White Sox select slugging SS Gonzalez at No. 15

July 10th, 2023

CHICAGO – For a moment during the first round of the 2023 MLB Draft, Jacob Gonzalez thought he was going to the Oakland Athletics at No. 6.

Instead, it was the White Sox who took the talented left-handed-hitting shortstop out of Ole Miss at No. 15 overall on Sunday night. The White Sox selected right-handed pitcher Grant Taylor from LSU in the second round at pick No. 51.

“I felt like I got a little bit trolled by the A’s pick when they said Jacob Wilson,” said Gonzalez during his post-Draft Zoom. “I got my hopes up for half a second, but it was good. I had my friends and family surrounding me.

“They were all really supportive and very excited for me. It meant a lot.”

Gonzalez marks the second shortstop taken by the White Sox in the first round over the last three Drafts, with Colson Montgomery selected in 2021 at No. 22 from Southridge High School in Indiana. Montgomery missed a good portion of this season with a mid-back strain but has been hitting everything in sight since beginning his injury rehab with Arizona, going 9-for-15 with High-A Winston-Salem, and a promotion to Double-A Birmingham is likely in the near future.

Then there’s Tim Anderson, the incumbent at shortstop with a 2019 American League batting title on his impressive resume and 10 years removed from a first-round selection by the White Sox. Anderson was the American League’s All-Star starting shortstop in ’22, but he’s dealing with an uncharacteristically tough ’23 season, slashing .223/.259/.263 with no home runs in 274 at-bats.

Anderson has a $14 million club option for ’24, with a $1 million buyout. Gonzalez joins this mix but certainly is a work in progress. He gave an honest evaluation of his present defense at shortstop, but much like Anderson and Montgomery before him, the 21-year-old believes he can stick at this spot.

“I’m pretty average but I’m still getting better” Gonzalez said. “I look at Corey Seager and he’s been there his whole career. I feel like we are pretty similar. We are not the fastest guys in the world, but we are going to get to a lot of balls and be athletic and make the plays look easy.”

“You are trying to add good players to this organization,” White Sox director of amateur scouting Mike Shirley said. “These guys are so talented and can play in the middle of the field. It gives your roster flexibility. These guys have education and aptitude to fit in other positions if needed.”

A career .319/.427/.561 hitter in the ultra-competitive SEC, Gonzalez slugged 40 home runs in 186 career games at Ole Miss -- a pace of roughly 35 homers per 162 games. Overall, Gonzalez’s offensive upside is considerable -- especially at a premium position like shortstop.

Gonzalez was instrumental for the Rebels during their championship run as a sophomore in 2022. The shortstop hit 18 home runs -- his highest total in a college season -- as Ole Miss won the Men’s College World Series, claiming the first national title in program history. Gonzalez played a pivotal role, too, opening the scoring in the clinching Game 2 of the MCWS final with a solo homer and later tying the game with an eighth-inning single. Ole Miss added two more runs on wild pitches and took down Oklahoma for the NCAA Division I title.

First baseman Tim Elko, who has 18 home runs and 65 RBIs this season between stops at Low-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem after being taken by the White Sox in the 10th round of the ’22 Draft, was a championship teammate with Gonzalez at Ole Miss. He called Gonzalez “a great kid, a great teammate and obviously outstanding player” via text with MLB.com, adding Gonzalez is “level-headed” and “never lets the moment get too big.”

“He was a great teammate as well. He was one of the first people to text me congratulations,” said Gonzalez of Elko. “We are both excited to play together. I strive to be a good teammate. I like to get personal with my teammates so it’s good to hear.”

Taylor missed the ’23 season due to Tommy John surgery but has major upside.

“We feel like we landed two first-rounders tonight,” Shirley said. “We feel ecstatic to land [Taylor] in the second round.”

The White Sox, with a total bonus pool of $9,072,800, have $4,488,600 slotted at the Gonzalez pick and $1,659,800 at No. 51.

Gonzalez remembers watching White Sox icon Paul Konerko growing up, with Konerko just happening to be at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday. He also was a Dodgers fan, often studying the Dodgers and White Sox during Spring Training at Camelback Ranch.

“Now, newly a White Sox fan,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a small step in the long run. It feels nice to get going in the journey and I knew the White Sox were interested. They were my best meeting at the combine, so I had a good idea.”