Draft Preview: Bonanza of early picks
South Siders have five selections in first three rounds
CHICAGO -- The decision for the White Sox seemed relatively easy, or at least as easy as it can get in the educated guessing game of the First-Year Player Draft.
With the eighth pick in the 2008 Draft, the White Sox had the selection process narrowed down to one of three players. Ultimately, they chose the player they really wanted in Gordon Beckham, the infielder extraordinaire who was promoted to Chicago on Wednesday, less than one year after joining the organization.
But in holding the 23rd pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, let's just say the decisions aren't as cut and dry.
"I could probably give you 20 names," White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann told MLB.com recently of the organization's 2009 top pick.
That process has since been somewhat narrowed down. But with five picks in the first 102, the White Sox have plenty of slots to fill.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 5 p.m. CT on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at 11 a.m. CT on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 10:30 a.m. CT.
Here's a glance at what the White Sox have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
According to Laumann, pitcher Stephen Strasburg is the slam-dunk pick at No. 1 and then there's a great deal of level talent throughout the rest of the first round and really throughout the rest of the Draft. That sort of talent depth, without a number of definitive standouts, bodes well for the White Sox, with their five picks in the first 102 selections.
Ken Williams didn't get as much of a chance to scout potential Draft picks this year, as he did with the past two Drafts, when the White Sox general manager once again took a more active involvement in the process. But Williams is confident the White Sox can have a dynamic Draft, benefitting the organization for years to come, with picks at 23, at 38 in Comp Round A, at No. 61 of the second round, at No. 71 in the second round and at No. 102 in Round No. 3. The picks at 38 and 61 are compensation for Oakland signing Type A free agent Orlando Cabrera, after the White Sox offered salary arbitration to the veteran shortstop.
"I feel good about my scouts and our understanding, really their understanding, of what it is that we want and need," said Williams of the team's plethora of Draft picks.
Through two outstanding Draft classes in 2007 and 2008, Williams believes the White Sox have started to restock a somewhat barren Minor League system. Those picks have been supplemented by the addition via trade of top young players, ranging from John Danks to Dayan Viciedo. The White Sox also are ready for the extra monetary costs that could come from having the pair of compensatory picks added into the equation.
"Obviously we've budgeted for it," Laumann said. "We knew going in. ... I'm sure some of the moves Kenny made were made in mind to get an extra pick or two for it. The money is there. [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] is always receptive.
"If you've got a good reason [for spending the money] and he think it's worth it, he has no problem for it. He doesn't want you to spend it just to spend it."
This large amount of talent parity spoken of by Laumann makes it a bit more difficult to pinpoint one or two players as definitive possibilities at No. 23. That player targeted by the White Sox could be gone a pick or two earlier or could be available at No. 38. Pitching always has been a watchword in the White Sox Drafts, but with the players apparently so even, don't be surprised if the White Sox go after a leadoff-type athletic outfielder with that first pick.
Through the offseason trade of Javier Vazquez, Williams addressed one of the weaker spots in the organization by adding Tyler Flowers behind the plate. The talented catcher currently is ripping Southern League pitchers for Double-A Birmingham, with a .270 average, seven home runs and 25 RBIs. But the White Sox could use a bit more catching depth behind Flowers, even with durable veteran A.J. Pierzynski in place. With Jerry Owens gone and without a true leadoff hitter to develop behind Scott Podsednik, the White Sox also could look to add a speed player or two. Basically, there always is room for good athletes with a high-talent upside, pitchers who can rise quickly through the system featuring good sink and movement and impact-type corner outfielders.
Laumann stressed that the White Sox certainly won't shy away from taking a high-school talent at No. 23, even though right-handed pitcher Kris Honel (2001) stands as their lone top pick taken without collegiate experience since 2000. While the White Sox went with a polished, Major League-ready sort of collegiate All-American in Beckham in 2008, they are less concerned about the experience in the past two Drafts as they are about the long-term potential to make a significant impact for the high picks. If manager Ozzie Guillen has his way, the White Sox won't simply take a great athlete with the possibility of developing him. Guillen wants a talented player with strong baseball instincts.
Recent top picks
2008: Beckham, infielder -- Every move made by the eighth pick overall in last year's First-Year Player Draft is watched closely by the White Sox faithful. And Beckham has not disappointed. The shortstop, by natural position, forced his way into roster contention during an impressive first Spring Training, but instead he began the season at Birmingham before moving quickly to Charlotte and then Chicago. Beckham has great extra-base power and could fill a void at second base, shortstop or third base, depending on what the White Sox need. He was hitting .464 with six doubles and three RBIs through his first seven games for Charlotte before his promotion Wednesday. He hit 23 doubles in 175 combined at-bats between stops with the Barons and the Knights this season.
2007: Aaron Poreda, left-handed pitcher -- How valuable of a prospect is the hard-throwing left-hander? Poreda was rumored to be part of the trade package, along with Clayton Richard and two lower-level Minor Leaguers, to bring Jake Peavy from the Padres to the White Sox. Poreda was in strong consideration to break camp with the team as a reliever, but instead he was sent to the Minors to work as a starter -- the job the White Sox envision for his future. Poreda has a Major League-ready fastball, topping out in the high 90s mph, but he still is refining his secondary pitches. Through 10 starts at Birmingham, Poreda carries a 2.62 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 44 hits allowed over 58 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .214 against him.
2006: Kyle McCulloch, right-handed pitcher -- Other pitchers, such as Poreda, have passed by McCulloch on the road to the Majors. But the right-hander still is plugging away with the Barons in Birmingham, posting a 5-4 record with a 4.08 ERA through 10 starts. If McCulloch ever did receive a shot with the White Sox, he might be better suited as a reliever -- much like recently traded Lance Broadway.
Taking Jordan Danks in the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft might turn out to be the steal of the decade for the White Sox. The left-handed-hitting outfielder already has risen through the system to Birmingham and could possibly make a run at the big leagues at some point in 2010, after hitting .348 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 22 games for the Barons. Between 2009 stops at Birmingham and with Class A Winston-Salem, Danks has six homers, 15 doubles, 29 RBIs and eight stolen bases to go with his .333 average. Danks, the younger brother of White Sox starter John Danks, has power and speed and actually could fit a less-than-prototypical leadoff need.
Charles Shirek, 23, was selected by the White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2007 Draft, but he certainly isn't pitching like the 719th overall pick in that class. The right-hander has an 8-1 record with a 3.77 ERA in 10 starts for Winston-Salem. He is not a strikeout pitcher, fanning 40 in 59 2/3 innings. But he does feature strong control, with only 15 walks, a trait that could benefit him if Shirek ever makes it to U.S. Cellular Field.
In The Show
With the exception of Beckham, none of the players from the last three Drafts currently reside on the White Sox roster, although Poreda and Danks are rising fast. But if you go back four or five years, the White Sox have Draft contributions at the Major League level. Chris Getz, Chicago's starting second baseman, was taken in the fourth round of the 2005 Draft. Richard was selected in the eighth round of that same Draft, while third baseman Josh Fields was the top pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.