Scouting the Chicago White Sox System: an In Depth Analysis

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We’re coming up on t-minus two weeks until the MLB trade deadline. Time to think about the future direction of the Chicago White Sox. And that includes minor league prospects, who could be dealt if the Sox are indeed buyers at the end of the month. Director of Amateur Scouting Doug Laumann knows as much as anyone about the Sox prospects currently being developed.

Since assuming the leadership role in 2008, his first round picks have been Gordon Beckham (2009), Jared Mitchell (2008) and Chris Sale (2010). Like Meatloaf sang “two out of three ain’t bad,” and 2/3 are contributing on the Sox roster already today. And if not for Mitchell’s knee injury, it could be 3/3.

The questions have been summated, and some of Laumann’s responses were paraphrased in the interests of brevity.

On drafting guys with high potential upside, but contact issues: Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker

“I think there is a tradeoff. Typically where we have picked in the past and especially here in the last couple years further down the line, I know with Jared we were picking in the low 20s and this year we were picking in the 40s, to find the one player with the athleticism and the total package, (typically they won’t fall that far in the draft)…As scouts the only thing we can look at is tools. It’s hard to predict the consistency.”

Was there a California theme in this year’s draft?

“I think it just might be a coincidence…There are a lot of factors that go into that, including weather. It was a bad spring in the East and Midwest.”

Weighing the best player available strategy versus signability

Ideally you always get the best player available, but there’s a point you have to temper that. The team puts a value on a player and sometimes that player wants that plus two million, for example. Signability has to match up with where the Sox value them as a player and if it doesn’t, typically the Sox won’t select that player.

Walker was a little over slot, but they valued him as a player. Laumann mentioned Brandon Parrent (30th round) as a lower pick that wanted more money, but the Sox gave it to him because they valued him as better than a 30th round pick. He also mentioned recently signed Jeff Soptic (3rd round) in a similar manner. (Soptic signed for 40K over slot)

Matching player with value was a theme because as Laumann said they’re “Not drafting in a vacuum.”

“Maybe someday they’ll get the system fixed where you can get the player and not have to worry about (other things like signability).”

Pitchers that leave and do poorly like in the Jake Peavy tradeHe didn’t want to imply the Sox have harder working or better people, but sometimes it’s that they noticed something in a pitcher’s delivery or makeup that allowed them to get through to that player better. Who the players are around and the opportunities they’re given largely determine their level of success.

He compared Dexter Carter to Gary Majewski, saying the Sox are starting to see signs of getting Carter back to where he was before the Peavy trade. (Majewski did well with the Sox before being traded to the Dodgers in 2001 and bombed with the Dodgers that year, similar to Carter with the Padres. He came back to the Sox and they got him back to where he was with them and went on to pitch for a few years in the Majors.)

On drafting players with weaknesses that the organization is good at correcting

“We try to work hand in hand with our player development.”

You can’t have a disconnect between amateur scouting and player development so scouts will ask questions regarding players with player development that go something like this: Is it something that you can fix? Is it something you can make better? Is it something you can make him more consistent with? How easy is it to fix?

If a scout notices a guy is over striding, for example, they can see if they can fix that and make him a better pitcher.

Laumann brought up Daniel Hudson as an example of ‘fixing’ a guy. He didn’t have a lot of success in college, but the Sox recognized some things in his delivery and once he got with the Sox pitching people he made the necessary adjustments and it worked out. Obviously it doesn’t always work that well, but that’s the idea.

Making scouting inroads in Latin America

“We’re getting close.”

“Kenny has made an investment personnel wise in Venezuela and in the Dominican to get some former players that we have on the ground in those areas. We think it’s very important to have people that have an investment in the White Sox so we know they’re doing the right thing and understand the system over there.”

Paul M. Banks would like to thank Doug for taking the time to talk to all of us and White Sox Manager of Public Relations Marty Maloney for setting this up. Also, check out the other sites present at the conference call: South Side Sox (Jim Margalus), Gaper’s Block (Jenny Zelle), and South Side Hit Girl (Cheryl Norman). And especially my Chicago Now blog brother Future Sox (Dan Santoramita) for transcribing the call.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports You can follow him on Twitter

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