The franchise’s health is dependent upon next June’s amateur draft and the White Sox have acted accordingly in their preparation.
Even though NCAA baseball doesn’t begin for 2 1/2 weeks and prep baseball is six weeks away, the White Sox are well into the process of figuring out whom to select with the third pick in June -- their first Top-5 selection since they grabbed Alex Fernandez fourth in 1990.
Believing last season they would have a high pick in the 2014 draft, the White Sox started to identify and scout a handful of potential candidates. So far three possible picks have been interviewed as part of the team’s exhaustive process to discover the best player.
“There’s no surprises,” assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. “You know who the first 10 guys are. The problem is when you get to 14, when you get to 20, now you’re looking at a lot of the same guy. When you’re picking as high as we are you usually have a pretty good grip on who you take.”
Judging by their comments at SoxFest last weekend, the White Sox plan to grab a pitcher in the first round. They’d prefer a college pitcher who can reach the majors faster than a high school senior would to join their youth movement.
At the moment, North Carolina State's Carlos Rodon, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman, Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede and Louisiana State’s Aaron Nola are among the top collegiate pitchers eligible for the draft, per MLB.com and BaseballAmerica.com. While they know things can change, the White Sox feel ready for whatever comes.
“We feel like we’re going to be able to control our own destiny,” amateur scouting director Doug Laumann said. “We’ve still got to be diligent about making sure we prepare for anything that might happen. We can’t just sit here and say, ‘OK, it’s going to be one of these three’ in January, because there’s injuries, there are players who do become a lot better than what we thought they were going in. We’ll prepare the same way. We’ll just hopefully get a better pick.”
Last June, the Colorado Rockies used the No. 3 pick to tab right-handed pitcher Jonathan Gray, who received a $4.8 million signing bonus.
The White Sox entire signing bonus pool for 2013 was $5.3 million. This year’s bonus pool is expected to be around $10 million, hence the three targets already interviewed.
With draftees easier to identify and scout, the White Sox plan to be thorough, even including Rodon, the projected first pick.
Even though Rodon is unlikely to fall to them, the White Sox interviewed him. They also plan to attend the right-hander’s first game Feb. 14 when North Carolina State plays at UC-Santa Barbara.
“We’ve done three (interviews),” Laumann said. “We’re going to wait for the other two until they sort themselves out and start playing, but the top three, knowing that if everything falls in line, we’ll have the opportunity to take one of those three, and then we’ll start adding to that list of guys as we get closer. Certainly with this pick being as high as it is, as well as the amount of financial investment we’re going to have, we want to not only be sure we evaluate properly on the field, we also want to know what we’re getting off the field.”