(CBS) The MLB First-Year Player Draft begins Thursday night, and after subpar 2013 seasons, both the White Sox and Cubs sit in prime position to select a future star. The White Sox have the third overall pick, and the Cubs pick fourth.
While no one wants to tip their hand prior to the draft, we do know this: Both clubs’ are seriously considering taking a starting pitcher, but based on how the picks in front of them play out, there remains the chance that they could take a position player.
White Sox scouting director Doug Laumann told the Chicago Tribune as much, saying, “We’ve got pretty much a group there down to five or six — one of which is a position player and the other five are pitchers.”
While the Cubs haven’t been as direct in public comments and have left the door open to any choice — Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have insisted they’ll take the best player available at No. 4 overall — pitching is their biggest organizational need. The recent season-ending elbow injury of East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, one of the top prospects, means the Cubs selecting a pitcher is no surefire thing, but going with a young arm is still a logical route.
Here’s a few of the pitchers the White Sox and Cubs are considering:
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High (Calif.)
— Regarded by many as the top prospect in the draft, Aiken may not be available for the White Sox or Cubs, as the Astros (No. 1) appear to be focusing on pitching and Marlins (No. 2) are considering an arm as well. The 6-foot-4 Aiken has a mid-90s fastball and has been compared to Cole Hamels by some scouts.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, North Carolina State
— Rodon struck out 117 batters in 98 2/3 innings for N.C. State, and his fastball reaches the mid-90s consistently. He also has a quality slider to go along with the plus-fastball.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High (Texas)
— Known as a flamethrower, Kolek’s an intriguing prospect and has been linked to the White Sox. Scouts love his upside, and his fastball has hit triple digits, according to reports. As you’d expect from a high school pitcher, his off-speed pitches aren’t nearly as refined.
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
— Using a three-quarter arm angle, Nola fastball can reach the mid-90s, but he’s best known for his control. He went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA and 134 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 116 2/3 innings for LSU. Nola is considered to be college baseball’s best pitcher this season.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
— A more unlikely pick for the Cubs or White Sox, Freeland is projected to go somewhere around No. 10.
For what it’s worth, MLB.com projects the White Sox to take Kolek at No. 3 overall, while they predict the Cubs will take Michael Conforto, an outfielder from Oregon State.
Baseball America also projects Kolek to the White Sox at No. 3 and then Rodon to the Cubs at No. 4.
If the Cubs do choose to go with a position player, Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost also could be high on their board, according to the Tribune. They’ve also been linked to catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, a high schooler from California.