Potentially, the White Sox will draft a talent-laden Adonis with the third pick of the amateur draft on Thursday.
Not all draft picks work out, as evidenced by years of can’t-misses who always wind up misfiring. Even so, the White Sox are cautiously optimistic a gifted arm is headed their way after the team makes its first Top 5 pick since Alex Fernandez was selected in 1990.
But perhaps more important is the overall haul, as the team is set to infuse $9.5 million worth of talent to a farm system already on the rise. While they pick third in Thursday’s draft, which begins at 6 p.m. CST, the White Sox are just as focused on their other picks.
“We’re very excited about the potential of this draft and a large part of it is the player we’ll wind up getting at No. 3, but it’s beyond that,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “(The bonus pool is) the largest commitment we’ve made in franchise history and we’re excited not just about what we’re going to get in the first round, but at the top of each of the rounds throughout the three days.”
First things first.
With the No. 3 overall pick, the White Sox are almost certain to draft an extremely talented pitcher.
Among the arms highest on the team’s wish list are prep pitchers Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken and college pitchers Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola.
Baseball America ranked Aiken (San Diego Cathedral Catholic) the top talent in the draft. Kolek of Shepherd (Texas) High is No. 2 while Rodon, a left-hander from North Carolina State, is rated third overall. Nola is rated at No. 7 overall.
Kolek is a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder whose fastball has been clocked at 102 mph. One scouted compared Aiken, a lefty, to Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, except that Aiken has a better work ethic. Rodon is an extremely polished pitcher who one American League scout described in March as a Top 10 pitcher on the planet. Meanwhile, Nola owns a 30-6 career mark at LSU.
“We're going to get a potential impact player,” White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams said. “I use the word potential because it is the draft. But the upside is more projectable.”
The White Sox aren’t likely to stop at the top with pitchers.
Their farm system, one Baseball America said has improved from 29th in 2012 to No. 22 this season, has begun to fill out as the team has spent all of its allotted money for signing bonuses the past two drafts and on the international market.
Hahn also made a series of trades starting last July that has filled out the infield and the outfield.
Those developments have amateur scouting director Doug Laumann feeling like he can focus on pitchers in the draft.
Seeing as that is where Laumann thinks the top talent lies, he’s encouraged.
“We think it's a good group,” Laumann said. “We like the fact that the depth in this draft is pitching. I'd like to think we're going to be pitching-heavy in this thing. Obviously we're going to stack the board the way it needs to be stacked, but I think it's going to fall to the point where I wouldn't be surprised in the first five picks if we end up with four pitchers.”
Much of the focus lies on the fact that the White Sox pick third. But the team isn’t fooled into thinking their top selection will make or break its 2014 draft. After all, Mark Buehrle was a 38th-rounder in 1998, Micah Johnson was a ninth-rounder and Marcus Semien was grabbed in the sixth round. Adam Eaton, who was acquired from Arizona in a December trade, was a 19th-rounder.
Talent can be found everywhere and that’s why assistant amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said he’s been more focused on Rounds 2 through 40.
“When you look at the whole big ball of wax and everything involved, you prepare every year whether you're pick 3 or 23,” Hostetler said. “I'm not going to downplay the significance of what it means for the organization to be picking this high and making sure we get the best player in every round.
“This draft isn't going to be made or lost on the first pick. Obviously that's the one gets the glitz and glamour, but what we do 2 through 40 is as important if not greater than what we do at 3.”
That’s why Williams threw the word potential into his description of the team’s first-round pick. Anything can happen once players get into the farm system, regardless of where they’re picked.
“I equate it almost to the pole position at the Indy 500: where guys lineup, where the race starts, that doesn't mean it's the way it's going to finish,” Williams said.