CHICAGO -- The White Sox philosophy for selecting players in the First-Year Player Draft is fairly direct and to the point, according to general manager Ken Williams. In fact, that particular philosophy hasn't changed much during Williams' four-year tenure.
"Everybody knows I like pitching," Williams said. "When you have pitching, you are dealing from strength within the organization. But that's not an absolute.
"We go with the best player that's on the board," Williams added.
Williams seemed a bit reluctant to even talk about the draft. Following a plan that most good bosses employ, Williams simply oversees this two-day event, beginning on June 7, and allows the people designated to work on this operation the chance to bring it home.
"I let people do what they are hired to do," Williams said. "If this general manager were to go out on the amateur scouting circuit, it would do us a disservice. I can't see Player X in California and compare him to Player Y and Z in Florida.
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"There isn't that kind of time available. I leave it in their hands, and go from there."
For the 25th year, the White Sox draft will carry Duane Shaffer's imprint. He currently serves as the senior director of player personnel but can remember scouting players as far back as the '80s.
Shaffer joked that he has heard about the team's need for pitching. It's a supposition backed up by Mark Buehrle standing as the only homegrown hurler on the current staff. Of course, young pitchers such as Neal Cotts, Jon Adkins and Damaso Marte were acquired early on in their respective careers and developed by the South Siders.
Williams used some top prospects at mid-season of 2003 to acquire key veterans such as Carl Everett from Texas, Scott Sullivan from the Reds, Scott Schoeneweis from the Angels and Roberto Alomar from the Mets to buoy the team's drive for the Central Division title. But the only apparent impact players to be moved were left-handed closer Royce Ring, the team's 2002 first-round pick, outfielder Anthony Webster and pitcher Frankie Francisco.
The draft results from the past decade have stockpiled quality outfielders in the White Sox system. Jeremy Reed, selected in the second round from Long Beach State in 2002, has his average near .300 for Triple-A Charlotte, after hitting .373 between Single-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham last season. Reed drove in 95 runs and swiped 45 bases, earning the Topps Minor League Player of the Year award.
Past five No. 1 picks Year Player 2003 None 2002 Royce Ring, LHP 2001 Kris Honel, RHP 2000 Joe Borchard, OF 1999 Jason Stumm, RHP 1999 Matt Ginter, RHP Brian Anderson, last year's first-round pick, has cooled down slightly for the Warthogs after raising his average near .350 early this season. But he is still hitting well over .300. Ryan Sweeney, taken in the second round last year, also is off to a strong start for Winston-Salem, as is 14th-round selection Ricardo Nanita.
Last year's draft also might have produced a few sleepers in third baseman Antoin Gray (25th round) and right-handed closer Dwayne Pollok (27th round).
"For the last five to 10 years, I'm pleased with our overall draft results," Shaffer said. "They have not all been All-Star first-rounders, but we've had some very good picks. When you put competitive players in your system, it gives you a chance to win."
Sweeney, who had hits off top Major League pitchers such as Bartolo Colon during Spring Training, was considered the steal of the draft last year. He was a player with first-round potential who slipped to late in the second round because of a few rough workouts and a rumor that he would be tough to sign.
But both Shaffer and Williams believe that if the player is in the draft, he is signable. It took a while with Sweeney, but he came aboard late in the summer as the last top-10 pick to put his name on the dotted line.
The White Sox pick 18th in the first round this year and have seven picks in the first three rounds because of the free agent deparatures of Colon and Tom Gordon. The group of potential picks at No. 18 includes Josh Fields, a third baseman from Oklahoma State who also was the school's standout quarterback, as well as Mike Ferris, a first baseman from Miami of Ohio, Texas high school outfielder Greg Golson and Clemson left-hander Tyler Lumsden.
Unfortunately, there is no exact science to this process, at least not until the first 17 picks have been made. The only known quantity, according to the White Sox, is that all draft picks will get pretty much the same chance to move up once they are part of the organization.
For proof, check out Buehrle, the current White Sox ace. He was a 38th-round pick in the 1998 draft.
"If you are a lower pick but show the ability to get to the Major Leagues sooner, you will have the same chance to get there," Shaffer said. "This is the perfect time to have these extra picks. We need to replenish our minor-league system with good prospects and go forward."
"Overall our people do an outstanding job," Williams added. "It's a little bit of a crapshoot, but our guys have been very successful."