White Sox Draft Ruminations

There is a certain futility to speculating about the MLB draft.  For one thing, baseball prospects, unlike those in the NBA or NFL, for example, are so many years away from ever making it to MLB - if they ever do at all. Then you have to factor in for years - like this one - where there isn't a clear cut Top 2 or Top 3 or Top 4 and chaos reigns. As opposed to say, last year, where there was a pretty clear Top 3 and the only question was their sequence. Then you have to take into account the different valuations that different organizations place on tools, present baseball skill, cost, positions of need, etc. etc. And, what's more, it's not like teams necessarily have anything to gain from telegraphing the players they're interested in - and you could argue it is quite the opposite. Still, while forecasting specific players may be quixotic, there are still inferences you can draw from a team's general draft philosophy. 

The persistent rumor is that the White Sox have their heart set on college pitching. I have read that one reason is that the organization believes that its core is ready to compete now and it doesn't make sense to draft someone who may take three or four years to get to the majors. There is logic to that approach, and the organization has had some of the best success in MLB in developing pitchers and some of the worst success in developing hitters. So, play to your strengths, right?

It also raises a few concerns. I am of the opinion that you should draft the best player available no matter what. I was also scarred by years of the White Sox drafting "safely" - guys like Lance Broadway, for example - which ironically I feel is not very safe at all. If the White Sox are continuing in their decade-plus quest to sacrifice the long term for the short term, I am extremely wary.*

*NOT "weary" - although I am weary of the results that such an approach has yielded.

The most recent mock drafts from both Keith Law and Kiley McDaniel have the White Sox linked to Carson Fulmer at the #8 pick. A lot of this has to do with the prior favorite - Tyler Jay - having raised his stock to the point where he is expected to go in the Top 3. 

In a sense this would be disappointing. I think the organization is in desperate need of position players and they need to throw as many resources at the problem as possible to fix it. If you are that good at maxing out the potential of pitchers, perhaps you don't need to spend Top 10 draft picks on them to hold up that side of the equation, right? And from what I've read from people who actually know what they're talking about, there is a cluster of pretty cool shortstop prospects, and if one does happen to slide to eight, I wouldn't want the team to dismiss them out of hand simply because they have their heart set on one type of commodity.

On the other hand, Hahn also sacrificed his 2nd and 3rd round picks to acquire Melky Cabrera and David Robertson this past winter. The strategy make sense - if you're going to give up draft picks, it is best to do multiple in the same year (sacking 3rd rounders is better than sacking 2nd rounders) and it is best to do it in a year where your first rounder is protected (sorry, Mets fans). 

One of the consequences, however, is that the team might be more risk averse with its only draft pick in the first three rounds. What's more, they have a much smaller pool of money to use than they would otherwise, as the slot value for the 2nd and 3rd round picks they forfeited gets subtracted from what they'd be able to use otherwise. Perhaps this makes them less willing to take on a high risk-high reward draft pick, right or wrong. It probably makes them that much more gunshy about drafting someone who may not sign. 

So. Carson Fulmer. The wonderful folks at FutureSox have a draft preview up on him (and many other players). According to Sickels, as quoted in that piece, Carson Fulmer could be a really awesome pitcher except teams are scared by his height (5'11''-ish) and his delivery. Those sound like the types of issues the White Sox have been willing to tackle, trusting to their training staff and pitching coaches to shore up those areas of perceived weakness and cash in on the resulting underappreciated asset. He has three pitches that scouts like, although it doesn't sound like he has a signature knockout pitch or the somewhat ineffable Ace Ceiling. As has been discussed by smart people like @ihateprospects and Matt Winkelman, this is yet another skillset that gets underrated

In sum, for all that I worry about the White Sox losing value by approaching the draft with what I perceive to be a rigid strategy, they have also earned the benefit of the doubt that they can get tremendous value out of pitchers that traditional evaluation / other teams don't like as much. If you get a mid-rotation starter out of the #8 pick, you are pretty much immune to criticism. 

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