The MLB Draft provides an opportunity to not only grab players expected to become above average major league contributors, but also to provide important depth throughout the system.
While the White Sox have trotted out or continue to trot out quad-A afterthoughts like Jerry Sands and Avisail Garcia, as well as broken veterans like Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins, the need for depth throughout the franchise has become even more obvious than it was during the offseason.
The 2016 draft isn’t going to fix the White Sox’ depth problems this year or next, but the importance of having players behind the players behind the players who are out on the field every day is clear nonetheless.
The White Sox grabbed Zack Collins, Zack Burdi and Alec Hansen on Day 1 of the draft last Friday, and while the likelihood of players selected over the weekend becoming contributing members of the organization lessens with each passing round, each pick provides an opportunity for the Sox to strengthen the depth of their system.
So what did they end up with?
White Sox low-key sorting by OBP and drafting.
— Will Siskel (@willsiskel) June 10, 2016
Will sent out that tweet shortly after the White Sox took Jameson Fisher in the fourth round on Saturday. Fisher is an outfielder out of Southeastern Louisiana University who hit .424/.558/.692 with 54 walks and 31 strikeouts in 276 plate appearances as a junior.
Those numbers are ludicrous, and obviously have a lot to do with the fact that he played in the Southland Conference, which, per ESPN’s Keith Law, is a notoriously weak pitching conference. Law also noted that he believes Fisher will wind up at first base because of below-average speed and arm strength, but with the 116th pick, it seems the White Sox took a solid gamble.
The OBP trend is a nice shift in direction from previous White Sox strategies of valuing athleticism over already-defined skills, and it didn’t stop with Collins and Fisher. Ball State outfielder Alex Call, taken one round before Fisher in the third, got on base at a .443 clip his junior season, walking 29 times along with 29 strikeouts in 286 plate appearances. Likewise, catcher Nate Nolan, taken in round 8, had a .360 OBP as a junior at Saint Mary’s, and Zach Remillard’s (Round 10) was at .399 at Coastal Carolina.
Granted, college stats are far from translatable, especially at less-than-elite conferences like the four aforementioned players are from, but the change in strategy is a welcomed sight.
One other thing you’ll notice about all of the players mentioned thus far is that they’re all college players. In fact, the White Sox took only one high schooler in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Shortstop Luis Curbelo, an 18 year old out of Cocoa High School in Florida, was the best pick of the sixth round according to BP’s own Chris Crawford.
Curbelo may prove to be unsignable this late in the draft, but boy is he a fun flier for the sixth round. Everything projects average except for the power, which may not sound terribly exciting, but when you’re talking about a guy playing a premium position, it’s more intriguing. I would be surprised if they’re able to work something out with him, but again, this late in the draft, it’s more than worth the risk.
Curbelo is committed to play collegiately at the University of Miami, and may, indeed, prove to be unsignable. It’s also possible that the White Sox plan to save enough money with their collegiate draftees in the early rounds to make it work.
The White Sox used seven of their first 11 draft picks on position players, which is nice because, ya know, most of the position players in their system are bad right now. Joining Burdi and Hansen as the only other pitchers taken in the first 10 rounds were Fresno State right-hander Jimmy Lambert (5th round) and USC left-hander Bernardo Flores (7th round). Both are college juniors.
Lead Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today Sports