With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.
If the 1989 MLB Draft could be done over again, Frank Thomas would’ve gone first overall.
And he would’ve been a Baltimore Oriole.
Luckily for the White Sox and all their fans, Thomas was selected 7th overall. The hulking first baseman dominated the SEC, hitting .382/.514/.725 in three seasons for Auburn, with 49 home runs in 178 games. Baseball America’s 1989 pre-draft take on Thomas cut right to the point.
"If it's power a team is looking for with an early first-round pick, then Auburn's 6-foot-5, 250-pound 1B Frank Thomas is the man. He's the top power prospect in the draft and shouldn't last past the first 12 or 13 picks."
His power wasn’t questioned by scouts. Although whether he’d be able to hit for average was another story. From a May 1989 scouting report:
"One excellent tool and fair in the field -- .250 hitter tops if that but will hit HR's 20 on bad year if he gets 500 AB's...”
All in all, Baseball America had Thomas pegged as the 29th ranked prospect in its pre-1990 top 100 list (though he was 3rd among White Sox. Robin Ventura was 15th and Wilson Alvarez was 26th). He started the year in Birmingham, where in 109 games he walked 112 times (with only 74 strikeouts), hitting .323/.487/.581 with 18 home runs. There was no doubt he was ready. Once he reached the Majors in August, he picked up where he left off, hitting .330/.454/.529 in 60 games for the White Sox.
His first seven seasons were the stuff of legend. Twenty-plus home runs, 100+ runs, 100+ RBI, 100+ walks & .300 BA in all seven. He was arguably the most prolific Major League hitter since Ted Williams. He won the 1993 & 1994 AL MVP awards, led the AL in OBP four times and won the 1997 batting title. He finished his White Sox career in 2005 with a World Series title, though injuries prevented him from playing in the postseason. His 448 home runs remain a White Sox record. Quite clearly, he is the greatest hitter in franchise history.
The Big Hurt (a nickname bestowed upon him by Hawk Harrelson) finished his Major League career with 521 home runs with a career slashline of .301/.419/.555. Only six players in MLB history have had 500+ HR with .300/.400/.500. The other five are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Mel Ott & Manny Ramírez. The White Sox retired Big Frank’s #35 in 2010, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.