Draft has White Sox hunting for another difference maker

CHICAGO – A year ago, Carlos Rodon was not even a member of the Chicago White Sox. On Tuesday, he will start against the Houston Astros.

The dynamic left-hander was selected in the first-round of the 2014 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, the third pick overall, and experienced a rapid ascent when he made his major-league debut on April 21, first as a reliever. He made his first start May 9 against the Cincinnati Reds.

The 2015 version of the draft will take place Monday, but finding somebody who can move to the major leagues as quickly as Rodon did will not be easy. This year, the White Sox have the No. 8 overall pick.

What the White Sox have shown in recent years, though, is a tendency to pick players out of college, who can rise quicker than high school players. It fits into the rebuilding mode they have undergone in recent seasons.

To combat a slightly lower draft position this year, the members of the front office entrusted with making the selection have gone through multiple mock drafts, trying to predict every scenario that could happen in front of them during the first seven picks.

“There’s only a few premium college position players in the draft and I think we completely anticipate that they’re going to be probably gone before we pick at eight,” director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann said. “Ultimately, I think our player is probably going to end up being a college pitcher, but again we’re prepared in case one of those guys falls to us, but ultimately I think that’s the way it’s leaning right now.”

It always is possible that a player projected to go higher falls to their spot in the draft. It happened last year when many people were projecting Rodon to go either with the top pick or the second pick.

When Rodon was drafted last year, it broke a string of three consecutive position players being drafted in the first round by the White Sox. The club picked shortstop Tim Anderson in the 2013 draft, grabbed outfielder Courtney Hawkins in 2012 and outfielder Keenyn Walker in 2011. The last pitcher they took in the first round before Rodon was Chris Sale in 2010.

When it comes to drafting pitchers, the White Sox will go into the selection process with a specific criteria in mind.

“Obviously, we take the guys that have the plus stuff, we take the guys that can succeed getting people out,” Laumann said. “[Vise president/assistant general manager] Buddy [Bell] once told me that in the minor leagues, we're not really able to change a lot, we're not able to create a lot, but we are able to refine a lot.

“We have guys that have certain talents, we have guys that have certain truths, and a pitcher that maybe needs refinement on a changeup or maybe the command needs to be improved a little bit, we're able to do that and that certainly is helpful for us.”

The No. 8 pick might be far lower than last year’s third overall selection, but Sale was obtained with the No. 13 overall selection in 2010 so the chance to select a difference-maker should be available to the White Sox.

Landing pitchers like Rodon and Sale, though, is a unique opportunity.

“Those guys had the type of makeup, along with the stuff, that's enabled them to be able to handle it right away,” Laumann said. “Some of the other college players that were taken, maybe even ahead of us in those drafts, are still in the minor leagues. It's not to say that they're not eventually going to be as good or better, but hopefully we got the right guys at the right time.”