Draft history bodes well for White Sox
With rare top-10 selection, Chicago eyes high-impact player
The White Sox find themselves in a rare position to take an elite, impact-making young talent with the eighth pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
While they are energized and well-prepared for the important selection, if it's all the same to them, they won't have this sort of chance come their way again for many years to come. After all, this eighth pick was a byproduct of last season's dismal 72-90 showing and marks the first time they have drafted in the top 10 since 1990.
Picking high has served the White Sox well through opportunities from the not-too-distant past. Pitcher Alex Fernandez became the choice at No. 4 in 1990, with Frank Thomas picked seventh the year before. Robin Ventura was a 10th-overall pick in 1988, and American League Cy Young award winner Jack McDowell went to the White Sox at No. 5 in 1987.
The search for players of that ilk stands out as the present focus for White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann and his staff.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 1 p.m. CT with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 10:30 a.m. CT and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Here's a glance at what the White Sox have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Following their eighth pick in the first round, the White Sox won't draft again until No. 86 in the third round because of compensatory picks lost to the Brewers for the signing of free-agent reliever Scott Linebrink this offseason. By Laumann's estimation, there could be a four-hour break between the time the White Sox name is called for the first and second time. But the team still will look for the best player available, not drafting to fill position needs early on, after loading up on promising pitchers in the first six rounds last year.
Laumann ran the White Sox Draft from 2001-2003, during which time players such as Chris Young, Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney, Royce Ring, Charlie Haeger and Brandon McCarthy were selected. With the high pick in 2008, Laumann has had the chance to scout the perceived top 10 or 12 players on multiple occasions, while also bringing in general manager Ken Williams or senior director of player personnel David Wilder to take a look.
Four of the team's top picks this decade have been pitchers, but Laumann has not received any sort of directive to take more mound talent.
"Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf are adamant we take who we think is the best player," Laumann said. "We've leaned toward pitching in the past, but we don't have any instructions to go one way or another.
"It's unlike football, where if you have a weak pass rush, you go out and draft a rush lineman in the first round. We are trying to get the best players available."
It's a bit easier for the White Sox to zero in on who they want at No. 8, as opposed to when they were consistently picking from No. 18 on up and trying to figure out who still would be available. Brett Wallace is a name being heard attached to the White Sox, with the left-handed-hitting projected first baseman/third baseman coming off a sophomore year in which he was the Pac-10 Player of the Year for Arizona St. But nothing is certain.
Although the White Sox were impressed with Cole Armstrong during Spring Training, the team remains thin at the catcher position throughout the system. The South Siders also lack strong middle-infield prospects, aside from second baseman Chris Getz, and always are looking to add to the pitching depth. Williams looks at these young players as a way to help build his team from within or as possible trade chips to acquire important pieces from the outside.
A slight change in draft philosophy has the White Sox looking for players with more raw talent and greater upside, such as Aaron Poreda, the hard-throwing left-hander taken first in the 2007 Draft, as opposed to taking a safe, somewhat polished selection. With that said, the White Sox still lean toward the collegiate choice over a high school player for the first round. Since 2000, Kris Honel (2001) was the lone top pick taken without collegiate experience.
Recent top picks
If Ozzie Guillen had his way, Poreda would have been competing for a roster spot after a couple of impressive "B" game appearances this spring. The big left-hander is following a more conservative approach, anchoring the rotation for Class A Winston-Salem. Kyle McCulloch (2006) has a 1-4 record for Double-A Birmingham, while Lance Broadway's (2005) sparkling 1.13 ERA through seven starts with Triple-A Charlotte makes him a candidate for big league assistance or potential inclusion in a possible trade.
John Shelby eventually might end up as a second baseman, but for now, the right-handed hitter is tearing through the system with his bat as an outfielder. Shelby recently hit three home runs in a game for Winston-Salem and is coming off of a 2007 campaign with Class A Kannapolis in which he hit .301 with 16 home runs, 35 doubles, 79 RBIs and nine triples, while picking up 19 stolen bases.
Anthony Carter, selected in the 26th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has begun to pitch himself onto the radar. After a solid season for rookie ball Great Falls in 2007, the 6-foot-3 southpaw has posted a 3-0 record with a 1.66 ERA this season for Kannapolis, striking out 44 and walking six in 38 innings. He has yielded one home run.
In The Show
None of the players from the last three Drafts currently are on the White Sox active roster, although Broadway did make a strong impression during the final weeks of the 2007 season. Aaron Cunningham, the team's sixth-round selection in the 2005 Draft, was used in a 2007 trade with Arizona to acquire Danny Richar. The second baseman should help the White Sox once he recovers from a stress fracture in his ribcage.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.