For the last 20 years, the White Sox have been something of a laughingstock in terms of drafting. Sure, Ken Williams had Chris Sale and Rick Hahn has Tim Anderson on his ledger, but the consistent failure to get anything meaningful out of their drafts contributed to rosters full of middling-to-awful veterans, an inability to trade for high-value targets, and a complete lack of depth to draw upon from the minors. At a glance, Hahn has not had a great deal of success outside of Anderson, with most of his other first round picks either flaming out completely or providing uninspiring results to date.
However, despite some prominent misses (Carson Fulmer, Zack Collins) and gambles on upside that seem unlikely to pay off (Spencer Adams, Alec Hansen, Gavin Sheets), Hahn does have some significant wins in the later rounds that deserve recognition.
As such, I have compiled my ranking of his best picks based upon value provided to the club relative to their position in the draft. Yes, this list is very heavy on relievers, but I’ll take a home-grown bullpen over doling out multiple, eight-figure contracts for one any day.
1. Aaron Bummer
While Anderson has been hands-down Hahn’s most valuable pick, Bummer was the best value. A 19th (!) round selection, Bummer had poor results early but slowly improved until he became one of the most dominant lefty relievers in the game. He parlayed his success into a $29.5 million contract extension (with options) that hopefully keeps him as one of the team’s late-inning options, if not the actual closer, through the bulk of their competitive window.
2. Adam Engel
Another 19th round pick, Engel burst onto the scene as an all-glove/no-bat center fielder, displaying some of the best reads, jumps, and speed in the outfield while being next to useless at the plate. If that had been what he peaked at, he could probably still have made this list considering the inherent value in finding a plus-plus defender and baserunner so low in the draft. But in 2019, Engel showed a sudden ability to handle left-handed pitching (albeit in a small, year-end sample) that suggested his hit tool was starting to catch up with the rest of his physical talents. While I hesitate to draw any conclusions from the zany 2020 season, that Engel finished it with an above-average OPS while actually hitting BETTER against right-handed pitching can only be taken as a massive win, even if he risks being overexposed if pushed as a regular.
3. Tim Anderson
Far and away the White Sox best position player draft pick of the Williams/Hahn era to stick with the team (distant second is Gordon Beckham ... seriously) and the best non-Chris Sale draft pick, period, at first Anderson looked like another classic Williams toolsy outfielder first round selection, with the exception that he was playing shortstop for some reason. Despite red flags with his defense, plate discipline, and general baseball acumen, Anderson ascended the minors in good order and slowly made good on his immense talents in the majors. The 17th pick of the 2013 draft, Anderson has been the third-most valuable player from that class, behind only Aaron Judge and Kris Bryant. However, being more than a year younger than both and having outproduced them in the shortened 2020 season, the potential for him to close that WAR gap remains.
4. Matt Foster
Originally drafted (but not signed) by the Diamondbacks in 2013, the White Sox benefited from Foster’s decision to go to college and drafted him in the 20th round in 2016. In a draft class filled with pitchers who the White Sox saw as potential closers (Zack Burdi, Ian Hamilton) and rotation stalwarts (Alec Hansen, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores Jr.), Foster did not particularly stand out at all. But in the ensuing seasons, he steadily advanced up the minor-league ladder, posting solid numbers and establishing himself as an intriguing piece of a now-strong White Sox system. However, nobody saw him being as good as he was in his 2020 debut, leading the bullpen in innings pitched and posting a strong ERA, FIP, and peripherals. While perhaps not a closer-in-waiting, Foster looks like he will be a bullpen stalwart for several years.
5. Danny Mendick
Mendick first came into the public eye as a FanGraphs under-the-radar darling. Though not a part of the White Sox Top 30 due to a lack of upside and projection, Mendick was noted for posting solid results and showing signs of being at least a capable MLB-caliber player. Due in part to a successful debut and probably lingering Yolmer Sánchez fatigue, Mendick seemingly went from unrecognized to wildly overrated almost overnight. Though he cooled off considerably after a hot start to 2020 and wound up demoted off of the MLB roster, he has shown that he has a ceiling of at least a functional MLB utility infielder, which isn’t bad at all for a 22nd round pick.
6. Codi Heuer
A sixth round pick in the 2018 draft, the White Sox initially tried Heuer out as a starter (with mediocre returns) but converted him to a reliever in 2019 to outstanding results. Though he hadn’t played above Double-A, Heuer’s stuff played so impressively that the White Sox included him on their Opening Day roster this season. Heuer rewarded their faith with a 1.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 0.887 WHIP, and indications he may be their closer if Alex Colomé doesn’t return.
7. Garrett Crochet
With the caveat that there is very little to go off of here and his playoff injury looms large moving forward, we can all agree that what we saw from Crochet was almost unbelievable. Big credit to Hahn and the scouting department for jumping on a pitcher who had was not very impressive in his college career, and only had a brief showing in 2020 before the college season was cancelled. Crochet was considered a big gamble on upside, but oh boy, what a upside. If he can maintain that triple-digit heat arsenal as a starter, the AL Central is going to be in big trouble.
8. Jared Kelley
I’m cheating a bit with this one, given Kelley has not pitched in a professional game yet, but his selection was a second round coup for Hahn, who sacrificed almost his entire bonus pool for the subsequent three rounds to create enough room to pay Kelley what he was looking for. It was an impressive move that netted the White Sox a player who was considered a Top 20 pick by most, and was arguably even better than their actual first round pick, Crochet. Even disregarding the exceptional circumstances of his signing, Kelley is possibly their best trade chit for the 2021 season in terms of assets who are not immediately ready to contribute but have exceptional value.
Have any ideas for somebody I may have overlooked? Take issue with the order I put them in? Feel free to comment and argue below!