CHICAGO -- When the White Sox last picked at No. 13 in the First-Year Player Draft, they came away with a fairly serviceable selection.
That particular serviceable pick, Chris Sale, just missed matching the White Sox single-game record for strikeouts by fanning 15 Rays on Monday in St. Petersburg. He's also the American League leader in ERA, ranks in the Top 5 in opponents' average against and ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts.
Doug Laumann and his staff will try to top or at least match that selection at the 13th spot once again for the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
"Guys keep reminding me, but I don't know if it's good or bad," said the White Sox director of amateur scouting with a laugh over the high reward of the Sale pick. "It keeps the hope up where someone can slide or get there, or on the flip side, it's measured against that pick."
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
If Sale, the amateur hurler, was available in this year's Draft, Laumann believes he would hands-down be No. 1. Instead, Laumann sees a group of six to eight players at the top, with college pitchers Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer and Mark Appel standing out, along with Lucas Giolito, Max Fried, Andrew Heaney, Carlos Correa, Albert Almora and Byron Buxton.
Having any of those front-line projections slip to No. 13, much like Sale did two years, is almost impossible to project.
"To think we could get someone like [Sale] at 13, well, we try to do whatever we can," Laumann said.
"What I've conveyed to [Laumann] is, first and foremost, focus on the best player available at that time, the most impactful player at the spot we pick in," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of his Draft talk with the man running the White Sox selections. "Sometimes if it's an even kind of report and both players are just as impactful ... they'll ask me what is our greatest need."
After this 13th selection, the White Sox go again at No. 48 in Comp Round A for the departure of free agent hurler Mark Buehrle to the Marlins. And their second-round pick checks in at 76th overall. Last year, the White Sox opening selection was outfielder Keenyn Walker at 47th overall in Comp Round A.
"It's a little bit better than last year, but you make your money and always worry about the first pick," Laumann said. "This year it's crazy because we are not positive who it's going to be.
"There's some depth at 48. It's easier to progress at 13 if we get it down to five or six players and then narrow those down. We'll have 20 or 25 guys at 48, and we will all like some."
The White Sox have a signing budget set at $5,914,600 to spend on their first 11 picks, which works out to an average of $537,691. Their 13th selection has a slotted value at $2.475 million, where Sale got a $1.656 million signing bonus at 13 two years ago, followed by a $1,052,500 slotted value at 48. According to Laumann, the new spending limits placed on the Draft through the Collective Bargaining Agreement won't specifically help the White Sox as much as possibly hinder some other teams.
"We aren't changing," said Laumann of a team known to spend what they had in the Draft, but rarely go over slot.
"There have been a lot of reasons over the years not to draft the best guy, and most of them center around not being able to afford him," Williams said. "I think a lot of clubs would tell you otherwise, tell you they haven't passed over a player that they considered better than the next guy because of their signability. Now, I think the system is in place to where it affords everybody an equal opportunity to choose that player."
Sale moved from Florida Gulf Coast University to the White Sox top pick to the White Sox bullpen in the matter of two months. He now appears to be one of the top young starters in all of baseball.
Finding another Sale at No. 13 could be a tough proposition. But the White Sox currently have a list of six players who they are perusing that could help the team somewhere down the line.
Here's a glance at what the White Sox have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
A really good mix of "a couple of high school pitchers, a high school position player, two college pitchers and a college position player" are under consideration at No. 13, according to Laumann. If they can't find that elite difference-making athlete, look for the White Sox to lean toward college pitching.
"If Kenny or [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] had their choice, if I took 20 straight pitchers, I would have my job forever," Laumann sad. "If it was 20 left-handed pitchers, that would be even better. But someone has to catch it. If we take a high school position player with that first pick, I guarantee we would take college pitchers with the next couple of picks. We won't go high school, high school, high school or position player, position player, position player."
Jonathan Mayo's latest mock draft at MLB.com has the White Sox selecting Chris Stratton, the right-handed pitcher out of Mississippi State, at No. 13. Mayo also mentions the White Sox scouting fellow college pitchers Michael Wacha and Heaney. Mayo adds that the White Sox might have an interest in Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins, which fits with Laumann's description.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
Pitching is always a priority for the White Sox, so look for the club to hit that area early and often. They also could look at catcher, although the organization is happy with the development of Josh Phegley, Michael Blanke and Kevan Smith. Their weakest area in the system remains middle infield, but that will be a spot on the field to be beefed up by Marco Paddy through Latin American work.
Taking a high school player with the 13th pick would end a stretch of 10 straight Drafts during which the White Sox went the collegiate direction first, dating back to Kris Honel's selection in 2001. The White Sox have gone position player first in three of the last four Drafts, so a pitcher is not a lock.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
It's hard to label the team's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as rising fast, but that's just how the White Sox would describe outfielder Jared Mitchell.
"[White Sox vice president, player development and special assignments] Buddy [Bell] is really excited about the progress Mitchell is making," said Laumann of the 23rd pick overall in 2009.
Mitchell was taken out of LSU with five-tool potential, but also being a bit raw in baseball skills after splitting his collegiate time with football. His development certainly wasn't helped by a season-ending tendon tear in his left ankle suffered during Spring Training 2010 and then still not playing at 100 percent when he hit .222 with 183 strikeouts for Class A Winston-Salem in '11. But the fleet-footed left-handed hitter has made great strides at Double-A Birmingham, hitting near .300 and having reached base 14 times total in a four-game stretch from May 25-29.
White Sox recent top picks
Class A Kannapolis
Double-A Altoona (Pirates)
Out of baseball
Tyler Saladino became one of the rare players who was called up to big league Spring Training from the Minor League side instead of traveling in the opposite direction. The seventh-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft was requested by manager Robin Ventura, who noticed Saladino when working with the Minor Leagues last year. Saladino has proven to be a versatile infielder, and as Laumann pointed out, if the White Sox had a 15-30 record instead of being close to first place at the time, Saladino might have got the call to replace Brent Morel instead of signing Orlando Hudson.
In The Show
The White Sox knew Nate Jones had the ability to be a Major League pitcher. They just waited for the right-hander to come to that same realization. Now, the fifth round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft with the 98 mph fastball has a 1.73 ERA and has been contributing everywhere from middle relief to late-inning setup work.