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

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, 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:

Right-handers:
Soria
Nate Jones
Juan Minaya
Danny Farquhar
Greg Infante

Left-handers:
Avilan
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.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Catching up on a few other White Sox roster moves

Jake Petricka
A few other White Sox roster moves to note from the past week:

Relief pitchers Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Al Alburquerque, along with utility man Alen Hanson, were not tendered contracts for the 2018 season.

The Sox also avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year contract with relief pitcher Danny Farquhar.

The lesson here? It pays to be healthy. Petricka appeared in only 36 games over the past two seasons (27 in 2017), while Putnam pitched in only 32 games over the past two years (7 in 2017). Both men generally have been useful when available, but if you're not available, what good are you?

No surprise to see the Sox move on from Alburquerque, who was signed a minor-league deal in August. He made 10 appearances in a September call-up, and while he posted a 1.13 ERA in those outings, he only has one effective pitch -- a slider -- and the Sox evidently didn't see enough to believe he can be a useful stopgap in 2018.

They apparently did see enough from Farquhar, who is healthy and posted a 4.20 ERA in 52 appearances combined between the Tampa Bay Rays and Sox last season. Farquhar's fastball-changeup combination makes him a useful piece against left-handed hitters, who slashed a paltry .185/.317/.222 against him in 2017.

As long as manager Rick Renteria is aware of Farquhar's reverse splits -- and I'm sure he is -- the veteran right-hander can help.

Hanson did not distinguish himself in 69 games with the Sox in 2017. He slashed .231/.276/.651 in 175 plate appearances, hitting four homers, driving in 10 runs and stealing nine bases.

Nothing special there, and Hanson is redundant on the roster with the likes of Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez and Tyler Saladino. A team only needs so many utility players, and clearly, Hanson is the odd man out.

With these moves, the Sox's 40-man roster sits at 36.

Monday, December 4, 2017

White Sox sign catcher Welington Castillo to two-year contract

Welington Castillo
Most White Sox fans seemed content with the catching platoon of Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez going into the 2018 season.

After all, both players performed reasonably well in their first full season in the big leagues in 2017.

Team brass, however, saw it differently. The Sox on Friday signed catcher Welington Castillo to a two-year deal worth $15 million.

He isn't coming here to be the backup.

Castillo, 30, will receive $7.25 million in both 2018 and 2019. The Sox hold an $8 million option for 2020 with a $500,000 buyout.

The eight-year veteran is coming off the best season of his career. He hit .282/.323/.490 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs in 96 games with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017. The 20 homers represent a career high, but Castillo has reached double figures in home runs for four straight seasons, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to hit 15 to 20 homers again next season.

Castillo also has worked with manager Rick Renteria before, having been a member of the Cubs in 2014. The Sox are hoping Castillo will represent a defensive upgrade over the Smith/Narvaez combo, as well. He has a history of blocking and throwing well, and last year, he threw out 49 percent of runners who attempted to steal against him (24 of 49).

His 7.4 fielding runs above average in 2017 represent a significant upgrade over both Smith (-7.7 fielding runs) and Narvaez (-10.7 fielding runs). Castillo was considered a below average framer until last year, so the hope is maybe he has mastered that skill and can steal a few strikes for what is expected to be a younger pitching staff.

Certainly, Castillo should provide a better offensive presence. Smith and Narvaez combined for only six home runs last season, and neither man is considered the long-term solution at the position. Castillo is here to bridge a gap for two years, because the Sox's best catching prospect (Zack Collins) isn't expected until 2019 under even the best-case scenario.

If Collins is ready to be an everyday catcher by the 2020 season, then the Sox can simply buy Castillo out. Or, if Collins does not develop, the club can pick up Castillo's option and still be in reasonable shape at an important defensive position for a year in which many people project the Sox to be ready to contend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

White Sox add Eloy Jimenez, four others to 40-man roster

Eloy Jimenez
The White Sox on Monday added five prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.

Among them, of course, is Eloy Jimenez, the prized outfield prospect the Sox acquired in the Jose Quintana deal. The other four additions are first baseman Casey Gillaspie, pitcher Ian Clarkin and outfielders Micker Adolfo and Luis Alexander Basabe.

To make room on the roster, the Sox outrighted right-handed pitchers Chris Beck and Tyler Danish.

I say good riddance to Beck. I'm not a fan; he always reminded me of Mike MacDougal, and he had the 6.40 ERA over 65 innings with the Sox in 2017 to prove it. I won't rehash why I can't stand Beck, because I've made those points before, so I might as well just provide a link.

Danish struggled as a starter in Triple-A Charlotte this year, and he was in a car crash right at the end of the season that injured his non-throwing shoulder. He seems to be slipping down the organizational depth chart more and more with each passing day.

The Sox's roster is now at 39 players. It's a little bit surprising that neither left-handed pitcher Jordan Guerrero nor infield Jake Peter were added to the roster. Both are midtier prospects that are close to major-league ready, and both could be enticing to teams looking to raid some of the Sox's organizational depth in the Rule 5 draft.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

White Sox acquire hard-throwing right-hander Thyago Vieira

Worried about the White Sox bullpen? Of course you are. What Sox fan isn't?

It's anybody's guess which pitchers will make up the team's relief corps in 2018, but general manager Rick Hahn made a move Thursday that could pay dividends as soon as next season.

The Sox acquired right-hander Thyago Vieira from Seattle in exchange for $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Vieira, 24, made one appearance with the Mariners last year and retired all three batters he faced with one strikeout Aug. 14 against the Baltimore Orioles.

He went 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves and 46 strikeouts in 41 appearances and 54 innings between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma in 2017. He limited right-handed hitters to a .194 average. Vieira also was selected to compete for the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game last summer.

While this pitcher's numbers might not be eye-popping, his stuff is. He has an 80-grade fastball that consistently sits between 97 and 100 mph, and tops out at 102. His second-best pitch is a 55-grade curve that showed improvement the second half of last season.

Vieira was ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Seattle farm system. The Sox's farm system is deeper, so Vieira is now checking in as their 20th-rated prospect.

If Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can harness Vieira's control -- he's walked 4.6 men per nine innings in his minor league career -- this is a potential high-leverage reliever that the Sox acquired for nothing more than cash considerations.

Why, you ask, would Seattle be willing to give up one of its top-10 prospects and receive no players in return?

Well, the Mariners are going to make a run at signing Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani. The additional international pool money aids them in that quest.

As for the Sox, count Vieira among the young pitchers who will contend for a roster spot when camp opens in the spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Jose Abreu trade? Never say never, but it's unlikely

Jose Abreu
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has been asked about the possibility of making another big-splash trade this offseason, which would involve dealing either Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia.

Predictably, Hahn didn't rule out anything:

“It has to be in play,” Hahn said to reporters. “Everything is in play. Even a couple of years ago when we come to these meetings, there would be all these Chris Sale rumors. The reason for that was we had to keep our options open. There are simply no untouchables. We have to fully vet and understand our players and make an appropriate decision about what is best for the long-term health of the organization.”

Indeed, the Sox are the organization that traded Chris Sale, and if Sale can be dealt, then anyone can be dealt.

But there a few reasons why I think Abreu is likely to remain with the Sox. First and foremost, if a team needs a first baseman, that's one position where there are some reasonable free agent options: Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso.

Wouldn't a club rather sign one of those guys than deal elite prospects to the Sox in exchange for Abreu? I'm thinking yes.

Also, Abreu will be 31 years old when spring training opens. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down, but the free agent first basemen are either younger than him, or in the same age range. Not sure how many clubs in the current marketplace are going to be willing to give up top-50 prospects for a slugger who plays a corner position.

And from Hahn's perspective, if the market doesn't yield top-50 prospects for Abreu, there isn't any incentive to move.

And then there's this:

“His leadership, his role in the clubhouse, the way he plays the game, the example he sets for everyone is important,” Hahn said of Abreu. “It's something that quite frankly may well tilt it so that we value him more than anyone else in the game because we've had the privilege of having him in our clubhouse and know the value that he adds and others are just speculating on that part. Every team in baseball is able to put a value on him based on what he does between the lines. We increase that value to us based on what he does in the clubhouse.”

Somebody has to be the veteran clubhouse presence during the rebuild. That guy is Abreu. In addition to being a good hitter, Abreu brings intangible value, and he's the sort who just might be more valuable to the Sox on the roster than he would be in a trade.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My favorite memory from Roy Halladay's career

Roy Halladay
The baseball world was shocked and saddened by the news that former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday when his private plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Halladay, 40, left fans with quite a few memories from his brilliant career. He won the Cy Young award in both leagues. He pitched a perfect game, then fired a no-hitter in the playoffs that same season for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Those are all great accomplishments, but when I think of Halladay, the first thing that comes to mind is a game that I attended July 28, 2007, at U.S. Cellular Field.

What a duel it was that night between Halladay, who was then the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays, and White Sox All-Star Mark Buehrle. The game lasted only two hours, seven minutes, as two of the best in the game at that time put on a pitching clinic.

Buehrle earned the 2-0 win, as he scattered eight hits over eight shutout innings. Despite taking the loss, Halladay fired a 126-pitch complete game. He gave up 10 hits, but most of them did no damage whatsoever.

The lone exception? A two-run homer by Jerry Owens in the bottom of the seventh inning, which scored Danny Richar, who had singled one pitch earlier.

That home run turned out to be the only one of Owens' career in 540 plate appearances. Of all people to produce the game-winning runs against the great Halladay, it was the combination of Owens and Richar.

Owens hooked an inside cutter from Halladay down the right-field line, barely fair and just over the wall 335 feet from home plate. That's the beauty of baseball -- you sometimes see things you never expect to see.

What a great game that was.

And that wasn't the only time Halladay and Buehrle hooked up for a classic duel during the 2007 season. They also pitched against each other in Toronto on May 31. That game took only one hour, 50 minutes to play. The final score of that game also was 2-0, but Halladay got the upper hand with seven shutout innings, while Buehrle took a complete-game loss.

That was the same day Sox great Frank Thomas, then with the Blue Jays, homered off his good friend and former teammate Buehrle.

While we all can enjoy the occasional 13-12 slugfest, for me, there's something great about watching two star-caliber pitchers lock up in a low-scoring game. In those types of games, you never know which pitch is going to be the one that decides the game, and you never who the hero is going to be.

Sometimes it's Frank Thomas, a Hall of Famer, and sometimes it's Jerry Owens, a player long forgotten by most people.

When I think of Roy Halladay, I'm first going to think of that pitchers' duel in July 2007. Even though he was the opponent of my favorite team, it was a joy to watch him compete.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chris Sale gets rocked in first career postseason start

Chris Sale
Chris Sale spent more than six years in a White Sox uniform and made five All-Star appearances. There are few complaints one could make about his performance on the South Side, but if there is one, it would be this: Sale fades at the end of seasons.

Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox last offseason, always has been strong out of the gate, and that's one reason he's always on the mound for the American League in the All-Star Game. But it's no secret September is the month when he's most prone to having some struggles.

Here are Sale's career ERAs by month:

April: 2.91
May: 2.57
June: 2.66
July: 2.66
August: 3.22
September: 3.78

Granted, a 3.78 ERA is hardly an embarrassment, but it is indicative of Sale going from a nearly untouchable ace to a league-average mortal late in the season. That's always created some questions about how well Sale would perform if given the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs.

As it turns out, Sale looked was quite mortal Thursday in his postseason debut with the Red Sox, giving up seven runs on nine hits -- including three home runs -- in five innings of Boston's 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS.

It was the continuation of a bizarre late-season pattern for Sale this year. Including Thursday, he's made 12 starts since Aug. 1, and he was lights out in five of them. Four times he allowed no runs. There was another start where he allowed only one run.

However, he's also had four starts where he has allowed five runs or more, and Thursday marked the third occasion when he has allowed seven runs or more.

Bad Sale appeared at the worst possible time, and that is not going to sit well in Boston. The Red Sox were favorites to win in the 2016 American League playoffs, but they were dismissed in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians, largely because of pitching failures by David Price and Rick Porcello.

Boston acquired Sale in December as a response to that. Keep in mind, the Red Sox were a playoff team without Sale. He wasn't brought in to help them win the division. He was brought in specifically to help them win in the postseason. One game and one start does not a series make, but there is going to be a ton of pressure on Sale to deliver should he be fortunate enough to receive another start in this series against the Astros.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

White Sox pare 40-man roster down to 33

As we follow two ALDS Game 1s -- Boston at Houston and New York at Cleveland -- on this Thursday afternoon and early evening, there are some White Sox roster moves to report.

The Sox outrighted catcher Rob Brantly, outfielder Rymer Liriano and pitchers David Holmberg, Brad Goldberg and Chris Volstad to Triple-A Charlotte.

Goldberg remains in the organization as a non-roster player, because this is the first time he has been outrighted. Brantly, Liriano, Holmberg and Volstad elected free agency.

The moves reduce the Sox's 40-man roster to 33. There are three guys on the 60-day DL -- Charlie Tilson, Zach Putnam and Geovany Soto. After those three men are activated, the roster moves to 36, then reduces to 34, because Soto and Mike Pelfrey are free agents-to-be.

That leaves six spots open for the Sox to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, although it's possible we'll see more roster dreck purged in the coming weeks.

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 shortstop Tim Anderson surging in second half

Tim Anderson
There is nothing White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson can do at this point to make his overall 2017 statistics look impressive. He struggled both offensively and defensively throughout the first four months of the season, and his numbers reflect that.

There is no greater example than his error total. Anderson has committed 26 errors this season, the most by any shortstop in the American League. There's no getting around it -- that's a high number.

But here's something that is encouraging: Anderson has committed only four errors in his past 53 games. He committed his 22nd error of the season July 16, in his 80th game.

The average fan is going to look at those 26 errors and declare that Anderson is a poor defender. But aside from a two-error game in Texas on Aug. 19, a closer look reveals that Anderson has been playing a mostly clean shortstop for a good two months.

Corner turned? We'll find out next year, and we can hope.

When Anderson was struggling, I suspected he was taking his poor at-bats into the field with him, which is a tendency among many young players. His improved defense coincides with a late-season offensive resurgence.

Entering Tuesday's play, Anderson is riding a nine-game hit streak in which he has gone 18 for 43 (.419 average) with three doubles, a triple and a home run. He also has stolen six bases in his past nine games, nearly doubling his season total from seven to 13.

Anderson has hit in 12 of his past 13 games, and he has posted a .418/.426/.612 slash line in September.

Garbage-time heroics, you say? Well, perhaps, but Anderson has been trending in the right direction offensively since about Aug. 1, and given the choice, wouldn't we rather see a garbage-time surge than another two months of Anderson flailing about?

Here are Anderson's slash lines by month for the season:

April: .204/.237/.301
May: .319/.319/.500
June: .213/.242/.298
July: .198/.207/.296
August: .259/.272/.500
September: .418/.426/.612

June and July were a wasteland for Anderson, and his overall slash line (.262/.281/.414) suffers as a result of those extended struggles. The September performance is not sustainable, of course, but his performance has looked more like it should now for an extended period.

Some fans will point out that Anderson still is not taking many walks, and his on-base percentage is suffering for it. True enough, but I think we all need to get over the idea that Anderson needs to walk more. He isn't going to walk more. That's not who he is as a player. Accept that as reality.

Anderson has good bat-to-ball skills. He has speed and athleticism. Those tools should allow him to get hits, steal bases and play good defense. We've seen him do those things recently. If he can do that with more consistency next season, I'll be content with him as the Sox's starting shortstop, low walk totals be damned.

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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

White Sox damage Kansas City's wild card hopes

The 2012 White Sox lost the AL Central by three games. And from Aug. 7 until the end of that season, the Sox lost nine out of 11 games to the Kansas City Royals.

The 2012 Royals were a 90-loss team, but the Sox couldn't do anything against them coming down the stretch, and I've long felt the inability to beat Kansas City was the reason the South Siders missed the playoffs that year.

The Sox haven't played meaningful September games in the five years since, while the Royals have won two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. Kansas City has tortured the Sox for most of this decade, and frankly, I will probably carry the scars from this 2016 loss for the rest of my life. It is the worst loss I've ever endured as a Sox fan.

So, given all that history, it is with great joy that I report that the last-place Sox (58-87) damaged Kansas City's 2017 playoff hopes this week by taking two out of three at Kauffman Stadium.

This was a series the Royals (72-73) needed to win. They didn't win it, and now they are four games out of the second wild card with three teams to pass as they embark on an 11-game road trip that starts in Cleveland against an Indians club that has won 21 games in a row.

Good luck, Royals. There isn't a Sox fan alive that has any sympathy for you.

Here's a look back at this week's series:

Monday, Sept. 11
White Sox 11, Royals 3: Jose Abreu almost hit for the cycle for the second time in three days. He came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning needing a home run, but he ended up drawing a walk from Kansas City reliever Trevor Cahill.

The Sox's first baseman went 4 for 5 to lead a 17-hit attack. Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada added three hits each, with Engel capping off a six-run sixth inning with a three-run home run.

The offensive outburst allowed right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3) to pick up his first victory with the Sox. Lopez allowed three runs in the fifth inning, but he got through six, allowing eight hits. The Sox are hopeful it will be the first of many wins for the hard-throwing 23-year-old.

Tuesday, Sept. 12
Royals 4, White Sox 3: Dylan Covey had a miserable first inning. He walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam to Brandon Moss to put the Sox in an early 4-0 hole.

But Covey (0-5) settled down and retired 14 out of 15 hitters at one point, and the Sox had their chances to come back and win the game. They outhit the Royals, 13-4, but left 10 runners stranded.

The Sox had runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, but could not get the tying run home against Kansas City reliever Scott Alexander.

Moncada struck out, Abreu popped out and Matt Davidson grounded out, ending an unsatisfying offensive day for the Sox.

Wednesday, Sept. 13
White Sox 5, Royals 3: The Sox solved Alexander in the rubber match of the series with two runs in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 3-3 tie.

Tim Anderson singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Moncada walked. That put runners on first and third with one out for Abreu, who delivered a sacrifice fly for his 93rd RBI of the season and 4-3 lead. Avisail Garcia's two-out RBI single plated Moncada and capped the scoring.

Juan Minaya (3-2) sealed the win with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. It's too bad Lucas Giolito didn't get the win after he pitched 6.1 innings of one-run ball. Alas, Danny Farquhar allowed two runs in the eighth to give up the lead, and the Sox starter got a no-decision.

But Giolito can take the positives out of the start. He allowed only four hits despite not having his best stuff. His ERA is down to 2.56 in five starts, and he's positioning himself for a job in the 2018 Sox rotation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jose Abreu becomes first White Sox player to hit for the cycle since 2000

Jose Abreu
What are the odds that slugging White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu will hit a triple in any given at-bat?

Not high, you say? Well, you are correct.

Abreu has appeared in 596 career games through Sunday, and he has made 2,582 plate appearances. He has 11 career triples, which means he triples once in every 235 plate appearances.

So, when Abreu stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night needing a triple to complete the cycle, I doubt too many people thought he would actually do it. His odds got even worse after he fouled a ball off his leg in that at-bat, and the game had to be delayed briefly while manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider checked on him.

Wouldn't you know, Abreu got back in the box and lined the very next pitch into the right-center field gap. Sore leg and all, the race was on, and somehow the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Abreu lumbered into third base to complete the cycle.

He went 4 for 5 with three RBIs in the Sox's 13-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

I had the good fortune of attending Saturday's game, and it was the first time I've seen a Sox player hit for the cycle in person. That part is really not surprising, because cycles have been rare in club history. There are only six of them, and Guaranteed Rate Field isn't what you would call a triples park - with its short power alleys and symmetrical design.

Here are the other cycles in Sox history:

Jose Valentin: April 27, 2000 vs. Baltimore
Chris Singleton: July 6, 1999 vs. Kansas City
Carlton Fisk: May 16, 1984 vs. Kansas City
Jack Brohamer: Sept. 24, 1977 vs. Seattle
Ray Schalk: June 27, 1922 vs. Detroit

I think the Sox should give free admission to an upcoming home game to anyone who was actually alive when Schalk hit for the cycle.

As for Abreu, he continued his torrid hitting Sunday with two home runs in an 8-1 win over the Giants. The Sox took two out of three in the series after losing 9-2 on Friday night.

The .300/30/100 watch continues for Abreu. He's got 31 home runs now, so the "30" part is secure. He's at 90 RBIs, which means he needs 10 more in the remaining 20 games. The batting average sits at .302 entering Monday's action.