CHICAGO -- The White Sox First-Year Player Draft philosophy of taking the best player available holds a slightly different twist as the 2014 version begins Thursday evening.
They have the third pick overall, marking their first top five first-round selection since taking Alex Fernandez fourth in 1990. It's just the second time since and including that Fernandez selection that they had a pick in the top 10.
A pick this high falls into that "can't fail" sort of category, a player who depending on his particular experience, could help the White Sox as soon as 2015. It's a pick where the White Sox have reinvented the phrase thoroughly prepared in terms of the work done by director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann, assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler and their staff, not to mention scouting done by general manager Rick Hahn, executive vice president Ken Williams, assistant general manager Buddy Bell and assistant to the general manager Jeremy Haber.
But ironically, it's a pick they really didn't want because of the 99 losses in 2013 it took to get here.
"Definitely a little conflicted," Williams said. "It's a reminder of how poorly you did the year before. But at the same time, I don't say we've never, since I've been here, we haven't picked this high. So, it is an opportunity to build and add to what we have already tried to do."
"It's certainly not a position you aim to be in," Hahn said. "But once you are, you may as well enjoy the benefits of it."
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Hahn's much ballyhooed reshaping process began last season, strongly augmented by the additions via the trades for right fielder Avisail Garcia and center fielder Adam Eaton and of course first baseman Jose Abreu through the free agent route. Over the first third of this season, even with an apparent season-ending shoulder injury sustained by Garcia and numerous other injuries to Chris Sale, Matt Lindstrom, Gordon Beckham and even Abreu, the process seems to be moving in the right direction.
Helping that process through the Draft has been an important segment talked about by Hahn since late last season, not to mention additions they can make through international spending. While that pick at No. 3, be it Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek, Aaron Nola or even Nick Gordon, holds the greatest focus, the White Sox have a total pool of $9,509,700 and five picks out of the top 140.
This Draft has the overall potential for a significant boost to a building Minor League system. It's a by-product from a disappointing 2013 showing that Hahn and company hope they don't have to face again for many years to come.
"We're positioned to have a very robust Draft," Hahn said. "We've allocated the largest pool in franchise history and we have the ability to not only get at least the third-best player in the country, but each round pick toward the top and get even better players throughout the first couple days. We're excited for it.
"We hope we're not in the position for it in the near future, but for now it will be a nice step forward for our system. It's an injection of young talent that's going to continue this process we started two years back."
In about 50 words
Don't look at this White Sox Draft as nothing greater than a Top 3 impact selection. The organization views this upcoming weekend as a building block for the entire reshaping process. They have put great scouting resources into players who might fit in the first 10 to 15 rounds, beyond that third overall pick.
As mentioned above, the White Sox are going to take the best player available: especially with the third pick overall. They aren't shying away from potential candidates due to their family advisor or high school vs. college status.
"His agent is his agent. We can't be concerned with that," said Williams of potential picks at No. 3. "We are going to take the best player or pitcher there when he gets to us, when our pick comes up."
Much of No. 3 is predicated on what the Astros and Marlins do with their top two selections. But the White Sox could come in at three with both Kolek and Rodon available. It would be hard to pass on Rodon, who could help the White Sox very soon if all went as planned, although the same could be said for Nola.
The left-handed-throwing Aiken and the right-handed-throwing Kolek stand as the top-ranked high school pitchers in the Draft, with left-hander Rodon from North Carolina State and right-hander Nola from LSU also firmly in the picture. The White Sox almost certainly with take a pitcher at No. 3, although Gordon remains in the mix.
White Sox bonus pool
The White Sox have a total of $9,509,700 to spend, which is a franchise high-water mark. Their pick at No. 3 overall is slotted at $5,721,500, their pick at 44 slotted at $1,282,700 and their pick at 77 slotted at $726,000. They have seven picks slotted at over $200,000, with their first 10 all over $141,000.
Middle infield once was a weak spot within the White Sox system, but with Gordon Beckham, Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez and Tim Anderson in place, that no longer is the case. The White Sox will be looking for quality pitching and adding to the catching depth also will be on the agenda.
Five of the last six top picks taken by the White Sox have been position players. They have primarily gone the college route with their first selections since 2001, broken by the top two picks of high school players Courtney Hawkins and Keon Barnum in 2012.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
At just 19 years old, there certainly is no rush to get right-handed hurler Tyler Danish to the Majors. But the second-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft already has started to force the White Sox hand.
Danish didn't allow an earned run over 94 innings during his last season for Durant High School in Plant City, Fla., striking out 156 and walking 16. He has continued that success with the White Sox, already moving from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston Salem after posting a 0.71 ERA in seven starts for the Intimidators this season. Danish has struggled since joining the Dash, with a 6.94 ERA in 11 2/3 innings, but he'll have plenty of time to adjust to the league.
Cody Winiarski was selected in the 36th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, standing as Draft pick No. 1,101 overall that year, and missed the entire 2012 season when he had a rib taken out in relation to thoracic outlet syndrome. But the sidearm-throwing right-hander made an impressive enough showing in '13 that he earned a non-roster invite to Spring Training this year.
Winiarski saved 13 last year between stops at Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, striking out 85 over 66 2/3 innings. After a slow start to 2014, Winiarski has a 3.55 ERA for the Barons in 18 games with 28 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.
In The Show
Sale, taken at No. 13 in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, has gone from the bullpen that same year he was selected to currently one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball. Beckham (eighth pick overall in 2008) has found a comfort zone offensively to match his stellar defense in his sixth big league season. Jake Petricka and Marcus Semien also are currently contributing for the White Sox, while Hector Santiago and Addison Reed were developed picks traded this past offseason to help acquire Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson.
The White Sox recent top picks
2013: Tim Anderson, SS, Class A Winston-Salem
2012: Courtney Hawkins, OF, Class A Winston-Salem
2011: Keenyn Walker, OF, Double-A Birmingham
2010: Chris Sale, SP, White Sox
2009: Jared Mitchell, OF, Triple-A Charlotte