Zack Collins had difficulty describing the emotions of being selected by the White Sox with the 10th pick of the major league draft Thursday night.
But at least he was prepared.
Within seconds of being chosen, the University of Miami catcher and Baseball America first-team All-American donned a White Sox cap – courtesy of his girlfriend – who purchased a hat representing every team in preparation for the draft so Collins could look the part.
The Sox feel like Collins already does.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound left-handed hitter is batting .358 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI, 49 runs, 69 walks, a .534 on-base percentage and a .631 slugging percentage in 57 games with No. 2-ranked Miami.
Collins, 21, became the first catcher chosen by the White Sox in the first round since Mark Johnson was selected with the 26th pick in 1994. Sox director of scouting Nick Hostetler said Collins has been the team’s top target since April.
Collins admitted in a conference call on Thursday night that he wasn’t certain whether Chicago would be his draft night destination.
“I didn’t have a for sure feeling that they were going to pick me or they weren’t going to pick me,” Collins said. “But I’m very excited.”
The Sox also selected Louisville right-handed pitcher Zack Burdi with a pick that came from the Giants as compensation as part of the Jeff Samardzija deal. Burdi has a 2.20 ERA in 26 games as for the fifth-ranked Cardinals, who hosts the University of California-Santa Barbara in a NCAA Super Regional.
Burdi, who played at Downers Grove South and who has a fastball that has exceeded 100 mph., struck out 46 and walked seven in his 26 innings while recording 11 saves.
Thursday night, Hostetler characterized Burdi as being “advanced” and that the Sox will keep him in a reliever’s role and will re-evaluate him after the season. Hostetler noted the development of Burdi’s slider as being key, which he has added to an arsenal of three-plus pitches that Hostetler called “lights-out stuff.”
Burdi said the Sox were a perfect landing spot for him.
“It’s an absolute dream come true, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Chicago kid, but it is,” Burdi said. “Being a White Sox fan growing up, going to games, seeing the (Paul) Konerkos and Frank Thomases, it was something I looked forward to and something I always wanted to go to and be a part of.”
The Sox finished off Thursday with their third selection by choosing Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Alec Hansen with the 49th overall pick. The 6-7 Hansen was pegged as a top-five pick a year ago, but struggled this season with the Sooners, finishing with a 3-5 record and a 5.40 ERA.
Hostetler said Hansen has a power fastball in the 97-100 mph range and that he has four-plus pitches when he’s on. But Hansen needs the most work of the three players selected Thursday. Hostetler said the Sox will work with Hansen on some of his mechanics issues that Sox pitching coach Don Cooper picked up on video.
While Hostetler said all three first-night selections have the chance to be impact players, it was the Collins pick that got the ball rolling for the Sox.
Collins has drawn comparisons to Yankees catcher Brian McCann and draft experts were impressed with his patience at the plate and ability to hit to all fields.
“(He’s got) great plate discipline,” Hostetler said. “He understands the strike zone as well as anybody, more walks than strikeouts. (He’s got) big, big raw power. This is something we’ve been looking for for a long time in our organization and we think we found it today.”
As big of a moment as draft night was for Collins, he will turn his attention back to his college career. The Hurricanes will face Boston College beginning Friday in another Super Regional with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
“It’s a really fun time – it’s a crazy time, but it’s fun,” Collins said. “Right now, I have the draft in my head and tomorrow in my head. There’s a lot of stuff bouncing around, but it’s a very exciting time and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
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