Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago White Sox. Show all posts

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.


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.


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 12, 2018

Eloy Jimenez announces his presence in White Sox camp; injuries continue to mount

Eloy Jimenez
The White Sox's top-ranked prospect, Eloy Jimenez, has made five plate appearances since returning to action after missing two weeks with a sore left knee.

So far, he's 3 for 4 with two home runs, a triple and a walk. Not bad, huh?

Jimenez homered in a pinch-hitting appearance Saturday against the team that traded him last summer -- the Cubs. The two-run blast in the top of the eighth inning gave the Sox a 4-3 lead in a game that ended in a 4-4 tie.

The outfielder followed that up with a home run Sunday in the Sox's 6-5 win over Arizona. This homer came off a big-league pitcher, Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Let's just hope Jimenez stays healthy from this point forward, because I like his odds of making the major leagues before this season is over if he does.

The injuries continue to mount in Sox camp. Luis Robert is out 10 weeks with a sprained left thumb. Nick Delmonico and Tyler Saladino both left Sunday's game after a collision chasing a pop fly in medium-deep left field.

Delmonico has a partial left shoulder subluxation, while Saladino has entered concussion protocol. Both are considered day to day, and if both men end up returning fairly soon, they can consider themselves lucky.

It's always been a pet peeve of mine when big-league ballplayers collide on the field because they failed to communicate on a routine play. Saladino made reckless play here, in my view. He's damn near halfway out to the left-field fence when the collision occurs. (See video here.)

I'm sorry, but that's Delmonico's ball all the way. Did Delmonico not call it? I have a hard time believing he didn't, and if he did, the shortstop needs to get the hell out of the way and let him make the catch.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Charlie Tilson among first round of White Sox roster cuts

Adam Engel
Charlie Tilson will not be the Opening Day center fielder for the White Sox.

The Sox made eight roster moves Tuesday, and Tilson was among the players optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

It's somewhat surprising to see Tilson sent out the second week of March, as he was believed to be a contender for a starting job in center field, along with Adam Engel, Leury Garcia and Ryan Cordell.

But after a 3-for-18 performance in eight spring games, the club obviously has decided Tilson needs more at-bats in the minor leagues. General manager Rick Hahn foreshadowed this possibility at SoxFest, when he noted that both Tilson and Cordell have missed significant time because of injuries.

Cordell has shown well this spring -- he's 4 for 13 in six games with four walks and no strikeouts -- but he soon might join Tilson in Triple-A just because he didn't play at all the second half of last season.

That leaves Engel and Garcia in the mix, and we know the Sox like Engel's defense. It's also no secret the 26-year-old needed a swing overhaul after hitting .166 in 301 plate appearances at the big-league level last season. So far, so good for Engel this spring -- he's 5 for 16 with two home runs and four RBIs in eight games.

Garcia is the most accomplished player in contention for the center field job, but most of his playing time this spring has been in the infield. Garcia is an infielder by trade, but he was given time in the outfield last year to take advantage of his athleticism. When healthy, he was decent in 2017, posting a .270/.316/.423 slash line with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 87 games.

Right now, Engel might have the inside track to be the center fielder based upon his defense, his health and some signs of offensive progress.

In other moves, pitcher Thyago Vieira was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Right-hander Jose Ruiz was optioned to Single-A Winston-Salem.

Injured third baseman Jake Burger, catcher Alfredo Gonzalez and pitchers Michael Ynoa, Jordan Guerrero and Dylan Covey all were assigned to minor-league camp.

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 "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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jake Burger done for the season; injuries to prospects a buzzkill for White Sox

First the good news: White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech's fastball-changeup combination looked good in his spring debut Monday, when he tossed two scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics. The Sox are 3-1 this spring after their 7-6 win over the A's.

Too bad that wasn't the story of the day.

Jake Burger, the Sox's first-round draft pick in 2017, was lost for the season Monday with a ruptured Achilles in his left leg. Burger was running out a routine grounder when he collapsed in pain about 15 feet before reaching first base.

Injuries to prospects have become an alarming trend for the Sox, and we're not even to March yet. Micker Adolfo, who has one of the best outfield arms in the farm system, is going to be relegated to DH duty this season because of a sprained UCL and a strain in his flexor tendon.

The Sox don't want Adolfo to lose at-bats, so he's going to try to play through it, but midseason surgery still is an option.

We already know Zack Burdi, a 2016 first-round draft pick, is out after having Tommy John surgery last summer. And top hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez is not playing right now because of a sore knee.

The injury to Jimenez is not severe, but it's hard to maintain optimism for the coming season when bad news is being piled on top of bad news on the injury front.

Burger's injury has led to increased speculation that the Sox might sign veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas, who incredibly remains a free agent after hitting 38 home runs for the Kansas City Royals last season.

My position on Moustakas hasn't changed: If you can get him on a two- or three-year deal at reasonable money, you have to consider it. Before the injury, Burger's projected timeline for arriving in the big leagues was about 2020. Now, you have to back that up to 2021, and questions only will increase in terms of his ability to stick at third base.

So, the Sox need somebody to man that position for the next three years, at least, and there are no other obvious solutions within the system. Time to look outside the organization? Perhaps, but I wouldn't go handing out a five- or six-year contract to the 29-year-old Moustakas as a result of this.

If the Sox want to sign a shorter-term stopgap, I'm cool with that. I would argue they needed a stopgap at third base even before this Burger injury occurred, so nothing has really changed.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

First spring training game matchup: Dylan Covey vs. Wilmer Font

Camelback Ranch
The White Sox typically open Cactus League play against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It makes sense, after all, because both teams train at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

This year is no different.

The two teams will get spring ball underway at 2 p.m. Friday. You can listen to the game on WGN AM-720.

In the past, this has meant that the first live ABs of the spring for Sox hitters come against the best pitcher in the world -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

This year is different.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, 27-year-old right-hander Wilmer Font will get the start for the Dodgers on Friday. Font posted a 3.48 ERA in 25 starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2017, and he had an unsuccessful September call-up to the Dodgers in which he had a 17.18 ERA in three appearances.

Might be a slight downgrade from Kershaw, huh?

And, hey, it makes the game a little more of a fair fight. The Sox are starting right-hander Dylan Covey, who went 0-7 in the major leagues in 2017 and already got designated for assignment this spring.

In case you were wondering who is pitching the first few spring games for the Sox, there's a tweet for that. And here's what it says:

Friday: Covey
Saturday: Hector Santiago
Sunday: Jordan Guerrero
Monday: Michael Kopech

I'm guessing Monday's game might get more media attention that some of these others ...

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:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The White Sox have a new radio home: WGN

It is always a good day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, but there was additional good news Wednesday for the White Sox and their fans.

WGN-AM 720 has been named the new radio flagship of the Sox. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it is a multiyear deal, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson will remain as the team's radio broadcast pairing. WGN will carry a weekly year-round program showcasing the team, in addition to all Sox regular-season and postseason games, a pregame and postgame show and some spring training games, the Tribune report said.

This is delightful news. The Sox were about to enter into the third year of a six-year agreement with WLS-AM 890, and that deal was not working out.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge put the Sox's rights up for grabs earlier this month at the request of WLS's parent company, Cumulus Media. Cumulus asked the judge to nullify several "extremely unprofitable contracts," including those with both the Chicago Bulls and the Sox.

The judge's decision led the Bulls to jump to WSCR-AM 670, and now the Sox are on the move as well.

The South Siders will be on a much more powerful station, a station with a wider audience, and it's my belief WGN will do its part to grow fan interest in White Sox baseball.

Most people who know me are aware the Sox are my favorite pro sports team, but the Chicago Blackhawks are a close second. And I can tell you that WGN's coverage of the Hawks is quite good and far more extensive than anything WLS was doing for the Sox.

Case in point: I attended a Hawks game last month at the United Center. After the game, I tuned into WGN for the postgame, and the postgame show still was on when we arrived at my girlfriend's house in Arlington Heights, about an hour's drive later. The coverage was thorough and extensive.

In contrast, when I turn on the Sox postgame after leaving Guaranteed Rate Field, the coverage lasts maybe 15 minutes. Sometimes, the Sox coverage on WLS is over before I even get out of the Bridgeport neighborhood. There's no postgame reaction, no calls, no highlights from around the league, nothing. It's like WLS can't wait to get back to the political talk, and when that stuff comes on, it's a cue for me to change the station.

I'm very happy to hear of this change. I think it's a good move for the Sox organization over the long haul, and I look forward to listening to the postgame coverage on WGN when driving home from Guaranteed Rate Field this season.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested on drug charges

Esteban Loaiza
I was surprised when I saw former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza at SoxFest in January.

Loaiza's name had not been mentioned as being among the attendees before the event, and he hadn't been involved in the Sox organization much since he was traded for Jose Contreras in the middle of the 2004 season. Sure, he pitched three games for the South Siders at the end of his career in 2008, but he hadn't been heard from since.

It seemed strange that he suddenly resurfaced, 15 years after he won 21 games for the Sox and started the 2003 All-Star Game for the American League at U.S. Cellular Field.

Turns out, Loaiza might have been desperate to make whatever appearance fee the team pays former players who come to SoxFest.

The former right-hander was arrested Friday after authorities searched his home in Southern California and found more than 44 pounds of what is suspected to be cocaine.

Loaiza is being held on $200,000 bail on suspicion of possessing and transporting narcotics for sale, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.

According to, Loaiza made $43.7 million during his 14-year major league career. His inability to post bond to this point suggests that perhaps he blew through all that money, and perhaps he was trying to make some easy cash with the drug running.

I suspect he randomly showed up at SoxFest for the first time in years also for purposes of trying to make some easy cash.

At the end of the day, it's quite possible Loaiza soon will be throwing cut fastballs in the California Penal League. This is an unfortunate story about a player who had the best season of his career while wearing a Sox uniform in 2003.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Random thoughts from the goings-on at SoxFest

Few people spend a whole weekend at SoxFest and come away with zero autographs.

Me, I've been attending the event for the past few years and have never gotten a single signature.

I don't care for standing in line for autographs at all, but I'm not adverse to standing in line to take a picture with a former White Sox player:

Jon Garland was apologetic about forgetting to bring his 2005 World Series ring to SoxFest. I told him my "2005 happened" shirt would make up for it.

SoxFest was as crowded as I've ever seen it Saturday afternoon, so I was stunned to walk past the photo stage and see no line whatsoever to chat with a Hall of Fame player, Tim Raines. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up as a baseball geek.

Everything they say about Jose Contreras is right: He's one of the nicest people you will ever encounter. He's gracious to fans, much like another former Cuban Sox player, Minnie Minoso. Contreras was hired as a team ambassador for good reason.

Aside from these three pictures, I spent most of my time hanging out in the seminar room, listening, learning and asking questions. A few things I found out:
  1. General manager Rick Hahn said if there's one move left to make this offseason, it would be to add one more relief pitcher to stabilize the bullpen. Hahn said he's looking for the next Anthony Swarzak, who made the Sox's roster last year as a nonroster invitee and ended up being traded for a useful prospect (Ryan Cordell) at midseason. Since Hahn made that comment, the Sox have signed right-hander Bruce Rondon to a minor-league contract. I doubt he's going to pitch like Swarzak did last season, but hey, at this time last year, did any of us think Swarzak would amount to anything?
  2. I asked Hahn how the outfield situation might sort itself out to start the season. Avisail Garcia, of course, is the right fielder. The other two starting spots and the backup outfield spot seem open, with Leury Garcia, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Willy Garcia, Charlie Tilson and Cordell competing. Hahn did not rule out a veteran acquisition when I asked, but the Sox seem content to go with what they have. He noted that Tilson and Cordell missed significant time with injury last year. Both likely need more time at Triple-A, which is good news for the other four men on that list. Interestingly, Hahn said Cordell has been asked about by three different teams during offseason trade talks.
  3. Hahn and Renteria shared some thoughts on relief pitching and bullpen use in response to one of my questions Saturday. Renteria said he tells his relievers not to worry about what inning they are going to be used in. Rather, he wants them to be thinking about getting outs. He doesn't want to place guys in set roles -- a sixth-inning guy, a seventh-inning guy, etc. He did note that he considers himself to be old school in the sense that he wants starting pitchers to go as deep into games as possible. He isn't necessarily going to adhere to the theory that a starter's job is to get through the batting order two times and hand it over to the bullpen. He's aware that batting averages go up the third time through the order, but he's not going make decisions solely upon that. I asked Hahn if the organization in their scouting process is looking for "super relievers," guys who come in and work two or three innings in the middle of game -- the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller, for example -- or do the Sox just try to stockpile starters, and whoever isn't one of the five best ends up in a bullpen role? Hahn's answer: yes and yes. If they find a guy who they think can be a dominant reliever in the middle of a game, they might draft him and try to develop him as such. But it's also likely that a sixth or seventh starter could end being that guy who works in middle relief.
  4. I asked director of player development Chris Getz about outfield prospect Luis Robert, who will be playing in the U.S. for the first time in his life. I'm wondering what minor-league level he'll start at, and Getz said that decision has yet to be determined. It depends on what Robert shows in spring training, of course, but it remains to be seen how the 20-year-old Cuban adjusts to life in a new country and a new culture. Getz said the organization will err on the side of caution with Robert, meaning if there is a debate over whether to start him in Low-A or High-A, they are going to put him in Low-A. The thinking being, if he destroys Low-A pitching, it's an easy adjustment to move him up to High-A. Better that than having him struggle at High-A and face a possible demotion to Low-A. Also, Getz said the organization sees Robert as a center fielder. 
  5. The optimism was overflowing all weekend long. There was one fan who wondered how the Sox could trade Fernando Tatis Jr. in the James Shields deal, but there wasn't a cross word uttered otherwise. Coaches, players and fans alike seem excited for the second year of the rebuild, and there was a lot of talk about how well the current players and prospects in the system enjoy being around each other. Players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Renteria and his leadership capabilities.  I'm not a big believer in chemistry -- I think you win with talent and execution -- but it doesn't hurt that the players in the Sox organization actually want to be with this team and want to win here. Time will tell whether they have enough talent and the ability to execute in pressure situations.

Great jerseys found at SoxFest ... and by 'great' I mean not great

One of the annual joys of SoxFest is a visit to the garage sale in Salon B at the Chicago Hilton.

There is a good reason they call it a "garage sale." It's full of junk that sane people wouldn't want -- old lineup cards, broken game-used bats, programs from years ago, used uniform pants (huh?) and, of course, jerseys of bad players.

Any of these jerseys could have been mine for the low, low price of between $75 and $125. Shockingly, I passed up the offer.

However, it was amusing to find some of these gems:

I had trouble containing my laughter when I found this George Kottaras jersey. Did he even appear in a game for the Sox? I don't believe so. This one probably is the rarest of finds.

There was no worse feeling than knowing you had ticket for a game that was going to be started by Dylan Axelrod. Get ready to see some bullpen pitchers used, and pray the offense can score some runs.

Remember when people thought Jason Coats was the left fielder of the future? He could hit Triple-A pitching. Big-league pitching? Not so much.

Jeff Keppinger is the answer to a trivia question. He was Sox general manager Rick Hahn's first major free-agent signing. He also was a disaster in a Sox uniform. Back then, Hahn was considered an inept fool. Now, he's considered a genius because he "finally has a plan." Hopefully, that plan does not include more signings such as Keppinger.

MLB Network's crawl at the bottom of the screen lists the "key free agents" for each team. Somehow, Mike Pelfrey is listed as a "key free agent" for the Sox. Most of us believe one of the "keys" to the 2018 season will be Pelfrey pitching for some other team, hopefully a division rival.

Matt Purke is most famous for his entrance music. "Time for Da Perculator" would blare over the speakers as the useless left-hander would jog in from the bullpen. Time for Da Perculator? More like Time for the Walk Machine, given Purke's habit of issuing walks in bunches. 

Remember when Cody Asche tore up the Cactus League in 2017? I'll bet you don't. He also is the answer to a trivia question: Who was the Sox's starting DH on Opening Day in 2017? It went downhill from there for Asche, as he was exposed as the Quad-A bum that he is. We'll always have the memories from March 2017.

Monday, January 22, 2018

5 White Sox prospects make Baseball America's top 100 list

White Sox farmhands occupy five spots on Baseball America's list of top 100 prospects, which was released Monday morning.

The five players are:

4. Eloy Jimenez
11. Michael Kopech
57. Alec Hansen
58. Luis Robert
82. Dane Dunning

It's a good sign for the Sox to still have five players in the top 100, considering three of their guys who were on the list at this time last year are no longer eligible because they are now in the big leagues -- Yoan Moncada (No. 2), Lucas Giolito (No. 25) and Reynaldo Lopez (No. 31).

Zack Collins was No. 56 last year, but he has fallen off the list after struggling at Class-A Winston-Salem in 2017 (.223 average with 118 strikeouts).

The other bad news? Fernando Tatis Jr. is No. 9 in these rankings. In case you've forgotten, Tatis Jr. is the shortstop the Sox traded the San Diego Padres in 2016 in exchange for James Shields.

We said at the time of the Shields deal that it was the sort of trade that gets GMs fired. Rick Hahn can thank his lucky stars that some of the young players he's acquired since the Shields deal have masked the loss of Tatis Jr.

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
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, January 8, 2018

Baseball America releases list of top-10 White Sox prospects

Eloy Jimenez
For those who enjoy lists, Baseball America has released its latest list of top-10 White Sox prospects. You would need to buy a subscription from that publication to get full details, but here is its ranking:

1. Eloy Jimenez, OF
2. Michael Kopech, RHP
3. Alec Hansen, RHP
4. Luis Robert, OF
5. Dane Dunning, RHP
6. Zack Collins, C
7. Jake Burger, 3B
8. Blake Rutherford, OF
9. Gavin Sheets, 1B
10. Dylan Cease, RHP

Notable graduations from last year's Baseball America list at this same time include the guys who were ranked 1, 2 and 3: Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. All received call-ups to the big leagues during the 2017 season.

Baseball America says the top of the Sox's farm system ranks among the best in the game, and the top 10 could get stronger if Burger and Sheets -- both members of the 2017 draft class -- play well in their first full seasons as professionals.

The publication also notes that there is a bit of a dropoff in the Sox's system once you get past the first 15 prospects. The depth could be better if more fringe prospects such as Luis Alexander Basabe and Alex Call bounce back from disappointing 2017 seasons.

Here's the best-of list for the Sox's farm system provided by Baseball America:
Best hitter for average: Jimenez
Best power hitter: Jimenez
Best plate discipline: Collins
Fastest base runner: Logan Taylor
Best athlete: Robert
Best fastball: Kopech
Best curve: Hansen
Best slider: Zack Burdi
Best changeup: A.J. Puckett
Best control: Dunning
Best defensive catcher: Nate Nolan
Best defensive infielder: Yeyson Yrizarri
Best infield arm: Zach Remillard
Best defensive outfielder: Basabe
Best outfield arm: Micker Adolfo

Friday, January 5, 2018

White Sox acquire relievers Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan in three-team deal

Joakim Soria
It has been somewhat surprising that the White Sox have not addressed their depleted bullpen through free agency, but perhaps their plan all along was to acquire a couple of veteran relievers through a trade.

The Sox on Thursday added veteran right-hander Joakim Soria from the Kansas City Royals and left-hander Luis Avilan from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team deal.

It seems as if the Royals might be looking to clear some salary in order to make a bigger offer to free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. In addition to sending Soria to Chicago, they sent left-handed reliever Scott Alexander to the Dodgers.

Los Angeles also receives minor-league infielder Jake Peter, who is the only player the Sox parted with in this deal. Peter had a nice year in 2017, hitting a combined .279 between Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham, but he's blocked by Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Yolmer Sanchez in Chicago, and didn't appear to be part of the Sox's long-term plan.

Kansas City receives infielder Erick Mejia and right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks from the Dodgers as part of the deal.

The only way this trade doesn't work out for the Sox is if Peter somehow becomes more than the utility infielder most people believe he is.

Although neither Soria nor Avilan figure to be part of the Sox's long-term plan, either, the two veterans provide a short-term solution in the late innings -- at least for the first half of 2018 -- and if they pitch well, they could be candidates to be traded midseason to contending teams in exchange for prospects who are more highly regarded than Peter.

Soria, 33, has 204 career saves, so I think we have a good idea of who has the ninth inning for the Sox when the season opens. Soria is not the pitcher he was in the past -- his ERA was an ordinary 3.70 for Kansas City last season -- but he has experience as a closer, and he kept the ball in the ballpark in 2017. He allowed only one home run in 56 innings, and at Guaranteed Rate Field, you want relief pitchers who keep the ball out of the air.

Avilan, 28, was 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 46 innings and 61 games with the Dodgers last year. The left-hander's main value comes in getting left-handed hitters out. In 2017, left-handed hitters slashed .195/.290/.280 against Avilan, while right-handers slashed .292/.376/.449. This is a pitcher that can be effective if manager Rick Renteria puts him in favorable matchup situations.

With this trade, here's how the Sox bullpen might look if the season started today:

Nate Jones
Juan Minaya
Danny Farquhar
Greg Infante

Aaron Bummer

Assuming a 12-man pitching staff, those likely are your seven relievers. Other bullpen candidates include right-handers Thyago Vieira, Jose Ruiz and Dylan Covey, plus left-hander Jace Fry.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dubious definition of a 'key free agent' -- Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey -- in younger years
If you've watched MLB Network's offseason coverage lately -- and if you're reading my blog at this time of year, you probably have -- you may have noticed it has a tracker of "key free agents" running across its bottom crawl.

One by one, each team in MLB's logo is shown, followed by a list of that team's unsigned free agents. The White Sox have only one such unsigned free agent this year, and it never fails to make me smile to see him described as a "key free agent."

Good ol' Mike Pelfrey.

Yep, "Big Pelf" gets a mention, even though he went 3-12 with a 5.93 ERA for a Sox team that went 67-95 in 2017.

Key free agent? Ha! I'm quite sure the fate of the 2018 Sox rests on something other than Pelfrey's future with club, and I can't imagine too many rival teams are lining up to try to "steal" the journeyman right-hander who is entering his age 34 season away from the Sox.

Hey, something's got to keep me entertained during this offseason of very little baseball news, right?

Other additions to SoxFest

The Sox have announced a few additions to the SoxFest lineup. Catcher Welington Castillo, manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff and former pitchers Jose Contreras and Jon Garland all will be at the Chicago Hilton from Jan. 26 to 28.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The next holiday on the calendar: SoxFest

Jose Abreu ... still not traded
With the holiday season past, it's time to turn our attention to SoxFest, which is scheduled from Jan. 26 to 28 at the Chicago Hilton.

I, of course, will be in attendance, but I doubt anyone is buying hotel passes to hang out with me for the weekend. So, here is a list of more important people who will be appearing at SoxFest.

White Sox players: Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Matt Davidson, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Carson Fulmer, Avisail Garcia, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada, Carlos Rodon, Yolmer Sanchez and Kevan Smith.

White Sox prospects: Jake Burger, Dylan Cease, Zack Collins, Alec Hansen, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets.

Past White Sox greats: Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Bo Jackson, Tim Raines and Frank Thomas.

White Sox broadcasters: Jason Benetti, Ed Farmer, Ken Harrelson, Darrin Jackson and Steve Stone.

White Sox brass: general manager Rick Hahn, assistant GM Jeremy Haber, senior director of baseball operations Dan Fabian, director of player development Chris Getz and director of scouting Nick Hostetler.

As a hotel guest, I will receive a talking Hawk Harrelson bobblehead. Won't that be interesting? Can't wait to go to the fest and talk baseball with my fellow Sox fans.