White Sox load up on collegiate hurlers in Draft
Club hopes to give current position players time to develop
CHICAGO -- Feeling already rich in position players, the White Sox stockpiled college arms throughout the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
In order to address an area of need, director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann noted that the White Sox have picked "probably more position players over the past two or three years" than they ever had before. The idea now is to give those position players some breathing room, and to supplement the organization with what they consider to be premium arms.
"We'd like to give the guys we have in the system already a chance to play and a chance to develop," Laumann said. "It's one of those deals where you don't want to keep just trying to replace guys year after year after year when you've got players that you believe in when you drafted them -- you give them a chance to play. You see whether or not they're going to make the adjustment, make the progress that you hoped they were going to make.
"You need to have the pitching, for sure, every year, and we just felt like we were fairly well-stocked with position guys."
The split between position players and pitchers ended up fairly even -- the club drafted 18 pitchers and 22 position players -- but the choice between college and high school pitchers was not. Of the 18 pitchers drafted, 16 were college arms.
Laumann said that the club made picks based on its Draft board, and not on whether a player was from high school or college. That said, the White Sox selected just seven high school players, of which five are position players.
Within that subset of college arms, they loaded up on lefties: of the 16 college hurlers, nine are southpaws. Carlos Rodon (No. 3 overall pick) and Jace Fry (third-round selection) headline that group and project as the most likely to help the big league club, but Chicago deepened its pool of college lefties by grabbing three through the first nine picks, four within picks 10 through 19, and one with its 35th-round choice.
The organizational reshaping process spearheaded by second-year general manager Rich Hahn has vastly improved the club's once-barren position player depth. Hahn attacked those areas of weakness through both the Draft -- players like Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson are homegrown products that headline a glut of middle-infield prospects -- and international spending -- Jose Abreu being the most notable example.
In the past 11 months, the White Sox also traded away some of their pitching to get position-player prospects. The Jake Peavy deal, for example, brought back Avisail Garcia, while trades of Addison Reed and Hector Santiago brought back Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton.
"With that being the case, it kind of frees us up to be able to go ahead and add some college arms, some more experienced guys," Laumann said. "You can't have enough left-handers, for sure. Because we were able to have those things taken care of in the Minor Leagues with some of the middle infielders, some of the position guys, adding through the international market, we were able to go ahead and take some of these arms, go ahead and develop them."
Another organizational philosophy that came across in the Draft was a fondness for athleticism. The White Sox like to take players who are good athletes -- perhaps they've played other sports in their life at a high level -- with the thinking that good athletes are better suited to make necessary adjustments while developing in the Minor Leagues. Players such as catcher Brett Austin (fourth round), Louie Lechich (sixth round) and Marc Flores (30th round) fit that description.
"There's some sort of premium on 'em," Laumann said of taking good athletes. "There's a little bit of balance that you have to try to strike with it because they're playing baseball, so you have to be a little bit careful to whether or not they have the aptitude, whether or not they're able to play our game.
"But when they do show some ability, some aptitude in our sport, coupled with that they're really, really good athletes, it just I feel like gives them a stronger chance to reach their ceiling than maybe someone who is a little bit more rigid in their athleticism or doesn't have the ability to go ahead and make progress like the other guys do."
For fans looking to latch onto an under-the-radar player, Evin Einhardt is an intriguing selection in the 29th round. The 6-3, 191-pound senior righty comes from Brewton-Parker College, a Christian college in Mount Vernon, Ga., with an enrollment of fewer than 778 students. To be fair, Brewton is a strong NAIA program, and 24 players all-time, including five over the last 11 years, have been drafted out of the school. None, however, have made it to The Show.
The White Sox capped the Draft by selecting a pair of players from their own backyard. With their 38th-round pick, they took Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School shortstop Justiniano Anthony. They then selected Morgan Park High School center fielder James Davidson the following round.
Laumann knows how unlikely it is either of those players will sign, given how small late-round signing bonuses can be, coupled with the fact that those players hold offers for a free college education. But he still hopes his club gets to draft those kids again.
"I think it's important to recognize them. I think it's important to go ahead and show the achievements that they made," Laumann said. "And at the same time, if things fall a certain way, you never know what we might do with them. … It won't be long, I think, until we'll be drafting those guys a little higher and with the intent of signing rather than just kind of recognizing and showing what they're capable of."
After three exhausting days, Laumann feels like the White Sox got much of what they wanted.
"Well, we're really excited," he said. "With a pitching-dominated Draft, we felt like we grabbed some pitchers early. [When there were] those times to take a position player off the board to help supplement that, we did it. That way we followed it with pitching after that.
"Thought it was pretty balanced. A little bit pitching-heavy, but that was the strength of the Draft, so that's what we decided to do."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.