Focus on draft intensifies for White Sox

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Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal. (USA Today)

DETROIT — White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler knows he’s under a microscope these days. So it goes as the MLB Draft approaches for an organization with the fewest wins in the majors.

So it goes for an organization whose rebuilding project has been fueled by trades for top prospects and international signings more than recent drafts.

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So it goes a week after right-hander Carson Fulmer, the eighth overall pick in 2015, was demoted to Class AAA. This situation unfolding not long after third baseman Jake Burger, taken 11th overall in 2017, tore his left Achilles tendon a second time in two months.

The Sox have the fourth pick by virtue of 95 losses in 2017, and fans will be watching closely for a reward June 4.

“Understandable,’’ said Hostetler, who’s approaching his third draft as Sox scouting director. “When you pick that high, people know the names a little more. There is a sense of hope and adding a premium talent to the organization. When the stuff is not going as well on the big-league field, you have to divert your attention as fans somewhere else, and in the next week it’s the draft.’’

The Sox also have the 46th and 81st picks near the top of the second and third rounds. For that first one, most mock drafts generally rate Auburn right-hander Casey Mize, Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm, Florida right-hander Brady Singer and Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal as the top five prospects. The Sox have their top five or six players pegged and will take the best player available, Hostetler said.

“This is a really deep draft,’’ Hostetler said. “I’m not sure there are many Bryce Harpers or Stephen Strasburgs, but I can tell you I’m really excited about the prospects of our second-round pick. Our second-round pick is going to be pretty good.’’

The Sox are operating with a $10.6 million bonus pool, the sixth-highest in baseball, a figure that means as much if not more than place in the draft. Maneuvering bonus money allows teams flexibility to add more impact players.

They have selected a collegian first in 12 of the last 15 drafts and haven’t taken a high school player since outfielder Courtney Hawkins, who was released by the organization last month, in 2012. Hostetler said they’ll likely take another collegian, but the Sox still are considering one high school player, perhaps outfielder Jarred Kelenic of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Aside from Mize figuring to go first to the Tigers, the top of the first round is not firm. The Sox are known to like the 5-7 Madrigal, a second baseman with shortstop ability, and could pounce on him if he’s available.

“Madrigal is a very, very good, solid baseball player,’’ Hostetler said. “When you watch him in person, he jumps out at you from the standpoint of how technical and skilled he is. Does a little of everything well and has position versatility that helps, as well. Whoever gets him is going to get a really good player.’’

And don’t rule out a pitcher such as Singer, the best college hurler on the board.

“If a pitcher is the best player, we’re going to take him,’’ Hostetler said. “We’ve got a couple of pitchers in that mix, guys who can impact our club for a long time.’’

Hostetler said he has a feel for “what player I’d love to add to the organization. We’ll see if, one, he gets to us and, two, if he’s the best guy at the time.’’

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, vice president Ken Williams, general manager Rick Hahn, assistant GM Jeremy Haber and director of player development Chris Getz all will have input on the top choice.

“It is a complete collaborative effort,’’ Hostetler said. “There are different layers to it. Ultimately, it is Jerry’s pick — he finances it all.’’

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