White Sox's draft focus has narrowed

CHICAGO -- With Thursday's Major League Baseball first-year player draft fast approaching, Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams tried to play it coy when it came to the club's first-round pick.

Three highly regarded pitchers are available in Carlos Rondon, Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, so speculation is strong that the White Sox will take a pitcher with the No. 3 overall selection. Just don't expect Williams to tip his hand.

"Who said we're going to take a pitcher?" Williams said.

Shortstop Nick Gordon has plenty of intrigue. Think of his brother, Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, with a stronger build. A bat the caliber of California high schooler Alex Jackson also would be tempting. Jackson is a catcher who is expected to convert to the outfield as a professional.

White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann was a little more forthcoming when it came to the team's plans.

"I could probably sit here and say right now that more than likely we're going to probably end up with a pitcher," Laumann said. "We've got pretty much the group narrowed down to five or six guys, one of which is a position player. The other five are pitchers. So I'm fairly confident that we're going to end up with a real nice arm."

A major influence on this draft for the White Sox is the presence of slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, and to a lesser extent outfielder Avisail Garcia. In both players, the White Sox know they have the middle of the order set for some time, so drafting in that area is not the biggest priority in the first round.

The White Sox believe they could be ready to make some serious noise in the coming years, so don't be surprised to see the club use the first pick on a college pitcher who can rise quickly over a high school talent with slightly more upside.

In the minor league system, guys such as second baseman Micah Johnson, third baseman Matt Davidson and outfielder Courtney Hawkins are coming. Right-handed starter Chris Beck, currently with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts at Double-A Birmingham, has major league ability written all over him.

Another right-handed starter figures to intrigue the White Sox because lefties such as Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will be around for some time. And lefty John Danks is locked in through 2016.

The lefty situation is expected get the White Sox to look long and hard at LSU right-hander Aaron Nola, widely believed to be the player who can rise quickest after Thursday's draft is completed.

Are the White Sox weighing college pitchers over those from high school?

"I don't know that we're leaning one way or the other," Laumann said. "You certainly look at the history. You've got a little more history in terms of their arm, whether or not they've made it through the three years of college without getting hurt and things like that. At the same time the competition level and arrival time to the big leagues certainly makes a difference.

"When you look at who might have the highest ceiling, and you look at certain kids that might be 17, 18 years old and still look like they have the ability to even get better, then it's kind of a hard weighing act to go ahead weigh one against the other. And I don't think we have a preference for one or the other."

General manager Rick Hahn mapped out the team's plan to spend upward of $10 million for young talent in Thursday's draft and another $4 million to $4.5 million on international talent over the next two months. The minor league system will get as big of a talent influx as it has received in some time.

Despite the increased spending, though, the White Sox still intend to proceed with caution. But when it matters, they have been known to dig deeper than expected. When they drafted Sale in 2010, the club knew that his price tag was higher than they were comfortable spending, but they spent big anyway and now have a staff ace on their hands.

"Signability in every draft is a factor that you have to at least weigh, but it has not been, nor will it continue to be, a deterrent for us to make a choice when we feel it's the best guy and Chris is the perfect example of that," Hahn said.

The signing of Abreu this winter, along with trades for Garcia, Davidson and Adam Eaton, were the high-profile changes to the team. Thursday's additions will be no less important, they just might need some time to realize themselves.

"We're really now entering a six-to-eight-week period where conceivably we are adding $15 million of amateur talent to the organization, which will be a huge shot in the arm for the system while also moving the organization toward where we want it to be," Hahn said.