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White Sox get bargain on Sale at No. 13

White Sox get bargain on Sale at No. 13

CHICAGO -- There is one simple reason why Chris Sale ended up at Florida Gulf Coast University, not exactly considered one of college baseball's traditional powers.

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"They were the only one who gave me a shot as a Division I player," said Sale during a conference call on Monday night, after the White Sox made the left-handed hurler their top pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft with the No. 13 overall selection.

While Sale might not have drawn a great deal of interest coming out of Lakeland High School in Florida, business certainly picked up over the past three years courtesy of his consistently stellar performances for the Eagles. In fact, Sale was projected as one of the top pitchers available in the Draft, if not the top one, and many mock forecasts had Sale going in the first five picks.

So, the White Sox actually picked up a great deal with this polished and mature talent sliding down to 13. Then again, White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann explained recently how the first round was somewhat uncertain after the front three choices of Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Manny Machado.

"We've talked in previous conversations about the unpredictability of this draft in particular, but yeah, I was surprised," said Laumann of the team's ability to select Sale. "We had this guy targeted to a certain degree, but a lot of projections had him going ahead of us. We are very happy to get him in this position."

Sale, 21, was on the White Sox radar since they saw him pitch last summer in the Cape Cod League. The southpaw pitched in the All-Star Game there, after finishing 4-2 with a 1.47 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 55 innings for Yarmouth-Dennis.

"In terms of coming into focus of a shot to get him, that didn't come together until sometime today," Laumann said.

That Cape Cod League effort set up Sale for a tremendous junior campaign, leading the Eagles to a 38-20 record and first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound lanky hurler posted a sterling 11-0 record, 2.01 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 103 innings, while walking just 14. Sale leads all Division I pitchers in strikeouts, ranks fifth in wins and 10th in ERA and was named the Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year.

Almost more important to the White Sox than any of these honors or statistics, though, were games pitched this past season by Sale against Wichita State and Clemson. Sale struck out 11 and gave up two runs over six innings during a victory over Wichita State, and followed up that performance by fanning 10 and yielding two runs in eight innings as part of a win over Clemson.

"It was important to see him against better competition then the league he was playing in," Laumann said. "He fared just as well in that level of competition as he did in that conference."

Laumann agreed with a comparison of Sale's physical build to a lefty version of Jack McDowell or possibly even Dan Plesac, but added how the White Sox believe Sale will fill out. In looking at the MLB.com scouting reports concerning Sale, he sounds like a combination of current White Sox starters Mark Buehrle and John Danks.

His fastball touches 94, sitting comfortably at 90-92 mph. Sale's fastball also has a lot of sink and produces a great deal of ground balls, a quality often sought out by general manager Ken Williams in his hurlers to work in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. He possesses a potential wipeout curveball against left-handed hitters and a changeup he uses effectively against right-handers.

And Sale is a strike-thrower with quite possibly the best mound presence in the 2010 Draft class. Ask Sale who he emulates on the mound, though, and he provides a confident answer backing up his own abilities.

"You can't really pitch like anyone," Sale said. "Everyone has own style of pitching, as they do hitting. I don't try to pitch like [Cole] Hamels or [Randy] Johnson, throwing 100 mph or the nastiest breaking ball ever. I pitch my game."

As an example of getting a little bit of everything from Sale, Laumann said the hurler was throwing 88-92 mph in the first part of the last game where he scouted him. Late in the game, Sale had a no-hitter going and pushed the velocity into the 92-96 mph range.

Pitchability isn't a question for Sale, and signability doesn't seem to be an issue either judging by Sale's comments on Monday. The Criminal Justice major said he didn't get involved in the whole process when first selected by the Rockies in the 21st round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft coming out of high school, but sounds as if he's ready to join the White Sox before the signing deadline of Monday, Aug. 16, and prepared to make a quick move to the Majors.

"I said it once and I'll say it again -- no one gets better working out a deal," Sale said. "I'm a baseball player and that's what I like to do, so the sooner the better."

Upon signing with the White Sox, Sale is projected as a starter and will begin at either Class A Kannapolis or Class A Winston-Salem. The White Sox obviously will monitor his innings, while Sale plans to continue his conditioning in the interim, although taking some time off from throwing.

There could have been a tough decision for the White Sox to make if catcher Yasmani Grandal was available at No. 13, but he was taken by the Reds one pick earlier. The White Sox were targeting collegiate pitching, after shipping out six Minor League pitchers since the 2009 non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Jake Peavy and Juan Pierre, and were more than happy with Sale.

This feeling was shared by the pride of Florida Gulf Coast, who felt nervous all day until his name was called.

"When I saw the White Sox pick me, I was really excited," Sale said. "I'm ready to go out there and play."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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