Draft Report: Brett Austin

CHICAGO -- With their fourth-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft on Friday, the White Sox brought together North Carolina State's No. 1 battery combination.

Chicago selected switch-hitting catcher Brett Austin, who worked with White Sox first-round selection Carlos Rodon from behind the plate for three years. The duo also lived together the past two years.

"I think it's pretty cool, man," Austin said of joining his college teammate in professional baseball. "I think it's going to be fun and exciting to see a familiar face and kind of going into training hoping you know somebody, so you're not the only one that you don't know anybody.

"It's another few years of catching him, and I don't know, we've got a pretty good relationship, too. I'm excited, man. I hope he is, too."

Assistant director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler made it clear Austin's connection to Rodon had nothing to do with his selection. Rather, the Sox were intrigued by Austin's offensive prowess as a switch-hitter and his ability to handle a pitching staff, which Austin called his "specialty." The Sox also liked that Austin, who was selected out of high school in the 54th round of the 2011 supplemental Draft by the San Diego Padres, further developed at N.C. State.

"The experience he gained there, the ability to get better at pitching staffs, and he did a terrific job of that," Hostetler said. "Tom Holliday, the pitching coach, spoke extremely highly of him and his ability to handle of a staff, and for us, that went a long way."

Austin, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior, led the Wolfpack with a .344 batting average, and he was tied for the team lead with a .516 slugging percentage.

Some have questioned Austin's defense behind the plate, however, which he said fuels his desire to improve.

"In my opinion, I think I'm fit behind the plate, and that's always been the question with me," Austin said. "I kind of use that as a little extra motivation, just to prove people wrong that I can fit behind the plate. So I'm going to work my butt off to stay back there, and I'm going to bring a long work ethic to them, and hopefully they like all of that about me."

Hostetler is also confident Austin can develop enough to one day be an everyday catcher in the Major Leagues.

"He's an athlete, and athletes, things are easier for him, for guys like that to adjust," Hostetler said. "He's a work in progress back there. It's not complete. It's not a finished product by far, but there's enough athletic ability in there.

"He flashes enough glove and ability to read balls in the dirt and showed an average throwing arm for us that we felt with a little more pro instruction, he was going to be able to get better behind the plate and be an adequate, solid catcher."

White Sox open Day 2 with college lefty Fry

2014 Draft: White Sox draft LHP Jace Fry No. 77

Three picks into the 2014 First Year Player Draft, it's three pitchers for the White Sox.

Director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann was asked before the Draft about the epidemic of pitchers needing Tommy John surgery and whether the organization would shy away from selecting pitchers who have had the procedure. He said that for the most part it wouldn't, and he remained true to his word on Day 2 of the Draft.

2014 Draft Central

With their third-round pick in the Draft (77th overall) on Friday, the White Sox selected Oregon State left-handed starter Jace Fry, who underwent Tommy John surgery following his freshman season. He becomes the second college lefty added to Chicago's 2014 Draft pool after the team selected Carlos Rodon with the third overall pick on Thursday.

"It means a lot that I had people there with me, supporting me through every step," Fry said. "It was a big factor of how I was able to come back so healthy, and it's just like almost an overwhelming feeling that I'm finally back at this spot. Being drafted out of high school, but now I kind of know what I'm going to do with my life. I'm just excited that I'm going to Chicago."

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. CT.

Fry had the operation performed in June 2012, following a successful freshman season in which he was named to several Freshman All-American teams and went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts.

Laumann used the example of Chris Sale, whom the White Sox drafted 13th overall in the 2010 Draft, as a player some teams passed on because of concerns over his delivery that could lead to arm injuries. Sale did miss time this season with an elbow injury, but he has nonetheless developed into one of the game's best starters.

"There were a lot of people that felt like with his body type and his arm action that perhaps he was going to get hurt, and who knows down the road what's going to happen," Laumann said of Sale. "But at the same time, if you don't take the guys with best ability, you end up passing on guys that can potentially be No. 1 starters, so we need to just go ahead and evaluate people on their ability and try not to worry too much about the arm injuries."

Fry said his arm slot dipped following surgery, but that as he rebuilt his arm strength post-operation, it returned to normal. He won't overpower batters -- his fastball tops out in the low 90s -- but he uses movement on his fastball and offspeed pitches to keep hitters off-balance. The best comparison to a Major League starter Laumann could think of was Angels lefty C.J. Wilson, who also features a low-90s fastball with a "lot of run and tail or tail and sink."

After appearing in just six games as a reliever in 2013 -- more than 11 months post-surgery -- Fry came back better than ever in '14. He posted a 1.80 ERA in 16 starts (120 1/3 innings), allowing just 83 hits with 98 strikeouts and just 30 walks. One of those appearances of the 2013 season came against Mississippi State in the College World Series, despite not fully returning to his pre-surgery form.

"Well, it definitely teaches you how to control your emotions," said Fry, who tossed 3 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in that game. "Pitching on that kind of stage and especially last year for me, because I wasn't the most comfortable on the mound, I didn't really have the best stuff in the world last year. So I kind of had to pitch off mentality, if that makes any sense, and just try to realize the things you need to do to calm yourself down and really stay locked in and try not to do too much."

A 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior, Fry was selected out of Southridge High School in the ninth round of the 2011 Draft by Oakland before committing to the Beavers.

White Sox make pitching picks a trend in Round 5

The White Sox are using the Draft to stockpile arms.

Chicago made it four pitchers in five picks by taking Zach Thompson, a junior right-hander out of the University of Texas-Arlington, with its fifth-round pick (138th overall) on Friday.

The Draft concludes on Saturday with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. CT.

The White Sox are clearly hoping to develop Thompson's good but inconsistent, raw stuff. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound power-throwing righty can touch 96 mph with his fastball, but he sometimes struggled to command it and his secondary pitches. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 16 starts, covering 81 innings this season for UT-Arlington. Chicago has a good track record for developing pitchers at every level of the organization, something Thompson said excites him.

"Absolutely. Obviously, my goal isn't just to get drafted," Thompson said. "I want to move up as fast as I can, be the best player I can. And with their system being able to [turn] pitchers into someone worth looking out for, it's definitely super exciting, and being able to get up to the club as soon as possible, help them out, make a difference, it's very exciting."

The selection may have been even more exciting for the White Sox scouting department, which had been tracking Thompson since March. Assistant director of scouting Nick Hostetler admitted he was biased in saying that the Sox pitching-development personnel is the best in baseball, but he's nonetheless eager to hand Thompson over to those staffers.

"Zach is a guy that we kind of targeted coming into this thing from the start, as a guy we really wanted to get," Hostetler said. "You kind of play the game of where you think you can get him as opposed to where you have to take him, but at the same time, we felt Zach was a guy we all saw, we all saw a lot of.

"And there is a ton of upside, and there's a few things that once our pitching people get a hold of Zach, the sky's the limit. We're very, very excited."

Thompson has pitched his entire life, but he was a two-way player in high school. He didn't pitch much his senior year of high school due to injury, but he was nonetheless drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Thompson instead elected to go to UT-Arlington, which is just 45 minutes from home and has a good track record of producing Major League talent, especially pitchers. Mavericks players currently in the bigs include Dillon Gee, John Lackey, Mark Lowe, Michael Choice and Hunter Pence.

UT-Arlington baseball head coach Darin Thomas said Thompson needed time to grow into his body. Thompson arrived at UT-Arlington approximately 6-foot-6, 180 pounds and throwing 90 mph. Over two years, he's reached a healthy 213 pounds and can consistently hit 94-95 mph with his fastball.

"The one thing I like about him is he maintains his velocity. He'll maintain from the first inning all the way through the seventh inning, or however long he's out there," Thomas said. "But yeah, I think if there's some development, it would be with the secondary pitches. I think at times it's pretty good. When the secondary pitch is on, the breaking ball is on, he's very tough to hit."

As for the subpar college numbers, the big righty appeared to turn a corner toward the end of the season. Thompson said he struggled early on with his command, but he worked on extending his delivery to the plate after talking things over with his brother Matt, who pitched in the Rangers' Minor League system from 2008-12. The result was a string of strong of starts over his last four or five outings of the year.

"My ball was getting a lot more life on it," Thompson said. "Throwing a two-seam more, and that extension also let me throw what I wanted, where I wanted. So I was just able to have complete control on the mound."

That's probably also what the White Sox saw. It's up to their player development staff to maximize the obvious potential.

Lechich is White Sox first outfield Draft pick

The White Sox have their first outfielder of the Draft, selecting senior center fielder Louie Lechich with their sixth-round pick (No. 168 overall) on Friday.

The left-handed-hitting Lechich was a three-year starter at the University of San Diego. He hit .342/.396/.542 with seven homers, 46 RBIs and 45 runs this past season.

The Draft concludes on Saturday with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. CT.

MLB.com Draft expert Jim Callis said Lechich possesses good athleticism, runs well and has arm strength, but he'll have to work on his hitting more than anything.

"He needs to refine his approach at the plate … but there are some tools there," Callis said. "If he can more consistent with the bat, he can be a big leaguer."

The White Sox had Lechich on their board for last year's Draft as well.

Assistant director of scouting Nick Hostetler said Lechich would start as a center fielder, but he could possibly move to a corner outfield spot.

"We're excited this year to bring him back in the fold … you see a few of those seniors that you kind of get that gut feel that a guy's going to really end up developing into a big leaguer, and he was one of those guys," Hostetler said. "He's an athletic kid. "There's a little bit of upside in the bat. A few mechanical things in his swing that we're going to need to help, but again the common thing here is these kids are pretty good athletes, and when you have an athlete, you're going to be able to make adjustments."

Creighton two-way player drafted for infield

Draft Report: Jake Peter, College RHP/2B

With their seventh-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Friday, the White Sox picked a player who impressed on the mound, but who they want to play the infield.

Chicago took Creighton junior Jake Peter (No. 198 overall), a left-handed hitting shortstop who also pitched 23 innings in relief the past two seasons.

The Draft concludes on Saturday with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. CT.

Per MLB.com's scouting report, Peter has shown swing-and-miss stuff, with a fastball that tops out at 96 mph. He picked up seven saves as a part-time closer, and though it's a small sample size, he racked up 11.35 strikeouts per nine innings. In 154 games over three seasons for Creighton, Peter hit .292 with a .793 OPS while playing mostly second base.

White Sox assistant director of scouting Nick Hostetler said Creighton played Peter at second to save his arm for pitching. The Sox area scout developed a relationship with Peter after seeing him play with Team USA last year.

"We feel he can play shortstop, we feel like he can stay at shortstop," Hostetler said. "We like the upside in the bat, and we have no intention to pitch him."

MLB.com Draft expert Jim Callis agreed that Peter has the tools to play shortstop.

Experience continues to carry weight in Round 8

Through the first eight rounds of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday, it's clear the White Sox are going with experience over youth.

Chicago made it seven college players in eight picks by selecting fifth-year senior John Ziznewski of Long Island University-Brooklyn with its eighth-round pick (No. 228 overall).

Ziznewski played the past two seasons at LIU-Brooklyn after transferring from Rockland County College. In two seasons with the Blackbirds, he put up a slash line of .363/.430/.567 and was 35-for-39 in stolen bases.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 12 p.m. CT.

White Sox assistant director of scouting Nick Hostetler said his scouts tracking Ziznewski were high on the shortstop's swing.

"He did a really good job this year of putting the ball in play, not striking out much and that for us was an interesting, intriguing numbers for us to take a shot on him there in that spot," Hostetler said.

Drafting lefties becomes second nature to White Sox

Draft Report: Brian Clark

This just in: The White Sox like to draft left-handed college pitchers.

Chicago selected its third collegiate southpaw of the First-Year Player Draft by using its ninth-round pick on Brian Clark, a junior from Kent State.

Clark was impressive as a reliever in his first two years, posting a 1.17 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 8.71 strikeouts per nine innings rates over 63 innings. He then converted to a starter for his junior year and went 6-7 with a 3.77 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 7.13 K/9 rate in 16 appearances (15 starts) over 88 1/3 innings.

White Sox cap Day 2 with high school player

Draft Report: Jake Jarvis

The White Sox closed Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft by taking high school second baseman Jake Jarvis with their 10th-round selection. It broke the trend of the previous nine rounds, in which the Sox only took one high school player.

"We're pretty excited in the 10th round to have a young high school player like that," said Nick Hostetler, the White Sox assistant director of scouting.

Hostetler compared Jarvis, out of Klein Collins High School (Texas) at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, to Chicago's seventh-round selection, Peter Jake. Both can pitch, but in both cases, the team wants the player to play the infield.

"Jake Jarvis has an ability to really swing the bat. He can get the bat head to the ball, and he's going to be a second baseman for us," Hostetler said. "We feel that with the ability that he has to hit, then it's a matter of time before he continues to rise through the ranks."

Jarvis received an offer from Texas A&M that initially led to concerns over his signability, but Hostetler said Jarvis's Draft stock rose after he put on a "good show" at a pre-Draft workout in Chicago on Monday.

"We feel comfortable and confident that we're going to get him done and in the fold rather quickly," Hostetler said.