They always aim to hit a home run with their first-round pick, it's just that this time a dreadful 2013 gives the White Sox a better chance.
Courtesy of the fourth-worst season in franchise history, the White Sox have the third overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. With their highest selection since 1990, the White Sox hope to further infuse talent into the Youth Movement on 35th Street. Considering what they see out there, namely several high-profile college pitchers, the White Sox feel confident they can.
“It might be easier because the first five players of the draft, normally you’re going to get a good player,” assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. “You can miss obviously. You still have to do your due diligence, but we’re going to get a good player. We’re going to see a lot of guys. A lot of guys are going to see these players.”
At SoxFest last month, the White Sox made it sound as if they’re interested in acquiring a college pitcher who is further along and can join the team’s young core in the near future. They don’t expect another Chris Sale, who reached the majors only two months after he was picked at No. 13 in 2010; the White Sox know they struck gold there.
But they hope to add — perhaps among a group, including North Carolina State’s Carlos Rodon, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffmann, Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede and Louisiana State’s Aaron Nola — a frontline player to their young core in the near future.
With a club-record signing bonus of nearly $5 million on the way for this pick (Colorado signed Jonathan Gray for $4.8 million in 2013), Bell, amateur scouting director Doug Laumann and player development director Nick Capra know there’s a lot on the line.
But Laumann believes the trio is up to the task.
“We understand how it works,” Laumann said. “There are so many different variables. Yes, you want to succeed. You want to make the right pick. You want to make your investment something you’re proud of and the organization is proud of. But quite honestly until it happens, you just really don’t know. Pressure, yes, but more anxiousness and just excited to have the chance to get one of those guys.”
There’s a reason for excitement.
Of the 20 players selected third overall since 1994, seven have gone on to produce at least 8.8 Wins Above Replacement over their careers. Two, Evan Longoria (2006) and Troy Glaus (1997), produced at least 36 WAR, and Manny Machado has already put up 8.1 WAR after he was drafted in 2010.
But there’s also a reason for trepidation.
Two of the players taken from 1994-2010 — pitchers Chris Gruler (Cincinnati, 2002) and Kyle Sleeth (Detroit, 2003) — never reached the majors and are out of baseball. One, Donovan Tate (San Diego, 2009), hasn’t advanced above Single-A. And six registered 1.0 WAR or less in their careers.
As Bell noted, there’s a chance they could miss. It happens far more frequently in baseball’s draft than any other sport. But the White Sox also have the third pick in the second round and feel as if the talent available there could also provide an impact.
It’s one of the few benefits to having endured an awful 2013 campaign.
“There’s a lot of good really reasons to be where we are now,” Bell said. “You don’t like how we got there but it is what it is and we feel really fortunate where we’re at.”