When it came time to talk about the tall, skinny kid who threw like nobody else, the debate wasn't much of a debate at all. The Kansas City Royals held the fourth pick in the 2010 draft. The top three picks were gimmes: Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Manny Machado. Where they would go at No. 4 they weren't sure. They just knew it wouldn't be the tall, skinny kid.

Everyone in their draft room, recalled people privy to the conversation, agreed: Chris Sale was a relief pitcher. They loved what he did at Florida Gulf Coast, where he enfeebled batter after batter.

They appreciated how hard he threw, the action on his changeup and slider, everything about him. They just weren't taking a reliever with the fourth pick in the draft. That would be like picking a utilityman.

The greatest beauty of Sale, who may well be the best left-handed pitcher alive not named Clayton Kershaw, is the very thing that frightened off the Royals and the eight teams that followed them: that he is a complete anomaly, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound pipe cleaner with an 82-inch wingspan, a delivery that looks wrong bordering on painful and a way of combining the two to make hitters look perpetually foolish.

Now in his fifth big league season – yes, it's been that long – he is one of baseball's unquestioned aces, a high-inning, high-strikeout, high-groundball, low-walk, homer-scarce, left-handed monster. His success is an ode to the cooperation of scouts and major league personnel, and an organization that bucked conventional thinking to rely on its own wisdom.

Sale is baseball's worst nightmare: the player with no comps. Scouts like to give their bosses comparable players, if only to give a general outline as to who he resembles. Sale's closest comp may be Randy Johnson, who's only the biggest freak baseball ever has seen. Nobody else fits Sale's mixture of body, sidearm action and mean stuff. And so in the days leading up to the 2010 draft, his name came up in another room, as an answer to the question: "Who can help this team win now?"

Kenny Williams, now the Chicago White Sox’s president and then their general manager, wanted help for what ended up an ill-fated playoff push. Someone pulled up video of Sale, though the White Sox, picking at No. 13, didn’t expect him to drop to them.

Only the Royals skipped past him, as did others because of the body or arm action or maybe both. Kids named Barret Loux (Arizona) and Karsten Whitson (San Diego) and Deck McGuire (Toronto) went ahead of Sale. He is the classic draft second-guess, every team jealous that Chicago guessed right.

The White Sox's front office and evaluators used slow-motion video of Sale's delivery to assess different potential danger areas: where his arm sat at foot strike, how well he cleared it, where it was upon landing. That allayed fears.

Pitching coach Don Cooper, respected across the sport for his historically healthy rotations, broke down the same video of Sale and gave his seal of approval. As long as the White Sox could get Sale on board with their shoulder-intensive exercise program – and he has proven among the team's most diligent with maintenance work – they believed his arm would hold up despite not looking the part.