White Sox prospect George Wolkow earns comparisons to Yankees’ Aaron Judge

Wolkow is listed at 6-7 and 240 pounds (and probably an inch taller) and offers power-hitting potential that even skeptical scouts concede is top of the scale.

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George Wolkow, who went to Downers Grove North, was selected by the White Sox in the seventh round of the 2023 draft.

George Wolkow, who went to Downers Grove North, was selected by the White Sox in the seventh round of the 2023 draft.

Nate Wolkow

George Wolkow cleared 6 feet in height before he was 10. He arrived as a freshman at Downers Grove North with a commitment in hand to play baseball at SEC powerhouse South Carolina.

Reclassifying to enter the draft a year early and being signed by the hometown White Sox to a $1 million bonus at 17 is only maintaining his pace.

“I’ve been playing up my whole life,” said Wolkow, recounting a youth spent playing with older kids in travel ball. “Growing up, I’ve always been trying to put myself in a situation where I’m uncomfortable, so I can try to get better.”

Now listed at 6-7 and 240 pounds (and probably an inch taller), Wolkow — if only for his physique — receives comparisons to Aaron Judge and offers power-hitting potential that even skeptical scouts concede is top of the scale.

“When we took George in the seventh round,” said assistant general manager Chris Getz, who negotiated the over-slot deal, “there was just pure joy, excitement. A lot of it was related to the ceiling of George.”

Earning some first-round grades from Sox scouts, Wolkow is fast enough to have had a green light stealing bases in high school and athletic enough that he could spend the rest of the summer playing center field for the Sox in the Arizona Complex League.

Playing against that older, professional competition will be harder than anything he has done before.

“This kid is going to get his rear end kicked over and over again,” said J.J. Lally, the Sox’ area scout credited with signing Wolkow. “But this kid is mentally tough. He’s very mature. He knows he’s going to be challenged. He knows he’s going to get beat. But he’s willing to come back every single time.”

Last summer, Lally was also the signing scout on first-round pick Noah Schultz, an Oswego product who similarly gave rival teams pause with his lack of experience and long developmental path but offered a sky-high ceiling. Schultz, at 6-9, and Wolkow are so tall that it’s tough to conjure examples of similarly sized major-leaguers other than ones with Hall of Fame-level talent.

But if the next power forward-sized baseball star is coming from the Midwest, Lally wants to make sure he plays in black pinstripes.

“We take a lot of pride in defending our backyard, and we don’t want to get beat here,” Lally said.

Getz used the common term “long levers” when mapping out the development path for Wolkow. Syncing up the legs and arms of such a large body for a swing that produces consistent contact is usually a long road paved with strikeouts.

Wolkow is not immune, but he is prepared.

“I’m not a guy trying to hit home runs every time,” Wolkow said, emphasizing a left-center approach with his left-handed stroke. “When I get long, that’s when I’m swinging and missing or even striking out. [I’m] staying short, keeping my bat in the zone as long as I can.”

League scouts are actually quite optimistic about Wolkow’s swing, praising the athleticism shining through. Where the skepticism lies, and where the young outfielder will need to be prepared for failure in the name of progress, is building a disciplined approach against high-level pitching from his raw ingredients.

Plate discipline and swing decisions that enable his power could, for better or worse, be the story of Wolkow’s career and the Sox’ ability to pull off what could easily be a five-year trek to the majors. But, again, he’s prepared.

“He’s been a marked individual since he was 14,” Downers Grove head coach Kyle Briscoe said.

In weekly zoom sessions centered on techniques to understand how his mind works, Wolkow still meets with the mental skills coach that Briscoe brought in to help him handle the scrutiny that has followed him for years now. And Wolkow now pairs his plain-spoken expectation that he can grow into a Hall of Famer with self-aware statements about his personal tendencies.

He knows a long road awaits, but the wait for Wolkow to concede there’s something he can’t achieve on a baseball field will be even longer.

“I think I’m a five-tool player,” Wolkow said. “I want to do things perfectly. That’s kind of why my work ethic is what it is, that’s why I set my goals so high. But at the same time, it can be a bad thing when you’re playing a game where you fail seven out of 10 times.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Getz said. “But he understands the big picture here, which, as an organization, gave us enough confidence to select him how we did.”

If the process succeeds, it’s tempting to see Wolkow as an answer to the Sox’ long quest for left-handed power in a home ballpark suited for it. But developing such a talent also could be an answer to a broader pursuit.

“It’s difficult for us to sign the Aaron Judges on the open market,” Lally said. “It’s more advantageous to try to develop them.”

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