ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s the Day 1 picks who get the pub and hype during baseball’s amateur draft, not the second- and third-day guys.
White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, a 19th-rounder out of Miami (Ohio) in 2010, has noticed.
“It’s kind of a joke now; MLB Network has the shot where they say, ‘Derek Jeter was a first-round draft pick!’ ’’ Eaton said. “Why don’t they show a 30th-rounder or a 19th-round guy?’’
Those are Eaton’s kind of guys. Guys like himself who probably have a little more to prove than the high-bonus money picks.
“Everybody knows the top picks get a few more chances [coming up through the minor leagues] than guys who don’t have any money wrapped up in them,’’ Eaton said. “It’s special for us late-rounders, for sure. You take pride in it.’’
Tyler Flowers was a 33rd-round pick by the Braves in 2005, and Daniel Webb was picked in the 18th round by the Blue Jays in 2009, so Eaton’s not the only kid on the team from the other side of the tracks, so to speak.
“We’re late-round picks; we showed that determination where we worked our butts off,’’ Eaton said.
Not that first-rounders such as Paul Konerko and Chris Sale, a sandwich pick (between the first and second) such as Conor Gillaspie or a second-rounder such as Adam Dunn haven’t worked. The late-round guys just always felt like they had to scrap and grind for everything they earned.
And now that Eaton has made it to the majors, perhaps those 19th-round roots are what keep him grounded. He said he will never for a second feel as though he has arrived.
“Oh, no, no. Never, never, never, never,’’ he said. “Even when I put up the numbers I did in the minor leagues, there still wasn’t a buzz about me because I was never on anybody’s map at any given point. Every day I have here is a blessing. It’s never, ‘I deserve to be in that box or out on that field.’ I am definitely blessed to be in this situation. I’ll give it everything I have every day as long as I’m here.’’
Eaton, acquired during the offseason for pitcher Hector Santiago, is credited with providing a spark at the top of the lineup that changed the complexion of the Sox’ offense. Since coming off the disabled list (hamstring issues), Eaton has not been the same, having five hits in his last 44 at-bats and — going into the Sox’ late game Saturday against the Angels — hitting .210 in 18 games since coming off the DL.
“Guys were joking with me when I got a hit [at Dodger Stadium] to get the ball,’’ said Eaton, who would like to characterize his slump as a somewhat typical run where hits don’t fall, calls go against you and “all of a sudden, you’re down 0-2 in the count.’’
“It’s part of the game,’’ he said. “Hopefully, I’ll strap out some hits and get my numbers back to where they should be.’’
The encouraging news, he said, is that his legs are feeling better. Eaton is eager to start getting on base with more consistency and using his legs to steal some bases.
“The wheels are great,’’ Eaton said. “They’ve really turned a corner and are feeling good. Stolen bases haven’t been there. My goal is not to get thrown out for the next 10 attempts. I have to be smart, run in good counts, get a good jump and hope the percentages are in my favor when I take off. That comes with having healthy legs.’’