White Sox Draft Countdown: Top 10 picks from past 25 years (#4)
Now that we have reached the final four of our countdown, it is worth noting that these four players are each on a different level than the previous six. Sure, the players already listed have either A. had a respectable MLB career or B. are well on their way to having just that, but this quartet can call be remembered as some of the best players Chicago has seen over the past 25 years. Only fitting the fourth ranked player is someone White Sox fans saw a TON of in the late 1990s-early 2000s.
He really needs no introduction…..
#4: Ray Durham: 1990 5th rd pick (132nd overall)
Ray Durham was drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 MLB Draft by the White Sox out of Harding High School (NC). It took the speedy middle infielder four and a half years to crack the White Sox roster, as he made his big league debut on April 26, 1995. Durham hit .257 his first season in the bigs, stole 18 bases and drove in 51 runs. Due to his knack of getting on base and his rare speed, he was placed at the top of Chicago’s lineup, and over the course of his career in the Windy City, he would become one of the best lead-off hitters in franchise history. In 1996, we would see Durham’s average rise to .275, and his stolen base numbers would be higher as well. His 30 stolen bags would be the sixth highest amount in the entire American League. Over the next four seasons, Durham would solidify himself as one of the game’s top lead-off guys. In those four years, he averaged 177 hits, 15 homers, a .283 batting average, a .358 OBP and 32 stolen bases. During that stretch, he also would earn his two career all-star appearances (1998 and 2000). Durham would rank second in the A.L. in runs scored in 1998 with 126. In 2001, his numbers would drop just a tad. His batting average fell to .267 and he only managed to steal 23 bases—the lowest total since his rookie season. That year would be Durham’s last full season in Chicago, for 2002 he only played in 96 games before he was traded to Oakland on July 25. Eight of his 14 years in baseball were spent with Chicago, and he still can be found in the White Sox record books. He is currently the club’s all-time leader in lead-off homers with 20. He also ranks fifth in steals (219), seventh in doubles (249) and eighth in runs (784). Durham made the most of his short time in Oakland, as he hit .274 and had an OBP in only 54 games with the Athletics to help push them back to the playoffs. When 2002 concluded, he joined some elite company. From 2000-02, Durham totaled at least 15 homers, 100 runs, 20 steals, a .450 slugging percentage and 65 RBI–thus becoming the 10th player in MLB to post these numbers in three consecutive seasons. To put those three seasons into perspective, he joined such players as Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan and Alex Rodriguez, who also accomplished this feat. Durham signed on with the San Francisco Giants with a four-year deal before the 2003 season. The first three years of the contract would see Durham be plagued with hamstring injuries. He would miss a combined 92 games in his first two seasons in San Francisco. Despite his injury woes, he still managed to post a .286 average over those three years, but his stolen base numbers would drastically decline. He would average less than eight stolen bases per season. The Giants would exercise Durham’s player option for the 2005 season, and that’s when we would begin to see him a have a different approach at the plate. At the age of 34, he no longer had to the legs that he used to, but Durham still had a very productive season thanks to a power outburst. He was moved to the five spot in the lineup entering 2005 and would eventually have his finest season offensively. Durham posted career highs in homers (26), RBI (93) and also batted .290. He had salvaged what had once been deemed a declining career, and that earned him another two year deal with the Giants. In 2007, Durham’s power numbers would begin to decline, as he only hit 11 home runs and drove in 71 runs. The following season, he would split time between San Francisco and Milwaukee. On June 12, 2008 he recorded his 2000th career hit. Only 272 players in the history of baseball have reached this mark. Following the 2008 season, at the age of 37, Durham was once again a free agent. No team would offer him a Major League deal, so he decided to walk away from baseball after fourteen successful seasons. Ray Durham will always be known as one of the game’s best lead-off hitters from the clouded era that he played in. He finished his career with 2054 hits, 440 doubles (113th all-time), a lifetime batting average of .277 and a .352 OBP. It is difficult to remember the late 1990s/early 2000s lead-off hitters and not think of “The Sugarman”.
#3 on our list will be up in just a bit….
Top 10 White Sox draft picks from past 25 years
#10: Addison Reed
#9: James Baldwin
#8: Joe Crede
#7: Chris Sale
#6: Aaron Rowand
#5: Mike Cameron
#4: Ray Durham
#1: THURSDAY (DRAFT DAY!)