This was somewhat of a miserable exercise.
With the 2014 MLB Draft rapidly approaching and the White Sox selecting in the Top 5 for the first time since 1990, I thought now would be as good of a time as any to look back at the who/what/why of the team's draft history.
For the purpose of this exercise, we're going to go back to the year 2000. Why? Because any earlier than that and we're talking about players who, for the most part, are nearing the ends of their careers (if they ended up Major Leaguers in the first place). Or at the very least, they're nearing the end of their primes. Also, we're only going as far as the 2010 draft because any more recent than that and we're getting to players whose futures are still somewhat in doubt.
So without further ado:
2010 — Chris Sale (13th overall)
This one's easy. Entering the fifth year of his career, Sale has already accumulated more career WAR than any White Sox first round pick since Alex Fernandez in 1990 (picked fourth overall).
At 25, Sale is just entering his prime and as long as he stays healthy, there's a very real possibility that Sale fronts the White Sox's rotation for years to come.
When the White Sox took sale 13th overall out of Florida Gulf Coast, he was a typical "low ceiling/rush to the majors" kind of guy. ESPN.com's Keith Law, for one, didn't love him, ranking him 47th overall on his big board, and writing this about him prior to the draft:
If you like Chris Sale, you see a 6'6" left-hander with an arm slot close to Randy Johnson's, a plus fastball and change, and a potential front-line starter. If you're a skeptic, you see a sidearming lefthander without an average breaking ball and a long arm action that will be tough to repeat 100-plus times an outing. I'm more in the latter camp than the former, and I think Sale's pro future is reasonably likely to come in the bullpen.
Law wasn't alone. Per Project Prospect:
Chris Sale is an extremely productive left-handed pitcher with advanced control and good stuff. He can crank his fastball up into the mid-90’s with outstanding movement and his change has a chance to be a very good pitch. He has a chance to rack up high strikeout totals, low walk rates and good ground ball rates. If he reaches his upside, he’s a very valuable player. But Sale’s mechanics put him at a very high level of injury risk. If you believe that a pitching motion can contribute to injuries, it’s likely that Sale’s will. He appears unlikely to be able to handle a consistent starter’s workload. His long-term home appears to be in the bullpen. I’d have a hard time taking a closer in round one.
What these guys and other got wrong, of course, was that Sale's slider improved far more than anyone projected. Law was way off on his grade, saying the slider was a 40 (on the 20-80 scale) with a future rating of 45. Other scouts had the slider with a future rating a little higher, but either way, scouts were off on how well his pitches would translate at the Major League level and the White Sox couldn't be happier.
Career WAR — 18.1
White Sox WAR — 18.1
2009 — Jared Mitchell (23rd overall)
Baseball America ranked Mitchell as its No. 27 prospect overall going into that year's draft, and had this to say about the former LSU football player:
The best athlete in college baseball, Mitchell is an electric 6-foot, 192-pounder with plus-plus speed and power potential. He was hitting a career-high .325 with a week to go in the regular season, and he has dramatically improved his plate discipline. He still strikes out a lot because he concentrates so much on taking pitches that he often falls behind in the count. His swing needs work too, as he'll have to spread out for more balance and use less of an uppercut in pro ball. Mitchell flies down the line from the left side and steals bases on sheer speed, and he'll be a terror once he gets better reads and jumps ... He'll need more development time than most college players, but he also has the potential to become the next Carl Crawford.
Mitchell, of course, hasn't developed like the White Sox had hoped. The Sox, as you'll see going forward, don't have a strong history of developing raw hitters, so whether they or Mitchell is at fault for his shortcomings, the chances of him becoming a Major Leaguer at this point are all but gone.
Mitchell is 25 and currently toiling away at Triple-A Charlotte, where he's hitting .206/.372/.341. For his Minor League career, he's hitting .220/.334/.367 across five levels.
Career WAR — N/A
White Sox WAR — N/A
2008 — Gordon Beckham (8th overall)
Beckham has never quite lived up to the expectations that came with being the No. 8 pick in the 2008 draft, but as far as this list goes, he's actually the second most successful Major Leaguer (which speaks to the ineptitude of the White Sox's recent draft history).
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus wrote a great overview of Beckham's potential and failure to live up to expectations back in 2012 that included a few interesting industry quotes from back when he was viewed as a top prospect.
“Beckham has the rare potential to become a middle-of-the-order run producer who also plays in the middle of the infield. He has a pro's understanding of the strike zone, a quick bat, and at least average power coming out of his smallish frame, with one scout calling him a right-handed Chase Utley. Beyond the tools, he's a max-effort gamer with great defensive instincts and a knack for coming through in key situations.” –Kevin Goldstein (February 2009)
“Beckham has enough bat to stay anywhere. Until the White Sox got Alexis Rios, I thought they should think seriously about putting Alexei Ramirez in center and Beckham at short. Ramirez is more athletic than Beckham, so Beckham will probably play third base. I do think he could play a solid shortstop if needed.” –Jim Callis (Baseball America chat)
“I like his chances to improve his rate stats over their 2009 levels, and I think he'll be a plus defender at second ... but I wish they'd give him a crack at the shortstop job, as he's one of the best instinctive fielders there I've seen.” –Keith Law (March 2010)
Parks also touched on what has long been an issue, and that's the White Sox's propensity to rush hitters through the minor leagues, something they clearly did with Beckham. Whether that was a large contributing factor to his lack of production throughout his career is unclear, but it's somewhat of a concern when you look at current prospects like Micah Johnson being rushing to Triple-A after only a short time at lower levels.
There is another component here that I think might get missed, and it’s a vital part of any discussion about failure. Beckham reached the majors after only 59 games in the minors, and one could argue that his mature physical skill set designed that timetable, and the trajectory and speed were justified as a result. I can see that case, especially after witnessing his rookie campaign where he looked the part. But development isn’t just tied to tool-based maturity, and the minor leagues are the perfect classroom to learn the nuances of failure, setback, adjustment, and response. Being allowed to fail in order to learn how to handle failure is just as important as learning how to hit a curveball or how to throw a changeup.
Career WAR — 6.9
White Sox WAR — 6.9
2007 — Aaron Poreda (25th overall)
You might remember (but probably don't) that Poreda recently pitching one-third of an inning against the White Sox. After being out of baseball since 2009, he resurfaced with the Rangers this season and faced two White Sox hitters during their road trip to Texas in April, walking one. He was sent back down to Triple-A late last week after compiling a 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings with the Rangers.
Poreda was Baseball America's No. 37 prospect when he came out as a junior from San Francisco, and here's what they said about him leading up to the draft.
Poreda works off the fastball almost as much as UC Riverside's James Simmons (No. 47), and like Simmons, it's his only above-average pitch. While his fastball was flat and 89-90 mph in his 2007 opener, he has been consistently in the low 90s since then, touching 96-97 and regularly hitting 94. He throws plenty of strikes (though he lacks true command), and with his 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame, he should prove durable.
Poreda spent three seasons in the White Sox's farm system, and was still at least somewhat of a prospect in 2009 when he reached Triple-A at the age of 22. In 2009 at Double-A Birmingham, he walked 35 hitters and had 69 strikeouts in 64.1 innings, showing he could miss bats but also miss the strike zone quite a bit. The Sox promoted him to Triple-A and he later saw a short stint with the Major League club before being dealt to San Diego in the package that netted them Jake Peavy. He's now 27 and trying to make a comeback after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2012.
Career WAR — 0.7
White Sox WAR — 0.4
2006 — Kyle McCulloch (29th overall)
You might remember McCulloch from ... aww, who am I kidding? You don't remember McCulloch. He was Baseball America's No. 16 prospect that year but fell to the White Sox at No. 29. From their report:
McCulloch's stuff isn't as sexy as the pitchers ahead of him on this list, though he's a better bet to reach his ceiling as a No. 3 or 4 starter than most. "He's a safe pick," a regional crosschecker said. "You know he's a big leaguer. Maybe you get Brad Radke out of him."
McCulloch toiled away in the minors for a number of years before finally reaching Triple-A in 2010 at the age of 25. After a 5.94 ERA in 47 innings, the Sox finally gave up on him and he spent the next season in Cincinnati's system and has been out of baseball ever since.
Career WAR — N/A
White Sox WAR — N/A
2005 — Lance Broadway (15th overall)
All you need to know about Broadway is that he was eventually traded to the Mets for Ramon Castro. Yes, Ramon Castro.
OK, that's not all you need to know. But for a 15th overall pick, he was clearly a disappointment. Here's what BA had to say about him ahead of the draft:
Broadway was tied for the NCAA Division I lead in wins (12) and ranked among the leaders in ERA (1.94), strikeouts (125) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.1). He succeeds more with polish than overwhelming stuff. His fastball is just average, but he has a plus curveball that he can locate in and out of the strike zone. His delivery and command are solid, and his makeup is a huge asset. He's developing a changeup and is gaining more confidence in the pitch. He has a strong, lean frame and there may be a little more velocity in him.
He reached the majors in 2007 and pitched reasonably well as a 23-year-old in an extremely limited sample size (10.1 innings) and got a few cups of coffee over the next few years before the Sox dealt him to New York.
He's been out of the league since 2010.
Career WAR — 0.0
White Sox WAR — 0.0
2004 — Josh Fields (18th overall)
Ah, Josh Fields. Remember him? Of course you do. The heir apparent to Joe Crede at third base, Fields came out of Oklahoma State as Baseball America's No. 3 collegiate power hitter.
He reached the Majors by 2006 (another rush job for a hitting prospect) and showed some signs of potential in 2007, when he hit 23 home runs in 418 plate appearances and even got a Rookie of the Year vote.
Injuries, a terrible K/BB ratio and an overall inability to put the ball in play on a consistent basis led to his downfall. After appearing in 100 games during that 2007 season, he never played more than 79 games in a season again and in 2009, the White Sox dealt him to Kansas City with Chris Getz for the immortal Mark Teahen. (This list just gets more and more depressing, doesn't it?)
Fields jumped around from system to system for a while, from Kansas City to Colorado to Los Angeles to Philadelphia, but found himself out of a Major League system after last season. At the age of 31, he's currently playing in a professional league in Mexico.
Career WAR — -1.1
White Sox WAR — -1.4
2003 — Brian Anderson (15th overall)
We go from the heir apparent to Joe Crede to the heir apparent to Aaron Roward. This is fun, isn't it?
Anderson arguably had the most potential of any player on this list when coming up through the White Sox's system. Baseball America listed him as the team's No. 1 prospect after the 2004 season and he topped out at No. 37 in all of baseball that year.
He joined the White Sox for good in 2006 after Roward was traded to Philadelphia for Jim Thome and it was pretty obvious from the early goings that he had trouble hitting the ball where the fielders wouldn't catch it. The White Sox gave him ample opportunity to succeed (862 plate appearances across five seasons) before they finally cut the cord after he put together a .225/.288/.364 line for his career.
He was dealt to Boston in 2009 for Mark Kotsay and continued to toil away before trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher, tossing minor league innings for Kansas City and New York before finding himself out of baseball after the 2011 season.
Career WAR — -0.1
White Sox WAR — -0.1
2002 — Roger "Royce" Ring (18th overall)
Ring always profiled as a closer and was drafted back in the day when potential closers were actually drafted in the first round. From BA:
Ring is the nation's best closer. He has three pitches he can throw effortlessly for strikes: an 88-91 mph fastball that tops at 94, a knee-buckling curveball and a changeup that has improved significantly this year. He resembles Randy Myers with his arm action, body type (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and mound demeanor. He is a bulldog and wants the ball with games on the line. He led the Mountain West Conference with nine saves in 2001 in his introduction to the closer role, and his 17 saves this season ranked second in the country. A 41st-round pick in 1999 out of a San Diego high school, Ring should be picked late in the first round this year.
Ring is a good example of how little the White Sox cared about their prospects during that era. Even with the "future closer" label and the amount of time and money invested in an first-round pick, the Sox dealt him to the Mets after just a little more than 100 minor league innings. Their return? Future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar — who happened to be 35 years old at the time.
Luckily for the White Sox, this one didn't bite them too bad as Ring never lived up to expectations. He had a career ERA of 5.29 across five seasons with the Mets, Padres, Braves and Yankees and hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2010. He also spent time in the minor leagues with a number of teams and hung around until 2012.
Career WAR: -0.9
White Sox WAR: N/A
2001 — Kris Honel (16th overall)
If nothing else, one can say about Honel that he was a trooper. He spent seven seasons in the White Sox's farm system after they took him out of Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox and he never pitched about Double-A.
He showed flashes of potential on several occasions early in his career, climbing all the way up to No. 55 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list after the 2003 season. But that's where he stalled.
The White Sox finally gave up on him after the 2007 season and he spent one season in the Cardinals' farm system before finally finding himself out of baseball. He pitched in Independent leagues until 2011.
Honel — it should be noted given the Sox's current draft prospects — is the most recent high school pitcher drafted in the first round by the White Sox.
Career WAR — N/A
White Sox WAR — N/A
2000 — Joe Borchard (12th overall)
Borchard is best remembered for hitting the longest home run in U.S. Cellular Field history, a 504-foot shot in 2004 that I was unable to find a video of.
Borchard's raw power was always the appeal with him coming out of Stanford, where he also played quarterback. (side note: Between Mitchell, Fields and Borchard, the White Sox drafted three guys in the 2000s who also played college football).
That power never translated to the Major League level, however. After hitting 27 home runs at Double-A in 2001, Borchard topped out at No. 12 in Baseball America's Top 100, but when the White Sox called him up in 2002 and beyond, it was a big pile of blah.
Borchard hit 12 home runs in his White Sox career (including that 504-foot blast), and in 2006 — after the White Sox shuffled him between the Majors and Minors a number of times — they dealt him to Seattle for Matt Thornton, a deal that worked out rather well for them. Borchard finished his Major League career with 26 home runs, also spending time with the Marlins, and hung around in different organizations until 2010.
Career WAR — -1.5
White Sox WAR — -0.7
As you can see, outside of Sale and maybe Beckham, the White Sox haven't gotten a whole lot of production out of first round picks over the last decade-plus. With their highest draft pick in recent history coming up on Thursday, as well as a few promising recent prospects sitting in the system currently, depending on what you think about Tim Anderson and Courtney Hawkins, we'll see if that trend changes soon.
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