On the Chicago White Sox’s last homestand, Nick Hostetler checked in at U.S. Cellular Field looking very much like his business card’s title — director of amateur scouting.
In his first year in the key position after taking over for Doug Laumann, Hostetler has been evaluating amateur talent almost nonstop since being promoted last August.
Hanging over a railing in the Sox’s dugout, Hostetler’s face was deeply tanned by all of the sun he absorbed at all the collegiate, high school and showcase games he’s attended. He laughed at all of the ribbing he took for the untouched portion protected by his sunglasses, but Hostetler understands that “Raccoon Eyes” comes with the territory.
Hostetler also realizes how important the June 9 draft is, considering the White Sox have the Nos. 10, 26 and 49 overall picks.
The Nos. 10 and 49 picks are courtesy of last year’s 76-86 record, the Sox’s third straight losing season. The No. 26 pick comes from the San Francisco Giants as compensation for signing free-agent starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
According to Hostetler, this year’s draft doesn’t feature any bona fide superstars, but there is quality depth.
Considering they likely wouldn’t get a can’t-miss pick at No. 10 overall, a deep draft could turn out to be a productive draft for the White Sox.
Kenny Williams has been out scouting for the draft as well, and the Sox’s vice president also raved about the depth.
“Evey game I see, it seems like there’s another player we want,” Williams said.
We’re not going to do an NFL-style mock here, because the MLB draft is just too difficult to project, especially at Nos. 26 and 49.
But we can mention five players who are very likely on the Sox’s radar:
Zack Collins, Miami:
If he is around at No. 10, the White Sox should pounce on Collins, a junior All-American catcher for the Hurricanes.
The Sox have been looking for a reliable catcher since A.J. Pierzynski exited as a free agent after the 2012 season, and Collins fits the bill.
While his defense has shown steady improvement, Collins is a big (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) left-handed hitter with a potent bat.
Current White Sox catchers Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila are aging veterans and free agents at the end of the season. If the Sox can land Collins, he should be ready to go on Opening Day, 2017.
Corey Ray, Louisville:
Collins is expected to be available when the Sox’s turn comes at No. 10. Ray is not.
Baseball America has the Louisville outfielder pegged at No. 3 overall (Atlanta), but if he slips down seven spots, the White Sox would likely pounce on the South Side product.
Before achieving great collegiate success with the Cardinals, Ray played in the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program.
An athletic center field with standout speed, Ray has gradually added power to his game and should be in the majors next year.
Blake Rutherford, Chamindae Prep H.S.:
The Sox strongly prefer taking college players with their high picks, just because they’re easier to project and closer to being major-league ready.
They might make an exception with Rutherford, who resides in Canoga Park, Calif.
Rutherford already has a picturesque left-handed swing and should add power as he matures.
Dakota Hudson, Mississippi State:
The White Sox always crave pitching, and quality college arms like Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Carson Fullmer are typically their top priority.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the Sox follow that trend at No. 10 overall with Hudson, who didn’t do much for the Bulldogs as a freshman or sophomore.
Hudson broke out in the Cape Cod League last summer and has carried the success over into his junior season with Mississippi State.
With a big fastball and major-league slider, Hudson is an obvious target for the Sox.
Ian Anderson, Shenendehowa H.S.:
A high school pitcher, Anderson was initially linked with the White Sox when the first mock drafts started coming out during spring training.
The Sox are aware of Anderson, but they do not seem to be enamored with the tall, lanky right-hander from Clifton Park. N.Y.
If he is still there at No. 26, which is highly doubtful, the Sox would likely move on Anderson. At No. 10? That would be a shock.