Best 5 Draft picks in White Sox history

February 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- From first-round picks who turned into Hall of Famers to late-round steals, here’s a look at the Top 5 homegrown MLB Draft picks in White Sox history, as well as a few significant others.

1) Frank Thomas (No. 7 overall pick, 1989)

The man known as the "Big Hurt" is the best hitter in franchise history. Thomas finished his White Sox career with a slash line of .307/.427/.568 over 16 seasons to go with 448 home runs, 447 doubles, 1,465 RBIs, 1,466 walks, 1,327 runs scored and 32 stolen bases, for good measure. He holds nine career White Sox records and ranks in the Top 5 in five other categories. The Hall of Famer also won back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player Awards in 1993-94, won the batting title in '97 and was a five-time All-Star.

Thomas was the No. 7 overall pick out of Auburn University in 1989, and his selection leads to a famous Chicago baseball story. Jeff Jackson, who was a true Chicago Public League legend out of Simeon High School, was taken No. 4 overall by the Phillies in that same Draft, but he never reached the Majors and ended up playing two seasons for the unaffiliated Will County Cheetahs. Thomas, meanwhile, had his No. 35 jersey retired and has a statue on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse.

2) Harold Baines (No. 1 overall pick, 1977)

Baines was a quiet leader who did most of his talking on the field. The Hall of Famer had three separate stints with the White Sox, starting and finishing his career on the South Side. The left-handed slugger ranks third in franchise history with 221 home runs, fourth with 981 RBIs, fifth with 320 doubles and sixth with 1,773 hits. He was a four-time All-Star and won the Edgar Martinez Award as the league's top designated hitter in 1987 and '88. People forget Baines also was an accomplished right fielder, ranking in the Top 5 in AL outfield assists in '81 and ’86. He had his No. 3 jersey retired by the White Sox, and he also has a sculpture on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse.

3) Mark Buehrle (38th-round pick, 1998)

There might not be a player in White Sox history who resonates more with the fanbase than Buehrle. In one moment, he was no-hitting the Rangers or throwing a perfect game against the Rays, and in the next moment, the southpaw was tarp-diving during a rain delay or taking control of a television camera during a broadcast. Buehrle pitched in just 36 Minor League games before joining the 2000 AL Central champions in relief. After making 25 of his 28 appearances out of the bullpen that season, Buehrle would be a rotation stalwart for the next 11 years in Chicago, making 362 trips to the mound (all starts).

From 2001-11, Buehrle made at least 30 starts, pitched 200 innings and earned double-digit wins each year for the White Sox. He finished his 12-year run with a 161-119 record and a 3.83 ERA, all while hurling 27 complete games and eight shutouts. Buehrle did it all by simply knowing how to pitch, with a fastball averaging 85.6 mph, per FanGraphs. He earned three Gold Glove Awards and four All-Star nods -- and he even homered once during a game at Milwaukee. In the '05 World Series sweep of Houston, Buehrle started Game 2 and came back to record the final out in the 14th inning of Game 3. Buehrle’s No. 56 jersey was retired by the team.

4) Robin Ventura (No. 10 overall pick, 1988)

Ventura becomes the only person on this homegrown list to have played for and also managed the White Sox. His first-round selection in 1988 was the second in a string of four consecutive highly successful first-round picks, starting with Jack McDowell in '87, and ending with Thomas and Alex Fernandez in '89 and '90, respectively. Though Ventura began his career by going just 8-for-45 in his debut season in '89, he finished as the most prolific third baseman in franchise history.

Ventura's 171 home runs rank seventh among White Sox hitters, to go with a .274 average, an .805 OPS, 219 doubles and 668 walks against 659 strikeouts. He was a defensive gem, earning five Gold Glove Awards with Chicago (and another while playing for the Mets). Ventura’s 18 grand slams -- including hitting one in the fourth and fifth innings of a Sept. 4, 1995, game against the Rangers -- are tied for fifth in MLB history. He also hit a walk-off grand slam against future Hall of Famer Rich "Goose" Gossage, another homegrown White Sox talent. Ventura finished with 373 managerial victories, including an 85-77 record in his 2012 debut.

5) Chris Sale (No. 13 overall pick, 2010)

It took Sale exactly two months and 11 Minor League appearances after being drafted in 2010 to reach the Majors. The lanky left-hander turned in a strong effort in relief in that debut season, posting a 1.93 ERA followed by a 2.79 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 71 innings over 58 games in ’11 before moving to the rotation.

Sale’s stuff translated pretty darn well as a starter, and he was named an All-Star in each of his final five seasons with the White Sox. He struck out a franchise-record 274 in 208 2/3 innings during the 2015 season, and he fanned at least 200 in each of his final four seasons with Chicago. There was no doubt that Sale wanted to win, and he wanted to win with the White Sox team that gave him a chance in the Majors.

Honorable mention

Tim Anderson (No. 17 overall pick, 2013)

Anderson seems to rise on the White Sox all-time franchise lists with each year he plays. His bat-flipping, entertaining style has made him one of the young faces of the game, along with his 2019 AL batting title after he hit .335. Anderson followed up that effort by hitting .322 in '20, and he tied for the AL lead with 45 runs scored.

Jack McDowell (No. 5 overall pick, 1987)

McDowell won the 1993 AL Cy Young Award after finishing second to Dennis Eckersley for the honor the year prior. McDowell had a 91-58 record and a 3.50 ERA over seven seasons with the White Sox, including back-to-back 20-win campaigns in '92 and '93.

Alex Fernandez (No. 4 overall pick, 1990)

The right-hander was a staple in the rotation for the 1993 division champions, and he posted double-digit victories with a sub 3.90 ERA from '93-96.