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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

White Sox trade reliever Dan Jennings to Rays

Dan Jennings
There is only one relief pitcher remaining with the team from the White Sox Opening Day roster after left-hander Dan Jennings was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in exchange for Triple-A first baseman Casey Gillaspie.

Yes, Gillaspie is the younger brother of former Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie.

Casey Gillaspie, a 24-year-old switch-hitter, began the season ranked as the No. 74 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. He was a Midwest League All-Star in 2015 and a Southern League All-Star in 2016, but he has fallen on hard times this season at Triple-A Durham.

Gillaspie has slumped to a .227/.296/.357 slash line with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 95 games for Durham. The struggles are a little bit surprising because Gillaspie hit .307 in 47 Triple-A games after being promoted to Durham late in the 2016 season. That's how he got that respectable ranking on the prospects list.

Is the slump this year an anomaly? Possibly. Gillaspie had hit at every level until this year, so we can't count out the possibility that he'll regain his form. He's a former first-round draft pick, so he's obviously got some talent.

And, really, it's not a bad gamble for the Sox, who are parting with a league-average reliever in Jennings. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in 48 appearances this season, and he's certainly a respectable bullpen arm. However, Jennings doesn't have much value on the roster to the Sox, who are obviously on their way to finishing well up the track.

Do you really need decent-to-good bullpen arms when there are so few leads to protect? Not really.

For the record, Jake Petricka is the last man standing from the Opening Day bullpen. He's often injured, and thus has little value in a trade. That's probably the one thing that's keeping him in Chicago.

James Shields is pitching? I'd rather watch 'Alf'

Wednesday night's White Sox game provoked a text conversation among my friends and I where we asked the question, "Could Alf hit a home run if he had a chance to face James Shields"?

Or better yet, could the 1980s TV sitcom character pitch well enough to earn a spot in the Sox bullpen?

Why Alf, you ask?

Well, reruns of that program air in syndication on MeTV at 8:30 p.m. weeknights in the Chicago area. And 8:30 p.m. is about the time when the average Sox game goes to hell, and fans start reaching for the remote control to find something else to watch.

So, flipping channels, you might find yourself watching "Alf." Did you know that when Alf gets the hiccups, the only two cures for him are cat juice and spinach?

Ah, that crazy Alf! You never know what he's going to do next.

Would Shields pitch better if we provided him with some cat juice and spinach before his next start?

The erstwhile right-hander got pummeled again Wednesday in an 8-3 loss to the Cubs. He made it through three innings unscathed, but he gave up a run in the fourth and four more runs in the fifth without recording an out. Shields, an alleged "innings eater," once again lasted only four innings and left a depleted Sox bullpen with five innings to cover. Alf eats more cats than Shields eats innings. It's a miracle the Sox only lost by five.

In his past four starts, Shields is 0-2 with an ERA of 9.00. This is not a new trend. Since he was acquired by the Sox in the middle of the 2016 season, he has gone 6-15 with 6.49 ERA in 32 starts.

How much longer do we need to put up with this? Shields profiles as a relief pitcher at this stage of his career. He can only get through a batting order one time before he implodes. Why do we think he's getting knocked out in the fourth or fifth inning every time he goes to the mound?

Thank goodness the "Alf" reruns come on about the time the fourth inning starts.

In all seriousness, it's time to remove Shields from the rotation and replace him with Reynaldo Lopez, who has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level.

Lopez fanned 10 more hitters in his latest start Wednesday with the Charlotte Knights. He has compiled a 1.96 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 36.2 innings over his past six starts.

It's time to make a change. The Sox have a prospect who is forcing the issue. If Lopez is on the mound, I won't be switching over to watch "Alf," I promise.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

White Sox trade reliever Anthony Swarzak to Brewers

Anthony Swarzak
The White Sox continued to trade veterans players as part of their rebuilding process Wednesday, sending relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Ryan Cordell.

I've been more critical of Rick Hahn than most people, but this actually was a pretty good piece of GM'ing.

Swarzak was a nonroster free-agent signing in the spring. He made the club out of camp and has surprised everyone with a career-best season. He's 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.034 WHIP in 41 appearances this year, plus his first career save in Monday's win over the Cubs.

The right-hander went from being an afterthought at the start of the season to being a reliever who can be trusted in high-leverage situations.

Will that last?

Probably not. Swarzak's career ERA is 4.31. His career WHIP is 1.345. He's pitching well above career norms at age 31, and he's a free agent at the end of the season. He has "sell high, sell now" written all over him. That's what the Sox did.

I'm not going to sit here and tout Cordell as some sort of future All-Star, but he's close to major league ready, and could be useful in some role.

The 25-year-old was an 11th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2013. He joined the Milwaukee organization last year as part of the Jonathon Lucroy deal. He was hitting .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 68 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this year.

In the minor leagues, Cordell has played all three outfield spots, as well as some first base and third base. Unlike a lot of the other recent Sox acquisitions, we could see him on the big club this year -- especially if veteran left fielder Melky Cabrera is the next to go as part of this sell-off.

The bottom line is this: When your GM turns a journeyman reliever such as Swarzak into a position player that has a chance to be useful, you can't complain. Sometimes, the small deals are just as crucial as the big ones.

We'll see how Cordell works out.

In the meantime, the Sox have activated right-hander Jake Petricka from the 10-day disabled list to take Swarzak's place on the 25-man roster.

Not sure what to make of Carlos Rodon's crazy day ...

Carlos Rodon
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon on Tuesday became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 11 batters in a start that lasted only four innings.

Congratulations to Rodon on becoming an answer to a trivia question.

His performance in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs was baffling. He obviously possessed enough stuff to generate plenty of swings and misses. Normally, when a guy strikes out 11, you're looking at a dominant outing, if not a victory.

Not so here.

Rodon faced 22 hitters -- only eight of which put the ball in play. (He also walked three.) But seven of those eight balls in play resulted in Cubs hits, and four of those seven hits went for extra bases. The biggest of those was a three-run home run by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in the bottom of the first inning. The North Siders led from that point forward.

It's almost as if Rodon has become a three-outcome pitcher: It's either a strikeout, a walk or a cannon shot. Weird.

The other thing about Rodon's day: He collected his first major league hit: a two-out, two-run double in the top of the second inning off John Lackey. The Sox were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the loss, and Rodon's hit was the "1."

It could have been a different game. The Sox hitters blew chance after chance after chance.

Bases loaded in the fifth after Lackey hit three batters in the inning. No runs.

Second and third with nobody out in the sixth inning. No runs.

First and third with nobody out in the eighth inning. No runs.

There was nothing doing in the clutch for the Sox in this game. Maybe they would have lost anyway because, well, they did give up seven runs. But things would have been far more interesting with even average offensive execution.

As for Rodon, he's the one remaining starting pitcher who is supposed to be a piece of the future. He's got to start being more efficient with his pitches. It shouldn't be taking him 30 pitches to get through the first inning. He shouldn't be piling up 98 pitches to get through four innings.

The Sox need him to be a six- or seven-inning pitcher, not a four- or five-inning pitcher like some of the retread veterans in the rotation. If he needs to pitch to contact more, so be it.

I read this morning that Rodon is averaging 4.24 pitches per hitter. That's up from 3.90 in 2016. (League average is 3.88).

In fairness to Rodon, he hasn't pitched much this year. He's been hurt. This was only his fifth start of the season. Hopefully, the lack of command is a sign of rust.

The Sox are clearly bottoming out right now in their rebuilding phase, and it would be nice to see a few signs of progress from some younger players who are expected to become cornerstones. Rodon is one of those guys. The team needs more from him, both now and in the future.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Surprisingly, Miguel Gonzalez baffles Cubs in crosstown opener

I apologize for previously including Miguel Gonzalez on my list of washed-up White Sox veterans.

Unlike starting rotation mates James Shields, Mike Pelfrey and Derek Holland, Gonzalez occasionally comes up with a well-pitched ballgame against a good team.

The right-hander came off the disabled list July 18 and fired six innings of one-run ball in a 1-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he backed that up with another strong outing Monday -- pitching 7.1 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs in the first game of the 2017 Crosstown Classic at Wrigley Field.

With the win, the Sox (39-57) broke a nine-game losing streak and collected their first victory since the All-Star break. Gonzalez (5-9) also became the first Sox pitcher in 30 games to have an outing of seven innings or more.

It wasn't easy.

The key moment came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Sox leading 2-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs for Anthony Rizzo, and with the Sox bullpen depleted because of trades, manager Rick Renteria had little choice but to stick with Gonzalez.

With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, Rizzo flew out to the warning track in center field to end the threat.

The conditions did not stop the Sox from hitting a pair of home runs. Rookie center fielder Adam Engel's drive in the top of the sixth inning off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm (1-1) got into the left-center field bleachers to give the Sox the lead for good at 2-1.

Matt Davidson added a 476-foot solo shot off Koji Uehara in the top of the eighth inning to complete the scoring. That one was going to be a home run on any day, at any park, in any conditions.

Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak picked up his first save in 226 career relief appearances. He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth before Kris Bryant reached on an infield single and Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras came to the plate representing the winning run, but Swarzak overmatched him with two blazing fastballs right on the black of the outside corner, the second of which was strike three called.

Contreras didn't think they were strikes, arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez and breaking his bat in frustration after the out was recorded. Alas, they were strikes. Those pitches looked good to me, and good to K zone on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago broadcast, too.

Hey Willson, now it's your turn to cry.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada makes long-awaited debut

Yoan Moncada didn't get a hit in his White Sox debut, but he didn't make a fool out of himself either. He also didn't save the slumping Sox from getting run over by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who collected their 11th consecutive win and 31st win in their past 35 games with a 9-1, rain-shortened victory.

Moncada went 0 for 2 with a walk, and it was a well-earned walk. After quickly falling behind 0-and-2 in his first at-bat, he ended up seeing nine pitches before taking his base against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda.

In the fourth inning, Moncada just missed extra bases with a line drive down the right-field line that landed foul. He ended up grounding out to first base. In his third and final at-bat, he lined out to center field on a 2-0 pitch.

Nothing wrong with those ABs. The first hit will come soon enough.

We can't say there was nothing wrong with Carlos Rodon's performance. The left-hander didn't make it out of the fourth inning and gave up four home runs, resulting in five Los Angeles runs. Yuck.

Relievers Chris Beck and David Holmberg provided little relief, combining to allow four runs in the sixth inning. The rains came in the eighth inning, and mercifully, the game was called.

Looking for positives? Hey, Melky Cabrera continues to swing the bat well. He hit a solo home run in the first inning for the only Sox run. He's probably hoping some team in contention is eager to acquire his services.

The folks who are gung-ho about the rebuild have been chatting about how the "fun starts today" with Moncada's call-up. Not really. This game wasn't fun. The Sox are 38-54, and it's hard to fathom them getting much more than 25 wins out of the remaining 70 games.

Does Moncada give us one other player to watch and talk about? You bet. Say what you will about rebuilding, but nothing changes the fact that this is hard to watch, and there are several dark days still in front of the Sox from now until the end of the season.

White Sox trade Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle to Yankees

David Robertson
The seven-player trade between the White Sox and the New York Yankees was a foregone conclusion by the time it was announced late Tuesday night.

Todd Frazier was seen giving teammates goodbye hugs before the Sox played the Los Angeles Dodgers, and neither David Robertson nor Tommy Kahnle were summoned from the bullpen in the high-leverage relief situations that arose in the Sox's 1-0 loss.

After the game, it was announced that Frazier, Robertson and Kahnle were dealt to the Yankees in exchange for outfielders Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo and pitchers Ian Clarkin and Tyler Clippard.

Here's a summary for each of the players the Sox received:

Rutherford: This is the best prospect in the deal. He was the Yankees' first-round draft pick in 2016, and he's ranked 36th on Baseball America's midseason top-100 prospect rankings. He was hitting .281/.342/.391 at Class-A Charleston with 20 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs in 304 at-bats.

Clarkin: The 22-year-old left-hander has been frequently injured since he was drafted out of high school in 2013, but he's managed to stay healthy enough to post a 2.61 ERA over 72.1 innings for Class-A Tampa this season.

Polo: The 22-year-old outfielder has split time between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year, and has hit .298/.358/.446. He's also got 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts.

Clippard: The 32-year-old veteran reliever is 1-5 with a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances with the Yankees this year. He's got an expiring contract, and the Sox will use him to close games in Robertson's absence, on the rare occasion where they actually have a lead going into the ninth inning. Hey, somebody has gotta pitch.

This deal is almost like two trades in one. The way I see it, Robertson and Kahnle were traded for the three prospects. Robertson is owed about $20 million until his contract is up at the end of the 2018 season. The Yankees are taking all that salary on, so he alone wouldn't have been enough to net a top-50 prospect such as Rutherford. Throw Kahnle into the deal, and now the Yankees add two quality pieces to their bullpen, and they are willing to part with a better quality young player.

The other part of the deal is basically Frazier for Clippard. Two underperforming veterans on expiring contracts. Basically, you have each team saying to the other, "Go ahead and take this guy, and maybe he'll do better for you than he did for us."

Clippard takes Robertson's spot on the roster. The leaves two other openings. One is going to relief pitcher Brad Goldberg. The other is going to some young infield prospect named Yoan Moncada. You might have heard of him.

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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

White Sox reliever Nate Jones done for the season

Nate Jones
Lost amid all the Jose Quintana trade discussions Thursday was this bit of news: White Sox reliever Nate Jones will miss the rest of the 2017 season after having elbow surgery earlier this week.

Jones is arguably the Sox's best reliever, so this is a big loss. The right-hander was one of the top setup men in the game last season, when he went 5-3 with a 2.71 ERA, 0.892 WHIP and 80 strikeouts over 70.2 innings covering 71 appearances.

The elbow injury, which required nerve repositioning surgery (!?), limited Jones to 11 appearances this season. He hasn't pitched since April 28.

This makes three relief pitchers from the 2015-16 Sox bullpen who are out for the season after elbow surgeries. Zach Putnam and Zach Duke, who is now with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, are the other two. A fourth reliever, Jake Petricka, is on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. I hate to speculate, but I will anyway: You can't help but wonder if Petricka is the next guy on his way to the operating table.

I never agreed with the way former Sox manager Robin Ventura used his bullpen. He was beholden to lefty-righty matchups. He ran his guys into the ground, sometimes using four or five relievers just to get through one inning.

I don't think it's a coincidence that these four men are experiencing elbow problems right now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

White Sox trade Jose Quintana to Cubs for four prospects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 White Sox reach season's halfway point

Jose Quintana
The White Sox took two out of three games from the Texas Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, which puts their record at 36-45 at the halfway point of the season.

Projected out over the full 162 games, they would finish 72-90. That sounds about right given the preseason expectations.

I've always said the 2013 Sox are the worst team I've cheered for in my lifetime -- and that club had the 63-99 record to prove it. This year's team only needs to go 28-53 the second half to top that, and that seems doable, even though some productive veterans are likely to be traded before July is over.

That said, this season has a more painful feel to it than that 2013 campaign, and I think I've finally put my finger on why: The losses this season are as ugly as they come. Perhaps they aren't frequent as they were in 2013, but the brand of baseball is a little bit worse -- especially when it comes to pitching.

You go back and look at the numbers from 2013, and the Sox had three starting pitchers with ERAs below 4 -- Chris Sale (3.07), Jose Quintana (3.51) and Hector Santiago (3.56). The Sox also had Jake Peavy on the team for half the season before he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, and his ERA (4.28 ERA) was no worse than league average.

So, for most of the year, the 2013 Sox had four men in their rotation who could give you a competitive outing. Now, that team couldn't hit worth a damn; they lost 99 games for a reason. But when you went to the park to watch the 2013 Sox, they would typically lose 4-1 and you'd be outta there in two and a half hours.

This year is a different scene, because starting pitching is the biggest weakness for this club. James Shields, of all people, is the only pitcher with an ERA below 4 (3.98), and he's made only six starts this season. Quintana is having a down year (4.45 ERA), and you've got retread veterans Derek Holland (4.52), Mike Pelfrey (4.13) and Miguel Gonzalez (5.15 ERA) hanging around the rotation.

A typical Sox loss this season is characterized by a short outing from a post-peak veteran starter, followed by a parade of middle relievers who struggle to throw strikes, and are lucky to be in the major leagues. By the end of the day, Sox pitchers have thrown about 200 pitches to get through nine innings, and three and a half hours later, you're walking out of the ballpark with a 10-2 loss or a 10-4 loss.

Linked are the box scores to the past two games I've personally attended. Frankly, I'd rather see some decent pitching and have the Sox get beat in a hurry than watch some of these long, drawn-out messes where five or six relievers are used.

I'm one of those fans who stays to the end no matter what, no matter how painful, so I guess the one positive to blowout losses is I can get out of the parking lot much faster when the game is over. (Most people scram early.) But, I can't say that I'm enjoying the baseball I've been seeing this year.

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement a highlight of 2017 season

Former Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, with his wife and children
White Sox great Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement ceremony Saturday moved at a quick pace -- much like the games Buehrle used to pitch on the South Side of Chicago. The ceremony was over in less than a half-hour, but it was a fitting tribute for a man who was deserving of the honor.

Buehrle warned us that his speech would be short and sweet, and it was. He opened by telling the nearly 40,000 fans who had gathered, "I should be on the mound, not standing here in front of this mic talking to you guys." That drew a loud round of applause from the crowd -- Buehrle looked as if he was in better shape than he was in the final days of his career in Toronto, and it's not far-fetched to believe he would fare better on the mound right now than James Shields does these days.

Buehrle didn't mention many people by name in his speech, probably because he didn't want to leave anybody out. He acknowledged each of the groups in attendance -- his family, including his wife, children and parents; coaches, staff and former teammates; extended family and friends; and finally, the fans of Chicago.

Other speakers included pitching coach Don Cooper, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Other former teammates in attendance included Joe Crede, Jon Garland, Scott Podsednik, Cliff Politte, Jim Thome, John Danks and Ross Gload. Ex-managers Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen also were on hand.

Thomas' speech was a highlight, and he concluded with perhaps the best line of the afternoon when he turned to Buehrle and said, "Congratulations. Stop being modest. You’re one of the greatest pitchers that ever toed this rubber in Comiskey Park, ever.”

Indeed, the Big Hurt is correct.

Who is the pitcher with the most wins in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle with 90. Who is the only pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in the history of the ballpark? It's Buehrle. Who is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in that ballpark? It's Buehrle. Add in the 2005 World Series championship, the three Gold Glove awards and the four All-Star appearances, and the victory in the 2005 All-Star Game, and that's why No. 56 is up on the stadium wall.

The Sox, of course, had a video montage paying tribute to Buehrle's career. The left-field scoreboard today is a mishmash of social media and other assorted crap, but for a brief moment during the tribute, they made the scoreboard look like it did the day of Buehrle's perfect game, July 23, 2009, when he was one out away with Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett at the plate.

As we remember, Buehrle finished the job by retiring Bartlett on a routine grounder to short. I still find it eerie that the Sox had five runs on six hits on No. 56's perfect day. That coincidence never gets old for me.

It was also cool that the Sox found the kid who had the ball from Buehrle's famous between-the-legs-flip play from Opening Day 2010. Buehrle was presented with that ball as part of the ceremony. The play is still the greatest defensive play I've ever seen a pitcher make. If you haven't seen it, or don't remember it, click the link. It's incredible.

And, of course, no Sox ceremony would be complete without Reinsdorf taking a subtle dig at the fans. During his speech, he pointed out to Buehrle that there normally are not 40,000 people in the ballpark, as there were on Saturday.

Yeah, no kidding, Jerry, your current team stinks.

We were reminded of that quickly when the ceremony ended and the game started. Two batters in, Shields and the Sox trailed 2-0, and fans were chanting for Buehrle to come on the mound and pitch.

Predictably, the 2017 Sox squandered the festive atmosphere, losing 10-2 to fellow last-place team Oakland. In case you were wondering, the Sox are 9-17 in the past 26 games in which they have drawn more than 30,000 fans.

The game took three hours, 22 minutes to play. It was an anti-Buehrle kind of game on Buehrle's day, which is unfortunate, but it served as a good reminder that we need to cherish the good times of the past while we suffer through the present-day problems with the organization.

One of the great things about Saturday: Seeing Buehrle and all those former players took me back to a different and better time and place, when Sox baseball was fun, and you could count on the team being serious about winning.

Hopefully, those days will return with a next generation of players -- sometime before we die.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here's why David Robertson has plenty of trade value

David Robertson
For all the trade talk swirling around White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana, it's possible closer David Robertson will be more coveted by pennant contenders when we hit July's trading deadline.

Robertson, 32, is having a good season that will mostly go unnoticed because he pitches for a losing team. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA, with 11 saves in 12 opportunities, a 0.868 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

A closer look at Robertson's numbers reveals that he's been at his best in save situations this year. Check out his splits for save situations and non-save situations:

Save situations: 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 21 Ks, 4 BBs, 13.1 IP, opponents slash of .091/.167/.182
Non-save situations: 2-2, 5.25 ERA, 16 Ks, 2 BBs, 12.0 IP, opponents slash of .217/.294/.391

The cliches about closers being much better in save situations seem to apply with Robertson this year. This thought occurred to me when I considered the two appearances Robertson has made in the past week.

He pitched Thursday in a 5-2 Sox win over the Baltimore Orioles, and he was not sharp. He entered with a 5-1 lead in the ninth -- a non-save situation -- gave up a solo home run to Welington Castillo and needed 31 pitches to navigate a laborious inning. Even though Baltimore never got the tying run to the plate, it was somewhat irritating to watch.

Contrast that with Robertson's performance Saturday, when he closed out a 5-2 Sox win over the Toronto Blue Jays. This was a save situation. Toronto's 3-4-5 hitters were due, and Robertson carved them up on 14 pitches. He got Jose Bautista to fly out, struck out Kendrys Morales swinging and struck out Justin Smoak looking.

The Blue Jays had no chance.

I realize that by writing this blog entry, I have likely ensured that Robertson will blow a save the next time he steps on the mound. But in the bigger picture, Robertson has proven this season that he can still shut the door on the opposition in high-leverage spots.

Some team out there has to want a reliever who is holding opponents to an .091 batting average in save situations, right?

Monday, June 19, 2017

James Shields returns from DL; Miguel Gonzalez goes on DL

The White Sox had an overall good week -- they went 5-2 against two teams from the AL East, taking three of four at home against the Baltimore Orioles and winning two of three on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays.

However, the Sox (31-37) can't seem to shake their season-long problem of pitching injuries. Right-hander James Shields came off the disabled list to make his first start since April 16 on Sunday, but he was merely taking the spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who went on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Now we know the reason Gonzalez has been so terrible lately. The right-hander has a 10.34 ERA in three June starts, and longer term, he's 1-8 with a 7.32 ERA over his past nine games. His season ERA is 5.49, well above his career norm of 3.97.

As for Shields, he was mediocre in receiving a no-decision in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays. And, honestly, mediocrity is all we expect from the 35-year-old declining veteran. He went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Shields was one out away from getting through six innings with a 3-1 lead, but he couldn't close the deal. He easily retired the first two batters of the inning, but Troy Tulowitzki reached on a scratch infield single that hit the third-base bag. Shields then hung a slider to Russell Martin, who hit a game-tying two-run homer that hit the top of the wall and bounced over in right-center field.

That was Shields' final pitch of the day, and the Sox bullpen -- which has been solid most of the year -- was not solid on this day. Anthony Swarzak (3-2) gave up a single and a triple that allowed the Jays to take a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning.

Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Michael Ynoa combined to give up three runs in the bottom of the seventh as the Jays broke it open and salvaged the finale of the series.

Jennings was brought in to force switch-hitter Kendrys Morales to turn around and hit from the right side, and boy, did that move fail. Morales hit a two-run blast that hasn't landed yet. I've said it before this year, and I'll make the point again: Jennings is overused, having appeared in 32 of the Sox's 68 games. As we go along, his performance gets worse and worse.

The problem is that Jennings is the only left-hander in the bullpen, so he gets summoned to pitch to left-handed hitters on a frequent basis. Injuries have forced David Holmberg into the starting rotation, even though he is more suited to be the second lefty reliever.

Perhaps Holmberg could have kept Morales in the yard Sunday, but alas, he needs to stay in the rotation for now, with Gonzalez headed to the disabled list.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pitching reinforcements could be coming for struggling White Sox

Jake Petricka
Up until their current road trip, the White Sox have been mostly competitive -- rarely getting blown out despite an overall losing record.

But the wear and tear of having seven pitchers on the disabled list has started to show of late. Starting pitchers have struggled to make it through more than five innings, the bullpen is taxed, and the Sox have given up 61 runs over their past eight games on their way to a 1-7 record.

At long last, the Sox are finally getting somebody back off the DL for this weekend's three-game series in Cleveland. Reliever Jake Petricka (strained lat), who hasn't pitched since the first game of the season, has been activated after pitching in three games for Triple-A Charlotte on a rehab assignment.

To make room for Petricka on the roster, right-hander Brad Goldberg was optioned back to Charlotte. Goldberg had one disastrous relief outing with the Sox and heads back to the minors with a 108.00 ERA. He was pretty much unusable, so it's much preferable to see Petricka -- who has a 3.29 ERA in 155 career big-league relief appearances -- back to work in middle relief.

While it's hard to get real excited about a post-peak James Shields (strained lat) nearing his return from the disabled list, I think we can pretty much agree that he's a reasonable bet to provide the Sox with more innings as a starting pitcher than David Holmberg.

Shields made his second rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts over five innings. He got his pitch count up to 72, which means he should be no more than one start away from returning to the big leagues. Then, Holmberg can go back to being the second left-hander in the bullpen, which is a more reasonable role for his skill set.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (biceps bursitis) also is pitching on a rehab assignment. He made his first start this year at any level Tuesday with Class-A Winston-Salem. In that outing, he allowed five runs in 3.1 innings with six strikeouts. Don't worry about the results -- his fastball touched 98 mph and he seemed to emerge healthy. He gave up a bunch of runs the second time through the batting order, which is indicative of a pitcher who has been sidelined all season and doesn't have much endurance.

Rodon is scheduled to make his second rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Charlotte. We might see him in Chicago by the end of the month, if he avoids setbacks. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Former White Sox catchers are suddenly good hitters

Alex Avila
The Detroit Tigers have been on local TV a lot the past two weeks. The White Sox have played seven games against them since May 26, and Detroit's game against the Los Angeles Angels is the MLB Network feature today on "Thursday Afternoon Baseball."

When I watch the Tigers, I cringe every time Alex Avila steps to the plate. Of course, now that the veteran catcher doesn't play for the Sox anymore, he's rediscovered his batting stroke. Check out his numbers this year in Detroit, when compared with his numbers last year with the Sox:

2017 with Detroit: .324./440/.640, 9 HRs, 24 RBIs, 8 2Bs in 39 games
2016 with Sox: .213/.359/.373, 7 HRs, 11 RBIs, 8 2Bs in 57 games

Avila was nothing but injured and bad for the Sox in 2016. Now that he's back with Detroit, he's healthy and raking. He's already surpassed his run production totals from last year, and it's only June 8.

Doesn't that figure. And he's not alone in the category of former Sox catchers who suddenly know how to hit.

Would you believe it if I told you Tyler Flowers is hitting .350/.459/.455 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 41 games for the Atlanta Braves? Well, it's true.

Flowers has reinvented himself as a high-average, contact hitter:

2016-17 with Atlanta: .295/.389/.431
2009-15 with Sox: .223/.289/.376

This season, Flowers has struck out 27 times in 148 plate appearances, or once every 5.5 times he steps to the plate. During his time in Chicago, he struck out 464 times in 1,395 plate appearances, or once every 3.0 times he stepped to the plate.

Makes you wonder why he couldn't make these adjustments while he was with the Sox, doesn't it? If he had, he'd probably still be in Chicago.

By way of comparison, Sox catchers in 2017 are hitting .240/.316/.333 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. All three home runs and nine of those RBIs are on the disabled list (Geovany Soto). The Sox don't get much offense out of their catchers, and that remains a position of need moving forward.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will Todd Frazier get his batting average above the Mendoza Line?

Todd Frazier (right) with Daryl Boston
There was an unintentionally humorous moment in the second inning of the White Sox game Tuesday night. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson was talking about how Todd Frazier had put on quite a display of home run power during batting practice, and how that was evidence that Frazier was feeling pretty good about his swing.

Naturally, on the next pitch from Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, Frazier was totally fooled, made an excuse-me swing and hit a slow roller to first base for an easy out. It was an embarrassing result, and it went counter to what Harrelson had just said.

But give Hawk credit. He quickly recovered to note that Frazier "won't feel good about that swing."

That said, Frazier did make a good swing in the ninth inning, when he blasted a 430-foot solo home run to center field off Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Garton. That provided the final run in a 4-2 Sox victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

The 1-for-4 night raised Frazier's batting average to a still unsightly .196. The Sox third baseman got off to a terrible start this year. He didn't get his first hit until the fourth game of the season, and the high-water mark for his batting average this year is .200.

He's reached that plateau twice, once May 2 and again May 20. Alas, both times Frazier couldn't sustain anything resembling a hot streak, and his average plummeted back into the .170s on both occasions.

I can't say Harrelson is wrong with his comments. Frazier has five hits in his past three games, and he has homered in two games in a row. In the ideal world, the Sox would trade Frazier in July and take an extended look at Matt Davidson at third base the second half of the season. But for that to happen, Frazier needs to sustain some sort of competence with the bat over the next six weeks.

There isn't a big market for a player who hit .225 last season and is off to a slow start this year. But, you take a look at the American League East, and you see a tight race developing that could involve three or four teams. And you see the two teams at the top, New York and Boston, having question marks at third base.

Might those two clubs see Frazier as an upgrade over Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval, respectively? Could the Sox create somewhat of a bidding war among the two AL East powers? Possibly. All Frazier really needs to do is hit .240 with power, and he's better than those two guys.

The question is, can he still hit .240? He hasn't done it yet since he's been with the Sox, and he needs to do it soon if there's going to be any demand for him in July. If he isn't traded, he becomes a candidate for reduced playing time the second half of the year, as the Sox will need to look at younger players during a rebuilding season.

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two good months in a row for Avisail Garcia

Avisail Garcia
One quick point about White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia today:

It's June 1, and he's hitting .322/.374/.547 with eight home runs, three triples, a team-best 11 doubles and a team-best 37 RBIs.

He went 2 for 4 on Wednesday in the Sox's 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox to cap a second consecutive month in which he hit .300 or better.

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 2 3Bs, 3 2Bs, 20 RBIs in 93 plate apperances
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 1 3B, 8 2Bs, 17 RBIs in 110 plate appearances

There was no way Garcia was going to sustain that 1.029 OPS he had in April, but that .301 May average and .831 May OPS is still pretty solid work. And it's well above Garcia's career norms of a .267 average and a .722 OPS.

I have to admit, I've been burned by Garcia before. I've had high hopes for him in the past, only to be let down when he goes into one of his patented lengthy slumps. But, this is the first time since he's joined the Sox that he's put together back-to-back months of this quality.

I'm still not 100 percent convinced that he's actually going to be good for a whole season, but let's give credit where credit is due: Garcia has been the most consistent and most productive hitter on the Sox through the first 52 games of the 2017 season.