They have no idea how he’ll turn out, but the White Sox know exactly what they’re getting with the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
One of the few advantages to a horrible 2013 campaign is the White Sox have had 11 months to prepare for what they suspected would be a high pick in the 2014 amateur draft. Their No. 3 pick in the amateur draft, which begins Thursday at 6 p.m. CST, is the team’s first top-5 selection since 1990.
With only two clubs picking ahead of them, the White Sox have been able to narrow their target group down to five or six candidates.
Aside from East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who dropped out because of an injury, the candidates haven’t changed. That stability and the team’s focused approach on a group that includes pitchers Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola has given the White Sox ample time to collect whatever pertinent information they need on each.
When the time comes to make their pick, the White Sox feel their focused effort leaves them with few unknowns about the player’s character and makeup.
“We’re extremely prepared,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “If anything, we’re at the point now where we’re just eager to get going. We have the information we feel we need, at least up high.”
Aiken’s prominence -- because of an increase in the San Diego prep lefty’s velocity -- is the only dramatic change on the White Sox list and he had previously been on the radar anyway.
Otherwise, the White Sox have had several years of scouting Kolek, a prep righty from Texas, who has a 102-mph fastball, along with Rodon and Nola, both successful college juniors. Prep shortstop Dee Gordon also has been on the map for several years because of his talent and pedigree -- dad Tom pitched for 21 seasons and brother Dee plays for the Dodgers.
“Some of these guys, the college guys, we've known since their senior year of high school, and the high school kids we've known since their freshman and sophomore years of high school,” assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “This group has kind of stuck together. There have been injuries to a few players but there hasn't been the one guy that jumped up, a Carlos Correa that comes out of nowhere. We have known about these players for a long time so we have a large database on them, not only as far as stat-wise but makeup-wise and seeing guys in high school and evaluating them then to now. It's given us an ability to paint a bigger picture over multiple years.”
Hostetler credits his area scouts -- George Kachigian (Southern California), Abraham Fernandez (North Carolina), Keith Staab (Texas), Warren Hughes (Louisiana) and Joel Grampietro (Florida) -- for uncovering every piece of information vital to the process.
“They’ve spent time with their families, teammates and coaches, everybody under the sun, to dig up info on the kid,” Hostetler said. “I can’t give enough praise for the work they’ve done, information they’ve got.
But it’s not just the area scouts with which the White Sox are comfortable. At least eight members of the front office, including executive vice president Kenny Williams, Hahn and assistant GM Buddy Bell, have seen all five players in person. Hahn has the fewest looks because he’s running the day-to-day operations at the major league level. But everyone else has a minimum of two looks at each player and some have as many as five games viewed.
“We have got a much more concentrated look at these five then we ever have in the past and that's for the simple reason that we could identify who the top four or five guys were,” amateur scouting director Doug Laumann said.
All of Williams’ trips were spent on looking at the team’s first pick. He has seen most of the players on two occasions and feels like he has a good grasp of the overall picture. Still, Williams defers to the area scouts.
“Again, it's on limited looks.”
Said Hostetler: ““It’s vital for (the area scouts) to be spot on.”
With the draft approaching quickly, the White Sox feel good about their position. They dislike how they got to this point, but they like the one true benefit from a disastrous 2013 campaign.
What’s more, they’re comfortable with their process ahead of the draft and feel like they’re in the best position possible to make a good pick.
“Doug and his staff have been on this for all 11 months now in terms of the pool they’ve been looking at and the process of gathering all the information,” Hahn said. “It’s just gotten to the point now that we’re looking forward to getting in the room and looking forward to seeing who’s on the board when it’s our turn to go.”