We're less than three weeks away from the 2015 MLB Draft and the picture is becoming a bit more clear in regards to who the White Sox could be targeting with the No. 8 pick in the first round.
Last year, things were somewhat simple for the White Sox. Picking third with a trio of arms atop almost all draft boards, they simply had to wait and see which of Tyler Kolek, Brady Aiken and Carlos Rodon was leftover after the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins made their selections.
This season, there's a multitude of directions in which the White Sox could go, but the vast majority of pundits and prognosticators have them linked to one name: University of Illinois lefty Tyler Jay.
While Jay, like Rodon, is a junior southpaw, the similarities between the two are very few. Rodon was a top prospect for several years, while Jay only shot onto the scene after pitching in relief for Team USA last summer and further helped his stock this spring when he helped the Illini to a 45-6-1 record at the time of this writing and a still going 26-game winning streak. He was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year after going 5-1 with a 0.67 ERA in 54 innings pitched, striking out 62 and walking just six.
Despite pitching primarily in relief, draft experts see Jay being able to make the transition to a starter in the majors, which is why he's shot up from being considered a second round pick to going in the Top 10.
From MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, who has Jay slotted to the White Sox at No. 8:
His college program has been unstoppable (24 straight wins) and Jay has been nearly unhittable. He's pitched almost entirely in relief, but often multiple innings. A team taking Jay this high -- and his name has been all over the top 10 -- likely thinks he can start.
Jay, like Rodon, is a potential fast-track pick, meaning it's feasible the White Sox could promote him as early as late to work out of the bullpen, which ESPN.com's Keith Law noted in a recent chat. Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniels has the White Sox in on Jay, too:
Chicago is on Jay and he likely gets here as long as Colorado doesn’t take him, but it wouldn’t shock me if Minnesota or Boston have interest in Jay as well. The White Sox have also been tied to Fulmer and Funkhouser and are believed to be looking at mostly college pitchers for this pick, which you can’t question given their track record for developing arms.
It sure sounds as if all signs point to the White Sox taking Jay, assuming he's still around at No. 8. But say he's not. What are some other options?
As McDaniels noted, the White Sox have also been in on Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer and Louisville righty Kyle Funkhouser. I've seen mock drafts have Fulmer going anywhere from No. 1 overall to No. 7, while Funkhouser is slated anywhere from No. 4 all the way down to No. 15.
At this point, the only thing that seems certain is that the White Sox are poised to draft another college arm not far from joining their rotation. Who that ends up being is anyone's guess. Without a consensus top player or top tier of players heading into the June 8 draft, who they end up with is still incredibly up in the air.
In the meantime, check out this Fangraphs post with some fun .gifs of Jay's change up, and dream of the possibilities.