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The ten greatest White Sox position player draftees since Crede and Rowand

We take a look back at the White Sox's best non-pitcher success stories from the amateur draft in the last fourteen years

Two of our heroes celebrating a win together.
Two of our heroes celebrating a win together.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Back in 2000, 22-year-old Joe Crede made his debut for the Chicago White Sox. The following year, 23-year-old Aaron Rowand made his.  Both players carved out good careers for themselves and were regarded as heroes for their roles on the 2005 World Series team. These days, they're referred to as something of an unfortunate benchmark because they're the most recent position players signed by the Sox out of the amateur draft that both made their major league debut and provided league-average-or-better performance on the South Side.

Many White Sox draftees since Crede and Rowand have tried valiantly to attain the status of "league average position player" as a member of the big league team, but all have failed. Today, we look to honor the greatest ten of these men who lost the good fight.

Before we begin, here's some notes on the criteria:

  • Only the White Sox portion of each player's career is considered.
  • The team the player first signed with out of the amateur draft must be the White Sox.
  • The player was in the White Sox organization from the time they were signed to the time they made their major league debut.
  • Amateur free agent signings do not count.  This removes six players from consideration by my count, most notably Carlos Sanchez, Eduardo Escobar, and Jose Abreu.
  • The player's White Sox career must be at an end (for the foreseeable future). Good-bye, Tyler Saladino, Micah Johnson (debatable!), and Trayce Thompson.
  • "Greatest" is a bit subjective. Wins Above Replacement is considered, but this is definitely not a ranking by pure WAR. Playing time, amount and significance of "big moments", and how memorable the player was all feed into the rankings.
These criteria leave just 14 players that have joined the White Sox 25-man roster from the amateur draft since 2002. Collectively, they have made 7,375 plate appearances with the White Sox (a small number that seems like a big number) during which they were collectively worth 3.8 WAR per Baseball Reference. Unfortunately for some of them, this is just a top-ten list, so we have to reduce four to honorable mentions. That means we have to say adios to Chris Stewart, Andy Wilkins, Ryan Sweeney, and Andy Gonzalez. These four were not great enough in a White Sox uniform to join this exclusive group.

On with the list!

10. Donny Lucy

Lucy is just one of five players considered for this list to post positive bWAR in his White Sox career, so he certainly merits inclusion. A rarely-used third catcher, Lucy finished his White Sox career with a .250/.318/.425 batting line, which is well above-average for the position.  His crowning achievement was this second-deck shot at the Rogers Centre:

Sadly, Lucy hung 'em up at the ripe old age of 29, leaving baseball for the friendly atmosphere of the Del Rey Avocado Company. There's no telling how much further he could have risen among this group.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: 0.2 / 44
Career: 0.2 / 44

9. Josh Phegley

The White Sox hit rock bottom in 2013. After falling just short of the Tigers the previous year, the team brought in Jeff Keppinger to attempt to offset the losses of Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski and otherwise got the band back together for one more attempt to unseat Detroit. Once it was clear that wasn't going to work, the White Sox were left with a bad team with few interesting players.

Meanwhile, catcher Josh Phegley was hitting .316/.368/.597 at Charlotte. The White Sox promoted him in early July and he was an immediate breath of fresh air, hitting three home runs in his first five games. One such home run was a game-deciding grand slam off of Anibal Sanchez.

Phegley's free-swinging ways got the best of him and he never proved to be a competent receiver in his time with the White Sox. He was ultimately dealt to Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal, where he's now enjoying greater success.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: -0.1 / 251
Career: 1.5 / 494

8. Chris Getz

It took all of two games for Chris Getz to steal leadoff duties from DeWayne Wise in 2009. While he ultimately yielded the top spot in the lineup to Scott Podsednik and some playing time to Jayson Nix, Getz wasn't exactly a disaster. He had a glaring lack of power but was okay at pretty much everything else. The one area in which he stood out was his efficiency in stealing bases, going 25-for-27 in that 2009 season.

Aside from puns involving his last name, Getz is pretty forgettable. While he was a better player than some ranked ahead of him, he didn't do anything all that interesting.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: 0.3 / 422
Career: 1.7 / 1,574

7. Joe Borchard

Borchard was a powerful, powerful man. The former Stanford quarterback ascended to the big club in 2002 on the merits of hitting 20 home runs at Triple-A Charlotte that year.  He had significant contact issues, and ultimately that kept the White Sox from making room for him on the major league club. The Sox gave him a bit of an extended run in 2004, but he was only able to muster a crippling .174 batting average across 222 plate appearances.

Despite the ineffective performance, this list would not be complete without Borchard, as he still holds the record for the longest home run ever hit at U.S. Cellular Field at 504 feet. Had Borchard not been traded for Matt Thornton, that might have lasted as his greatest contribution to the franchise.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: -0.8 / 328
Career: -1.5 / 800

6. Brent Morel

Like Getz, Morel was a better player than a few ranked higher than him. He gave the White Sox a season of competent third base play in 2011, though his value was tied up in his glove. Morel was unfortunately never able to hit a lick. He set the White Sox record for most consecutive plate appearances without a walk to start a season with 117, and that would still stand today if not for the heroics of Jeff Keppinger. Morel gave the Sox hope by clubbing eight homers in September 2011, but he never hit another major league home run. In fact, he was such a disaster that he lost his job early the following year to a washed-up Orlando Hudson.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: 0.6 / 669
Career: 0.5 / 717

5. Jordan Danks

Danks' inability to make contact was his undoing as a prospect and it limited his role to fifth outfielder and roster yo-yo. He was a good glove in the outfield and brought some occasional pop, but the complete package was not playable on an everyday basis. Furthermore, some boneheaded baserunning plays made him seem even more expendable, given that pinch running was a substantial component of his job description.

Nonetheless, Danks' White Sox career wasn't without achievements.  First, he's the all-time Charlotte Knights leader in home runs with 52. Second, he produced one of the most well-remembered hits in recent White Sox history.  On August 10, 2012, the left-handed Danks came to bat against righty sidewinder Pat Neshek in a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 9th inning. Danks clubbed his first major-league home run to win the game on the first pitch. During the celebration, we learned a little about Josh Reddick's tendency to remain stationary.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: -0.3 / 386
Career: -0.4 / 390

4. Josh Fields

Another college quarterback, Fields was a well-regarded third base prospect that some thought could eventually be Crede's successor. In 2007, a year that many Sox fans would prefer to forget, Fields belted out 23 home runs, which raised hopes that he might be able to lock down a role as a lineup regular.  Unfortunately, poor defense and alarming strikeout rates were Fields' undoing. His poor play gave way to Gordon Beckham's ascent to the big league club.

Before leaving the team for good, though, Fields came through in a big way on one of the most important days in recent White Sox history. On July 23, 2009, Fields hit a grand slam in the second inning to give the White Sox a 4-0 lead, which probably helped Mark Buehrle breathe a lot easier en route to throwing a perfect game. Fields later gloved the final out of the perfecto at first base.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: -1.4 / 746
Career: -1.1 / 796

3. Brian Anderson

Anderson had the difficult task of trying to replace Aaron Rowand in center field in 2006 and his complete failure to do so had two pretty unfortunate side effects. First, the White Sox were forced to play the defensively limited Rob Mackowiak in center field just to get Anderson's bat out of the lineup. Second, a contingent of White Sox fans have insisted ever since that it was a mistake to deal Rowand for Jim Thome, citing that the Sox would have better off simply keeping Frank Thomas instead.

Despite Anderson's shortcomings, he was a good defensive center fielder and occasional useful platoon bat against left-handed pitching. Anderson will always be remembered for making the final out of the biggest game the White Sox have played since 2005. It wasn't one of the pure best catches you'll ever see, and chances are the White Sox would have won even if he didn't make the play, but Anderson's grab at the end of "The Blackout Game" in 2008 drove the nail through the coffin on the hated Twins and clinched the AL Central crown for the White Sox

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: -0.1 / 717
Career: -0.2 / 883

2. Marcus Semien

The White Sox gave Semien a chance to steal the third base job from Conor Gillaspie in early 2014. It didn't work out. Though Semien was demoted in early June, he certainly showed that he had a flair for the dramatic in April. He hit just .225/.285/.361 in that month, but was actually worth +0.416 wins by Win Probability Added despite the poor overall line. Semien came through many times in the clutch, most notably with this big hit against Detroit:

Semien returned to the big league club later that year and hit .273/.333/.485 in September. The Oakland Athletics had their eye on him, and he ultimately became the centerpiece of the White Sox' trade for Jeff Samardzija.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: 1.3 / 326
Career: 3.9 / 927

1. Gordon Beckham

Beckham's thrilling arrival on the big stage in 2009 had many calling him the savior of the franchise. It was quite uplifting to see a player drafted by the White Sox come to the major leagues and hit .270/.347/.460 while progressively improving his defense at a new primary position. Beckham's bat was a breath of fresh air, but it didn't last. Subsequent seasons saw him move to second base where he played strong, heady defense, but the offense completely evaporated. Beckham spent five seasons with the White Sox as a below-average, but tolerable starter at the keystone. That's not a terrible career by any means, but it's certainly disappointing in the context of his rookie year.

Though Beckham fell short of lofty expectations, it's unquestionable that he's the White Sox' greatest pure homegrown position player from the amateur draft since Rowand and Crede. It's tough to look upon his White Sox career in a positive light because his success was so front-loaded and filled with repeated assurances that he'd finally turned a corner. So let's try to remember the good by re-living this clip from his rookie season when he walked off on the Cubs, featuring a bleached-hair A.J. Pierzynski.

bWAR / Plate Appearances
White Sox: 7.1 / 3,134
Career: 7.1 / 3,195

That wraps up our list of the greatest White Sox position players from the amateur draft of the last fourteen years.

Your move, Trayce Thompson.