Losing 99 games last year was a painful for experience for the White Sox, but there is one perk.
"Frankly, part of the benefit of the lousy season last year isn't just the player you get at three, but the larger signing pool that allows you to get even better players throughout the entire draft," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "I don't know the exact number, but it's going to be close to $10 million we'll have to spend on domestic talent this year, which is a tremendous shot in the arm for the organization."
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The White Sox have the No. 3 overall pick in the June 5-7 amateur draft, their highest selection on the first round since 1977 when Harold Baines went No. 1.
Barring an unexpected change of heart, the Sox are going to draft a pitcher at No. 3.
"Based on this year's talent pool, it's a strong possibility that's going to be a pitcher," Hahn said.
The big question is -- do the White Sox use the key pick on a college pitcher or a high school pitcher?
Ideally, they'd like to draft a college arm because even great high school pitchers typically take 3-4 years to make it to the majors.
In 2010, the Sox drafted Chris Sale out of Florida Gulf Coast University in the first round (No. 13 overall), and the lanky lefty made it to the big leagues that season after pitching in only 11 minor league games.
By 2012, Sale was the Sox' ace.
There are some solid college starters available this year, headed by North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rondon. In 14 starts with the Wolfpack this season, Rondon is 6-7, but he has a 2.01 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 98⅔ innings.
The Astros have the No. 1 overall pick for the third straight year, and they are expected to take Rondon.
The second-best college starter was East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman, and the right-hander would have been a nice fit in the White Sox' left-handed heavy rotation.
Unfortunately, Hoffman developed elbow soreness earlier this season and had Tommy John surgery last week. He'll still be on the draft board, but Hoffman is no longer a first-rounder.
If the White Sox stick with the plan to draft a collegian, Nevada-Las Vegas right-hander Erick Fedde, Louisiana State righty Aaron Nola and two more lefties -- Evansville's Kyle Freeland and Texas Christian's Brandon Finnegan -- should all be available at No. 3.
If Rondon goes to the Astros or Miami Marlins, who pick second, the White Sox are going to be tempted to pick hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Kolek out of Shepherd High School in Texas. Kolek is a monster at 6-feet-5, 245 pounds and he regularly throws 100 mph.
Another potential high school pick is lefty Brady Aiken, from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. Aiken has it all, a developing fastball, plus a curve and an above average slider and changeup.
Would the White Sox be willing to wait for Kolek or Aiken to develop?
If, and it's a big if, one of the prep stars makes it to the majors by 2017, Sale would be 28 with two more club option years on his contract. Jose Quintana would also be 28 and could be under contract with the Sox through 2020.
It's going to be a tough decision, but the White Sox clearly need to beef up their starting pitching.
As it stands now, Tyler Danish is the top talent in the system.
Danish was drafted last June on the second round, and he's a high school product from Plant City, Fla.
"He can pitch," said White Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell. "We feel he's ahead of being 19 years old because he's athletic and he knows what he's doing."
In his first 7 starts with low Class A Kannapolis, the 6-foot, 205-pound Danish was 3-0 and his 0.71 ERA led the South Atlantic League.
"He's kind of like Jake Peavy, as far as the arm slot," Bell said. "Obviously, he's not Jake Peavy, but he's kind of that type of guy. He's very athletic, a strong kid, he really knows the game."
Danish probably gets to high A Winston-Salem at some point this season, and full seasons at AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte the next two years could get the right-hander to the White Sox in 2017.
There would be a similar wait if the Sox opt to draft Kolek or Aiken, but given their impressive young resumes, it might be worth it for the White Sox.
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