, and you don't see the Cubs farm system being derided for being awash in position players. Value is value when it comes to prospects, and the Sox just need to get a lot of it.
So, the Sox going hard for prep players early in 2016 might provide some assurance to us that they are operating like a normal franchise again, but even that would probably be more of a product of type of organizational focus changes that led to Hostetler's hire in the first place. And then even that is small comfort until they start turning prep prospects into MLB players. The next couple of years for Tyler Danish and Spencer Adams should be instructive in that regard and could blaze the trail for others. Courtney Hawkins....well, he's not different from any other Sox bat prospects, at least.
Before I completely talk myself out of this as a something to talk about: Hostetler is saying the right things about the draft, and indicates the Sox could be going away from their natural tendencies for college arms, but their college arm addiction is probably overstated these days, and they're really good at turning college arms into valuable commodities when they go for high-ceiling guys. Also, the draft is almost eight months away, so I donno...let's chill out here.