Draft Preview: White Sox seek impact player
GM Williams has no intention of playing it safe
CHICAGO -- When Doug Laumann's son takes part in regional championship high school baseball action this Friday in Kentucky, the White Sox director of amateur scouting will have to rely on technology to watch.
"Maybe Flip video or Skype," said Laumann with a laugh.
Laumann will be in Chicago with his staff and his bosses this weekend, making final preparations for the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. This Draft marks the third one Laumann has fully run for the White Sox since coming back into the fold to sort of right the ship in 2007. The results have netted the White Sox such players as Gordon Beckham and Daniel Hudson, who already have made contributions at the Major League level, as well as Brent Morel and Jordan Danks, who soon could be on their way.
And the Draft philosophy under Laumann, with directions from general manager Ken Williams, has not changed: Regardless of position, look for the best player available.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from Monday through Wednesday on MLB.com/Live The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, beginning with the Draft preview show at 5 p.m. CT.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the White Sox have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
When the White Sox selected eighth overall in 2008, they had a pretty good idea as to who would be available when their pick came around.
"Maybe [Buster] Posey would get to us if not Beckham, and if not either one of them, [Justin] Smoak would be there," Laumann said. "[This year], I have no idea at 13."
Usually, within one weekend of the Draft, Laumann and his staff have a pretty good idea of "seven to 10 guys" who could fall to the White Sox. But the nature of this year's talent base alters that thought process.
"The problem with this year's Draft is that the top is pretty thin," Laumann said. "You look at those top three or four guys, and it opens wide up from there."
Don't look for the White Sox to take a player at 13 simply because mock drafts and the experts dictate that a certain individual should fall in that slot.
"Sometimes the industry might look at us and say, 'Wow, they might have reached out a little bit with that guy,' " Laumann said. "But any time you are working with Kenny, he wants that [impact] guy. We are not in a position where he wants us to take a safe pick. That has been Kenny's philosophy, and it will stay his philosophy."
So it's up to Laumann and his staff to help replenish that system with a Draft infusion.
Such players as third baseman Nick Castellanos or right-hander Asher Wojciechowski have been attached to the White Sox 13th pick in pre-Draft prognostications. But as Laumann explained above, there's precious little certainty as to who will be around, even at that relatively early stage.
One thing is certain: The White Sox will not be drafting by need. They will be looking for a player who can make the quickest impact at the big league level.
Beyond Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox look extremely thin in the middle-infield area throughout the organization.
"We've tried to focus on middle infielders because we've not done a good job internationally in that area," Laumann said. "If you look at the big leagues or even the Minors, a great percentage [of middle infielders] are from Latin America.
"We are not getting them from that influx, so we have tried to find them domestically. But quite honestly, there are not many domestic shortstops [in the Draft]."
Laumann pointed out how the strength in this year's Draft is college pitching depth, so the White Sox could target that spot at 13. With the depth being a strength, though, and the White Sox having four picks in the first 115, they could go a different direction at 13 and load up on pitchers afterward.
Even if the White Sox seem deep at certain positions, such as third base or in the outfield, they won't necessarily shy away from a player who anchors that same spot -- even with their top pick.
"Back in the '90s, we thought we had five or six catching prospects," Laumann said. "Two proved they couldn't play, two got hurt and one got traded. With the way baseball is, you can't think you are deep enough at any one spot where you don't need additional help."
Since 2001, when the White Sox selected local pitcher Kris Honel in the first round, they have run off a streak of eight consecutive collegiate players as their top selection. Half of those picks have been pitchers, but the last two, Jared Mitchell and Beckham, were position players.
"On the field and, emotionally, off the field, we tend to lean more to college guys," Laumann said. "You have core guys that are already there, and you are thinking about adding to that core in the next two or three years. So we have been apt to take college guys who can move right in."
An example was given by Laumann of drafting Beckham, Danks or Morel, all of whom had collegiate experience, as opposed to a player such as Trayce Thompson, who was taken straight out of high school.
"We love Thompson, but we can't think about him getting [to the big leagues] for four or five years," Laumann said. "So it's two or three years vs. four or five years."
That analysis doesn't preclude high school players from being scattered among Chicago's first three or four picks.
Recent Draft History
Morel was selected two rounds behind Beckham in 2008, and his climb to the Majors could take just a little less time. The third baseman has hit at every level since batting .375 for Great Falls in 2008 and has a slick-fielding glove, compared with that of Joe Crede, in the making. Morel was recently promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, and with Mark Teahen out of action because of injury, the right-handed-hitting Morel could be an outside candidate for promotion if platoon candidates Jayson Nix and Omar Vizquel don't get the job done at third.
Left fielder Brandon Short made his presence known during Spring Training by hitting a home run against the Cubs. And the 28th-round pick from the 2008 Draft built on that moment with a 26-game hitting streak this season for Class A Winston-Salem, the fifth-longest such streak in Carolina League history.
Short has a .346 average, topping a hot-hitting group in that category, to go with his 40 RBIs and 18 doubles. About the only thing off the mark for him this season is his three stolen bases in nine attempts.
For a second sleeper candidate, look no farther than Winston-Salem center fielder Justin Greene, the 20th-round selection in 2008. Greene has a .322 average, 35 RBIs, 38 runs scored and a team-leading 13 stolen bases.
In the Show
It took Beckham less than one full year in professional baseball to go from his selection as the White Sox top pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft as a projected shortstop to the team's starting third baseman in 2009. Although he has struggled mightily during the first two months of 2010 as the White Sox second baseman, he was good enough in '09 to earn a pair of American League Rookie of the Year honors, as voted on by his peers.
Peavy hasn't been part of the Draft since 1999, but he was acquired from San Diego by Chicago at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Aaron Poreda, the team's top pick in 2007, and Dexter Carter, the 13th-round selection in 2008. John Ely, the team's third-round pick in 2007, has been dominant during his first month pitching in the Majors, but he showed that dominance for the Dodgers, who acquired Ely in the offseason as part of the Pierre deal.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.