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 is the fourth 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 sixth-10th rounds.
University of California-Berkeley
Semien quickly moved up the White Sox system, courtesy of a solid minor league campaign in 2013 with Birmingham and Charlotte where he combined to slash .284/.401/.479, 19 homers, 66 RBIs, 98 walks, 90 strikeouts, and 24 stolen bases. Although he performed fairly well for the White Sox in the 2013-14 campaigns, in 2014 he was traded to the A’s along with Rangel Ravelo, Chris Bassitt and Josh Phegley for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa. Since that trade, Semien has been a fixture in the Oakland infield thanks to his solid defensive abilities and power production. Barring injuries, he seems a good bet to reach the 90-homer and 60-stolen base career totals upon season end, and he’s off to a terrific start in 2019. His career high of 27 homers occurred during the 2016 season. With a career 12.5 bWAR spanning six seasons prior to this year, Semien has easily been the most productive sixth rounder in White Sox history — which is as much a testament to Semien’s abilities as it is the lack of success elsewhere in the Sox organization.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
Russell, in his four-year career, pitched for the White Sox, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays from 2008-11. In his rookie campaign for the Sox in 2008, he posted a 5.19 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 22 relief outings. While pitching at the time for Triple-A Charlotte, he was traded at the July deadline the following year to the Padres (along with Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, and Clayton Richard) for veteran hurler Jake Peavy. The most innings he pitched in any one season was his final season with the Rays (32 1⁄3), in which he posted a 3.03 ERA which belied his 5.14 FIP. Certainly his career numbers weren’t anything to get too excited about: 85 games, 86 2⁄3 innings, 3.95 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.55 WHIP, 88 hits, 46 walks, 67 strikeouts, and a bWAR of 0.3. With that said, his career bWAR eclipsed that of all other White Sox sixth rounders not named Marcus Semien.
Notes: Other players signed by the Sox that played in the majors include pitchers Denny O’Toole (1967), Jim Geddes (1970), John Pawlowski (1985), Jerry Kutzler (1987), David Sanders (1999), and Brian Omogrosso (2006); catcher George Enright (1972); outfielders Rod Allen (1977) and Aaron Cunningham (2005); and infielder Chris Snopek (1992). Unsigned sixth-rounders that made it to the majors after signing with the White Sox in a subsequent year include pitcher Jack Kucek (1971) and infielder Chris Getz (2002). In addition to Semien, other White Sox signed sixth rounders still playing in organized baseball include Corey Zangari (2015), Luis Curbelo (2016), Kade McClure (2017), and Codi Heuer (2018).
Oral Roberts University
The White Sox drafted Saladino in the seventh round after he posted a terrific junior season with Oral Roberts: .381/.464/.678 in 239 at-bats with 16 doubles, 17 homers, 73 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. After slowly working his way up the Sox system, Saladino made his MLB debut on July 10, 2015 against the Cubs. Saladino, who has played nearly as much second base and shortstop as he’s played the hot corner, enjoyed his most successful season with the White Sox in 2016, when he slashed .282/.315/.409 with eight homers, 38 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases. Injuries severely limited his production the following year, and the Milwaukee Brewers purchased him on April 19, 2018. In Saladino’s four-year MLB career through 2018 (he’s yet to play in 2019 at the time of this writing, as he’s currently with the Brewers Triple-A squad in San Antonio), he’d produced a .233/.284/.338 slash line in 298 games with 17 homers, 84 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, and 2.5 bWAR.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
University of Northern Colorado
White Sox catcher of recent vintage Kevan Smith nearly made this spot, but his career bWAR falls just below Trujillo’s 0.5. Trujillo was drafted as a senior, and quickly worked his way up the Sox system—making it to Triple-A Denver in 1984. On September 7 that year, he was traded to along with Pat Adams to the San Francisco Giants for third baseman Tom O’Malley. He made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1985, however, because he was claimed in 1984’s Rule 5 draft. Trujillo’s most successful year was with the 1986 Seattle Mariners, when he produced a 3-2 record, one save, 2.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts in 41 1⁄3 innings (as evidenced by a 4.51 FIP, he pitched with plenty of good luck). Over his five-year career which ended in 1989, he compiled a 5.02 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 234 2⁄3 innings (83 games) with a 12-12 record and 96 strikeouts.
Other signed seventh-rounders who made it to the majors include catchers Bruce Kimm (1969), Matt Merullo (1996) and Smith (2011); pitcher Dan Cortes (2005) and outfielder Jordan Danks (2008) also played in the majors. Seventh rounders unsigned by the White Sox who made it to the majors include outfielders Warren Cromartie (1971) and Willie McGee (1976), along with pitcher Rich Batchelor (1988). Aside from Saladino and Smith, other White Sox signed seventh rounders still playing in organized baseball include infielder Trey Michalczewski (2013) and Jake Peter (2014), pitcher Bernardo Flores (2016), catcher Evan Skoug (2017), and outfielder Cabera Weaver (2018).
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
University of Michigan
Clayton Richard, a quick-working southpaw, is now in his 11th MLB season, this year with the Toronto Blue Jays. While never an ace, Richard has been fairly steady as a back-end starter and reliever throughout his MLB career, which began in 2008 (he didn’t make it to the majors in 2014). In parts of 2008-09 with the White Sox, he pitched in 39 games (22 starts) and compiled a 5.14 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 136 2⁄3 innings while posting a 6-8 record. He was traded to the Padres at the July 2009 trade deadline along with Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, and sixth-round runner-up Adam Russell for veteran hurler Jake Peavy. Richard’s most successful season to date was 2010 with the Padres, when he went 14-9 in 201 2⁄3 innings with a 3.75 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 153 strikeouts. For his career through 2018, he has combined with three teams to post a 68-79 record, 4.46 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 802 strikeouts, and 1.2 bWAR in 265 games spanning 1,239 1⁄3 innings.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
University of California-Irvine
While Tracey was primarily a starting pitcher for the Cal-Irvine Anteaters and the minors, his entire MLB career was spent exclusively out of the pen. Unfortunately, that career was an extremely brief one, as it both began and ended during the 2006 season. He made his MLB debut on June 8 for the White Sox against the Detroit Tigers and allowed just one hit while fanning two in his two innings. For the year in seven games spanning eight innings, Tracey posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, three strikeouts, and 0.2 bWAR. He was also the subject of an infamous berating in the dugout by manager Ozzie Guillén over failing to hit an opposing batter as instructed. The Baltimore Orioles claimed Tracey off waivers prior to the 2007 season, but he never pitched in the majors again.
Other White Sox signed 8th-rounders who made it to the majors include infielders Lorenzo Gray (1976) and Wade Rowdon (1981). White Sox unsigned picks that made it to the majors include outfielder Barry Bonnell (1971), along with pitchers Mike Overy (1972), Terry Wells (1984), and Marcus Jones (1996). White Sox sgned eighth rounders still playing in organized baseball, in addition to Richard, include catcher Nate Nolan (2016), infielder Sam Abbott (2017), and pitcher Andrew Perez (2018).
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
Wasson H.S. (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
“Goose” Gossage only spent two seasons in the minors before earning his MLB debut at the age of 20 against the Kansas City Royals on April 16, 1972, when he threw a scoreless inning of relief. In Gossage’s first three seasons, he was a spot starter but primarily a reliever. His best season in a Sox uniform was 1975, as he pitched a whopping 141 2⁄3 innings of relief with a league-leading 26 saves, 1.84 ERA and 130 strikeouts. Interestingly, he was converted to starting pitcher the following year and posted a 9-17 record in 224 innings despite posting relatively solid numbers of 3.94 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 90 walks and 135 strikeouts. Goose represented the White Sox in the All-Star Game in 1975 and 1976, but with his free agency looming, he was traded along with Terry Forster to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez on Dec. 10, 1976. After the trade, Gossage was exclusively a reliever and he enjoyed his best years in a New York Yankees uniform. From 1978-83, he was consistently good for the Bronx Bombers, with his best ERA (0.77) coming during the strike-shortened 1981 season. His top saves year was 1980 (33). In a 22-year career spanning nine teams and ending in 1994, Goose compiled a 41.2 bWAR by posting a 124-107 record, 310 saves, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 1,809 1⁄3 innings, 1,002 games, and 1,502 strikeouts. Gossage pitched in nine All-Star games, three World Series, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. While a few relievers were elected to the Hall of Fame prior to Gossage (notably Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers), Gossage is the true prototype of today’s hard-throwing closers.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
A. Crawford Mosley H.S. (Lynn Haven, Fla.)
There’s quite a drop-off from Hall-of-Famer Gossage to Kevin Tolar, who pitched just in just 20 MLB games. In five years with the White Sox system, Tolar only got as far as Single-A+ Sarasota in 2003 before earning his release in April 4, 1994. Afterward, Tolar caught on with several other teams (Pirates, Cleveland, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds) before finally earning his big break with the Detroit Tigers in 2001 — 11 years after being drafted! Tolar had cups of coffee with the Tigers in 2000-01, as well as the Red Sox in 2003. However, he compiled a 6.62 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 17 2⁄3 innings, with an impressive 17 strikeouts but a disappointing 16 walks. Nonetheless, with a career bWAR of -0.2, Tolar still reigns as the second most successful ninth rounder in White Sox history.
The only other signed ninth rounder who made it to the majors was infielder Micah Johnson (2012). Pitcher Jim Farr (1974) didn’t sign with the White Sox, but went on to play in the majors after signing with the Texas Rangers in 1978. Outfielder Craig Dedelow (2017) and catcher Gunnar Troutwine (2018) are the only other White Sox signed ninth round picks still playing in organized baseball.
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
Kent State University
Despite mediocre numbers of a 5.21 ERA and 1.49 ERA as a starter with Kent State, the White Sox took a chance on Guerrier with the 309th overall selection of the 1999 MLB draft. The Sox immediately converted Guerrier to reliever for the 1999-2000 seasons, and he rose quickly through the system. For the 2001 season, he returned to starting and fared quite well for both Birmingham and Charlotte. Just before the 2002 season began, however, he was traded to the Pirates for Ruddy Yan and Damaso Marte. Although he never pitched for the Pirates at the major league level, Guerrier did post a respectable 11-year career from 2004-14 with the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. In 555 games totaling 623 innings, Guerrier compiled a 27-35 record with six saves, 8.0 bWAR, 3.52 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 206 walks and 411 strikeouts. His FIP, however, showed a different story at 4.31. Guerrier’s best year may have been with the Twins in 2007 when he pitched in 73 games totaling 88 innings, posting a 2.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP by allowing just 71 hits and 21 walks while fanning 68.
Left-Handed Relief Pitcher
Azusa Pacific University
Despite spending most of hist time in the White Sox system as a starting pitcher, Edwards served primarily as a reliever during his three years on the big club from 1989-91. For his MLB career, Edwards compiled a 3.37 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 0.8 bWAR over 62 games (five starts) while posting a 5-5 record, two saves, and allowing 110 hits and 61 walks while fanning 84. The best year for Edwards was in 1990 when he pitched in 42 games spanning 95 innings, and posting a 3.22 ERA and 1.28 WHIP while allowing 81 hits and 41 walks while punching out 63. Arm problems ended up derailing him, and despite attempts to resurrect his career with the Blue Jays, Tigers and Dodgers, Edwards never returned to the majors after 1991.
Other White Sox signed 10th rounders who played in the majors include infielders Ron Lolich (1965) and Rob Lukachyk (1987), along with pitchers John Hudek (1988), Heath Phillips (2000), and Brad Goldberg (2013). Pitcher Jimmy Key, with a bWAR of 48.9, had a terrific MLB career but didn’t sign with the Sox when drafted in the 10th round in 1979. The only other White Sox unsigned pick who made it to the majors was infielder Mike Adams (1966). Other Sox-signed 10th rounders still playing in organized baseball include infielder Zach Remillard (2016), along with pitchers J.B. Olson (2017) and Bennett Sousa (2018).