By Jim Callis
March 20, 2006
Two ballyhooed former first-round picks changed organizations on Monday. The White Sox sent outfielder Joe Borchard, whose $5.3 million bonus in 2000 stood as a draft record until Justin Upton signed for $6.1 million in January, for lefthander Matt Thornton, the biggest surprise selection in 1998′s first round.
Borchard, 27, never could claim a role in Chicago and was out of options, which would have necessitated the White Sox placing him on waivers before they could send him to the minors again. Borchard commanded his huge bonus because he was also an NFL prospect as a quarterback, but for all his athleticism, he never has hit consistently as a pro. His best pro season remains his full-season debut in 2001, when he hit .295/.384/.509 with 27 homers at Double-A Birmingham. Borchard since has struggled to make consistent contact and spent most of 2005 at Triple-A Charlotte, where he batted .263/.335/.480 with 29 homers, 67 RBIs and 143 strikeouts in 134 games. A switch-hitter, power is his best tool. He’s a solid right fielder with average speed and a strong arm. Borchard, who went 5-for-12 (.417) in limited time with the White Sox last year, is a career .191/.254/.342 hitter with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in 298 big league at-bats over 102 games. He’s expected to stick with Seattle as a reserve.
The 6-foot-6 Thornton had more success in basketball than in baseball at Grand Valley State (Mich.). He didn’t win a game in college or in his first two pro seasons, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2002. His stuff has bounced back, as he has well above-average velocity on his fastball and slider, but the sharpness of his breaking ball and his command never have come around. His inability to develop a changeup has relegated him to the bullpen, where he went 0-4, 5.21 in 55 appearances for the Mariners in 2005. He had a 57-42 K-BB ratio in 57 innings, and opponents hit .248 with 13 homers against him. Thornton will serve as the second lefty in Chicago’s bullpen, behind Neal Cotts. He has a career 1-6, 4.82 record in 74 games in the majors.