Did you know the White Sox haven't produced a legitimate position player out of a first round draft pick since using the 35th pick of the 1998 draft on Aaron Rowand? Go ahead and look, I'll wait. Gross, right? There are multiple reasons why the farm system seems unable to produce anything but cannon fodder and former college QBs: we rarely if ever go over slot, we draft safer players with lower ceilings, injuries and washouts happen. Another key component may be that only once in the past twenty years have the White Sox had a top 10 draft pick. What players came from the previous four drafts? The drafts where the Sox picked fourth, seventh, tenth, and fifth? Alex Fernandez. Frank Thomas. Robin Ventura. Jack McDowell. Maybe this is why the eighth pick of the 2008 draft, Gordon Beckham, feels like such a bust to the fan base.
I'm pretty sure we're all at fault here, but no one really wants to take the blame: Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen, Greg Walker, us writers, Dan Johnson, and of course Gordon Beckham. For the first time since I was able to form memories, we had a shot at a true impact homegrown bat. A hitter worth following through the minors. Someone we could dream on. And so we started dreaming. And he didn't let us down. His lowest OPS in the minors was .862! He only batted under .300 at one level and only by .001! He was a doubles monster! And then we brought him up and he kept hitting. A 22 year old infielder with an .808 OPS! The stands were already full of his jerseys and shirts in July of 2009.He's 25 now. His OPS hasn't cracked .700 for a season since. Short of three great months (7/10, 8/10, 5/11), he just hasn't been the same. His defense at second is tremendous, but his bat consistently underwhelms. And the common fan has turned on him. Is it fair?
I don't know. Kind of-ish? We named him our Savior. We expected too much, too quickly. He's already given us more than Josh Fields, Brian Anderson, and Joe Borchard. Probably more than Josh Phegley or Jared Mitchell ever will. Damning with faint praise, sure, but look at what he's done compared to his contemporaries from that draft. Other than the Giants and Buster Posey, no team that drafted in the top ten has received more value from their player (Aaron Crow didn't sign with the Nationals). Maybe we shouldn't freak out so much and be angry that he isn't Ian Kinsler yet. He's still young. He's still cheap. He can still turn it around. All he needs to do is get back to being near league average with the bat and we have a very valuable second baseman. Let's see what the new coaching staff can do with him.