Coming off their worst season in recent memory, the White Sox performance in the MLB First Year Player Draft will be more important in 2014 than it has been in quite some time.
The White Sox will be picking third overall next summer, marking only the second time in more than two decades they will be drafting in the top 10, and the first time since 1990 they will be picking in the top five.
That year, the White Sox selected Alex Fernandez fourth overall in the last of a six-year stretch that saw the team select in the top 10 five times, coming away with Fernandez, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura and Jack McDowell.
Given the team’s high draft position, as well as how much work needs to be done to replenish a depleted farm system, we’ll be giving you periodical updates on some of the top prospects the White Sox might consider next June.
Sure, the draft is still more than six months away. And the players the White Sox will be considering won’t even begin their season for a few more months. But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to familiarize ourselves with some of the names that might be considered with the No. 3 pick.
Baseball America released its list of top 50 prospects for 2014 last month and it appears the front end of the draft will be stocked with powerful high school pitchers:
The high school pitching class is as deep as it has been in years and is replete with big velocity arms that could go in the first 50 picks. The high school hitters did not fare well against top pitching this summer, as many of the top hitters offer loud tools but struggled to hit in games.”
The White Sox haven’t selected a high school pitcher in the first round since they took Kris Honel 16th overall in 2001. Likewise, they’ve only selected one pitcher — high school or college — in the first round of the last five drafts (Chris Sale in 2010).
All of that might not mean a whole lot, given the uncharted waters the team finds itself in. The White Sox draft strategy over the past decade was centered around toolsy hitters and college pitchers with a fast track to the majors. They hit a home run in 2010 with Sale, but that strategy also led to the selections of guys like Jared Mitchell, Aaron Poreda, Lance Broadway and others.
While there’s no precedent that can tell us which direction Rick Hahn might go in June, one might safely assume that given the high pick and the amount of needs the team has across the board, he’ll simply go with the best available player at No. 3.
The consensus top two according the Baseball America are N.C. State LHP Carlos Rodon and East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman. Until we hear otherwise, let’s go ahead and assume those two will be selected by the Astros and Marlins, respectively.
With Rodon and Hoffman off the board, Baseball America’s next five prospects include two infielders, a catcher/outfielder and two pitchers. Here’s BA’s quick take on the five:
3. Tyler Kolek, rhp, Shepherd (Texas) HS: Six-foot-6, 250-pounder has touched 99 mph and fits the Texas fireballer description.
4. Trea Turner, ss, North Carolina State: Ankle issue hampered him in 2013, but he offers bat speed, athleticism and top-of-the-scale speed when healthy.
5. Jacob Gatewood, ss/3b, Clovis (Calif.) HS: Long, lean and toolsy athlete with a plus arm and arguably the best power potential in the class.
6. Alex Jackson, c/of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego: Pairs plus power and arm strength with athleticism and a chance to stay behind the plate.
7. Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt: Unsigned 2011 first-round pick has three above-average or better pitches, but command has become an issue for him.
Of the five, the one that immediately stood out to me is Gatewood. The terms “toolsy” and “athlete” probably already have members of the White Sox brass drooling.
The site mymlbdraft.com actually pegged Gatewood with the White Sox at No. 3 in its way-too-early mock draft, and ESPN’s Keith Law had this to say about him:
“Boasting enormous raw power, Gatewood has one of the highest upsides among prep hitters this year, but has to show he’s got the hit tool to make the power play and will likely end up at third base in pro ball.”
Much is still to be determined, obviously. But if we’re forced to sit through another season of mediocrity, following the high school and college seasons of these prospects and others could become more intriguing than anything happening on the South Side.