Athleticism integral for Sox top pick
Speedy LSU two-sport star Mitchell kicks off Draft class
CHICAGO -- He has yet to step foot on Roger Bossard's perfectly manicured grass at U.S. Cellular Field.
Yet, Jared Mitchell, the White Sox top pick at No. 23 during Tuesday's first day of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, already is preaching from the gospel of manager Ozzie Guillen.
The standout outfielder from LSU was asked during an evening conference call about the top skill he eventually will bring to the White Sox organization. And Mitchell provided a speedy response.
"It helps a lot," said Mitchell after putting quickness as his No. 1 attribute. "It's really hard to go into slumps. You can do a lot of things when you have speed."
If this line sounds familiar, it's probably because the White Sox manager has stated that fact numerous times during his six-year tenure. And in the selection of Mitchell, the White Sox just might have fulfilled their ideal Draft day goal.
Not only did they fill a glaring need within their organization, but they also added an exceptional talent. In Mitchell, the White Sox picked an athletic, speed sort of player that they have been searching for over the past four years. He conceivably could be the franchise's man at the top of the order in the not-too-distant future.
"Basically a potential leadoff-type of guy and a high-ceiling, athletic type of guy," said White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann of Mitchell. "I'm very excited for a couple reasons.
"No. 1, Jared is just an outstanding young man. He played some baseball in the Cincinnati area where I live the past couple years, and I got an opportunity to know the people that spend a lot of time with him. First and foremost, he's an outstanding young man.
"Secondly, one of the things we were trying to accomplish in this Draft was to find a high-ceiling, athletic type of player," Laumann said. "We certainly weren't going to sacrifice the ability of some guys just to get that, but as it turns out, he was the one guy we felt like was the best player on the board and at the same time fit exactly what it was we were looking for."
Mitchell, 20, has a .325 average during this ongoing season for the LSU Tigers, playing in 61 games. He has an on-base percentage of .471 and a slugging percentage of .557. Mitchell has rapped 12 doubles, four triples and nine home runs, adding in 43 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in 44 attempts. The left-handed-hitting center fielder checks in at 6-foot, 190 pounds and is described as having a quick bat, and average raw power which could develop into more, although not an overabundance of baseball experience.
His pure athleticism is exhibited through the 11.8 yards per catch Mitchell put up during his last season with the LSU football team, joining Frank Thomas (1989), Joe Borchard (2000) and Josh Fields (2004) as other two-sport athletes selected by the White Sox in the first round. Like these other three before him, Mitchell is firmly committed to a career in baseball.
"I'm committed to what I'm doing," said Mitchell, when asked the possibility of a split-sport focus. "I want to get out there as soon as possible and start playing."
Signing dates for all Draft picks is Aug. 17. Mitchell, whose family advisor is Greg Landry, didn't sound as if signability was going to be much of a problem. For now, Mitchell is focused on the College World Series and bringing a title back to the Bayou, with LSU facing the University of Virginia on Saturday in a first-round matchup.
Minnesota drafted the Louisiana native out of high school in the 10th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. But he decided to play football and baseball for the prestigious programs at LSU.
"All things that are meant to happen are going to happen," Mitchell said. "Going to LSU was the best opportunity to mature and get better physically and mentally."
The White Sox have selected collegiate players with every first-round pick since 2001, when right-handed hurler Kris Honel was taken from Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, Ill. Honel no longer is part of the organization.
Four of the last six top picks currently are on the active roster, with Lance Broadway, taken 15th overall out of TCU in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, used by general manager Ken Williams to acquire backup catcher Ramon Castro from the Mets. Aaron Poreda, selected 25th overall in 2007, had his contract purchased from Double-A Birmingham prior to Tuesday's game, and the hard-throwing starter of the future was moved to the White Sox bullpen.
Brian Anderson, taken 15th overall out of the University of Arizona in 2003, started in center for the White Sox on Tuesday, with Josh Fields on the bench. The White Sox picked Fields at No. 18 in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Fields has been supplanted at third base by Gordon Beckham, who reached the Majors in just 364 days after he was taken eighth overall by the White Sox in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Beckham has fond memories of his draft day, although with a guaranteed high pick in the offing for the standout from the University of Georgia, it wasn't exactly a nerve wracking day.
"For me, it wasn't. It was all fun," Beckham said. "I knew I was going top 10, so it was like wherever I end up will be fine. For guys who want to go in the first round or find themselves in the 20 through 40 range, it is nerve wracking."
Those sort of nerves might have been felt by Mitchell, but he certainly couldn't be happier with the final outcome. White Sox fans, and Guillen alike, also should like the player he could become, judging by the comparisons Mitchell made on Tuesday to established big league talent.
"I play a lot like Carl Crawford, and I like watching Torii Hunter," Mitchell said. "I take as much as I can from anybody I watch and incorporate as much as I can to the things I know that I can do well."
Other White Sox Day 1 picks
Compensation Round A, Joshua Phegley, C, Indiana University
The White Sox needed to address the catching depth in their system through this Draft, and Laumann believes they got a true leader, a "plus-plus makeup" sort of guy in Phegley. He's a strong offensive player, better with his bat than the glove, but Laumann believes Phegley will be able to catch.
Second Round A, Trayce Thompson, OF, Santo Margarita HS, Rancho Santo Margarita, Calif.
The son of one-time NBA standout Mychael Thompson is a big strong athletic kid, "who is still growing into his body," according to Laumann. Thompson currently is playing center field, but Laumann believes he eventually will move to a corner outfield spot as he continues to grow and get stronger. Thompson's game already has improved since he gave up basketball and focused on baseball.
Second Round, David Holmberg, LHP, Port Charlotte HS, Port Charlotte, Fla.
The southpaw has an average fastball, according to Laumann, but has a plus-breaking ball with pitchability. Holmberg has a bigger body type that reminds Laumann of former Major Leaguer Greg Swindell.
Third Round, Bryan Morgado, LHP, University of Tennessee Morgado has been relegated to bullpen work for the Volunteers, but with a fastball that can touch 96 or 97 mph, the White Sox are confident they can work to help Morgado consistently throw strikes. Morgado hasn't had a great deal of statistical success, but he's more of a project with a big arm.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.