- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thank you for the No. 3 pick in Thursday night's draft. Hope to never see you here again.
That would be the Chicago White Sox's sentiment heading into Major League Baseball's First-Year Amateur Draft on Thursday night. Their high selection spot is relative to their 99-loss season from a year ago, but offseason changes have already shown that they aren't likely to select this high next year.
The White Sox weren't trying to trade a bad season for a high draft pick this year, but since they're here, was it good timing to see their won-loss record go south in 2013?
The answers to that particular query seem to contradict. While the 2014 baseball draft class seems more talented than in recent years (good), the newest collective bargaining agreement, which went into place in 2012, is believed to have watered down the college junior class this year (bad).
(Players can be drafted after high school, but for those that enroll in college, they are not eligible to be drafted again until they are juniors.)
"Since people knew the agreement was changing, you saw a lot of kids bought out of college under the last year of that old agreement," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "In other words, this year's (would-be) college juniors, many of them were signed as high school seniors with over slot deals. ... It's not a shock. We knew this would happen with the change in the agreement."
Changes essentially put a cap on draft spending, so high school seniors in 2011 knew they had a better chance of a bigger financial score then as opposed to now.
How much talent was sucked out of this year's draft is up for debate. Whatever it was, many still aren't complaining about it. There was some good that came out of the changes, especially for a team like the White Sox.
"The newer system allows for more of a level playing field," executive vice president Kenny Williams said. "Less games can be played, certainly by the higher revenue teams, and it gives you an opportunity to actually look at the draft and actually take the best player when he comes up on the board without worrying about some of the other peripheral things."
Crucial to the "peripheral things" is a player's signability. The White Sox won't have to be scared away from high-level talent that would command a higher signing price, like they had been in year's past. They feel they are better positioned now to take the best available talent regardless of financial commitment.
Three players stand out in this draft class -- college pitcher Carlos Rodon and high school pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek. The White Sox would gladly take Rondon with the third pick, since he is projected to reach the major leagues sooner than the other two, but Aiken and Kolek could have more upside.
The White Sox could end up with the chance to land Kolek, a hard-throwing right-hander from Texas, whose fastball has reached as high as 100 mph, but usually throws in the mid to high 90-mph range. Aiken, from the San Diego area, has a fastball in the mid-90s, a biting curve, an impressive changeup and already uses a cutter, something that has appeal to pitching coach Don Cooper.
Then again, the White Sox could step outside of what is regarded as the top three pitchers and take LSU right-hander Aaron Nola, who could rise the major leagues quickly. Nola mixes a mid-90s fastball with a changeup and a slider from a low arm slot that allowed him to dominate the last two seasons.
"There have been other years where it's been more clear cut," Williams said about drafting in a high spot. "This is a difficult year to have the three, four, five pick."
But if difficult means splitting hairs among talented players, it's a good problem to have. And if the talent they come away with Thursday means not returning to the top three spots in a long time, the White Sox will gladly take that as well.