Should White Sox draft 100-mph H.S. flamethrower or go with college arm?

BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter

June 4, 2014 11:04PM

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Updated: June 5, 2014 12:59PM

LOS ANGELES — The White Sox historically have preferred college pitchers to high schoolers, but how tempting would it be to consider polished left-hander Brady Aiken of San Diego Cathedral Catholic and big right-hander Tyler Kolek of Shepherd, Texas, a 100-mph flamethrower believed to be the hardest- throwing high school pitcher ever?

While the Houston Astros at No.  1 and the Miami Marlins at No. 2 haven’t tipped their hands on whom they want, most experts believe Aiken — generally regarded as the top prospect in the bunch — won’t be available when the Sox pick at No. 3.

Kolek might be, and it would be tough to pass on that kind of arm, even if he’s not left-handed.

The Sox just might if North Carolina State junior lefty Carlos Rodon is still on the board. Even if Rodon is gone, the Sox — who say taking a pitcher is all but a certainty — might look to LSU righty Aaron Nola or Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland.

“High school pitchers are not a great [risk],’’ Sox scouting director Doug Laumann said. “So many things can happen . . . it’s still a 17- or 18-year-old kid who has never been away from home. You don’t know what their psychological development will be, how they’ll handle the money if they’re a high pick and all the pressures that go with that. Along with that, their physical development — the rash of Tommy John stuff going on now — makes it a gamble. With a high school kid, you know a little less about them.’’

Rodon was considered too good going into the season to be within the Sox’ reach at No. 3. But a combination of a 6-7 won-loss record (his ERA was 2.01) and several high-pitch-count games using a lot of wipeout sliders (to go with a mid-90s fastball) might have bumped him down. But not much — it’s still not out of the question he goes first when the draft starts at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“The high school kids have [gained ground on Rodon],’’ Laumann said. “It was a combination of his performance not being quite the way you expected [this spring], but he performed so well last summer and pitched in a couple of high-profile games where he was just dominant. He didn’t follow up this spring with the same type of dominance, and for that reason, people were kind of wondering what’s going on with him, but there’s no question he is still at the top of the class with anybody else you would consider.’’

Most draft experts rate Rodon as the best college lefty in the draft since David Price in 2007.

The Sox have $9.5 million to spend, with the No. 3 pick slotted at $5.7 million. They say Rodon being represented by agent Scott Boras won’t stop them if they believe he’s the best available.

“Our focus is always on the best player, but in this draft, the best player will be a pitcher for the first several rounds,’’ Laumann said.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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