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High-school draft gambles could pay for Cubs, Sox

I don't watch a whole lot of college baseball, and now that my sports role is reduced at the paper, I don't see much high-school ball, either.

Other than the odd YouTube clip here and there, I haven't seen Albert Almora and Courtney Hawkins play baseball. Nor have I any of the other kids that are being drafted by Major League Baseball clubs this summer. I'm no draft expert. But I read a lot of stuff from some guys like Kevin Goldstein and Jim Callis who very much are. They're wrong sometimes, of course, especially when it comes to impossible tasks like trying to determine which draftees will be stars and which won't, but they do know their stuff.

So when a Goldstein tweets of the White Sox's first-round pick, high-school outfielder Courtney Hawkins, "GREAT pick for the White Sox. Shouldn't have been there." Sox fans could go ahead and take that as a good sign. And when Goldstein's very next tweet read "Hey, Chicago, you've done over the last 90 minutes," the Cubs fan smiled inside a little.

According to the mock drafts of Goldstein and Callis, it wasn't a surprise that the Cubs landed their own high-school outfielder, Albert Almora, sixth overall. They both pegged it exactly. In fact, several guys within the industry seemed to sense the Cubs would get Almora. On one hand, it's a bit worrying that the Cubs were so keen with using the sixth pick on a guy in whom none of the top five teams seemed terribly interested. On the other, I do trust Theo Epstein and company. They really love Almora (one exec told Goldstein they'd draft him first overall if they had that pick) and they got him. Hard to be upset with that.

But the Sox, who aren't exactly expert drafters in the eyes of most analysts, may have gotten a legitimate steal in Hawkins. Goldstein had him going ninth overall, to Miami; Callis had him going to the Rockies 10th overall. The Sox got him with the 13th pick. It's as surprising as the Bears drafting Shea McClellin several weeks ago, only for very different reasons.

If you're ready to begin a coutdown for when Almora and Hawkins are superstar outfielders on either end of Chicago, stop yourself. They're baseball draft picks, meaning by definition they're quite likely to amount to nothing. Worse, they're high schoolers. There's a much bigger chance that neither ever sticks in the big leagues than there is that they both become All-Stars.

What Almora and Hawkins are is youngsters with raw talent and potentially high ceilings. In other words, they're exactly what the Cubs' and White Sox's farm systems badly need. And I didn't need the help of Callis or Goldstein to figure that last part out.

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