White Sox pleased with Day 1 talent
Chicago drafts nine pitchers on first day of selections
CHICAGO -- Most of the focus from the White Sox first day of selections in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft will fall upon Kyle McCulloch, the 29th selection overall, and second-to-last pick in the first round.
And the right-handed pitcher, who was a key cog in the University of Texas' 2005 drive to the NCAA baseball title, deserves the attention. In fact, Duane Shaffer, the White Sox senior director of player personnel, spoke Tuesday night of a good talk the team had with McCulloch and his family advisor, and expects him to be in the organizational fold very soon.
But Shaffer took just as much satisfaction from the remaining 17 picks, comprising the 18 rounds from Day 1.
"I feel really good about Day 1," said Shaffer, during a talk with the media in the back of the U.S. Cellular Field pressbox Tuesday night. "I thought this draft was a little shallow, but I thought our guys did a tremendous job in the draft.
"We got a lot of guys that we liked. I don't think we can do any more than that."
Exactly half of the first 18 White Sox picks were used on pitching, but only two were left-handed. The South Siders also took two catchers, in Texas Tech's Tyler Reeves (fourth round) and Kylee Hash from Basic High School in Henderson, Nev. (17th round), trying to strengthen one of the few weak positions in the Minor League system.
Tuesday's first three picks seem to hold the greatest excitement for Shaffer. Following McCulloch, the White Sox took right-handed pitcher Matthew Long in the second round from University of Miami in Ohio. Long has been drafted twice before and has battled back from Tommy John surgery in 2004, but the closer has a fastball that can reach 95 mph and already possesses a plus-curve.
Justin Edwards, a left-handed pitcher taken in the third round out of Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., might have the most electric stuff of the group. Edwards has good command of three pitches and was one of the top high school pitchers in Florida.
"He's a high school kid that really is mature beyond his years, a little bit like Gio Gonzalez, who we took a few years ago," said Shaffer of Edwards. "He knows how to throw strikes, knows how to pitch, knows how to change speeds.
"So, we're really happy to have a kid like that," Shaffer added.
Edwards had signed a letter of intent to go to the University of Georgia, but Shaffer termed Edwards as "very signable," based on a talk they had with the young man on Tuesday.
The White Sox also took a familiar name in the fifth round in second baseman John Shelby, from the University of Kentucky. Shelby, who is the son of the former Major Leaguer and current Pirates coach of the same name, has the ability to hit for power and steal a base or two.
Six of the White Sox picks were from the high school ranks, including three of the final four selections. When asked for a sleeper from the first day, Shaffer pointed to Lee Cruz, an outfielder taken in the 10th round from the University of Tampa.
"We got the Division II Player of the Year, and we were happy to get him," said Shaffer of Cruz. "He can swing the bat. He's got a professional approach to hitting."
According to Shaffer, the goal for Day 2 is to possibly find another Mark Buehrle, selected in the 38th round of the 1998 draft. For Tuesday night, though, Shaffer can revel in what he thought was a solid day's work -- beginning with McCulloch.
"I think we'll start him off at [advanced rookie league] Great Falls and let him get his feet wet a little bit and then move him up from there," Shaffer said. "I know he'll end up in High A [Winston-Salem] before the season's out and possibly Double-A (Birmingham)."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.