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White Sox

White Sox use draft to load up on top-end talent

Mississippi State' Konnor Pilkington pitches in the second inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, June 10, 2017. LSU won 4-3. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Mississippi State' Konnor Pilkington pitches in the second inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, June 10, 2017. LSU won 4-3. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This is an important draft for the White Sox.

Having traded most of their veteran players for prospects from the 2016 offseason through August of last year and having spent a big chunk of their international pool money on outfielder Luis Robert, the Sox need this year’s draft to continue stockpiling young talent.

The first 10 rounds are in the books, and the Sox couldn’t be happier with the early haul.

“We were really excited about the quality of players we got,” said Nick Hostetler, the Sox’s director of amateur scouting.

Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal was the Sox’s first-round pick Monday, No. 4 overall. It’s not a stretch to say the Sox instantly added their leadoff hitter of the future, perhaps as early as 2019.

“We got who we felt was the best baseball player in the draft this year,” Hostetler said. “He is a high-contact, high-on-base guy, he plays with tremendous energy. The makeup is second to none. It’s a leadership quality I have not seen in a player in a long time, both on the field and off the field.

“The way he goes about his business, his teammates idolize him. Tool-wise, he can play Gold Glove-caliber second base. We’ve seen him play shortstop. We’re going to send him out as a shortstop, ultimately he’ll probably get reps at both shortstop and second baseball, as well as some third at times to try to get him some experience there. That will be left up to [farm director] Chris Getz and his staff.”

In the second round (No. 46 overall) Monday, the Sox drafted another collegiate star, Oklahomas outfielder Steele Walker. Even though he missed the final 8 games of the season with an oblique injury, the left-handed hitter led the Sooners with a .352 batting average, 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.

Baseball America had Walker going to the Astros on the first round as the No. 28 overall pick. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder also was rated the third-best collegiate hitter in the draft, behind Madrigal and Florida third baseman Jonathan India.

“The junior season is extremely tough mentally, dealing with so much pressure, so many people analyzing you,” Walker said on a conference call Tuesday. “It’s not always easy, but I was able to free my mind up, free my swing up, let my ability just kind of shine forth.

“That’s where the power came from, that’s where the real production came from. In anything you do, there’s always pressure. A free mind, a free spirit, that’s the way I like to play.”

Like every major league team, th Sox always are looking for quality pitching. In the third round Tuesday, they drafted Mississippi State left-hander Konnor Pilkington.

“He was a Friday night starter, and still is,” Hostetler said. “They are still in the regional. They play Vanderbilt this upcoming week. He’s a guy also that was teammates with [Steele] Walker and Nick Madrigal on Team USA. We really love the competitiveness and pitchability. The command is special. We feel it’s a three-pitch mix, fastball, curve and change.”

The Sox typically load up on college players early in the draft, but they picked a pair of high school players Tuesday.

In the fourth round, they drafted shortstop Lency Delgado out of Doral Academy in Miami.

In the seventh round, they picked outfielder Cabera Weaver out of South Gwinnett High School in Georgia.

“A couple of high-ceiling high school kids in Delgado and Weaver,” Hostetler said. “We were very excited about adding those two players. Probably a little bit out of the norm for us with only one high school player signed in the last two years. We took two and we are really excited about the ceiling there.”

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