The MLB first year player draft gets underway Thursday with the first round and the White Sox are right up near the top of the draft board picking third overall. It has been a rarity for the White Sox organization to be picking this high. In fact this is the first time the Sox will have a top ten pick since 2008 when they took Gordon Beckham eighth overall.
While the MLB draft is largely a crapshoot, the top of the draft usually produces some of the best players, so the key is to make sure you pick the right one. The number three spot has been a tricky one over the last 30 years but recently has produced the likes of Manny Machado, Evan Longoria and Eric Hosmer. Go back a little farther and you see names like Troy Glaus, Matt Williams and Bobby Witt. However there are also the likes of Phil Humber, Eric Munson and Cory Patterson in there as well.
As I mentioned above the White Sox don’t have a ton of experience picking high in the draft. After Beckham at number eight in 2008 you need to go all the way back to 1990 for another top ten pick, which also happened to be the last time the Sox had a top five pick. That year they took Alex Fernandez with the fourth overall selection. Fernandez won 107 games in his Major League career, 79 of them with the White Sox and was a key part of a pitching staff that helped the Sox win the AL West in 1993.
The year before the Fernandez pick the Sox took Frank Thomas at number seven overall. That one worked out pretty well, as did their pick at number ten in 1988, current manager Robin Ventura. The year before that the Sox took Jack McDowell at the number five overall spot. With four consecutive top ten picks between 1987 and 1990 the White Sox took four players who would become cornerstones of their team in the 90’s and would combine to win two MVP’s, a Cy Young award, five gold gloves and one plaque in Cooperstown.
That is why it is so important for the Sox to get someone this year that will be a key part in the next successful White Sox team. Rick Hahn has already done some solid work via trades to add what could be key pieces to the next Sox championship team. Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson were added in the last year and Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were signed to long term deals. The team has already looked dramatically improved from last year and while there will be more moves to come, this draft pick is a key one. The Sox will hopefully not be picking this high again for some time so Hahn must make this one count.
The consensus around baseball is that the top three prospects are all pitchers, which bodes well for the Sox because that is what they need. The organization lacks depth at the pitching spot, especially starting pitching. Of the Sox top ten prospects only Tyler Danish and Chris Beck are starting pitchers and Danish is likely two to three years away still and Beck has seen a big drop-off in strikeouts at AA Birmingham. Erik Johnson was supposed to be the next young Sox starting pitcher but after struggling with the Sox was sent back to AAA Charlotte where things have not gone much better. The Sox badly need a top level pitching prospect and this draft is the place to get it.
Since the 1990 draft the White Sox first round pitcher picks are a rouges gallery of misses. The Sox have taken 22 pitchers in the first round since then and nine of them (41%) never made it to the majors. These are the ones that did:
- Scott Ruffcorn (-2.5 WAR)
- Chris Clemons (5 career games)
- Bobby Seay (never played for Sox)
- Rocky Biddle (-3.1 WAR)
- Jim Parque (30-33, 5.21 ERA for Sox)
- Aaron Myette (-2.6 WAR, traded for Royce Clayton)
- Kip Wells (20-21, 5.14 ERA for Sox)
- Matt Ginter (63 games for Sox with 5.43 ERA, traded for Timo Perez)
- Royce Ring (Never played for Sox, traded for Roberto Alomar)
- Gio Gonzalez (Traded TWICE by Sox, 73-52 3.64 ERA)
- Lance Broadway (19 games, 2 starts for Sox)
- Aaron Poreda (10 games for Sox, traded for Jake Peavy)
As you can see that is not a pretty list although they at least hit on their last pick in Chris Sale. Gio Gonzalez is a pretty good pitcher too, just not for the White Sox. After that the next best guy is probably Jim Parque, who was basically a replacement level player.
Will the Sox pick on Thursday be the next Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez or Chris Sale or will he be the next Kris Honel? I’m hoping for the first one. Whoever he is will hopefully be a part of the next Sox rotation to take them into the postseason.
Photo Courtesy MLB Network