The Chicago White Sox have a checkered history with the MLB draft since it initiated in 1965. While there have been some terrific selections (notably Frank Thomas, Harold Baines and Chris Sale), there have been many more disappointments.
This will be the first of an eight-part series which will detail the best White Sox selections in each of the first 40 rounds of the draft. There have been several White Sox picks who went unsigned, but made it big after being drafted in later years by other teams (Jimmy Key comes immediately to mind), but I’m simply looking at players who actually signed with the White Sox. Very few picks of recent vintage will make this list, as they’re still trying to add to their careers. In football and basketball, a clear picture of how successful a draft is can be determined within three years; in baseball, it’s closer to five.
Without further ado, here are the most successful selections in the 36th-40th rounds.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Middlesex Community College (Bedford, Mass.)
Bere, the fourth pick in the 36th round, sailed through the White Sox farm system from 1990-93 by posting ERA numbers of less than 3.00. Despite not showing the best of control in the 1993-94 seasons with the White Sox, he combined to post a 24-7 record, 3.64 ERA, and 1.37 WHIP over 48 starts. In those two campaigns, his K rate was 21.0% but walk rate was 13.2%. Unfortunately, due to ineffectiveness and injuries, Bere declined, and he was released by the Sox in July 1998. He was able to extend his career through 2003 with the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland, but without attaining the success of his first two years. Bere’s career bWAR was 3.3, which all things considered isn’t too shabby for a 36th round pick.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
University of Oklahoma
Bajenuaru, like the aforementioned Bere, unexpectedly rose through the minor league ranks, and rather quickly. However, Bajenuaru’s results weren’t anything to brag about. In a total of 14 major league games with the White Sox (2004-05) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2006), Bajenuaru combined to post an 11.20 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, and -0.6 bWAR. At least he made it to the majors, which is more than can be said for all other White Sox 36th round selections other than Bere.
No signed 36th round picks are currently playing in organized baseball.
Kent State University
A lot of fans likely remember Kusnyer as the White Sox bullpen coach from 1980-87 and 1990-97, but don’t realize he caught for four teams from 1970-78. That’s certainly understandable, since Kusnyer’s career had relatively few highlights. Kusnyer was just 1-for-10 in his cup of coffee with the White Sox in 1970. He was then traded to the California Angels in March 1971 for Dave Adlesh and Steve Kealey. Other than his bat and glove, Kusnyer was a pretty good catcher. He played just 136 games in his major league career, but committed a whopping 20 errors and had a career slash line of .176/.231/.230. That pretty much explains his career -1.9 bWAR. On the positive side, with the Angels Kusnyer caught Nolan Ryan’s second career no-hitter, on July 15, 1973. Kusnyer is still the only signed 37th-round pick to date who’s made it to the majors.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Doyle actually enjoyed a fairly lengthy minor league career, which ended in 2016. He came tantalizingly close to the majors, as he pitched for four different AAA squads. In 2012 for Charlotte, Doyle posted a solid 2.83 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 12 games (11 starts). In his 76 innings, he relinquished just 53 hits and 18 walks while fanning 71. Like Donn Roach last year, Doyle was released so he could play ball in Japan for the remainder of the year. He returned to the U.S. and played Triple-A ball for the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles organizations, but never received the ultimate promotion. For his total minor league career, Doyle posted a respectable 3.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in nearly 950 innings of work.
No signed 37th round picks are currently playing in organized baseball.
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
Jefferson College (Hillsboro, Mo.)
What’s not to like with this pick? A 59.3 bWAR, 214 career victories, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 1,870 strikeouts, 10 shutouts, and two no-hitters (including a perfect game) over a 16-year career. Buerhle’s final season with the Toronto Blue Jays (2015) posted similar results to his career averages, which helps quantify the consistency he displayed throughout his career. In White Sox history, Buehrle ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts, sixth in games started, and eighth in wins and innings pitched. While all the above career stats (which also include stats with the Miami Marlins and Blue Jays) would be outstanding no matter when he was selected, the fact that Buehrle was drafted in the 38th round makes his performance with the Sox so much sweeter. Buehrle was the anchor in a strong rotation that dominated the 2005 postseason, and it’s no wonder that Buehrle’s No. 56 has now been retired by the White Sox.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
This is quite a big drop-off from Buehrle. Linza’s minor league career spanned just two years, but he did pitch one Triple-A game in Charlotte, which earns him the distinction of runner-up. His career minor league stats include a 4.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and .302 OBA. Aside from Buehrle and Linza, no other signed 38th round pick ever made it to Triple-A.
Pitchers Tom Gorzelany (2000), Jake Petricka (2006) and Steve Sparks (1995) all have played in the major leagues, but none of them actually signed with the White Sox as the 38th round pick. Petricka was redrafted and signed by the Sox as a second round selection of the 2010 draft. No signed 38th round pick is currently playing in organized baseball.
University of Houston
Despite never really hitting much in the minors (his best season in the White Sox organization was 1994 with Birmingham, when he slashed .225/.278/.288), Tremie received his first promotion to the majors in 1995 and slashed just .167/.200/.167 for the White Sox. The Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in 1996. Overall, in four cups of coffee with the White Sox, Texas Rangers (1998), Pittsburgh Pirates (1999) and Houston Astros (2004), Tremie attained a -0.4 bWAR by slashing just .146/.222/.171 in just 41 career at-bats. Tremie, known more for his defense, is now manager of the Indians Triple-A squad in Columbus.
Unsurprisingly, there haven’t been many signed 39th round picks that have advanced far in the minors. Gaither (5´10´´, 160 pounds), who also played second base and the hot corner, actually reached Triple-A Vancouver in 1990, but was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Over his three-year minor league career, Gaither managed to slash .227/.270/.272.
Marvin Benard was drafted by the White Sox in 1988’s 39th round, but didn’t sign. He was later drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1992 and produced an 8.6 bWAR during his eight-year career with them. No signed 39th round pick is currently playing in organized baseball.
University of Louisiana-Monroe
As a catcher for Louisiana-Monroe in 1990, McGough slashed a respectable .306/.393/.429. He reached as high as A+ Sarasota in 1990 and 1991, but only hit a combined .167 with Sarasota during those two years. Only six 40th-round selections have signed with the White Sox, and Mr. McGough was the first with the foresight to do so.
Escalon High School (Escalon, Calif.)
Pangilinan (6´3´´, 230 pounds) was a powerfully-built first baseman, who parlayed his 40th round selection into a four-year minor league career. His highest level was A-level Kannapolis, where he slashed .225/.299/.342 in 2012 with eight homers and 56 RBIs. His career minor league slash line was .252/.305/.377. Pangilinan is the most recent of the 40th-round picks who have actually signed.
No signed 40th round picks are currently playing in organized baseball.