CHICAGO -- Imagine you’re George Wolkow 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.”
It wouldn’t be an offseason media session for White Sox general manager Chris Getz if he didn’t talk about the possibility of trading ace-hurler Dylan Cease and his two years of contractual control. So, I asked Getz on Saturday about the right-hander, after Chicago acquired outfielders Dominic Fletcher and Nick DeLoach, right-hander
Prelander Berroa and a Competitive B selection in the 2024 Draft via deals with Arizona and Seattle.
“When it comes to Dylan Cease, certainly teams have called. We’ve had regular conversations,” Getz said. “We’ve gone back and forth. The spirit is like any other move we’ve made: If we feel like we’re going to be better, better off for the organization to move Dylan Cease, we’ll do that.
“We’re pushing toward Spring Training here. And once we get to Arizona and we start establishing who we are and who we’re going to be it could become a little more challenging whether it be Dylan Cease or another individual to move. But we’ll cross that bridge when we do.”
Getz added that so much of this whole situation goes back to Cease, and how even-keeled he is, and more importantly, how talented he is and what he’s capable of doing.
“He has Cy Young stuff, and he’s still viewed as one of the top pitchers in the game,” Getz said. “I’m really excited about being in the position to allow him to really excel so I feel very solid about where we’re at right now.
“Dylan Cease is a huge part of this organization currently and we’ll continue to have conversations about Dylan Cease or others, and if there are ways to improve our club, we’ll do that, we’ll entertain that. But he’s still wearing a White Sox uniform and I look forward to seeing him in a couple weeks here.”
Jordan Leasure: Remember the name when talking White Sox closer at a future point in 2024.
• Giving up Gregory Santos and
Cristian Mena were major returns to pay in Saturday’s deals, but Getz and the White Sox increased their outfield depth, adding starting right fielder candidates and bringing in an arm in Berroa with a talent profile similar to Santos. They look like good deals for all three teams.
• The annual Amateur City Elite collegiate signing day will be celebrated tonight at Guaranteed Rate Field. More than 280 ACE student-athletes have gone on to higher education institutions since 2007, again reinforcing the heart of the White Sox brilliant youth baseball program.
“To say one or the other is going to be our right fielder or left fielder is premature. I’m just excited to have both of them in the building.” – Getz, on Fletcher and DeLoach.
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