Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Draft Years: 1965

 Drafting amateur players can be tricky. Hindsight is usually 20/20. Mistakes are made, bets are lost, but the risk can be worth the reward in rare cases.

The MLB amateur draft began in 1965. Since then, the process has essentially been a lottery for young talent. Most players drafted will never sniff the majors. The ones who do make it have a better shot at having a cup of coffee in the big show than to be a household name.

Big hype can fizzle quickly. Some players won't sign. There are all sorts of obstacles in the way of a successful pick, let alone a successful career. There are other factors to think about as well. Teams sometimes draft to fill holes in their roster. Sometimes the best candidate just won't be what a team is looking for. Other times, sure-fire picks end up going nowhere. Some decisions are based on money, some on agents. There are too many factors to get a crystal clear picture, but we can speculate pretty close.

This series will focus on the first pick of each draft for the White Sox.

It's easy to see on the surface why the White Sox chose catcher Ken Plesha with the seventeenth pick of the 1965 draft. He was a local prospect from McCook, Illinois, who went to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. It had all the makings of a great story; local boy does good, becomes star player with local team.

I have no idea how the selections were made in 1965, but my gut tells me that the selection process wasn't as in depth as it is now. If the White Sox did their homework a little better in 1965, they may have selected another catcher in the same draft...

Johnny Bench.
Four other catchers were selected between Ken Plesha and Johnny Bench. Only Ken Rudolph, selected by the Chicago Cubs at number twenty-six, made the majors, for parts of nine seasons.

Ken Plesha would spend three seasons in the White Sox minor league system before dropping out of baseball. He never rose above A ball.

Johnny Bench would play for seventeen seasons in the majors, win Rookie of the Year, two MVPs, win two World Series, win World Series MVP, make several All-Star appearances and make the Hall of Fame. Bench slipped all the way down to the thirty-sixth player selected in 1965.

While it's easier to play "what if" several decades later, it just goes to show you that even with all of today's information about prospects, nothing is a given, but it is fun to wonder how history could have played out differently.

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