Picking late, White Sox have pitching in mind

Picking late, White Sox have pitching in mind

Picking late, White Sox have pitching in mind
BOSTON -- During a recent interview with MLB.com, White Sox general manager Ken Williams was asked about the state of his Minor League system.

Specifically, Williams was questioned about young pitchers who potentially can have an impact at the big league level in the near future.

"Never enough young arms," Williams said. "Yes, there are some that are really catching our attention, but one thing I've learned is you don't, as the general manager, I don't put their names out there too quickly, too early."

By June 8, Williams and the White Sox should have a few more plus-arms lined up to join this existing talent pool -- courtesy of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. The White Sox will be without a true first-round pick for the only time aside from 1978, when they lost their top selection to the Yankees as compensation for signing free agent Ron Blomberg.

This year's 23rd selection overall, originally belonging to the White Sox, goes to the Washington Nationals as compensation for the four-year, $56 million deal the White Sox agreed upon with free agent designated hitter Adam Dunn. Their initial choice checks in at No. 47, coming during Comp Round A between the first and second, due to Arizona signing free agent closer J.J. Putz.

Draft Central

Doug Laumann, the White Sox director of amateur scouting, has been involved with the team's Draft for 20 years. With the White Sox next 2011 pick coming at 80, the workload for Laumann and his people hasn't become any lighter in preparation but certainly has become a bit more interesting.

"It's challenging, more than anything," Laumann said. "Depending on where you are at, you usually have a pool of six or eight guys. Now it's one of 20 guys, maybe.

"That really makes it tough. You hear a lot about how good the Draft is and how good the players are. By the fact that we've eliminated 20 or 25 of the top guys, it's hard for me to jump into that argument."

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round.

MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging  your tweets with #mlbdraft.

In calculating the allotted time between selections for the first round, Laumann estimates the newest top pick for the White Sox won't be announced until around 10 p.m. CT on Monday. It didn't take the White Sox nearly that long in 2010 to make Chris Sale their choice at No. 13. The southpaw out of Florida Gulf Coast College quickly signed with the organization, and two months later, Sale joined the Major League roster as a reliever.

Sale stands as a vital part of the 2011 White Sox bullpen, although the rookie's future appears to be within the starting rotation. Seven of the last 12 top White Sox picks have been pitchers, which is a safe bet for the White Sox direction again this year.

"If [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Kenny had their way, it would always be pitching," Laumann said. "I don't necessarily disagree with that. You also need guys to catch and throw across the field and score some runs."

Here's a glance at what the White Sox have in store as the Draft approaches:

White Sox Last Five No. 1 Picks
Year Player Pos. Current team
2010 Chris Sale LHP White Sox (MLB)
2009 Jared Mitchell OF Winston-Salem (A, White Sox)
2008 Gordon Beckham IF White Sox (MLB)
2007 Aaron Poreda LHP Tucson (AAA, Padres)
2006 Kyle McCulloch RHP Carolina (AA, Reds)

In about 50 words
There are plenty of players earning the White Sox attention who simply won't be around when they select at No. 47. The depth and the strength of this Draft has been labeled as college pitching, meaning the White Sox should have plenty of options to help the young core of the organization even without a pick in Round 1.

The scoop
"We will deal from the depth of the Draft, which looks like it's in the college pitching, and that's a good thing for us," Laumann said. "Or if we feel like there's one position player that stands out as an impact guy, we can possibly get him at 47 and feel confident about the next two or three college arms."

First-round buzz
According to MLB.com's Prospect watch, right-handed pitcher Joe Ross checks in at No. 47. Ross, out of Bishop O'Dowd High School in California, is the younger brother of Oakland hurler Tyson Ross. Don't look for the White Sox to go in the high school direction with their first pick, though, but aside from that information, it's almost impossible to make a guess at a White Sox target with 46 picks to come prior.

Shopping list
Pitching, pitching and more pitching for the White Sox, as Williams' aforementioned comment of never having enough quality young arms would indicate. The White Sox have just one infielder -- in Eduardo Escobar, among MLB.com's list of Top 10 Prospects in the organization -- so they could fill in this area.

Trend watch
Kris Honel, the right-handed hurler from Providence Catholic in New Lenox, Ill., was the last top pick selected by the White Sox out of high school back in 2001. College pitching will be their focus, but the White Sox tend to gravitate toward the best player available.

Recent Draft History
Rising fast
The claim to A.J. Pierzynski's catching throne in two years just might be made by Josh Phegley, selected in Comp Round A of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Phegley battled through an illness known as ITP, resulting in low blood platelets and costing him much of 2010. But in this healthy current campaign, Phegley has joined Tyler Flowers in providing the White Sox quality catching depth.

Cinderella story
Selected in the 15th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of West Virginia, Tyler Kuhn has hit at every White Sox stop since. Kuhn currently features a .339 average with 24 RBIs and 10 stolen bases for Double-A Birmingham and could end up as big league utility player.

In The Show
Gordon Beckham (eighth pick overall) wasn't the only selection out of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft to quickly ascend the ranks to Chicago. Brent Morel, who was selected that year in the third round, used his steady glove work and solid offensive game to earn the starting nod at third base this season for the White Sox.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.