Showing posts with label Carson Fulmer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carson Fulmer. Show all posts

Monday, April 30, 2018

White Sox settle for three out of five vs. Kansas City Royals

When is it unsatisfying to win three out of five games in another team's ballpark? When you win the first three, then lose the last two.

Bruce Chen
That was the case this weekend for the White Sox against the Kansas City Royals, but given the Sox's 8-18 overall record, we probably should be happy they finally won a series -- regardless of circumstances or opponent.

Here's a look back at what has happened since we left off:

Friday, April 27
White Sox 7, Royals 4 (11 inn.): Once again, Matt Davidson won a game for the Sox in Kansas City. He went 2 for 5 with two home runs and three RBIs, including a two-run blast in the top of the 11th inning that gave the Sox the lead for good.

Davidson has hit seven home runs at Kauffman Stadium this season -- a new record for a Royals' opponent -- and it's only April 30.

For the season, Davidson is slashing .462/.563/1.308 with seven home runs and 12 RBIs in seven games and 32 plate appearances in the Royals' home ballpark.

I'm guessing Davidson will have the dates Sept. 10-12 circled on his calendar. Those are the remaining three games the Sox have in Kansas City this season.

For several years, the Royals had a mediocre-at-best pitcher named Bruce Chen who owned White Sox hitters. I see Davidson's mastery of the Royals as a sort of payback for Chen.

Davidson is a mediocre-at-best hitter, but he suddenly turns into a dominant force at the sight of Kansas City uniforms. The Sox and their fans have been on the wrong end of this kind of ownership in the past, so we'll take it.

Saturday, April 28
White Sox 8-2, Royals 0-5: Most doubleheaders are split, and this one was no exception.

Surprisingly, Carson Fulmer (2-1) became the first Sox pitcher to reach two wins by tossing seven shutout innings. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked three. It was a nice display of competence by the right-hander, even if it came against a horrible Kansas City team.

Daniel Palka collected not only his first big-league hit but his first big-league home run, as well, as he went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs in the Game 1 win. For the first time this season, the Sox won three in a row.

Naturally, that did not carry over into Game 2, as the Sox were baffled by Kansas City left-hander Eric Skoglund. After Tim Anderson's leadoff homer, Skoglund allowed only hit the rest of his outing as he got through seven innings with a 4-1 lead.

The erstwhile Dylan Covey (0-1) was called up from Triple-A Charlotte to pitch for the Sox, and predictably, he took the loss. Although, to be fair, he ate up six innings and only one of the four runs he allowed was earned.

Sunday, April 29
Royals 5, White Sox 4: This was the most disappointing game of the series, as the Sox squandered an early 2-0 lead that came courtesy of a two-run double by Palka in the fourth inning.

Hector Santiago and Chris Volstad both gave up home runs to Kansas City's Cheslor Cuthbert, who had not previously homered this season. Cuthbert hit a solo shot off Santiago in the fourth and a three-run blast off Volstad in the fifth that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.

The Sox battled back to tie with a run in the sixth on a triple by Leury Garcia and a run in the seventh on a two-out RBI double by Nick Delmonico. The latter hit scored Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch and stole second base.

However, the Sox could not complete the comeback, as Bruce Rondon (1-1) hit the leadoff batter in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Royals ended up scoring the go-ahead and eventually winning run on a single by Sox nemesis Whit Merrifield.

I guess we couldn't get through a five-game series in Kansas City without Merrifield doing something to beat the Sox at least once, huh?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

White Sox (mercifully) snap 7-game losing streak with win over Mariners

Jose Abreu -- two HRs Monday night
Seven straight hits to start the game. Five runs in the first inning. Eighteen hits overall.

Who would have saw this coming? The White Sox had only two runs on 15 hits in three games over the weekend against the Houston Astros, but they finally found some offense Monday in a 10-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Granted, Mike Leake is not anywhere near as good as Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel, but the Sox have made pitchers worse than Leake look like perennial All-Stars this season.

But not Monday.  

Yoan Moncada opened the game with a triple that led to the five-run rally. The Sox added two runs in the second and another in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead and knock Leake (2-2) out early.

It was a big night for Moncada and Jose Abreu, as the two combined to go 7 for 10 with three home runs, a triple, a double, six runs scored and four RBIs.

Moncada went 3 for 5 and had a triple, a double and a home run in his first three at-bats. He had two opportunities to hit a single to complete the cycle, but he struck out looking on a pitch that appeared to be outside and flew out to left field in his last two at-bats. It probably didn't help that Seattle used left-hander Wade LeBlanc to mop up -- the switch-hitting Moncada is clearly weaker batting right-handed, which was the case for the two plate appearances in which he did not reach base.

Abreu, meanwhile, raised his batting average to .308 by going 4 for 5. He hit a two-run homer off Leake in the second inning and a solo homer off LeBlanc in the sixth. Abreu now has a team-high six home runs on the season.

This time, Carson Fulmer (1-1) held a big lead. The right-hander has been struggling, but he pitched six innings of three-hit ball to earn the win. A two-run homer by Mike Zunino in the fifth was the only blemish on Fulmer's line. He struck out three and walked only one -- a refreshing change from previous wildness.

Chris Beck allowed two runs and six hits over three innings of relief, but he didn't walk anybody while pitching with a big lead, which also is a refreshing change from previous wildness. Beck earned his first career save.

Garcia to DL; Palka called up

Of course, no Sox game recap can be complete this season without some bad news.

Right fielder Avisail Garcia strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball Monday night and has been placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Outfielder Daniel Palka has been called up to take Garcia's place on the 25-man roster.

It has been a slow start for Garcia this season. A 2-for-34 slump has left him with an unimpressive .233/.250/.315 slash line with one home run and four RBIs in 18 games. Garcia is the only qualifying batter in Major League Baseball who has yet to draw a walk this season.

Palka, 26, is a former Minnesota Twins prospect who was claimed off waivers in the offseason. The left-handed hitter was batting .286/.384/.476 with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Charlotte.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Carson Fulmer continues to struggle in White Sox rotation

The White Sox are wish-casting with Carson Fulmer.

There is plenty of evidence that the 2015 first-round draft pick is not ready to be a major league starting pitcher, but the Sox continue to push forward with the idea that everything will be OK with Fulmer if we just remain patient.

I don't buy it.

Fulmer was handed a golden opportunity to get his first victory of the season Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. Yoan Moncada's first career grand slam highlighted a five-run second inning that staked Fulmer and the Sox to an early 6-1 lead.

Alas, the right-hander never recorded an out in the bottom half of the inning. The Sox ended up using a franchise-record 10 pitchers in a 12-11, 14-inning loss.

Fulmer's final line: 1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 0 Ks.

His season ERA has swelled to 7.59. His WHIP is a hideous 2.156. He has walked nine batters and struck out nine in 10.2 innings pitched over three starts. This is not a recipe for success, friends, and we shouldn't be surprised.

Yes, I know. Fulmer had three good starts in September of last season. But let's remember, those three outings came against the last-place San Francisco Giants, the last-place Detroit Tigers and a Cleveland Indians team that already had secured its playoff positioning and had nothing to play for.

Before that, Fulmer had a struggling season at Triple-A Charlotte. He went 7-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 25 starts. We would expect numbers such as those from veteran journeymen such as Chris Volstad. You'd like to see better from Fulmer, but it's just not there.

Spring training didn't go well for Fulmer either. He didn't throw strikes, walking 13 men over 10.2 IP in the Cactus League. The end result was an 11.81 ERA, 17 runs allowed, 14 of them earned.

The Sox, for some reason, seem to be ignoring the rough season Fulmer had overall in 2017. They also seem to be ignoring the terrible spring he had, instead choosing to believe that good results in three 2017 games against uninterested opponents are going to translate into success this season.

I just don't see it. Fulmer doesn't belong in a major league rotation now. Maybe someday he will, but that day isn't today. For the good of his development, send him back to Triple-A to work on his control. Only bring him back when he's demonstrated that he can throw strikes on a consistent basis.

The Sox seem to be forcing Fulmer into the rotation, hoping and praying that all that has been invested in him now will start to pay off. It isn't working.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito pitching well in Cactus League

Perhaps I've spent too much time this spring complaining about James Shields and Carson Fulmer. So, let's talk about one of the positive signs from White Sox camp: Right-hander Lucas Giolito has had a terrific spring.

Giolito's last real tune-up for the regular season happened Tuesday, and he was sharp in a 10-0 victory over the Texas Rangers. He went 6.1 innings and allowed only two hits. He struck out four and walked none, reducing his spring ERA to 2.04. That's impressive anywhere, but especially good in the Cactus League, where the sky is high and breaking balls don't break.

The 23-year-old has 17 strikeouts against four walks in 17.1 innings pitched. He's allowed only 11 hits. Let's hope Giolito's success carries over into the regular season. His performance has been good news in a camp that has been notable mostly because of the nagging injuries suffered by notable players.

(Jose Abreu left Tuesday's game with hamstring tightness. Kevan Smith sprained his ankle. Both are listed as day to day.)

And, hey, the Sox totaled 20 hits for the second consecutive day Tuesday. The games have been locally televised each of the past two days, and the Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 25-2. What's not to like about that? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Following up: Carson Fulmer stays in race for fifth-starter spot

The White Sox offense produced 20 hits and five walks in a 15-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, but Carson Fulmer's performance still is the story coming out of this game.

Fulmer entered Monday's outing with an unsightly 18.90 Cactus League ERA, but this latest performance will help. The right-hander worked four scoreless, hitless innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Pretty good, right?

Yeah, in comparison to other outings this spring, Fulmer was spectacular. However, I still have reservations about putting him in the starting rotation when the regular season starts.

Fulmer threw 72 pitches Monday, and only 38 of them were for strikes -- a 52.8 percent strike percentage. Velocity was good -- 91 to 94 mph on the fastball -- movement was good -- there's a reason he gave up no hits -- but his command still leaves a lot to be desired.

At one point, spanning the second and third innings, Fulmer missed the strike zone on 15 out of 16 pitches.

After getting the first two outs of the second inning, Fulmer issued a four-pitch walk and fell behind 2-0 to Daniel Descalso before getting a fly out to end the inning.

He started the third inning with a pair of four-pitch walks. After Jarrod Dyson's deep flyout, Fulmer fell behind in the count 3-0 to A.J. Pollock before rallying to record a strikeout. Pollock was caught looking at a 3-2 fastball that might have been low, and given his wildness, Fulmer was fortunate to get a call for the second out. He then got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out to end the Arizona scoring opportunity.

Fulmer navigated a successful fourth inning. He might have come back out for the fifth had the Sox not scored seven runs in the top of that inning. That's too long for a pitcher to sit in a spring training game, so the Sox wisely went to the bullpen.

Fulmer's competition for the rotation spot, Hector Santiago, pitched two scoreless innings of relief in this game, which also featured three-hit performances from Adam Engel and Matt Davidson.

Both Engel and Davidson have hit over .300 this spring, so it appears both will hold their roster spots.

Michael Kopech, however, has been assigned to minor-league camp, as expected, in a roster move made Tuesday.

Monday, March 19, 2018

White Sox Opening Day starter: James Shields

James Shields
There's nothing like Opening Day. For many baseball fans, including me, it's more exciting than Christmas morning was when I was a little kid.

However, that enthusiasm is somewhat lessened when you know your favorite team is almost certain to begin the season 0-1.

Such is the case for me this year, as the White Sox have named 36-year-old James Shields as their Opening Day starter.

Yuck.

Shields has made 43 starts with the Sox since he was acquired midseason in 2016, and he's gone 9-19 with a 5.99 ERA. The veteran right-hander has given up a whopping 58 home runs over those 43 starts, and his 5.23 ERA in 2017 actually was lauded as being an improvement after the 6.77 ERA Shields posted in 22 starts with the Sox in 2016.

Double yuck.

So what could be the justification for starting Shields against the Kansas City Royals on March 29? Well, once upon a time, in place not named Chicago, Shields was a respectable major league pitcher. Believe it or not, he's made seven previous Opening Day starts -- four with the Tampa Bay Rays, two with Kansas City and one with the San Diego Padres. So, he has experience, and the moment shouldn't rattle him.

In those seven starts, Shields is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA, although in fairness to him, five of those seven starts were quality, and the two rough outings were enough to inflate his ERA. But that was then, and this is now, and Shields simply hasn't done anything in the past two years to inspire confidence.

There's no reason to believe he's the Sox's best pitcher, so you won't catch me calling him the "ace." There are aces, and then there are guys who start on Opening Day. Shields is the latter, not the former.

Here's one silver lining: Shields is scheduled to pitch twice on the season-opening road trip to Kansas City and Toronto. His second start should come April 4 against the Blue Jays, which means there's no way in hell he will be anywhere near the mound when the Sox open at home April 5 against the Detroit Tigers.

If pitchers remain on schedule, Lucas Giolito is in line to start the second game of the season against the Royals, which would mean it would be his turn for the home opener April 5. Right now, it's looking like Reynaldo Lopez will pitch the third game, and Miguel Gonzalez the fourth.

Carson Fulmer and Hector Santiago continue to compete for the fifth starting rotation spot. Fulmer will make a spring start today -- March 19 -- against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Carson Fulmer should not be in White Sox rotation when season starts

It's March 15. The regular season starts two weeks from today, and we've yet to see any reason why Carson Fulmer should begin the season in the White Sox starting rotation.

I hate overreactions to spring training numbers. I try to remind myself they don't matter, but Fulmer has pitched so poorly in the Cactus League that his struggles are impossible to ignore. Even if a pitcher's numbers stink, he has to stay on the mound long enough to get his work in, and start climbing toward being able to pitch six or seven innings in a game in order to stick in the starting rotation.

Right now, Fulmer can't make it out of the second inning.

He was shelled for the third time in four spring starts Wednesday in an 11-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Fulmer lasted 1.2 innings, allowing seven runs on five hits -- including three home runs. He walked three, did not record a strikeout, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.

His numbers for the spring: 6.2 IP, 18 hits, 17 runs -- 14 earned -- five strikeouts, 10 walks, seven home runs allowed.

Brutal.

Fulmer cannot command his fastball. He can't repeat his delivery. He's extremely wild, both in and out of the strike zone. This is a guy who doesn't look as though he belongs in the major leagues in any role right now.

So, what do you do with him? He's less than three years removed from being a first-round draft pick, so you don't want to give up on him, but it looks as though it's time to lower expectations. There's nothing about Fulmer that says "future starting pitcher" to me.

That's especially true when you see what's going on in the organization as a whole. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez have arrived in the majors and are ready for their first full season as big-league starters. Carlos Rodon still is hanging around as a potential top-of-the-rotation guy, if he can get healthy. Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen are on the way. There's another potential wave of pitchers behind them in the minor leagues that includes Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

Do we see a long-term scenario in which Fulmer wins a spot as one of the five Sox starters? I do not.

So, I think the time has come to send him to Triple-A Charlotte and convert him into a reliever. Fulmer should focus on commanding two pitches and repeating his mechanics. If he can do that, perhaps he can contribute in the majors as a late-inning reliever somewhere down the line.

Certainly, the Sox have room for Fulmer in their bullpen, if he's willing to make the adjustment.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Carson Fulmer's spring off to a rough start

How much stock do we put in results from the first two weeks of spring training games?

Not much, really.

That said, it's hard not to notice the rough start Carson Fulmer has had this spring. The White Sox's No. 10 prospect is believed to have the inside track to start the season as the team's No. 5 starter, but his 22.50 ERA through two spring outings is enough to give some people pause.

Fulmer failed to make it out of the second inning in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the San Diego Padres. He allowed four runs on four hits with four walks in an inning plus three batters, and there's no getting around the fact that it was ugly.

Worse, Fulmer had two-strike counts to three of the four hitters he walked, and three of the four runs he allowed came on 0-2 pitches -- he allowed a solo home run to Manuel Margot and a two-run single to Fernando Tatis Jr. (Yes, that Fernando Tatis Jr.)

Fulmer through first-pitch strikes to seven of the first eight batters he faced. Normally, jumping ahead in counts is a recipe for success, but the right-hander could not get the outs he needed, even when he got to two strikes.

"It's really frustrating," Fulmer said on whitesox.com. "Just like the last outing, I got ahead of a lot of guys, either 0-2 or 1-2, and I just wasn't able to put them away. I fell back behind in counts, left balls over the middle of the plate. It's easy to say to let this one go and get ready for the next one, but it's tough. It's tough, especially in the position that I am, and to be in a position to make an impact on this team, I have to put away guys. I have to use this outing and build off of it as much as I can and then get ready for the next one."

Hector Santiago relieved Fulmer in Sunday's game, and for the third time this spring, the veteran left-hander pitched competently.  Santiago has nine strikeouts in eight spring innings, and he's allowed only one earned run in that span.

If Fulmer struggles all March, Santiago has a chance to take that fifth starter's role.

Of course, it would be preferable to see Fulmer step up and secure that position. All things being equal, you'd rather see the young, former first-round draft pick earn the opportunity, as opposed to having to default to a mediocre veteran.

Ideally, Santiago would pitch in a swing role as a long man and spot starter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

White Sox sign Hector Santiago to minor league deal

Hector Santiago
The White Sox added another pitcher to their list of roster candidates Wednesday, signing left-hander Hector Santiago to a minor league deal.

Santiago, of course, is a familiar face on the South Side of Chicago. He was drafted by the Sox in 2006 and pitched for the team from 2011 to 2013. During that time, he made 78 appearances (24 starts) and went 8-10 with a respectable 3.41 ERA.

He was a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels from 2014 through the middle of 2016, when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. His best overall season was with Los Angeles in 2015, when he made the All-Star team and went 9-9 with 3.59 ERA.

Santiago struggled with Minnesota in 2017. A back injury limited him to 15 games (14 starts), and he went 4-8 with a 5.63 ERA. Questions marks about both health and performance are why he was available to the Sox on a minor league deal.

There is not much to lose offering an experienced pitcher a minor league deal. If Santiago is injured or looks bad in spring training, he will be cut. But if he can regain the form he showed between 2013 and 2015, he's a roster candidate either in the rotation or in the bullpen.

The Sox don't have an obvious candidate for long reliever in camp, and Santiago might be that guy if he can show well. He also provides some starting rotation insurance.

We think we know the five guys who will open the season in the Sox's rotation: veterans James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez and youngsters Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer.

But with Carlos Rodon likely to start the season on the disabled list, the Sox don't have much in the way of fallback options should any of those aforementioned five get injured during spring or falter early in the season.

Santiago could provide that fallback option.

And since he is a former Sox player coming back to Chicago, we need to formally welcome him back with this video:


Thursday, January 11, 2018

White Sox bring back Miguel Gonzalez on one-year deal

Miguel Gonzalez
The White Sox moved to improve their starting pitching depth Thursday by signing Miguel Gonzalez to a one-year contract worth $4.75 million.

With Carlos Rodon likely to start the 2018 season on the DL, the Sox needed a stopgap veteran to eat some innings and at least get them through the first half of the year. They are turning to a pitcher they are familiar with in Gonzalez.

The 33-year-old veteran spent most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons on the South Side. He made 45 starts with the Sox and went 12-18 with a 4.02 ERA over that span.

Gonzalez was traded to the Texas Rangers for infielder Ti'Quan Forbes on Aug. 31. He made five September starts in Texas and went 1-3 with a 6.45 ERA before becoming a free agent.

Best guess on the Opening Day rotation as of now: 
James Shields
Gonzalez
Lucas Giolito
Reynaldo Lopez
Carson Fulmer

Presumably, Rodon will return at some point. Prospects Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen could make their big-league debuts sometime this season. Until then, somebody has to pitch. Might as well be Gonzalez.

The Sox designated outfielder Jacob May for assignment in order to make room for Gonzalez on the 40-man roster.

And as always, we would be remiss if we didn't include this number in a blog post such as this:

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lucas Giolito's first outing not 'excellent,' but respectable

Manager Rick Renteria overstated it when he called Lucas Giolito's first start with the White Sox "excellent." Nevertheless, there were several positives to take from the outing, even though Giolito and the Sox lost, 4-1, to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

Here is Giolito's final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 Ks, 0 BBs, 3 HRs

Notice that I bolded the no walks. The quickest way to endear yourself to me as a pitcher is to throw strikes and get after people. I was satisfied that Giolito did that. He threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes, which is a ratio that is above league average. The Minnesota hitters might have beaten him, sure, but he didn't give anything away.

The other thing that stood out about Giolito is that he managed to survive six innings without anything resembling his best stuff. When he's right, the curveball is an out pitch for him. Based on my observations, and the postgame comments I've read, Giolito's curveball was nearly useless in this game. He had to rely almost exclusively on a fastball-changeup combination.

Of his 99 pitches, he threw 69 fastballs, 16 changeups, 12 curves and two sliders. He could not grab any strikes with his breaking ball, so he was relying mostly on fastball command.

And, for the most part, Giolito's fastball command was good. Unfortunately, he did make a few mistakes, and he gave up three home runs, all to left-handed hitters -- Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas and Eddie Rosario. Those homers accounted for all four runs allowed.

That's the thing about pitching in the big leagues: You gotta have something to get hitters off your fastball. It doesn't matter how good the fastball is, if they know it's coming, you better have precise location or you're going to get hit. On those three occasions, Giolito didn't have precise location, and he got hit.

In each case, he appeared to be trying to come inside and missed out over the plate. That's a teachable moment for pitching coach Don Cooper. He can show Giolito that and say, "If you're going to miss, miss in."

Hopefully, Giolito will be able to throw his curve for strikes next time he takes the mound. If he can, he might get away with a mistake or two with the fastball, because a few curves for strikes force the opponent to honor the breaking pitch. Last night, I think the Minnesota hitters just subtracted the breaking ball from their thinking and sat on Giolito's heater, which is good (91-93 mph) but not overpowering.

Despite the loss, Giolito showed plenty to earn himself another start, and it was nice to see, especially coming on the heels of Carson Fulmer's discouraging outing Monday night.

As Sox fans, we all want to see these touted prospects jump up and earn their place on the roster. Ideally, Giolito will show well enough to be in the big-league rotation in 2018. Even if the outing Tuesday was not "excellent," let's call it a good first step.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Most doubleheaders are split, including the one Monday night

Carlos Rodon
It was just last week that we suggested the White Sox try Juan Minaya as closer. He's got the highest strikeout rate of any pitcher in the Sox bullpen, and hey, what else is there to lose?

Apparently, manager Rick Renteria thought the same thing. Minaya has closed out three Sox victories since Friday -- two over the weekend against the Texas Rangers, and one against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

The Sox took the opener of Monday's doubleheader with the Twins, 7-6, before Minnesota cruised to a 10-2 victory in Game 2.

It was nice to see Minaya come through with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve a win for starter Carlos Rodon (2-4), who has racked up five strong starts in a row.

This time, Rodon went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out nine and walked three. At one point in time, he retired 10 out of 11 hitters. Most importantly, he minimized the damage in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth inning. He allowed only a sacrifice fly, and he walked off the mound with one out in the seventh with his team leading 7-2.

Alas, the bullpen follies continued for the Sox. The Twins nicked Danny Farquhar for a run in that seventh inning, and then Derek Holland surrendered a three-run homer to the great Jorge Polanco in the top of the eighth.

I don't know what the Sox are going to do with Holland, who got shelled in his most recent start in Texas. In this relief appearance, he faced four batters and retired only one. If there were more options available, I'd call for the Sox to designate Holland for assignment. Alas, there aren't many pitchers left in the high minors whom the Sox could call up.

Fortunately, Minaya shut it down in the ninth. He didn't allow the ball to leave the infield in recording his third save.

The Sox's No. 3 through No. 6 hitters combined to go 6 for 13 with six runs scored and all seven RBIs. Jose Abreu hit his team-best 25th home run of the season. Avisail Garcia had three hits, and Yolmer Sanchez tied a career high with four RBIs, those coming on a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly.

Game 2 saw Carson Fulmer make his 2017 Sox debut, and as feared, it was a clunker. He had a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Charlotte this year, so I was expecting much. But this start was painful to watch even with low expectations.

Fulmer worked a 1-2-3 first inning on seven pitches, but his fortunes turned quickly in the second inning. He threw 41 pitches and recorded only one out. Worse, he gave up a pair of three-run homers, one to the aforementioned Polanco and one to Brian Dozier. He exited with the Sox trailing 6-0.

His final line: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 Ks

Fulmer's command was terrible. Not only was he wild with walks, he was wild in the zone. He missed locations by feet, not inches, with his fastball. His breaking ball was elevated and hanging. The Twins tagged him, and such a poor outing is only going to increase questions about whether Fulmer should make the move to the bullpen.

I always say a young pitcher is a starter until he shows me he is not, and I'm getting pretty close to saying Fulmer is not a starting pitcher.

The Sox had no prayer in this second game. They managed only three hits, although two of them were solo home runs. Nick Delmonico connected for his sixth of the season, and Adam Engel hit his fourth.

After the game, Fulmer was mercifully sent back to Charlotte. Brad Goldberg also was optioned back to Charlotte, clearing a roster spot for Lucas Giolito, who will make his Sox debut in Wednesday's game against the Twins.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Baseball America updates list of top White Sox prospects

With the Jose Quintana trade in the past and the White Sox getting swept at home by the Seattle Mariners over the weekend, the 2017 season is starting to feel even more rebuild-y.

I'm not one to get overly enthusiastic about prospects, but if you're so inclined, Baseball America has updated its list of top-10 Sox prospects:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF
3. Michael Kopech, RHP
4. Luis Robert, OF
5. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
6. Lucas Giolito, RHP
7. Dylan Cease, RHP
8. Jake Burger, 3B
9. Dane Dunning, RHP
10. Alec Hansen, RHP

Of note, only Hansen was a member of the Sox organization before last December. Moncada and Kopech were acquired in the Chris Sale deal. Jimenez and Cease were acquired in the Quintana deal. Robert was an international free agent signing earlier this spring. Lopez, Giolito and Dunning all were acquired in the Adam Eaton deal. Burger was the Sox's No. 1 pick in the June draft.

There have been some changes since December. Here's how the list looked then:

1. Moncada, 2B/3B
2. Giolito, RHP
3. Lopez, RHP
4. Zack Collins, C
5. Kopech, RHP
6. Zack Burdi, RHP
7. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
8. Carson Fulmer, RHP
9. Spencer Adams, RHP
10. Dunning, RHP

Burdi fell off the list because he had Tommy John surgery and is out until 2019. Collins has seen his stock fall with the .216/.366/.414 slash line he's posted at Class-A Winston-Salem this season.

Fulmer has had a bad season, too. The former first-round draft pick is 1-5 with a 7.90 ERA over the past two months at Triple-A Charlotte. He was 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in April, but not much has gone right since. It might be time to abandon the "Fulmer is a starter" experiment and move him to the role a lot of people believe is his future: high-leverage reliever.

Adams and Basabe dropped off the list, as well, but I don't know that I ever saw them as anything more than midlevel prospects anyway. It stands to reason they would drop on these lists with the Sox adding Jimenez, Robert and Burger in recent months.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Latest statistics for notable White Sox prospects

I didn't have time Monday to break down the White Sox's three losses to the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. And really, what is there to say? They got outscored, 32-10, in the series, and got beaten in embarrassing fashion.

So, let's move on to other things that stink, such Yoan Moncada's 5-for-40 tailspin since coming off the disabled list May 26. The Sox's top prospect is 2 for 22 in June with seven strikeouts.

The combination of the injury and this slump has slowed down the drumbeat for him to be called up to the majors. That's for sure.

Since the last time we did that exercise, I've determined that none of the hitters at Birmingham are worth following. Trey Michalczewski was demoted to Class-A Winston-Salem, and Courtney Hawkins doesn't qualify as a prospect for me anymore.

I've also knocked Alex Call off the Winston-Salem list, since he is hurt and hasn't played since April.

All statistics are through games of June 5:

Charlotte Knights (26-30, 3rd place in International League South)

Moncada, 2B: .285/.366/.436, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 57 Ks, 24 BBs, 12 SBs, 179 ABs
Jacob May, OF:.290/.362/.427, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, 32 Ks, 12 BBs, 4 SBs, 124 ABs
Nick Delmonico, 3B: .282/.362/.491, 9 HRs, 32 RBIs, 40 Ks, 25 BBs, 2 SBs, 216 ABs
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP: 5-2, 3.81 ERA, 59 IP, 52 H, 30 R, 25 ER, 60 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.34 WHIP
Carson Fulmer, RHP: 5-3, 4.63 ERA, 58.1 IP, 55 H, 36 R, 30 ER, 44 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.41 WHIP
Lucas Giolito, RHP: 2-5, 4.95 ERA, 56.1 IP 55 H , 33 ER, 31 ER, 57 Ks, 27 BBs, 1.46 WHIP
Zack Burdi, RHP:  0-4, 4.64 ERA, 21.1 IP, 21 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 32 Ks, 10 BBs, 1.45 WHIP, 5 saves

Birmingham Barons (19-36, 4th place in Southern League North)

Michael Kopech, RHP: 4-3, 2.93 ERA, 58.1 IP, 33 H, 22 R, 19 ER, 80 Ks, 36 BBs, 1.18 WHIP
Spencer Adams, RHP: 3-6, 3.93 ERA, 66.1 IP, 77 H, 32 R, 29 ER, 50 Ks, 7 BBs, 1.27 WHIP
Jordan Stephens, RHP: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 0.33 WHIP

Winston-Salem Dash (19-38, 4th place in Carolina League South)

Michalczewski, 3B: .311.343/607, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs, 16 Ks, 4 BBs, 1 SB, 61 ABs
Zack Collins, C: ..230/.392/.455, 8 HRs, 26 RBIs, 56 Ks, 43 BBs, 0 SBs, 165 ABS
Luis Alexander Basabe, CF:.224/.322/317, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs, 54 Ks, 23 BBs, 10 SBs, 182 ABs
Dane Dunning, RHP: 2-0, 4.79 ERA, 20.2 IP, 20 H, 12 R, 11 ERs, 22 Ks, 11 BBs, 1.50 WHIP

Kannapolis Intimidators (30-25, 4th place in South Atlantic League North)

Jameson Fisher, OF: .290/.376/.455, 2 HRs, 29 RBIs, 49 Ks, 22 BBs, 2 SBs, 176 ABs
Micker Adolfo, OF:.277/.332/.434, 3 HRs, 23 RBIs, 54 Ks, 6 BBs, 0 SBs, 173 ABs
Mitch Roman, 2B: .267/.323/.320, 1 HR, 23 RBIs, 43 Ks, 14 BBs, 2 SBs, 206 ABs
Alec Hansen, RHP: 5-3, 2.82 ERA, 60.2 IP, 50 H, 26 R, 19 ERs, 74 Ks, 21 BBs, 1.17 WHIP

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Injury updates: When will Carlos Rodon pitch for the White Sox again?

Carlos Rodon
Forget about the White Sox's 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. Nothing to see there, nothing much to talk about, an inconsequential loss in a season that is expected to be full of them.

The most important news of the day was on the injury front, where left-hander Carlos Rodon met the media for the first time in a long time after throwing 60 pitches in a simulated game against minor leaguers Monday at Chase Field.

Relief pitchers Jake Petricka and Nate Jones also worked during the simulated game, but the big story is Rodon, whose recovery from left bicep bursitis has taken much longer than expected.

For Rodon, this was his fourth simulated game, and he says he considers himself to be on an every-fifth-day schedule at this point. Still, there's no timetable for his return, and general manager Rick Hahn used the phrase "in the coming weeks" when asked when Rodon might return to game action.

“He’s been out there now three or four times throwing to hitters,” Hahn told Sox beat reporters. “Each time has been a little more crisp from what I understand from the previous ones to today. Hopefully here in the coming weeks we are able to announce he’s starting a rehab assignment and we’ll have a better sense of his time frame at that point.”

Let me take an educated guess: Rodon might be back around the All-Star break. Say it's three more weeks until he heads out on a rehab assignment. Realistically, he'll probably need three or four starts in the minors before he's got enough strength and endurance to start in a big league game.

So, maybe we'll see him in July.

Why does this matter so much? For two reasons. One, the 24-year-old is seen as a cornerstone pitcher in the Sox's rebuilding plan. If he cannot get healthy and pitch effectively at some point this season, his status as a building block for the future would have to be called into question.

Secondly, his status affects the Sox's strategy at the trade deadline. With Rodon and James Shields both on the disabled list, the team's organizational pitching depth has been stretched thin. Retread veteran Mike Pelfrey and Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey don't belong in a major league rotation, but they are there because of the injuries, and because the Sox don't want to rush prized pitching prospects such as Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer into the starting rotation.

A healthy Rodon -- and a healthy Shields, for that matter -- makes it a little easier for Hahn to deal ace Jose Quintana for a package of prospects when July comes around.

If Rodon is not healthy for the second half of the season, and the Sox choose to deal Quintana, they might be faced with having to force-fit a prospect into the big league rotation before they really want to. That's a situation everyone would like to avoid, and it can be avoided if Rodon can take the ball 14 or 15 times before the 2017 season is over.