CHICAGO -- The 2020 MLB Draft will be a unique experience for everyone involved, but especially for Mike Shirley.
After joining the White Sox as a part-time area scout prior to the 2000 season, Shirley is presiding over his first Draft as the organization’s director of amateur scouting. Shirley was promoted to the position in September 2019, replacing Nick Hostetler, who was promoted to special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn in July 2019.
Shirley certainly has a deep White Sox resume, moving from full-time area scout (2004-09) to cross checker (2010-2018) to assistant scouting director (2019). But his inaugural Draft as the main overseer coincides with a move from 40 rounds to five rounds due to conditions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Undrafted players will receive no more than $20,000 as a signing bonus under this arrangement, meaning there’s a potential recruiting element to the whole preparatory process as well.
But during a conference call last week to discuss the Draft, Shirley seemed thoroughly prepared and very enthusiastic concerning the possibilities.
“Obviously, it's completely different,” Shirley said. “It's been different due to the fact that the world stopped about the middle of March in terms of baseball and our ability to actually be boots on the ground in a typical cycle was eliminated.
“That, in some ways, has not stopped this path from moving forward. Being a new director in my first Draft, maybe I was more giddy than most people during my fall and summer work. We felt like we had prepared extremely well heading into this spring. So, in a lot of ways, we didn't get what we needed, but we are prepared to make five rounds. It's different having five rounds, but we feel really good about this Draft.”
Zoom staff meetings have lasted up to seven hours per day for the last three weeks, per Shirley. They’ve also employed a video service by the name of Synergy, allowing the White Sox to look at every college game over the last three cycles (2018, ’19, ’20).
“We are prepared for any scenario that rolls off the board,” Shirley said. “It gives us a little bit more narrow focus knowing that you're on five rounds instead of 40, so in some ways it's changed your dynamic on your preparation. From pick 1 to 150, we feel good where we have the players on the board, that's for sure.”
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.
Comprehensive coverage will be available on MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to MLB.com/Draft to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock Drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.
Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the White Sox, whose first selection is the 11th overall pick:
State of the system
An extensive White Sox rebuild beginning in December 2016 has moved past the beginning phase, according to Hahn, into a planned extended period of contention. So the Draft can help in two different directions: adding accomplished, collegiate players who could quickly help this first playoff push or high school players who fit more into the next wave after the present one. Many of the young White Sox players who will help in this present phase are with the team, rehabbing from injury or close to making a big league contribution.
“We’re excited about where the White Sox are,” Shirley said. “There is so much exhilaration about where this organization is and to continue to add to this and make this thing right.”
What they’re saying
“We’ve told our staff from Day 1 [to] go scout them and tell us who can play, tell us where the talent lies, where’s the elite player? I think before our selection is where we put the makeup into this. We are looking for the talent. The makeup is a huge piece of it, but it doesn’t always change the presentation of the player on the board. We’ve put them in order based on their ability and where we think their Major League role fits the best on the board.” -- Shirley
Who might they take?
Patrick Bailey, a switch-hitting catcher out of North Carolina State, has been linked to the White Sox at No. 11 in each of MLB Pipeline’s last two mock Drafts. The White Sox have five catchers on their 40-man roster, featuring Yasmani Grandal, who is working in the first year of a four-year, $73 million deal agreed upon this past November, and Zack Collins, the team’s top pick in the 2016 Draft. Bailey, the No. 17 Draft prospect per MLB Pipeline, grades out strongly defensively and power wise.
Ed Howard, the No. 15 Draft prospect per MLB Pipeline and considered the best shortstop of the 2020 high school class by our experts, has strong ties to the White Sox. Howard attended Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago and has played since 2013 with the White Sox Amateur City Elite youth baseball team. Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers, high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom, Tennessee left-hander Garrett Crochet and high school right-hander Jared Kelley are a few other possibilities.
Each team gets an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of its selections in the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. This year, with a five-round Draft, all signing bonuses of drafted players will apply toward the bonus pool total.
For 2020, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. There is no limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.
The White Sox have a pool of $7,764,800 to spend, including $4,547,500 to spend on their first selection.
Middle infield and pitching depth could be potential focus areas, but it’s just as much about building off what the White Sox already have started, as Shirley stated. He likes the overall talent of the Draft, especially the pitching depth.
“You want to get five [picks] right, that's for sure,” Shirley said. “You feel good about the selections you're going to get to make in five rounds because of the depth of this Draft. It's a heavy pitching Draft, and it's a depth-of-college-pitching Draft. And there are high school pitchers that we really like.”
Courtney Hawkins was selected by the White Sox as the 13th pick overall in the 2012 Draft, with the outfielder from Corpus Christi, Texas, being the last high school player selected by the organization in the first round. The White Sox have gone with five college position players and three collegiate pitchers since then in the first round, with Kris Honel emerging as the last high school pitcher taken by them in Round 1 (2001). But Shirley indicated Monday all options are open among their possibilities narrowed down to four or five.
“We’re excited about all four or five,” said Shirley of the realistic options for the White Sox first pick, down from 24 in Spring Training to 15 more recently. “They come from all aspects of the Draft.
“High school, college, pitcher, hitter. We’re looking to get our bus moving in the right direction or continue moving in the direction we’re all excited about.”
Recent top picks
2019: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, third overall, Class A Winston-Salem
2018: Nick Madrigal, 2B, fourth overall, Triple-A Charlotte
2017: Jake Burger, 3B, 11th overall, injury rehab
2016: Zack Collins, C, 10th overall, White Sox
2016: Zack Burdi, RHP, 26th overall, Triple-A Charlotte
2015: Carson Fulmer, RHP, eighth overall, White Sox