Showing posts with label Adam LaRoche. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam LaRoche. Show all posts

Thursday, July 13, 2017

White Sox trade Jose Quintana to Cubs for four prospects

Jose Quintana
Shock and disbelief are reverberating throughout Chicago, after the White Sox traded left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to the crosstown Cubs on Thursday.

I'm probably not as stunned as some people are. If you watched any of the Sox-Rockies series over the weekend, you might have heard Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone talking about how it would be "crazy" for the Sox not to entertain trade offers from the Cubs.

Harrelson, for better or for worse, has long been regarded as a mouthpiece for Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Listen carefully to the oracle, and you might be able to read the tea leaves. If Harrelson is talking about a potential Sox-Cubs deal, then you shouldn't be shocked when one occurs.

Let's take a look at the four guys the Sox acquired:

  • Eloy Jimenez, OF -- The best prospect in the Cubs' system, the 20-year-old outfielder is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. Jimenez, who was on the World roster for the Futures Game, was hitting 271/.351/.490 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 42 games with Class-A Myrtle Beach this season. 
  • Dylan Cease, RHP -- The sixth-round pick of the Cubs in 2014, Cease was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the North Siders' system. He is ranked as the No. 83 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. In 13 starts with Class-A South Bend, Cease had a 2.79 ERA and 1.258 WHIP with 74 strikeouts.
  • Matt Rose, 1B-3B -- The 22-year-old was an 11th-round pick in 2015. Rose had a .227/.281/.481 slash line with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs in 65 games at Myrtle Beach this season.
  • Bryant Flete, IF-OF -- The 24-year-old has played both infield and outfield positions. He was slashing .305/.355/.425 with six home runs and 37 RBIs in 70 games at Myrtle Beach.
People who know me will probably not be surprised that I'm less than enthusiastic about this trade. I'm not going to say that Sox general manager Rick Hahn did not acquire good prospects in this deal -- he did. He said he was looking to get the top two prospects out of an organization in a Quintana trade, and the Cubs clearly met his asking price.

That said, while Jimenez and Cease are high-quality prospects, neither is close to MLB-ready. Both still need significant development time in the minor leagues, and the Sox are going to have to coach these guys up in order for them to reach their potential.

Based upon what you've seen over the past 10 or 15 years, what have the Sox done to earn our faith as fans that they can develop this talent? Very little in my estimation, and that's why I'm less than excited about this haul, just as I wasn't overly enthused about the haul the Sox get in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades.

It's nice to have a highly regarded farm system, but that doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the Sox do not handle these prospects correctly. I will continue to be skeptical until I see results at the major league level, and I think we all understand that it will be a few years before we can make any firm judgments on that.

As I've said before, it's not the rebuild itself that offends me. It's the actors in charge of the rebuild who concern me. The fan base seems to be in favor of this trade, and frankly, I've surprised by the lack of skepticism among Sox fans these days.

In the past, we as a fan base have always been willing to ask tough questions, to not just take things on faith or face value. In this rebuild, we are putting a lot of faith in the same people who brought us Jeff Keppinger, Adam LaRoche, James Shields and assorted other bums.

We can only hope their judgment of young talent, and their development of that young talent, is much better than their judgment on which veteran players to pursue in trades and in free agency. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jimmy Rollins says White Sox clubhouse was in 'disarray' last year

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins doesn't collect paychecks from the White Sox anymore, which affords him the opportunity to speak honestly about his time on the South Side of Chicago.

Here's a link. Listen for yourself.

Rollins is asked about the bizarre tale of Adam LaRoche, who retired in spring training last year after Sox management decided his teenage son would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse.

The incident divided the team and led to high-profile players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton clashing with the front office.

"It was a clubhouse in disarray after that point," Rollins says on the video. "Although we did great (at the start of the season). It’s always a little players versus the front office, but I think just because of the way it was handled -- a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there. They’re in better places if you ask me, but they’re no longer there."

Rollins also used the word "chaos" to describe the situation in Chicago, which gets to the point of why some of us aren't as optimistic about the rebuilding plan that is underway with the Sox. The same front office that was in place during last year's "chaos" and "disarray" is the same front office being entrusted with the future of the organization.

Does that make you comfortable? I'd be more comfortable if the failures of last season had resulted in a change in leadership beyond just the manager's office.

Rollins correctly notes that the outspoken players -- Sale and Eaton -- are no longer with the Sox. Isn't it interesting that they still are the only two key players from last season to be traded? The good soldiers who keep their mouths shut and just play ball -- Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana -- they all are still here.

I'm not going to argue that there is any conspiracy at work here. I think the Sox would deal Quintana tomorrow if the right offer came up.

That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that Sale and Eaton were the first established veterans to be told to pack their bags as part of the rebuilding plan.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Baseball America's list of top-10 White Sox prospects

There were few positives to come out of the 2016 season for the White Sox, but the organization's June draft class is one thing that stands out as a feather in the cap for the current regime.

It always takes three or four years to know for sure how good a draft class really is, but it's worth noting that half of Baseball America's list of top-10 White Sox prospects is made up of players who were drafted by the organization this past June.

Baseball America released the list Monday.

Catcher Zack Collins, the Sox's No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Miami in 2016, is ranked No. 1 on the list. The left-handed hitter has plus power, and posted an .885 OPS in 120 ABs at Class A Winston-Salem this year. According to the Baseball America report, scouts are encouraged by Collins' improving defense behind the plate, but we all know he was drafted for his bat.

Relief pitcher Zack Burdi ranks second on the list. The Downers Grove South graduate was selected with the 26th overall pick in the draft, and reached Triple-A Charlotte by the end of last season. He posted a 2.25 ERA in nine appearances for the Knights. Look for him in the Sox bullpen sometime during the 2017 season.

Other 2016 draftees to make the top-10 list include pitcher Alec Hansen (No. 5), outfielder Jameson Fisher (No. 8) and outfielder Alex Call (No. 9).

Hansen, a second-round pick, dominated in the Rookie League at Great Falls. He struck out 48 and allowed only 11 hits in 30.2 innings pitched. He was promoted to Class A Kannapolis, where he fanned 11 in 11 innings while posting a 2.45 ERA.

Fisher, a fourth-round pick, also had success at Great Falls. He hit .342 with a .923 OPS in 187 at-bats spanning 50 games. He collected 18 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases, although he was caught stealing seven times.

Call, a third-round pick, was nothing if not consistent. He hit .308 in 27 games at Great Falls before earning a promotion to Kannapolis, where he hit, well, .308 in 46 games. He had a combined .839 OPS between the two stops.

Other players mentioned on the top-10 list are people we've discussed before: pitcher Carson Fulmer (No. 3), pitcher Spencer Adams (No. 4), pitcher Jordan Stephens (No. 6), third baseman Trey Michalczewski (No. 7) and second baseman Jake Peter (No. 10).

The Baseball America article notes the Sox face major obstacles to contention, one of them being a lack of depth in their farm system. However, they do acknowledge the farm system "received a much-needed face-lift" with the 2016 June draft.

If the 2017 season goes as poorly as 2016 did at the big-league level, at least we'll have this new group of prospects to track, even if only Burdi and Collins are likely to arrive on the South Side sometime in the next two years.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carlos Sanchez, Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia among latest Sox roster cuts

Carlos Sanchez
We are six days away from the start of the 2016 baseball season, and the White Sox are down to 31 players in major league camp after a series of Tuesday roster cuts.

Second baseman Carlos Sanchez, third baseman Matt Davidson, infielder Leury Garcia and relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Outfielder Jason Coats also was reassigned to minor league camp.

Sanchez and Davidson did just about all they could this spring. Sanchez, who appeared in 120 games for the Sox last season, hit .333/.368/.593 with six doubles, two home runs in six RBIs in Cactus League play. He had two home runs in Monday's 11-7 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Davidson was the biggest surprise at camp. After two seasons of hitting around .200 at Charlotte, he showed up in Glendale and hit .413/.438/.783 with a team-high five home runs and nine RBIs.

Unfortunately for these two players, they didn't do enough last season to earn their way into the organization's plans, and they are now blocked by offseason acquisitions Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both Sanchez, 23, and Davidson, 25, are still young and would be better off getting everyday at-bats in Charlotte than occupying the 25th spot on the Sox roster.

It's looking like that spot is going to go to veteran 1B/OF Travis Ishikawa, who has posted a .289/.347/.556 slash line in camp, with two home runs and nine RBIs. Ishikawa fills the need for a left-handed bat and backup option at first base after the abrupt retirement of Adam LaRoche earlier this spring.

Friday, March 18, 2016

FanGraphs: 'How the White Sox Could Win the Pennant'

It's hard not to feel bad about White Sox baseball today. Chris Sale and Adam Eaton are fanning the flames of the Adam LaRoche retirement controversy, and the organization is coming off looking bad.

But here's an article that could inspire some hope: A FanGraphs blogger has charted a potential path to the pennant for the Sox.

Cliff notes version: The Sox project as an 81-win team, so they need to find another 10 wins to be a playoff team. How do they get those 10 wins? A young and hard-to-project Carlos Rodon blossoms into a top-of-the-rotation stud, Mat Latos is healthy and returns to his 2013 form, and Avisail Garcia surprises the critics by learning how to hit for power.

The LaRoche retirement creates savings that allow the Sox to acquire a player to fill in a hole, and shortstop prospect Tim Anderson comes up the second half and makes the team better.

Yes, that's a lot of stuff that needs to go right, but realistically, that's probably the course the Sox would need to take to reach the postseason in 2016.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Kids in the clubhouse?

All of this drama about Adam LaRoche's kid has gotten out of hand, and I don't feel like weighing in on a tempest in a teapot. So, I'll just ask this: Would this kid be allowed in the White Sox clubhouse? Maybe as a batting practice pitcher?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Report: White Sox 1B/DH Adam LaRoche 'stepping away from baseball'

Adam LaRoche
White Sox 1B/DH Adam LaRoche is stepping away from baseball, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The 36-year-old apparently intends to retire, but teammates reportedly asked him to reconsider during a lengthy team meeting Tuesday morning.

LaRoche said he would take a couple days to ponder his future, but it sounds like his career is over.

"I’m confident I am stepping away from baseball," LaRoche said in the Tribune report. "Out of respect for my manager, my GM, these guys and my teammates have asked me for an hour (to reconsider). I’ve tried to convince them I am convinced, but I will do them that, and give it a day or two, and then come back in and finish the story."

LaRoche had a career-worst season for the Sox in 2015. He batted just .207 with a .634 OPS, 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 127 games. He has been sidelined for much of this spring by a back injury.

It would be surprising to see LaRoche walk away, as he is owed $13 million this season. The Sox will be off the hook for that if he retires.

From a baseball perspective, it's too bad that he didn't arrive at this decision two months ago. The Sox would have had $13 million more to spend in free agency in the offseason.

From a personal perspective, hopefully there isn't a health issue or a family problem that has caused LaRoche to make this abrupt decision. It didn't work out for him with the White Sox, but there should be no ill will directed toward him.

White Sox make four roster moves

The Sox made four roster moves Tuesday.

Pitchers Brandon Brennan and Daniel Webb were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitcher Jordan Guerrero was assigned to minor-league camp. Infielder Mike Olt was given his release.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

White Sox bats showing some life in early spring

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox have scored 40 runs through their first six Cactus League games, including 34 runs in their last four games.

I know, it's spring training, so who cares? But the Sox are normally so terrible in spring ball that you can't help but notice when they do well.

Avisail Garcia and Jimmy Rollins both homered in Tuesday's 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, as the Sox improved to 4-1-1 so far in Arizona.

The Sox have 12 home runs by 12 different players through six games. Garcia and Rollins joined a list yesterday that includes Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton, Dioner Navarro, Matt Davidson, Steve Lombardozzi, Adam LaRoche, Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Jason Coats.

The South Siders are leading the Cactus League with a .609 slugging percentage heading into Thursday's game against the Oakland A's. All the usual caveats apply about these games being meaningless, but it's been a long time since the Sox have looked good in spring training.

Do you want to know the last time the Sox had a winning mark in spring games? 2004! Even the 2005 World Series championship team had a losing month of March.

So, while this recent stretch of good offense won't mean a thing when April 4 rolls around, it's refreshing to see some guys getting good results, instead of having to resort to the usual grumping about how early it is, or clinging to the idea that failure is OK because the players are "just getting their work in."

It's never a bad thing to play good baseball.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Austin Jackson agrees to one-year contract with White Sox

Austin Jackson
The White Sox moved to bolster their outfield depth Sunday, signing veteran Austin Jackson to a one-year contract worth $5 million.

Jackson, 29, posted a slash line of .267/.311/.385 with 9 home runs, 48 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 136 games split between the Seattle Mariners and Cubs last year. He's a career .273 hitter, but I don't think offense is the reason the Sox acquired him.

The projected outfield of Melky Cabrera in left field, Adam Eaton in center and Avisail Garcia in right is a subpar one defensively. Jackson will be the best fielding outfielder on the roster the minute he walks through the door. Jackson has produced 49 Defensive Runs Saved in six seasons in center and has a career Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8 there, according to fangraphs.com.

Accordingly, Sox GM Rick Hahn has indicated Jackson will spend most of his time in center field.

“Most of, if not all of, Austin’s time will come in center,” Hahn told beat writers, including Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “Obviously, a high quality defensive player out there and a lot of his value comes from having him in that spot. As I talked about with Adam Eaton at the end of last season and a couple times over the offseason and once again this afternoon, we also view Adam as a very fine defensive center fielder. He was one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove in 2014 out there and we think we’re stronger certainly from a defensive standpoint when we have both Adam and Austin out there in that same outfield. Adam’s expressed a willingness to do whatever we feel makes the most sense on a given day to win a ballgame whether that’s playing center field for Adam or DHing or being on one of the corners.”

Eaton remains the third-best position player on the Sox's roster -- behind only Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier -- so there is no chance he'll be displaced in the lineup by Jackson. If the plan is to play Jackson in center field and move Eaton to a corner outfield spot, that creates a logjam for Cabrera, Garcia and incumbent DH Adam LaRoche. Only two of those three players can be in the lineup if Jackson is in there.

Against left-handed pitching, LaRoche is certainly the odd man out -- the veteran hit just .157 with a .383 OPS against lefties last year.

Meanwhile, Jackson has been a solid bat against left-handed pitching over the past two seasons:

vs. LHP: .290/.345/.408
vs. RHP: .248/.293/.344

It seems like a pretty obvious move that Jackson plays center field against lefties, Eaton moves to right field, the weak-fielding Garcia is relegated to DH duties, and LaRoche goes to the bench.

The more interesting question is what the Sox will do against right-handed pitching. The splits show Jackson is not a good hitter against righties, but will his strong defense be enough for him to be in the lineup every day regardless? We'll assume the highly paid LaRoche will DH against righties, like it or not.

That leaves either the veteran Cabrera or Garcia as the odd man out. Would the Sox allow the 24-year-old Garcia to wither away on the bench? Will they send him to Triple-A Charlotte? Or might they give up on him entirely and trade him? It's a story to follow as the spring moves along.

With Jackson's addition to the 40-man roster, third baseman Mike Olt has been designated for assignment. No surprise there.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hopefully, John Danks has to earn his spot in the White Sox rotation this year

John Danks
Even though it's only spring training, it was nice to hear baseball on the radio Thursday afternoon. The White Sox lost, 6-1, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The result wasn't satisfactory, but all the usual caveats about spring training being meaningless in the won-loss column apply.

The Sox were limited to just three hits, and starting pitcher John Danks gave up three runs on four hits over two innings. He walked the first batter he saw, then gave up three singles to put the Sox down 2-0 after the first inning. He also gave up a long solo home run to Alex Guerrero in the second inning.

Let me say this about Danks: I hope his spot in the starting rotation isn't secure. His ERAs over the past three years have been 4.75, 4.74 and 4.71, respectively. He's been consistent, give him that, but he's been consistently below par. In each of the past two seasons, his WHIP has been higher than 1.4 (1.441 in 2014, 1.413 in 2015).

Nothing he has done recently should be good enough to guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He should have to compete for one, and unlike previous seasons, the Sox do have other options. We know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be in the rotation, assuming good health. But the other two spots should be up for grabs among Danks, Mat Latos, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

If two of those three other pitchers are more impressive this spring than Danks, then they should be in the rotation, and Danks should go to the bullpen. If Danks outpitches all of them this spring, then he can keep his spot. But I don't think it should be just handed to him.

Earlier this winter at SoxFest, a fan asked GM Rick Hahn whether designated hitter Adam LaRoche was going to keep his spot in the lineup based on his veteran status and $13 million salary. Hahn insisted the Sox do not have any "scholarship players," that LaRoche would have to earn his spot, and that manager Robin Ventura has been told to play the best players regardless of who is making the most money.

I don't know if I believe it when the Sox say they will send a high-priced player to the margins if that player is not producing. Like LaRoche, Danks is set to make big bucks in this, the final year of his contract. In fact, Danks will be the highest paid player on the team at $15.75 million.

Based on that figure, I can't shake the feeling that Danks is going to be in the rotation whether he deserves the spot or not. And based upon what I've seen the past three years, he's a good candidate to be replaced. His poor outing Thursday comes with the aforementioned caveats about spring training not mattering, but there have been plenty of times where Danks has failed miserably when it did matter.

Let's hope the Sox take that into account if Danks flounders all spring.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spring training lookahead: Five White Sox players to watch

Avisail Garcia
As pitchers and catchers report to spring training, let's take a look at five White Sox players who will be worth watching as the Cactus League schedule unfolds:

1. Avisail Garcia, RF -- The Sox considered replacing Garcia over the offseason. They were linked to two major outfield free agents in Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes before apparently deciding the price was too high. As it stands now, the 24-year-old Garcia is getting another kick at the can, and it's likely make-or-break time for him. He's trimmed down since last season, so expect to read stories about him "being in the best shape of his life." He also will try a new batting stance this spring after a recent three-day session with hitting coach Todd Steverson. Even with the acquisition of Todd Frazier to bat cleanup, the Sox need Garcia to become a run producer in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup. If he's still the 6-foot-4, 240-pound punch-and-judy hitter we've seen in the past, the Sox will need to move on from him.

2. Tim Anderson, SS -- The team's No. 1 prospect is a long shot to make the roster. Barring an acquisition from outside the organization, good-glove, no-hit Tyler Saladino is likely to be the Sox's shortstop on Opening Day. However, he's likely just keeping the seat warm for Anderson, who figures to get extensive playing time this spring. Many fans have read the glowing reports on him, but those who watch spring training games will get to see him play more frequently for the first time. It will be interesting to see how close he is to ready. Anderson improved in all facets of his game last season, and there's not much question he's eventually going to get a shot with the big club. But will he live up to his star potential and become a core player, or will he be just another guy?

3. Adam LaRoche, 1B/DH -- Like it or not -- and chances are you don't like it -- the Sox are stuck with LaRoche, so they have to pray he rebounds from the worst full season of his career, which saw him hit .207 with only 12 home runs. LaRoche has 10 seasons of 20 or more home runs in his career. That's the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him before the start of the 2015 season, and they need him to be that guy -- there is no other left-handed power threat on the roster. But at age 36, last year's woes could be a sign that LaRoche is simply washed up. Everyone will feel much better going into the year if LaRoche has a productive spring and provides some hope that he still can be a presence in the middle of the lineup.

4. Mat Latos, SP -- We've already stated a couple times on this blog that Latos could be a bargain at $3 million this year for the Sox. He was one of the top 50 pitchers in the sport before he hurt his knee, and if he returns to that form, the Sox will have a legitimate, playoff-caliber starting rotation. Of course, that's a big 'if,' given that Latos has been hurt the past two years. When watching him this spring, don't worry so much about results. Check to see if his velocity is back. Pitchers tend to see their velocity dip when they have a lower-body injury. Despite his veteran status, Latos is only 28, so you would think time would be on his side in terms of injury recovery. It's not like he's in his mid-30s and at the end of his baseball life.

5. Carson Fulmer, SP -- General manager Rick Hahn has gone out of his way to put the brakes on high expectations for the Sox's 2015 first-round draft pick. Fulmer is not a candidate to make the team. He likely needs a full season in the minors, and he wasn't as advanced coming out of college as Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon were. When the season begins, Fulmer is likely going to be at Double-A Birmingham. That said, he is a high-end pitching prospect, and it will be exciting to see how he fares in his first big-league spring training.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rumor mill links Andre Ethier to White Sox

Andre Ethier
The rumor started with a report by The Score's Bruce Levine, and continued with speculation from MLB.com's Phil Rogers.

Yeah, I know. I should probably stop right there. But the reports from Levine and Rogers have led White Sox fans to ponder whether Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier would be a good fit on the South Side.

On Thursday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale threw some cold water on the rumor, tweeting that there are no signs of a potential match between the Sox and the Dodgers.

My speculation would lean toward agreeing with Nightengale, but speculation is just speculation, so let's talk a little bit about Ethier's situation.

Ethier has a contract that would scare off teams. He's owed $18 million in 2016 and $17.5 million in 2017, and he has a vesting option for $17.5 million with a $2.5 million buyout for 2018. That's a lot of money owed.

The Dodgers likely are motivated to get out from underneath that contract for a couple reasons. First off, they are looking to trim their payroll. Secondly, they have way too many outfielders: Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero, Enrique Hernandez and former Sox outfielder Trayce Thompson. That's eight outfielders. You only need five. Lastly, Ethier will gain his 10-and-5 rights in April, which means he will become much more difficult to trade once the spring is over.

Ideally, the Dodgers would want to get rid of Crawford, but much like Adam LaRoche on the Sox, his contract and recent poor performance makes him an immovable object. The highest-paid guy on that list of Dodgers outfielders who still has value is Ethier.

What skill does Ethier bring? Well, he hits right-handed pitching.

Here are his 2015 splits:
vs. RHP: .306/.383/.517
vs. LHP: .200/.229/.244

All 14 of his home runs, all seven of his triples and 18 of his 20 doubles came against right-handed pitching last year. He obviously can't hit lefties worth a damn, so he's a platoon player at this stage of his career -- he turns 34 in April.

You can see where this could be a potential fit for the Sox. Their only lefty middle-of-the-order bat is, well, LaRoche, and it's not unreasonable to think he's just washed up at this point.

That said, Ethier makes an awful lot of money for a platoon player. The Sox should not be giving up any top prospects for a high-priced platoon outfielder -- especially given that the Dodgers need to act to address their outfield logjam. Los Angeles doesn't have that much leverage here.

If Sox GM Rick Hahn can get the Dodgers to eat some money and take nothing more than middle-tier prospects for Ethier, then he should consider doing this deal. But if the Dodgers want a top prospect, or if they want the Sox to take on all the contract, then Hahn should pass.

I'm guessing that right now the Dodgers are wanting both salary relief and a good prospect in return for Ethier, and that's why Nightengale is reporting there is no potential match with the Sox. That's simply not a move the Sox should make at the moment.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts on what I saw and heard at SoxFest 2016

Me with White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton
Some people were expecting pitchforks and torches at SoxFest 2016 after the team failed to add a major free-agent outfielder this offseason. That really wasn't the case, but it's also worth noting that there didn't seem to be a lot of buzz or excitement about the upcoming season in the air, either.

It seems like most Sox fans are of the mindset of, "Ehh ... this is probably a .500 team. Whatever." Here are a few other thoughts and tidbits from the weekend:

1. Robin Ventura and Rick Hahn addressed the slow starts the Sox have had the last seven seasons before I was able to step to the microphone to ask a question Friday night. Ventura said there are "different things you can do" to try to prevent the team from getting off to a slow start, such as having the veterans play six or seven innings in spring training games, as opposed to three or four innings. The braintrust also noted that they've been talking about the trend of slow starts ever since last July or August, so it was on their radar well before it was asked about at SoxFest. Ventura also noted the importance of drilling on fundamentals and cleaning up mental mistakes in the field and on the basepaths. You'd like to think he did that last year, too, but it just didn't produce good results.

2. I asked Ventura and Hahn about accountability Friday night, and not in the sense that we typically speak about that topic. Usually when fans talk about accountability, they're talking about the need for someone to be fired when things don't go well. When I spoke, I talked about the need for players to hold each other accountable for bad play, whether that has been happening in the Sox clubhouse, and whether the Sox have a culture where that sort of thing is encouraged. Ventura acknowledged that it is important for players to police each other, and that it's different in the clubhouse now in the post-Paul Konerko era. Konerko was the leader of the team for so long, and other players were in the habit of deferring to him. Last year, he was gone, so now what? Hahn indicated some of his acquisitions have been made with the idea of adding more leadership to the room. He believes newly acquired third baseman Todd Frazier and newly acquired catcher Alex Avila can add that element. Adam LaRoche's name also was brought up during that discussion, but Hahn correctly noted LaRoche didn't have a leg to stand on in holding his teammates accountable last year, because he was suffering through a horrible season himself.

3. First baseman Jose Abreu and center fielder Adam Eaton are really good and accommodating with the fans in the autograph and picture lines. I'm not an autograph person at all, but I did have my picture taken with Eaton (see above). When you approach Eaton, he'll extend his hand and say, "Hi, I'm Adam, good to meet you." That seems like such a small thing, and let's be honest, we already know who he is and he doesn't need to introduce himself, but he doesn't assume that, and he doesn't big-time people. There are other guys who could learn from his example.

4. Ken Harrelson, as you might expect, hogs the microphone way too much when he's moderating a seminar. He stands up there and tells the same stories that we hear all summer long on the broadcasts. Yo Hawk, we really don't need to hear about Sam McDowell and his great stuff again. Let the fans ask questions and let the panelists talk. Frazier had some insightful comments during the "Big League Bats" seminar that also featured Chet Lemon and Melky Cabrera on Friday night. Lemon also was interesting. I would have liked to have heard more from Frazier and Lemon, and less from Hawk and his observations on his "seven decades in the American League." At one point, Harrelson was going on and on about the importance of protection in the lineup. Cabrera was on stage looking at his phone, apparently bored by Hawk's extended soliloquy. Suddenly, Hawk turned around and said, "Isn't that right, Melky?" Cabrera, like a schoolchild not expecting to be called on, looked up and appeared stunned for a moment before saying, "Oh, si, si, si ..." Give Cabrera credit for one thing -- he knows it's a good idea to just agree with whatever Hawk says and move on.

5. Speaking of Frazier, he was asked about his second-half struggles last year. He hit .284 with 25 home runs before the break in 2015, but slumped to .224 with 10 home runs in the second half. Frazier, of course, won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game last year in Cincinnati, and a fan asked the cliched question about whether that messed up his swing. Frazier said that is a myth, and noted if your swing is screwed up, it should only take a few sessions in the cage to rediscover it. He instead attributed his slow second half to fatigue (he played 157 games last year) and indicated improving endurance has been the focus of his offseason workouts.

6. I asked Hahn and Ventura on Saturday about organizational depth in starting pitching. I pointed out that Erik Johnson doesn't have a lot of big-league innings under his belt, and that Carlos Rodon -- for all his promise -- has yet to have a 30-start, 200-inning season in the majors. The Sox will have to watch their workloads carefully, and of course, the potential for injury and the realities of the MLB schedule make it necessary to have a couple extra guys in the organization who can make spot starts when necessary. Hahn, of course, agreed that you're not going to get through a season using just five starting pitchers, except in the rarest of cases, and he said Jacob Turner and Chris Beck were the guys who would be in line to step in and help. Gulp. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, so I hope Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks stay healthy all year. And I hope Rodon and Johnson take steps forward in their development.

7. One thing I was disappointed about: There wasn't a lot of opportunity to ask current players questions in the seminar room -- especially the core players. Sale, Eaton and Abreu participated in "kids-only" seminar Saturday morning. Adults were allowed in the room, of course, but only children ages 3 to 14 were allowed to ask questions. I actually thought that was an excellent idea, allowing young Sox fans to interact with the star players on the team. But I would have liked it had there been an opportunity for adult fans to ask baseball-related questions of that core group. Hahn mentioned he had a difficult conversation with Sale last September, where Sale expressed his frustration with the losing the team has experienced over the past three years. I would have loved to have asked Sale about that, but the team didn't have him scheduled for any seminars that weren't "for the kids." Makes you wonder if the organization is nervous about the core players being asked tough questions by the fans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trayce Thompson: The right-handed platoon bat the Sox have been looking for?

It's no secret the White Sox are not a good hitting team, but their offensive woes are particularly acute against left-handed pitching. Here are the Sox's team hitting splits:

White Sox vs. RHP: .255/.310/.394
White Sox vs. LHP: .240/.292/.344

The team batting average and on-base percentages take a dip against left-handers, and there's a significant drop-off in slugging percentage. The Sox could use a hitter or two who hit lefties well, and right now the hope is rookie outfielder Trayce Thompson becomes one of those guys.

Thompson went 3 for 4 and finished a home run short of the cycle Tuesday against Boston lefty Wade Miley, leading the Sox to a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. Thompson's two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the winning margin.

With that performance, Thompson is hitting .522/.560/.957 in 11 games (6 starts) since he was called up. We know, of course, he will never keep up that pace, but his performance thus far against left-handed pitching is worth noting: He's 10 for 17 with two home runs and five RBIs.

It shouldn't be hard for Thompson to keep his roster spot and serve in a platoon role if he can produce above-average numbers against lefty starters.

The Sox lineup is full of guys who struggle against lefties:

Adam LaRoche vs. LHP: .163/.198/.325

Carlos Sanchez vs. LHP: .179/.225/.269

Adam Eaton vs. LHP: .227/.271/.295

Melky Cabrera vs. LHP: .230/.258/.333

Jose Abreu vs. LHP: .240/.307/.375

Even Abreu, the Sox's best hitter, is a mere mortal when he sees a left-handed pitcher. Thompson is a nice luxury for manager Robin Ventura to have, because now he can sit LaRoche on days when the opposition throws a left-handed starter. Thompson can handle any of the three spots in the outfield defensively, so Ventura has his pick of DH'ing Cabrera, Eaton or Avisail Garcia on the days Thompson plays.

We don't know yet how "real" this early hot surge from Thompson is, but it sure is refreshing to see the Sox farm system send a potentially useful position player to the major leagues.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Maybe Adam LaRoche isn't going to be a bust after all

I feel like Adam LaRoche hasn't gotten a fair shake from White Sox fans this year.

I knew it was going to be that way, too, because LaRoche is a notorious slow starter, and for many of the meathead fans in Chicago, first impressions are lasting impressions.

Predictably, LaRoche had a bad April for the Sox, and the fans labeled him as the second coming of Adam Dunn.

Some went so far to give LaRoche the nickname "Adam LaDunn," which is an unfair comparison. Unlike Dunn, LaRoche is a good-fielding first baseman, and he has always hit for a respectable average. And, while LaRoche is not exactly a fast runner, he's not the lumbering baseplugger Dunn is, either.

But hey, LaRoche's first name is Adam, he bats left, he used to play for the Washington Nationals, and he's a first baseman. BAM! They must be the same player! So say the meatheads.

Unfortunately for the small-minded folks who want to declare LaRoche a bust, the veteran has been playing better as the year has moved along. His home run in the sixth inning Wednesday night tied the game, and the Sox went on to beat the Houston Astros, 4-1, to complete a three-game sweep.

Let's take a look at what LaRoche has done by month:

April: .191/.286/.353
May: .270/.420/.427
June: .300/.344/.567

LaRoche's career split in April is .222/.316/.397, so this year's start was even worse than normal for him. But, it falls in line with his career trend. His career splits for May and June are .261/.350/.456 and .261/.336/.460, respectively, so just as he has his whole career, LaRoche is showing improvement in May and June.

We can see now that LaRoche is starting to recover from his bad start, progressing toward his career norms:

2015 season: .246/.362/.422
Career: .263/.340/.470

He's not quite where he should be yet, but it's going to take a little while longer to erase that poor April. Nevertheless, we're starting to see evidence that LaRoche is still the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him to a two-year contract this past offseason.

Sox fans would do well to get over their obsession with Dunn and his failures and judge LaRoche on his own merits.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quantifying the White Sox offensive woes

Toronto starting pitcher Drew Hutchison entered Monday night's game against the White Sox with an ERA of 6.06. Naturally, he fired a four-hit shutout in the Blue Jays' 6-0 win over the South Siders. While not feeling well.

Right now, the Sox offense is enough to make you sick to your stomach. They've lost six out of their last eight games to fall to 19-23 on the season. They've scored just 15 runs during that stretch, and have not scored more than three runs in any game during that time.

You look around the league, and you'll see that most teams have a hitter or two performing under expectations. That's baseball. Sometimes guys have slow starts, or bad years. That's just how it goes.

But the Sox? Well, they've got seven of their nine regulars performing below their career norms and below the numbers they posted in 2014. Avisail Garcia is the lone exception. For purposes of this discussion, we'll just exempt second base, because the Sox have played two rookies with little or no track record there throughout the season.

Let's take a look at the on-base plus slugging (OPS) numbers for the eight Sox regulars who do not play second base -- biggest drop-offs listed first:

Only Avisail Garcia has swung the bat well for the White Sox this year.
Melky Cabrera
2015 OPS: .558
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.250
Career OPS: .747

Jose Abreu
2015 OPS: .964
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.156
Career OPS: .929

Adam Eaton
2015 OPS: .621
2014 OPS: .763
Diff: -.142
Career OPS: .721

Adam LaRoche
2015 OPS: .682
2014 OPS: .817
Diff: -.135
Career OPS: .808

Tyler Flowers
2015 OPS: .559
2014 OPS: .693
Diff: -.134
Career OPS: .660

Alexei Ramirez
2015 OPS: .614
2014 OPS: .713
Diff: -.099
Career OPS: .715

Conor Gillaspie
2015 OPS: .683
2014 OPS: . 752
Diff: -.069
Career OPS: .714

Garcia
2015 OPS: .821
2014 OPS: .718
Diff: +.103
Career OPS: .746

So, there are basically six players in the Sox everyday lineup whose OPS is down 100 points over where it was last season. That's two-thirds of a lineup that could be characterized as severely underachieving. Remarkable.

Only Garcia is better than he was last season. Only Garcia is performing better than his career average. Everyone else is under career norms, some significantly so.

You would think these guys would eventually come back to their career levels, wouldn't you? There's no sign of that happening right now.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

White Sox finally generate some first-inning offense

Avisail Garcia has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games.
A not-so-fun fact: The White Sox have scored just 10 first-inning runs through their first 31 games. That's the lowest total of any team in the majors.

Better news: Three of those 10 first-inning runs came Wednesday night, and they gave the Sox the jump they needed to come away with a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Sox won consecutive road games for the first time this season and also won their first road series, taking two out of three from the last-place Brewers.

The three-run rally in the first inning featured both small ball and long ball. Adam Eaton started the game by working a walk after a 12-pitch at-bat. He moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout by Emilio Bonifacio and scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.

Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche then hit back-to-back home runs to give the Sox the early 3-0 advantage. That was another in a night of firsts for the Sox -- it was the first time they've gone back-to-back this season.

Sox pitcher Jose Quintana was probably stunned to have three runs of support before he ever took the mound. The Sox lefty entered Wednesday's action with a 2.37 ERA over his previous three starts, but all he had to show for it was two losses.

Blessed with an early lead this time, Quintana made it stand up. He fired seven-plus innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk. He struck out 10 batters.

The Sox have received quality starting pitching in four of their last five games. They've also won four of their last five games. Funny how that works, huh?

One other note about Garcia: His 2-for-4 night raised his batting average to .322. The right fielder has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games. He's had more than one hit in nine of those contests. The 23-year-old has been mostly overlooked, even in Chicago, but he's been the Sox's most consistent hitter to this point in the season.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three changes the White Sox could make today that wouldn't cost a thing

Last night, we highlighted the poor defense the White Sox played in the first inning behind starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Pitiful glove work sadly has become the norm and not the exception for this Chicago team through the first 29 games of the season.

If you've been watching, you already know that, so I won't pain you with further examples of the problem.

Rather, I'd like to present three changes the Sox could make today that would improve the team and not cost a thing. Note that none of these suggestions involve firing any of the organization men in the dugout.
Carlos Sanchez

  • 2. Move Carlos Rodon permanently into the rotation. Hector Noesi is a two-pitch pitcher. Put him in the bullpen where he belongs.
  • 3. Have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche flip roles. LaRoche becomes the primary first baseman. Abreu becomes the designated hitter most days.

I've identified three major problems with this team over the course of this 12-17 start. One of them is the catching situation. Unfortunately, there are no internal solutions, other than crossing your fingers and hoping Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto play better.

The other two problems are very correctable with the solutions already available in house. One of the two is the back of the starting rotation. It's just not working out with Noesi, who hasn't won a start since Aug. 27, 2014. Rodon is ready and able, so let him pitch. Yes, he will have his ups and downs as all young players do, but I don't think having him pitch mop-up duty in the bullpen helps his development, nor does it help the Sox win games. Putting Rodon in the rotation allows him to not only develop his pitches, it will allow him to impact winning and losing. Based on what I've seen from Rodon, he will help the Sox more than he hurts them.

The biggest flaw on this team -- and it's a fatal one if it doesn't get addressed soon -- is the infield defense. The fan base is howling. They want manager Robin Ventura fired on the grounds that he doesn't emphasize fundamentals enough, and that he doesn't hold players accountable for their poor defense.

But let's take a step back and make an honest assessment of this infield: Abreu at first base, Johnson at second base, Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, and Conor Gillaspie at third base.

I'm sorry, but three of those four men are poor defensive players. All but Ramirez, who will soon turn 34 and is starting to show some regression, are subpar with the glove. People preach about accountability, but Ventura could show these guys the Tom Emanski instructional videos and drill them on fundamentals all day and they still wouldn't be a good defensive infield.

The good news is potential solutions exist, if the Sox would be willing to give them a try. Sanchez is a good fielding second baseman, and he's hitting .369/.394/.500 in Charlotte. Why isn't he in Chicago?

LaRoche is a top-notch fielder, yet the Sox are using him as their primary DH. Why? Team brass probably has a reason. I just don't know what it is.

Make LaRoche-Sanchez-Ramirez-Gillaspie your infield, and all of sudden your defense goes from pitiful to adequate, if not slightly above average. On days Gordon Beckham plays third base in place of Gillaspie, that infield is above average defensively.

Why won't the Sox try it? The organization has an annoying habit of ignoring defense when it comes to lineup and roster decisions. With the Sox, it's offense, offense, offense. Young players are promoted in the minor leagues based upon what they do offensively. Johnson is here because he's perceived as being ready for the big leagues offensively. His slow hands and poor footwork defensively are completely ignored, because the Sox are forever searching for that offensive upside.

It's backfiring, and they are too obstinate to make a change. They ought to reconsider before the season swirls completely down the drain.