'Pivotal' draft upcoming for White Sox

“It’s a pivotal moment for the organization,” amateur scouting director Mike Shirley said. “You all know where we’re at.”

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Scouting director Mike Shirley at Guaranteed Rate Field Tuesday. (Daryl Van Schouwen)

For team-building, the draft is a big deal.

For the 26-67 White Sox, who have the No.  5 selection Sunday, it’s a really big deal.

“Pick 5 is the most important piece,” Mike Shirley, the Sox’ director of amateur scouting, said Tuesday. “You’ve got to get the first one right. It’s a pivotal moment for the organization. You guys all know where we’re at.”

Shirley said everyone from security guards at the ballpark to manager Pedro Grifol to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has reminded him how important the selection is.

“We all know how pivotal this is to get this right,” Shirley said.

The Sox need position players for a system that already has some pitching depth. College bats abound in this draft, but expert Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline projects the Sox will use their pick on high school shortstop/outfielder Konnor Griffin of Flowood, Mississippi.

Callis and other draft gurus all admit to some guessing as much as projecting, but they know Shirley’s leanings toward high school talent. He took top shortstop prospect Colson Montgomery 22nd overall out of high school in 2021. Montgomery is now at Triple-A Charlotte, a short step from the majors.

“Even if we chose to go the high school route, you anticipate those guys being here in three, 3½ years,” Shirley said. “It’s not as long as it used to be. . . . I love high school players. They can get here quicker today because of all the development training that goes on at younger ages. They are more developed than they used to be.”

Pipeline ranks Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana at No. 1 and has him going to the Guardians with the first pick. Outfielder/third baseman Charlie Condon (Georgia), first baseman/left-handed pitcher Jac Cagliane (Florida), middle infielder JJ Wetherholt (West Virginia) and lefty pitcher Hagen Smith (Arkansas) round out Pipeline’s top five.

But rankings vary, and who takes whom is far from cut and dried. Shirley said there are “12 to 15 really good players,” with a falloff after that.

“There’s a good blend of high school players in this group, a good blend of college position players and, most importantly, still two college pitchers involved in the process,” Shirley said. “We still have no view of who even may get to [No. 5] at this point, so we’re working hard, multiple directions. But we understand what 5 means to us.”

General manager Chris Getz, overseeing the second Sox rebuild in the last eight years, has replenished the farm system with prospects through trades, and he knows the draft is an essential part of the effort.

“Chris wants to get this organization right,” said Shirley, who’s in his fifth season on the job. “He’s investing so much into the process of building an organization that you don’t all get to see every day. That’s in scouting, that’s in development, that’s in our Latin operations. He’s taking the broad spectrum of being a general manager and investing in the totality of the organization. He’s fully invested in the draft. He’s investing in all these departments with his time, effort and energy to build this place from the ground up.”

Under Shirley, the Sox drafted All-Star left-hander Garrett Crochet, Montgomery (Pipeline’s No. 16 prospect), left-hander Noah Schultz (No. 18) and shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, the Sox’ seventh-ranked prospect.

He wants to keep a pretty good run going.

“It’s pivotal,” he said. “We all feel good with what’s happening in the minor leagues. To add [what the fifth pick] could possibly be to the next wave — it’s substantial. It’s a must. I understand where we are at.”

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