White Sox director of amateur scouting: 'The pitching thing is really critical'

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White Sox draft: 'The pitching thing is really critical' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago White Sox are looking forward to the abundance of baseball talent in front of them come the No. 26 pick of the MLB draft (July 17-19).

They've done well in recent drafts with the selections of Colson Montgomery, who has dominated Class-A baseball this season, Garrett Crochet, Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Jake Burger, etc.

Now, they're picking in the 20s for a second straight draft and they must be vigilant of the talent around them and in which ways the draft unfolds come their time to pick.

“In all of my years of doing this, when you get outside of pick eight or nine I think you have no idea what's going to happen," White Sox director of amateur scouting, Mike Shirley, says. "In my history, I don't think we've ever had to work on so many players who possibly could be there at 26. I think the room down the hall here is a little exhausted because the amount of work we've got to put in to get to 26.”

The big and obvious question always remains -- will the Sox draft based on position? Or, will they draft based on best available?

Last offseason, the front office clearly went on best available due to their selection of Montgomery with All-Star Tim Anderson on the roster. And while the idea of Montgomery playing third base has been tossed around, he still feels more comfortable at shortstop.

In terms of this upcoming draft, the word "pitcher" was being thrown around a lot.

“I think, you know, the pitching thing is really critical," Shirley said. "It's something I think every major league team in every room presently is probably trying to figure out the pitching landscape. And then you got to weigh those position players against that. So, I think it's a preference may be a pitcher, but that doesn't mean that if the right position is available that we will not walk down that road.”

Baseball teams could always use more pitching. And the Sox' farm system loaded with position players like Montgomery, Colas -- who was named to the MLB Futures game -- Jose Rodriguez, Yoelqui Céspedes, etc.

The focus should be pitching. Seeing as the White Sox also have just one left-handed pitcher on their active roster, a left-handed pitcher would be ideal.

According to Shirley, not only have they dived deep into all the possibilities and prospects that could be there on draft night, they have their eyes on some pitchers already.

“We had designated interview times," Shirley said. "There was a run where we had four SEC pitchers we liked that came in back to back sequences. We got about 25 minutes with them. So you see the polish of like four SEC starters in a row. You get to compare and contrast that process. And then a junior college kid that we really like walked in and you see the difference on how the player's raised and his baseball life, how much more polished some of the college guys are compared to a junior college kid or a high school kid."

Some SEC pitchers that are projected to go in the first round include Connor Prielipp (LHP, Alabama), Cade Horton (RHP, Oklahoma), Blade Tidwell (RHP, Tennessee).

If the Sox do select a pitcher in the first round, it's important to note that they will try to get someone who can make an immediate impact in the bullpen.

Shirley described the landscape of drafting a college player and how close to being a major leaguer they should be by the time they hit the field in the minors.

“I definitely think of the elite college pitchers, especially the guys you're considering in the first round," Shirley said. "I think across the landscape if you're taking the college pitcher, you're taking a guy that you feel like is as close within a one 1 to 2 year window of being there and helping you out.”

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