Drafting late small price to pay
But there will still be talent available when the White Sox pick
CHICAGO -- When selecting near the end of the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, as the White Sox will be doing this Tuesday afternoon, it's hard to hone a team's choices down to a handful of possible picks.
That fact becomes especially true in 2006, where the draft class is considered by experts to be a weak one, and there appear to be no set selections after the first few players ranked at the top. But Duane Shaffer, the White Sox senior director of player personnel who has run the draft with success for 16 years for the organization, will be satisfied with the low-pick confusion every time if it stems from continued on-field success for the Major League squad.
"I would take the 29th or 30th pick every year. It's a good feeling," said Shaffer with a laugh, as the White Sox have the second-to-last first-round pick by virtue of their 99-63 record in 2005. "It's odd being down here, but I think we could get used to it.
"In the past, we would have it narrowed down to five or six players for our particular selection. There are 14 or 15 guys in our pool this year. You just don't know what the other 28 clubs are going to do. You have an idea, but I don't know if the top five or six guys know who they are going to take, and we are [five] days out."
Last year's draft already has produced a solid future prospect for the starting rotation in right-hander Lance Broadway, who was taken 15th overall in the first round out of TCU and is currently excelling for Double-A Birmingham with a 4-2 record and a 2.30 earned run average. Chris Getz, who was picked in the fourth round out of the University of Michigan, also could turn out to be a solid utility infielder at the Major League level.
The last few drafts have been productive for the organization, with Brian Anderson (2003 first-round pick) currently starting in center field for the White Sox, and third baseman Josh Fields (2004 first-round pick) quickly on his way. But Shaffer is more impressed by the class of these individuals than their raw numbers, a character issue that will continue to be considered with this year's selections.
"A fit has to be there," Shaffer said. "You have to have kids who understand what they need to do to get to the big leagues. They can't let adversity bother them, whether they have a bad game, a bad week or a bad month. They can't let it affect their career.
"These kids are what they are -- quality people and quality kids. They have found a way to be successful."
A couple of mock drafts have the White Sox picking Max Sapp, a left-handed hitting catcher from Bishop Moore High School in Orlando. Catching prospects such as Chris Stewart and Donny Lucy have emerged over the past two years, but the position stands as one of the few that is not very deep within the organization.
Pitchers Kris Honel (2001) and Jason Stumm (1999) were the last two first-round picks out of high school for the White Sox. Arm troubles have prevented both of their ascents to the Majors.
In the 1994 draft, the White Sox had the 26th pick overall and went with catcher Mark Johnson. In 1995, it was outfielder/first baseman Jeff Liefer who was taken 25th overall by the South Siders. Both players reached the Majors and contributed with the White Sox but no longer are with the organization.
For the 2006 draft, it could be the players beyond the first round who ultimately make a difference -- a surprise impact player along the lines of Mark Buehrle (38th round, 1998) or a rising star in the organization such as Tyler Lumsden (34th pick overall in 2004).
"I still think we will come out very well because of our organization's understanding of what a big league player looks like," Shaffer said. "But it's a very, very large group.
"It could be anywhere from getting the guy we really wanted, down to a guy we may cut a deal with. We might take a player who would be a good second- or third-round pick and save a couple of dollars and give it to someone down the road."
Brian Anderson, OF, 2003, pick No. 15: Simply put, Anderson has hit at every level he has played for the White Sox -- aside from the Major Leagues. The affable 24-year-old has played flawless defense in center field this season for the White Sox but has consistently struggled to make contact and get his average above .200 as Aaron Rowand's replacement. Manager Ozzie Guillen recently challenged Anderson to put forth better at-bats or risk a temporary return to the Minors. That decision has yet to be made by the White Sox manager.
Josh Fields, 3B, 2004, pick No. 18: A number of scouts and members of the White Sox organization were more than impressed with Fields' vast development from his appearance at Spring Training, 2005 compared to Spring Training, 2006. That huge level of improvement could be attributed to Fields' strict focus on baseball, after splitting time between his current sport and as a record-setting quarterback at Oklahoma St. Fields is a .300 hitter for Triple-A Charlotte, with power and speed. He could move to the outfield, though, with Joe Crede apparently set at third base for the foreseeable future.
Lance Broadway, RHP, 2005, pick No. 15: When selected last year out of TCU, the White Sox said they liked the right-hander's "pitchability." Loosely translated, Broadway doesn't throw 98 to 100 mph, but he knows how to attack hitters. He posted a 15-1 record in his final season for the Horned Frogs and has hit the ground running in 2006 for Double-A Birmingham, with a 4-2 record and a 2.30 ERA over 66 2/3 innings. Broadway could be a viable challenger for a spot on the staff by 2007, but more likely is targeted for 2008.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.