By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Adding hitters with more patience and plate discipline is a refreshing angle that the White Sox front office has taken in this year’s amateur draft.
Although a new organizational philosophy isn’t a great revelation, it’s a departure from the old “We will out-slug you” mentality of obtaining power hitters who are all-or-nothing home run-or-strikeout prototypes.
This new philosophy starts with the front office and goes down the chain of command. This will be the White Sox’s approach for acquiring both pro and amateur players moving forward.
Going back to Jim Thome’s departure, Chicago had been chasing its own tail trying to fill the designated role and find power-hitting RBI men. Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Avisail Garcia and Todd Frazier have all been attempts at adding big-time power and run production to the White Sox batting order. It’s having players like those who add to the swing-and-miss factor that has been the downfall of the recent Chicago lineups.
The success of Jose Abreu has been a nice chapter in an otherwise unsuccessful attempt to acquire power and OPS types.
The front office did a quality job in signing Abreu to a six-year, $68-million contract before the 2014 season. With a career .357 on-base percentage and .867 OPS, Abreu has for the most part delivered the way Chicago executives want their big boppers of the future to approach their at-bats. Abreu does come in a little light with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of about 3-to-1, but perfection in that area will be difficult to obtain
That’s why the first two amateur players whom the White Sox selected in the amateur draft Monday are so crucial to the mindset of the front office going into this rebuild. Both Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger (first round, No. 11 overall) and Wake Forest first baseman Gavin Sheets (second round, No. 49 overall have a strikeout-to-walk ratio that was close to even at the college level.
The process of signing and developing already-progressed hitters in identifying balls and strikes is crucial in general manager Rick Hahn’s mind.
“We are very pleased with our draft,” Hahn said Tuesday afternoon. “We emphasized the need for college bats, polished bats that control the strike zone. They come with a level of power that this system was lacking in some regards.”
Balance in the batting order is an important key to success. Avoiding right-handed power pitchers from dominating right-handed-dominant lineups keeps baseball executives up at night looking for the proper type of hitters to trade for, sign and develop.
The White Sox aren’t stopping at looking for just a different type of hitter. The mandate for strike-throwing pitchers, not just power arms, is also an edict from the front office on down.
“We do need a balance between analytics and pure evaluation,” scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “When we go outside of the box (from this new philosophy), we have to really believe in the carrying tool. We have to be sure there is a tool in there that is going to be valuable.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.