The White Sox have the 17th overall pick in tonight's draft, and it's a solid bet they'll use it to select The Best Player On The Board.
What The Best Player does or where he comes from remains to be seen, so as we wait for the first round (MLB Network at 6 p.m. Central), I'll strafe you with names, and maybe one of them will hit.
I'll cover the position players later today. Given the draft's random nature, I could list 10 names and the Sox might not draft any of them. But these guys are widely considered to be draftable in the area of the 17th pick, and if the Sox select somebody else, this can at least providing a knowledge base for purposes of comparison.
If you want to browse for yourself, some good places to start:
- MLB.com's Top 100
- Baseball America's Top 100
- Keith Law's ESPN.com draft board
- SB Nation's MLB Draft group
RHP, 6'4", 225 lbs., Jacksonville (Fla.) University
Rankings: BA #45; MLB.com #16; Law #22
Anderson was the closest thing to a consensus -- in fact, in SB Nation's compilation of mock drafts, the White Sox were the last pick that could be considered with any degree of uniformity. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Baseball America's Jim Callis, and Law have all tagged Anderson to the White Sox at various points in mock drafts.
BA: "Early in the season, under a heavy workload, Anderson showed scouts a front-of-the-rotation fastball, pitching downhill and touching 96 mph. He's usually in the 90-94 mph range, holds his velocity and throws strikes. He got strikeouts early both with the fastball and slider, which flashed plus. He also throws a much-improved changeup. Anderson generates velocity more from strength than arm speed, and most scouts see him as an innings-eater in the middle of a rotation. His timing helps, as a consensus starter in a year short on college arms."
Law: "Anderson has the size, roughly the fastball velocity and the potential out pitch in that slider to profile as a No. 2 starter."
John Sickels, Minor League Ball: "Strongly built at 6-4, 225, Anderson showed sharpened command this spring of a plus fastball/plus slider combination. His change-up has also improved, and he profiles as an inning-chewing mid-rotation starter."
Mayo: "Anderson was a hot commodity early, but recent struggles have led to a fade. He could be this year's Michael Wacha, who was in early 1-1 conversations last year but fell to St. Louis at No. 19."
RHP, 6'3", 200 lbs., Oral Roberts University
Rankings: BA #19; MLB.com #31; Law #15
Gonzalez is considered a "helium" candidate on this year's draft board, which always reminds me of Lance Broadway. From the Gonzo Pipeline, Mark Gonzales reported that Doug Laumann scouted Gonzalez personally. Callis also had the White Sox selecting him in his second mock draft.
BA: "Usually deals at 90-94 mph with his fastball, and batters can't square it up because he throws it with natural cut and sink to both sides of the plate. His true slider, which runs as hot as 87 mph, is one of the best in the draft and gives him a second swing-and-miss offering. He's making progress with a changeup, and he can mix in an occasional curveball as a show-me pitch."
Mayo: "Gonzalez has a nasty fastball-slider combination with excellent command. Some think he can be a Mariano Rivera-like reliever who gets to the big leagues, while others think he can start. Whatever the role, it looks like Gonzalez is working is way into the first-round picture."
RHP, 6'4", 180 lbs., Arkansas
Rankings: BA #13; MLB.com #12; Law #7
Most mock drafts I've seen don't have Stanek falling this far -- he was the 99th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he he's only improved his status with the Razorbacks. But he's been associated with the Sox on a couple occasions in the "other college pitchers of interest include" kind of way, so, what the hell.
MLB.com: "He has as much arm strength as anyone, throwing a plus fastball in the mid-90s while maintaining velocity throughout his starts. His fastball has good sink and run to it as well. He'll show two breaking balls, a curve and a slider, with the latter having a chance to be a plus pitch."
BA: "His fastball ranges from 92-98 mph, with long levers and twitchy athleticism that help him generate arm speed. His slider has real power in the 84-87 mph range when it's right, and he has improved the feel for his changeup. Stanek doesn't have the prettiest mechanics as he has adjusted to try to throw more strikes, shortening his stride to help him stay on top of the ball."
RHP, 6'1", 205 lbs., Florida
Rankings: BA #24; MLB.com #17; Law #20
Crawford wasn't supposed to be a pitcher in high school -- he was being recruited as an outfielder before the Gators saw a pitcher in him. He's got power stuff, and the question is whether he can change speeds that effectively. His fastball-slider combination is designed for relief, but his ability to maintain his velocity deep into games (he threw a no-hitter in the NCAA Regionals) suggests he's more than that. Like Stanek, he's in that "other collegiate pitchers" group.
BA: "His fastball sits 92-96 mph at its best, and he holds that velocity deep into games. Crawford powers through a less-than-clean delivery and struggles to repeat his release point, so he fights his fastball command and doesn't consistently deliver his plus slider in the 82-84 mph range."
MLB.com: " He has a plus fastball that can touch 96 mph and throws a hard breaking ball to go along with it, a combination he used well for Team USA over the summer. Crawford is strong with a good delivery and arm action. As big as his stuff is, though, he will have to learn to soften it up somehow in the future"
LHP, 6'1", 185 lbs., Gonzaga
Rankings: BA #28; MLB.com #14; Law #37
Yet another Gonzales connection, this one doesn't strike me as somebody the Sox would interest the Sox in the middle of the first round. Because of his lefthandedness and his command with the fastball and changeup, he's considered the closest to a major-league introduction, but the Sox don't really need immediacy in the pitching ranks compared to upside. Keith Law heard the Sox were linked to him, but not very convincingly. At least he's a lefty, which gives us something different on this list.
Sickels: "His fastball is average in terms of velocity at 88-92 MPH, but his command of the heater is excellent. He also has a superior changeup, possibly the best in the college ranks. His curveball and slider aren't as good as the changeup, but they are workable, and the entire arsenal plays up due to his command and clean, consistent delivery. "
BA: "He's getting drafted for his changeup, the best in this year's class. It's a deceptive offering with fade and scouts have no problem grading it as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale...With his frame, stuff and athleticism he has earned comparisons to Jason Vargas."
Baseball Prospectus: "Hitters didn't appear to see Gonzales' stuff out of the hand very well--particularly his fastball and plus 77-80 mph changeup. They were late to react and generally off-balance all afternoon. His highly deceptive changeup is a least a 60-grade pitch with good fading action; he had some serious confidence in the offering."
LHP, 6'5", 215 lbs., Indiana State
Rankings: BA #18; MLB.com #13; Law #34
Manaea was considered a top-five pick after his showing in Cape Cod last year, earning the league's top pitcher and prospect honors. At his best, he throws 96 from the left side, which makes his secondary stuff (slider and change) more effective than it should be. But he had ankle and hip problems in March, and shoulder tightness last month, and Scott Boras is his agent and vowing no discounts, so nobody has any clue where he's going, which is why the Sox are a wild card possibility.
It remains to be seen whether Rick Hahn will show the same aversion to Boras clients that his predecessor did, but since Hahn served as Kenny Williams' chief negotiator, I wouldn't assume he'd do business differently.
BA: "Has to rely on his fastball, which features plenty of life and deception when he's right, to help his secondary pitches play up. He'll flash a quality slider and uses a split/changeup as his offspeed pitch, but neither gives him a consistently above-average No. 2 pitch. His command and control, which were sharp last summer despite his low three-quarters arm angle, also have regressed."
MLB.com: "He complements the plus fastball with a hard slurve that's very effective. He doesn't have as good a feel for pitching as the top two college arms on this list, but a 6-foot-5 lefty with that kind of arm strength had many flocking to the Midwest in 2013."