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White Sox make pitching picks a trend in Round 5

The White Sox are using the Draft to stockpile arms.

Chicago made it four pitchers in five picks by taking Zach Thompson, a junior right-hander out of the University of Texas-Arlington, with its fifth-round pick (138th overall) on Friday.

The Draft concludes on Saturday with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on at 12 p.m. CT.

The White Sox are clearly hoping to develop Thompson's good but inconsistent, raw stuff. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound power-throwing righty can touch 96 mph with his fastball, but he sometimes struggled to command it and his secondary pitches. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 16 starts, covering 81 innings this season for UT-Arlington. Chicago has a good track record for developing pitchers at every level of the organization, something Thompson said excites him.

"Absolutely. Obviously, my goal isn't just to get drafted," Thompson said. "I want to move up as fast as I can, be the best player I can. And with their system being able to [turn] pitchers into someone worth looking out for, it's definitely super exciting, and being able to get up to the club as soon as possible, help them out, make a difference, it's very exciting."

The selection may have been even more exciting for the White Sox scouting department, which had been tracking Thompson since March. Assistant director of scouting Nick Hostetler admitted he was biased in saying that the Sox pitching-development personnel is the best in baseball, but he's nonetheless eager to hand Thompson over to those staffers.

"Zach is a guy that we kind of targeted coming into this thing from the start, as a guy we really wanted to get," Hostetler said. "You kind of play the game of where you think you can get him as opposed to where you have to take him, but at the same time, we felt Zach was a guy we all saw, we all saw a lot of.

"And there is a ton of upside, and there's a few things that once our pitching people get a hold of Zach, the sky's the limit. We're very, very excited."

Thompson has pitched his entire life, but he was a two-way player in high school. He didn't pitch much his senior year of high school due to injury, but he was nonetheless drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Thompson instead elected to go to UT-Arlington, which is just 45 minutes from home and has a good track record of producing Major League talent, especially pitchers. Mavericks players currently in the bigs include Dillon Gee, John Lackey, Mark Lowe, Michael Choice and Hunter Pence.

UT-Arlington baseball head coach Darin Thomas said Thompson needed time to grow into his body. Thompson arrived at UT-Arlington approximately 6-foot-6, 180 pounds and throwing 90 mph. Over two years, he's reached a healthy 213 pounds and can consistently hit 94-95 mph with his fastball.

"The one thing I like about him is he maintains his velocity. He'll maintain from the first inning all the way through the seventh inning, or however long he's out there," Thomas said. "But yeah, I think if there's some development, it would be with the secondary pitches. I think at times it's pretty good. When the secondary pitch is on, the breaking ball is on, he's very tough to hit."

As for the subpar college numbers, the big righty appeared to turn a corner toward the end of the season. Thompson said he struggled early on with his command, but he worked on extending his delivery to the plate after talking things over with his brother Matt, who pitched in the Rangers' Minor League system from 2008-12. The result was a string of strong of starts over his last four or five outings of the year.

"My ball was getting a lot more life on it," Thompson said. "Throwing a two-seam more, and that extension also let me throw what I wanted, where I wanted. So I was just able to have complete control on the mound."

That's probably also what the White Sox saw. It's up to their player development staff to maximize the obvious potential.

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for
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