White Sox know there’s no sure thing in MLB Draft

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Bears first-round draft pick Roquan Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch to much applause before the Brewers-White Sox game Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Time will tell whether crowds still are applauding the young linebacker a few years down the road.

Pro sports drafts are part science, part art form. Luck is often the difference between a Hall of Famer and a flameout.

The Sox will have their chance to find a future star with the No. 4 overall pick when the Major League Baseball draft begins Monday. Some good luck might mean a future World Series; some bad luck might mean more rebuilding.

When it comes to the draft, all teams get it wrong far more often than they get it right.

‘‘Michael Jordan went third,’’ said Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, a reference to the 1984 NBA Draft that saw Akeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie drafted ahead of Jordan.

The Sox have fueled their rebuild through trades and international signings more than the draft, and standout first-round picks on the South Side have been scarce.

Going back to 2000, only Chris Sale stands out from a crowd of first-round picks that includes Kris Honel, Royce Ring, Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Lance Broadway, Kyle McCulloch and Aaron Poreda.

The jury is still out on the Sox’ most recent first-round selections, but some bad luck already has started creeping in.

Third baseman Jake Burger, taken 11th overall in 2017, tore his left Achilles tendon twice this year. Pitcher Zack Burdi, one of the Sox’ two first-round picks in 2016, had Tommy John surgery last July and might not pitch this season. Catcher Zack Collins, the 10th overall pick in 2016, has a load of potential but struggled offensively in his first two pro seasons, batting .229 with 175 strikeouts in 506 at-bats.

‘‘Burger, Burdi — there isn’t anybody who can predict,’’ Hostetler said. ‘‘Even Carlos Rodon was set back with injuries. You can’t predict the injuries, and that’s one thing you chalk up as part of the game. You don’t beat yourself up much.’’

Sox fans are familiar with the 2015 and 2014 first-round picks, pitchers Carson Fulmer and Rodon. Rodon hasn’t played yet in 2018 after offseason shoulder surgery, and the Sox demoted Fulmer last month with an 8.07 ERA.


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Other first-round picks of the last decade include Tim Anderson, Keon Barnum, Courtney Hawkins and Keenyn Walker.

‘‘The misses frustrate us, too,’’ Hostetler said. ‘‘But I can promise everyone involved that nobody in this game, of all the 30 teams, is going to be perfect in their drafts.’’

Hostetler’s right, of course, and drafting is easy in hindsight. Every major-league team has a laundry list of first-round draft picks they wish they could have back.

In 1985, the Sox took catcher Kurt Brown at No. 5 and watched the Pirates select Barry Bonds at No. 6. They took Scott Christman over Torii Hunter in 1993, Jason Dellaero over Lance Berkman in 1997, Joe Borchard over Chase Utley in 2000 and Jared Mitchell over Mike Trout in 2009.

‘‘We’re trying to predict the future here in what a kid is going to be in five, six, seven years,’’ Hostetler said. ‘‘We just don’t have that crystal ball. That crystal ball is not magically going to appear where you can stare into it and say: ‘That is who we should have taken.’ ’’

The draft Monday will mark the fourth time in five years the Sox will have a top-10 pick.

To offer some perspective, the Cubs had top-10 picks four years in a row (2011-14) and took Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber — all major-leaguers and World Series champions.

Contributing: Daryl Van Schouwen

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