For the next three days, eight to 12 front office members and scouts will debate whom the White Sox should select in the draft on Thursday.
Because the White Sox knew early last summer they would likely have a high selection in the 2014 draft, their highest pick since they drafted Alex Fernandez fourth in 1990, the club was able to narrow down the possible candidates and better observe each one.
The White Sox are focused on a group that includes prep pitchers Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken, college pitchers Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola, and prep shortstop Nick Gordon.
Eight high-ranking members of the front office, including executive vice president Kenny Williams, general manager Rick Hahn, assistant GM Buddy Bell and amateur scouting director Doug Laumann, have seen the team’s potential targets anywhere from one to five times in addition to the numerous times each has been seen by an area scout or a cross checker.
That’s why Laumann expects a healthy debate in a four-day sit down that already began with what Hahn described as “productive” Monday. Laumann said he planned to ask each of the eight executives for their preferential order at the beginning and thought he’d get a variety of answers.
“I expect everybody to give their list and I bet there won’t be one list that’s the same,” Laumann said Friday. “We have got a much more concentrated look at these five than 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.”
While the White Sox have made sure to look at all the pieces to the puzzle, they’re thought to prefer the trio of Kolek, Rodon and Aiken. As one staffer said, “the main three are the main three.”
And the White Sox know they can get one of those three were they to deem that player the right fit. With some of the rumors flying, it’s possible two of their targets could be there, and in one scenario, where Houston grabs Gordon and the Miami Marlins take catcher Alex Jackson, the White Sox could find themselves with their pick of the litter.
“We will definitely be prepared for each scenario,” White Sox assistant amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said.
Hostetler has seen each of the five players three times.
Though they talk six or seven times a day at this time of year, Hostetler said he and Laumann made a pact not to discuss each other’s list until they got to Chicago. Hostetler expects a lot of different opinions at the table but believes those differences will mostly fall in the way people view the third through fifth selections.
“You're going to get a majority that have one and two similar,” Hostetler said.
The White Sox have been at this process for 11 months.
The team has a record $9.5 million signing-bonus pool to spend, wanted to be prepared and has acted accordingly. Therefore, Williams doesn’t expect to be surprised by what he hears. Even though he has formed his opinion, Williams said he has an open mind and wants to hear what scouts who have more experience with each player thinks before he makes up his mind.
“The debate started a long time ago so I don't anticipate I'm going to hear anything more in the room that I haven't already heard,” Williams said. “I have in my mind what my preference list is, but I'm always mindful that the scouting director is the guy out pounding the pavement for 12 months leading up this draft. And all of his guys are out there and we in the front office on the major-league side of things get two to three looks at a guy. They may have as many as 10. They know two years worth of information on a guy and seeing him compete. That has to be respected. Over the years I have not taken a veto position on any pick as long as I've been sitting in a chair where I could have for those reasons.
“I look forward to hearing everyone out and participating in the debate. I'm sure Rick will echo the same sentiment. Unless we're going way off the board I think it's going to be their gut feel that is most important in the room.”
Laumann isn’t certain which player will be there when the White Sox are on the clock. But he is confident in the team’s process.
“We'll have it narrowed down to three at six o'clock Thursday when the draft starts and we're going to get one of them,” Laumann said. “We might get the top one.
“We don't know what exactly is going to happen, but we do know once we get it down to three we're going to have one.”