Black Sox Beat Writer
Chicago Sports Online
Second time’s the charm – at least Chicago hopes so.
The Black Sox drafted groundball pitcher extraordinaire Mal Byrd in the first round this week – the second time he has been nabbed by a BBA team in the amateur draft.
Byrd was taken by Phoenix in the first round of the 2040 draft – the 29th overall pick - after graduating high school. He didn’t sign, however, and instead went on to college, pitched four years, and entered the draft this season where he was taken by Chicago … as the 29th overall pick.
Although Byrd, a 22-year-old righthander, has been a starter throughout his college career for the Aflac Ducks, Sox director of scouting Frank H. Pabodie said the franchise plans to groom him as a reliever – possibly a closer.
“He only throws two pitches – a sinker and a slider – so we question his utility in the rotation,” Pabodie said. “But both of those pitches are dominant, and he’s been inducing grounders this season at a 73 percent clip. We think he would be dynamic coming out of the pen.”
In fact, scouts rate his overall potential as just 25/45 as a starter - but 20/70 as a reliever.
“Born in Baton Rouge, LA, Mal Byrd is a real worm killer who will generate a high number of groundballs,” his most recent scouting report reads. “His stuff should play well above average once he’s finished developing. And, he has great command of his pitches, such that he’ll rarely give up a long-ball.
“Byrd has the potential to work critical late innings with his overwhelming stuff.”
Indeed, Byrd has been growing into that potential nicely so far, and scouts hope that will accelerate even more once he starts working with professional coaches.
Pabodie said Byrd’s greatest strength is the otherworldly movement he gets on his pitches, which scouts rate as 8/10. They rate his “stuff” at 6/9, but his control at just 2/4.
“We’d like him to work on his control with our coaching staff, but we’re not especially worried about that,” Pabodie said. “What counts is that he’s a young man who gets people out.”
Indeed, on April 24, Byrd got just about everyone out as he twirled a no-hitter against the Anheiser-Busch Budweisers with 13 strikeouts and 3 walks.
“That was one hell of a lot of fun,” Byrd enthused during a phone interview. “Getting picked in the first round - again - was pretty sweet, too. I don’t want to get ahead of myself because I want my agent to do his thing with the contract talks, but I sure am looking forward to pitching in Chicago. That park is a pitcher’s dream, I hear.”
Pabodie said initial talks with Byrd’s agent have been cordial, and the team is not anticipating any difficulties in working out a contract.
"Sorry, Phoenix," Pabodie said.