Four products of the White Sox’ Amateur City Elite program for inner-city youth were picked in the MLB Draft in June — the most in the ACE program’s 12 years.
One of them, third baseman DJ Gladney from south suburban Matteson and Illiana Christian High School in Dyer, Indiana, was selected by the Sox and is looking like a steal in the 16th round.
Gladney’s break into pro ball has the Sox’ scouting and player-development departments abuzz. In no time flat, the 6-3, 200-pound right-handed hitter climbed from third-day draft status to being ranked 32nd among Sox prospects by Baseball America. Raw talent, bat speed and slugging eight home runs in his first 32 games in the Arizona Summer League — five of them before his 18th birthday in July — and one measuring 456 feet will make that happen.
“He’s easy to like as soon as you lay eyes on him,” Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. “He’s a good-looking athlete. He has a smooth, powerful stroke with plenty of whip. Drives the ball to all fields and is fearless on the field.”
Making that first impression “is a little surprising,” Gladney said. “Right out of high school, I didn’t expect to do so well. I felt like I would struggle, but I’ve adapted well and kept up with the pace.”
What’s remarkable is a rainy Chicago-area spring limited Gladney to 17 high school games. His coach is not the least bit surprised by what’s happening in Arizona, however.
“He’s always been composed,” Illiana Christian coach Darren DeBoer said. “The moment was never too big for him.”
Gladney is far from a finished product, though. His strikeout and error rates are high, and there’s much to be absorbed.
“He’s still learning an approach at the plate,” Getz said, “but he’s been impressive so far for a just-turned 18-year-old in professional baseball.”
Coming from the area, and the south suburbs in particular, nudged Gladney toward the Sox as a young kid. The ACE program locked him during his high school years.
“We traveled to play in different parts of the country,” he said. ‘‘It has been a great opportunity to be part of that program and experience that.”
He likes the attention he’s experiencing now, too.
“I like it a lot, and I appreciate it,” Gladney said. “But it gives me motivation to stay humble, and it reminds me of where I came from.”