With their eighth-round pick in last week's draft, the White Sox selected Ian Gardeck, a hard-throwing JuCo right-hander out of Angelina College in Texas. Angelina can claim Clay Buchholz, Andrew Cashner and Josh Tomlin as recent success stories.
Gardeck has strong ties to Chicago. For one, he went to Crystal Lake South High School (Cubs territory, but Gardeck said he followed both teams). He also has a connection to Brent Morel through their respective fathers, so he might have the opportunity to get some good guidance from a recent draft pick as he waits to work out a deal with the White Sox.
If the Sox plan on taking care of business from the top down, draft picks like Gardeck might have to wait for the University of California baseball team to finish its run in the College World Series. The Sox drafted three Cal Bears, including two ahead of Gardeck -- Erik Johnson (second round) and Marcus Semien (sixth).
Gardeck has a commitment with the University of Alabama, but he told me during a phone interview on Monday that he expects to sign and is ready to make the jump into the system.
Here's what else he told me:
"I heard anywhere from second round to fourth round, slid a little bit, but boy, I'm very thankful to get picked up by the White Sox. I couldn't have asked for much more than being drafted by a hometown team and the Sox being a great fit. I know a couple guys in the organization, and I know their reputation, and I was absolutely thrilled to be drafted by them."
"Last year, I moved to the pen at [University of] Dayton, and really found myself as a pitcher that summer in the [New England Collegiate Baseball League] with the Danbury Westerners, and that's where it really clicked for me. I was their closer, I was their go-to guy and they let me know that role right away ... I had a great playoffs, and things just kind of rolled from there."
"[Relief work] allows me to use my fastball a lot more. You can go for strikeouts, and if you walk a guy, you're all right because you know you're one out away and you have those two pitches, and you don't have to worry about commanding both sides of the plate as well. It really profiled me better, being a power-arm guy with a power breaking ball."
Fastball: "I typically sink it in on righties. I do go away, and it is kind of a little cutter. I don't throw a straight four-seam, so to say, I try to keep everything moving."
Slider: "It's actually got both [a downward and horizontal tilt]. Originally when I started off, it was more of a horizontal, and then this year, we actually played with it a little more to give it a little more depth, and now it has depth and the horizontal plane."
"That's something I've really worked on more lately here, and it's really taken off. I had some struggles with it during the beginning of the year, but I really changed that grip up, and it really got that extra depth to it, and really developed into a swing-and-miss pitch."
Third pitch: "I do have a third pitch, with a soft split (a split-fingered grip with the effect of a changeup). That's just an extra pitch I added into my repertoire because I started at the beginning of the year."
"I love attacking in with my fastball. I love to get in on the hands on guys, and make them uneasy in the box. I watched Roger Clemens do that - he was famous for getting in on guys' hands and making them uneasy in the box. I think that's how I profile. I was just getting in hard, with the hard sink in, and then being able to put them away with the slider."
"I'm constantly a student of the game. I think you can learn so much from different guys. I like Brian Wilson - I like his attitude, I like how he goes about closing, and his competitiveness. I like Clemens, how he got in on guys' hands, I think that's great. And Carlos Marmol as well, being a Chicago guy. He's got that wipeout slider that I try to duplicate as much as I can."
"I really don't look at stats. I go off looking at the hitter and what my catcher can see, and honestly it's more or less what I'm comfortable with at the time ... You know how your bullpen went -- you know the split might be better one day than the slider and the slider might be way better than the split the other day, and you just kind of go off of that."
His scouting reports
"I really don't read too much into them. It's just a daily process as a pitcher. You're going to have your up days and your down days. You just gotta focus on what makes you click. I tend to stay away from all of the stuff on the Internet. You know what you're doing; you don't need someone to tell you what you've done right and what you've done wrong. You just need to be able to honestly evaluate yourself ... I know my command wasn't as great as it could've been this year, and I like to be an honest evaluator of myself."
More about Gardeck
He might not look at his scouting reports, but that doesn't mean you can't check out what other people have said about him.
Baseball America (paywall):
[Gardeck] has some of the best sheer arm strength in this draft. ... The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder's velocity spiked when he pitched in the New England Collegiate League last summer, and he opened more eyes when he hit 98 mph in the fall after moving to Angelina. Because he's so new to pitching, Gardeck is still raw. Scouts don't like his arm action, which hampers his ability to throw strikes, as does his inability to maintain his arm slot. He pitched his way out of Angelina's rotation and into its bullpen this spring. He consistently pitches at 94-96 mph as a reliever. He'll show a mid-80s slider that's a wipeout pitch at times, but he struggles to harness it. With two pitches that grade at 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale at times but command that rates a 35, Gardeck's pro future also is in the bullpen.
8) Ian Gardeck, RHP, Angelina JC: Another mid-90s fastball, sometimes higher, good slider, command is erratic and he's rather raw.
Keith Law (paywall):
The White Sox took polished RHP Erik Johnson (2) as a fairly safe, back-end starter candidate and then grabbed two hard-throwing JC kids in Jeff Soptic (3) and Ian Gardeck (8), both of whom should sign and move quickly in the 'pen.
Also, check out Viva El Birdos for a lengthy pre-draft profile, which includes this video of Gardeck in action: