Sox aren't swayed by past criticism in Draft
History aside, club kicks off selections with two-sport athlete
CHICAGO -- Doug Laumann isn't immune to the criticism that comes with being a talent evaluator.
The White Sox director of amateur scouting admitted to reading the blogs concerning the team's uneven history of drafting former college-football standouts in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, including Joe Borchard and Josh Fields.
But those knocks didn't shy Laumann away from selecting another two-sport athlete in this year's first round, as the White Sox took Louisiana State University center fielder and wide receiver Jared Mitchell as the 23rd overall pick.
"Those guys were the types of guys that had to hit," Laumann said of Borchard and Fields. "If they didn't hit and hit with power, you were questioning what their other tools were.
"This kid is a speed guy. He's an on-base percentage type of guy. He takes walks. And even if he struggles initially with perhaps getting on base with a lot with base hits, he's going to walk. He's very disciplined with very good plate recognition, and that was a factor."
Nine years ago, Borchard was selected 12th by the White Sox in the First-Year Player Draft following a two-sport career as a quarterback and outfielder at Stanford University, but he did not pan out as a top prospect. In 102 career games over four seasons with Chicago, Borchard hit just .191 (57-for-298), although he did rip the longest home run in U.S. Cellular Field history.
Fields was selected 18th by the White Sox in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft following a similar two-sport route, as a quarterback and third baseman at Oklahoma State University. Fields has struggled to keep a consistent starting spot with the White Sox, posting a .234 career batting average over four Major League seasons.
Mitchell, however, possesses a multitude of intangibles that make him appealing and the cream of the White Sox Draft crop. He is a 6-foot, 200-pound lefty who is considered one of the best athletes in this year's Draft.
This season, Mitchell has batted .325 over 61 games for LSU with nine home runs, 12 doubles and four triples. He carries a .557 slugging percentage into the College World Series, where LSU is set to face Virginia on Saturday.
But perhaps most appealing is Mitchell's ability to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He has stolen a team-high 35 bases in 44 attempts.
Those numbers factored into the decision-making process for Laumann, who said speed will become more important in the Major League games in years to come.
"The new ballparks are built for the power," Laumann said. "But I think the game might be moving to that point to where they need the guys that produce runs as far as stealing bases and doing the things that we've tried to do here but didn't get done. I don't know if it's full cycle yet, but it's moving that way."
White Sox -- Top five selections
|23||CF||Jared Mitchell||Louisiana St U|
|38||C||Joshua Phegley||Indiana U|
|61||CF||Trayce Thompson||Santa Margarita HS|
|71||LHP||David Holmberg||Port Charlotte HS|
|102||LHP||Bryan Morgado||U Tennessee|
|Complete White Sox Draft results >|
While Mitchell clearly is the key addition to the White Sox in this year's Draft, Laumann also raved about the organization's ability to draft quality arms in the later rounds.
After selecting a catcher and two outfielders over their first three picks, the White Sox went pitcher-heavy, taking eight consecutive pitchers from the end of Day 1 into the beginning of Day 2.
"We thought it was a pitching-strong draft," Laumann said. "We felt like we needed to infuse some position players, and with the first three picks yesterday, we did that. Once we got beyond that, it seems kind of foolish not to go ahead and try to stay with what the strength of the Draft is."
Laumann raved about the team's fourth-round pick, right-handed pitcher Matthew Heidenreich out of Temescal Canyon High School in Southern California, who went from throwing in the mid-80s earlier this season to the low-90s.
"Sometimes you project these guys and you have to wait a long time," Laumann said. "Other times, you get lucky. His velocity actually increased about 5-6 mph from February to right before the Draft. So, it's coming with him."
As for Mitchell, White Sox fans need not worry that football players taken in the first round by the White Sox organization don't immediately pan out.
Keep in mind that Frank Thomas played football at Auburn University before being drafted by the White Sox in 1989. Thomas went on to a lengthy and successful career in Chicago, where he set the all-time club record in several categories, including home runs (448), doubles (447) and walks (1,466).
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.