From high school to pros, Wolkow investing in future with White Sox

February 6th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Imagine you’re and, at 17, your professional baseball career begins shortly after being selected by the White Sox in the seventh round of the 2023 MLB Draft.

There’s also the not-so-little matter of your $1 million over-slot bonus, with just $248,300 allotted for the pick. At that early age, there had to be something extravagant for your first purchase. But, according to the 6-foot-7, 239-pound left-handed hitting outfielder -- the No. 15 White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- that initial outlay was baseball related.

“My first purchase was actually a pair of Therabody recovery Jet boots,” Wolkow said during a recent interview. “When I got down to Arizona, I talked to our training staff to see if I could get a good discount and luckily, I was able to get a pretty nice discount. I bought myself a couple-hundred-dollar pair of recovery boots.

“It was a pretty significant purchase, obviously, spending a couple hundred bucks as a kid. But that itself is an investment. That was my first purchase and probably the one I like the most so far.”

Everything Wolkow has done to date with the White Sox really has been an investment in what he hopes is a Hall of Fame future, which Wolkow expressed in our interview after he first was picked. He reclassified for the 2023 Draft after graduating early from Downers Grove North High School and began professional baseball action with 13 games in the Arizona Complex League.

He spent two and a half weeks on the development list with Single-A Kannapolis to work with the coaches, followed by Instructs competition back in Arizona this past fall and a recent two-week performance camp with other prospects at the end of January. Changes weren’t implemented immediately, as the White Sox wanted Wolkow to simply go out and be himself as they watched him in action.

During Instructs is when Wolkow really put to use things learned in that chasmic jump from high school to the Minor Leagues.

“I’d say from the first game on, continuing to try to get better every single day. That kind of covers a lot of different facets,” Wolkow said. “It was nice to put things together [in Instructs], start to actually work on things, make improvements, and change things in my swing or approach at the plate. It was cool to see progress and improvement start to pay off.

“Those first 13 games I played [in Arizona in ‘23], they were really fast. You get out there for the first couple and you still have all the adrenaline flowing. The next couple after that you are like, ‘OK, settle down. Now we are just playing baseball.’ The couple after that you start thinking about how you are doing and ways to improve, so for me, it was kind of just continuing to make those adjustments whether it’s in-game or routines off the field.

“High school baseball to professional baseball is going to be a jump,” Wolkow added. “So, it was about starting to overcome some of that stuff.”

Wolkow remained in Arizona after the performance camp to get ready for Minor League Spring Training. He has learned about life away from home at the old age now of 18, and of course the game itself, with the young power hitter targeting a return to Kannapolis as his next career step.

“My goal is get there as soon as possible,” Wolkow said. “If I could go [April 6th], I’ll be ready to go. Obviously, I have to trust in the decisions the White Sox organization is going to make. Go out and handle the everyday process and be the best version of me and good things will happen.

“At the end of the day, wherever I’m at, that’s my big leagues. If I’m playing in the Complex League for a month or two after Spring Training, then come to the field everyday excited and ready to go and treat it like the Major Leagues.”