Showing posts with label Kevan Smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevan Smith. Show all posts

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, May 30, 2017

White Sox off to 4-1 start on seven-game homestand

Melky Cabrera
Back to blogging after a holiday weekend. I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day, and it was a weekend that featured some good baseball from the White Sox.

The Sox are 4-1 through five games on their current seven-game homestand. They took three out of four from the Detroit Tigers, winning Friday and Sunday and splitting a straight doubleheader Saturday.

But I'd say the most surprising and rewarding win of the weekend was Monday's 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.

The doubleheader and the injury to Dylan Covey created some chaos for the Sox's starting rotation, and left-handed reliever David Holmberg was pulled out of the bullpen to make a spot start. His mound opponent was former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, and while Price was making his first start of the season after being on the disabled list, this was not a matchup that was favorable for the Sox.

However, Holmberg provided four credible innings. He allowed only one run through the first three before giving up two in the fourth, but you can hardly blame him if he ran out of gas. He isn't stretched out to be a starter. Still, the game was tied 3-3 after those four innings -- Melky Cabrera his a three-run homer for the Sox in the third -- and I don't think we are in any position to complain about Holmberg keeping things even against Price.

The Boston left-hander was on a 90-pitch limit, so the game was destined to come down to bullpens -- a battle that the Sox won.

Mookie Betts hit a home run off Gregory Infante in the top of the fifth, but that was the only run the Red Sox got against four Sox relievers.

The South Siders rallied from a 4-3 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the seventh off Boston's Matt Barnes. Yolmer Sanchez hit a leadoff triple and scored on a double by Kevan Smith. Two outs later, Cabrera added his fourth RBI of the day on a softly hit single up the middle that scored Smith with the go-ahead run.

Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless eighth, and David Robertson got three outs in the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.

The task gets harder Tuesday for the Sox, as Boston will start Chris Sale, who still is the best pitcher in the American League. The Sox already have clinched a winning homestand, but it would be a real success if they can steal one of the next two games against the Red Sox and finish up 5-2.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ill-advised bunt attempts get in the way of potential White Sox rally

Leury Garcia
Let me preface my comments on Tuesday's 5-4 White Sox loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with this: There is a time and place to bunt and play for one run. (For instance, the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.)

That said, I often see major league managers fall into the trap of giving away outs when they should not be playing for only one run. Sox manager Rick Renteria did just that in the eighth inning Tuesday, and it contributed to the Sox (20-24) dropping a winnable game.

The Diamondbacks brought Jorge De La Rosa in to protect a 5-3 lead in that eighth inning, and he fooled nobody. Jose Abreu homered to pull the Sox within a run. Todd Frazier walked and Melky Cabrera singled, and the Sox were set up with runners on first and second with nobody out.

That brought up Leury Garcia, who is not my favorite player, but the fact of the matter is he is hitting a respectable .288 this season. Thanks to a double switch, the pitcher's spot was due up after Garcia, followed by .182-hitting catcher Kevan Smith.

De La Rosa was laboring, so I liked Garcia's chances of doing something in that situation. Why give a struggling pitcher an out? And the Sox were moving toward a compromised bottom part of the batting order, so Garcia seemed as good a bet as any to come up with the hit the Sox needed. Unfortunately, Renteria called for Garcia to sacrifice bunt. After two failed attempts, he hit a weak grounder to third base. Now, that grounder did advance the runners to second and third, so it had the same effect as the bunt, but Garcia essentially gave away his at-bat. De La Rosa got an out he didn't earn, and some traction in that inning.

That brought up the pitcher's spot, and Avisail Garcia -- who did not start the game because of flu-like symptons -- was sent to the plate to pinch hit. Alas, first base was open. There was no way the Diamondbacks were going to face the .342-hitting Garcia in that situation. The intentional walk was issued, and Renteria's best option off the bench went to waste.

That brought up the right-handed hitting Smith, and gave Arizona manager Torey Lovullo a good reason to remove the left-handed De La Rosa. Lovullo did just that. He brought in right-hander J.J. Hoover. The Sox used Omar Narvaez to pinch hit for Smith, but Hoover struck him out. Then, he struck out Yolmer Sanchez to escape the bases-loaded situation and preserve Arizona's 5-4 lead.

The Sox did not mount a threat in the ninth against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, so their best chance to score was against De La Rosa, who had nothing going for him out there. Unfortunately, Renteria did not give Leury Garcia a chance to take advantage of that. Instead, he managed the Sox into a situation where Lovullo had good reason to remove a struggling pitcher and replace him with a pitcher who had his stuff together.

Losing proposition for the Sox.

And, there was no reason for Renteria to want the game to be tied. He needed to get the lead in that spot, because the Sox are carrying 13 relievers and playing with a short bench. Starting pitcher Dylan Covey lasted only 2.1 innings in this game, and three Sox relievers already had been used by the eighth inning. Narvaez was the last position player available when he was used in the eighth.

This was not a situation where the Sox wanted to go to extra innings. They needed to win it in regulation, and by playing for the tie, they increased their odds of losing it in regulation. Lose it they did.

Frustrating loss.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White Sox recover to take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Avisail Garcia
Now is the perfect time to have the Seattle Mariners come up on your schedule.

There isn't a team in the American League that has dealt with more key injuries than the Mariners. Seattle's best player, second baseman Robinson Cano (quadriceps), is on the disabled list. Eighty percent of the Mariners' starting rotation  -- Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder), James Paxton (forearm) and Drew Smyly (elbow) -- also is on the disabled list.

Teams don't like to make excuses, and they often say injuries are not an excuse. The reality is a little different: If your best dudes get hurt, chances are you're gonna lose. And the Mariners lost three of four to the White Sox this weekend.

The Sox (20-22) took the final three games of the series, the last two in blowout fashion. Here's our recap of the weekend that was:

Friday, May 19
White Sox 2, Mariners 1 (10 inn.): It's well-known that Sox ace Jose Quintana has suffered from a lack of run support for years, and the same has held true this season. But, Quintana hasn't been pitching up to his capabilities as of late, as his 4.38 ERA coming into this game would attest. So, he's hasn't been quite as sympathetic of a figure as he has been in the past.

That changed in this game. It was back to business as usual for Quintana. He was brilliant over eight innings, allowing one run on only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one -- and got a no-decision. Typical.

Fortunately, while Quintana did not get the win, the Sox did. Melky Cabrera's two-out, RBI double on an 0-2 slider from Seattle's Tony Zych (2-1) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Sox closer David Robertson (3-1) retired all six men he faced over two innings to pick up the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sox.

Saturday, May 20
White Sox 16, Mariners 1: I doubt the Sox will have a more lopsided win than this one all year. They jumped on Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Avisail Garcia's three-run homer on a first-pitch curve ball, and never let up from there.

The South Siders pounded out 19 hits, and while we've still got three-quarters of a season left to play, it's getting harder and harder to overlook Garcia's performance. He became the first Sox player to total 12 bases in a game since Dan Johnson hit three home runs in the same game on the final day of the 2012 season. Garcia homered in each of his first two plate appearances, then added two doubles for good measure, as he finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Garcia leads the Sox with 34 RBIs, and he is tied for the team lead in homers with eight.

Not even Mike Pelfrey (1-4) could lose this game. The erstwhile veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn his first victory in six starts this season. If you get 16 runs of support, hey, you better win. That's about a whole month's worth of runs for Quintana, you know?

Sunday, May 21
White Sox 8, Mariners 1: Seattle called up right-hander Chris Heston to make his first start of the season, and let's just say it didn't go well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and that led to a five-run outburst for the Sox.

The BABIP gods were with the South Siders in this one, as they got a couple solid base hits in the inning -- a two-run single by Yolmer Sanchez and an RBI single by Matt Davidson -- and two really cheap RBI infield singles -- one by Tim Anderson and the other by Kevan Smith.

Heston didn't deserve any luck, of course, because walking the bases loaded in the first inning is not a recipe for success.

Left-hander Derek Holland (4-3) has been the Sox's most consistent starting pitcher this season, and  he capitalized on having a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch with another strong outing. He went eight innings, allowing only a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. The veteran pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes, which is precisely what a pitcher should be doing with a big lead. He fanned six, walked only two and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the first-inning single. Anderson added a solo home run in the third, his fifth of the year, and a three-hit performance raised his batting average to .264.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Derek Holland continues mastery of Cleveland in 2-1 White Sox win

Derek Holland
White Sox left-hander Derek Holland is now 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA over five career starts at Cleveland's Progressive Field, after he tossed six shutout innings Wednesday in Chicago's 2-1 victory over the Indians.

Holland (1-1) limited the Tribe to only one hit -- a leadoff double by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the sixth -- while striking out four and walking four.

The 30-year-old veteran has a 1.50 ERA through 12 innings and two starts, and if you look at some of the pitch charts, it's clear that he's changed his approach after struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness the past three seasons.

Based on my own observations, it has seemed as if Holland is throwing his curveball a lot more this season than he did during his time with the Texas Rangers, and this research conducted by our friends at SouthSideSox confirms my suspicion.

Holland is throwing his curve on 21.1 percent of pitches this season, as compared with 7.5 percent in 2016. He's also using more four-seamers and fewer sinkers. His sinker use has dipped from 58.9 percent of pitches to 13.9 percent, while he's using the four-seamer 29.4 percent of the time, as compared with only 1.4 percent last year. The use of the changeup and the slider has remained status quo.

Give credit to Holland for realizing he needs to make adjustments. His fastball is sitting at 92 mph, as opposed to his pre-injury 94 or 95. That two or three miles per hour can make a big difference, and sometimes a veteran pitcher needs to make some concessions to Father Time.

Is Holland's early success sustainable as the weather warms and the conditions become more hitter friendly? I don't know. We'll have to watch and learn.

As for Wednesday's game, the Sox offense was limited again, but Holland and three relievers made two early runs stand up. Matt Davidson's two-run single in the second inning accounted for the only Sox offense, and it was enough for a rare win in Cleveland.

Something to watch for in Thursday's game: Both closer David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones have worked in three consecutive games. If it's a close game late, will new manager Rick Renteria have the restraint to not overwork Robertson and Jones, who could be valuable trading pieces for the Sox later in the year?

Renteria shouldn't be afraid to allow Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak to pitch. Even if the Sox were expected to contend, it's too early in the season to be going to the whip with the best bullpen guys on the club. Robin Ventura made that mistake last year, and despite early success, the relief corps crumbled with injury and ineffectiveness in May and June.

Soto to DL; Smith recalled

The Sox have placed catcher Geovany Soto on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Kevan Smith has been recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.

It's too bad for Soto, who was off to a good start with three home runs. (The Sox only have six as a team). It's also too bad for the Sox, as their already shaky defense behind the plate just got a little bit worse.

I saw Smith catch a few games during spring ball, and while he hit well in Cactus League play, let's just say he did not impress me with his receiving skills.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

Monday, April 25, 2016

White Sox put John Danks on notice (finally)

We're three weeks into the season, and the White Sox are coming off a sweep of the Texas Rangers that concluded a 5-2 homestand.

The South Siders have surprised even the biggest optimists by posting a 13-6 record through the first 19 games -- that's the most wins in the American League entering Monday's play.

That said, there was some roster juggling necessary over the past week. Catcher Alex Avila pulled a hamstring during Saturday's 4-3 win over Texas, and Kevan Smith was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte as Avila was placed on the disabled list.

More notably, Erik Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte after going unused on the homestand, and Miguel Gonzalez was called up to start Monday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays -- the first of a weeklong, seven-game road trip.

Ace Chris Sale's start was pushed back to Tuesday. Jose Quintana will start Wednesday's game. For the second time this season, John Danks had his turn skipped, and he will pitch either Thursday or Friday against Baltimore.

It appears the Sox are (finally) sending a message to Danks that his spot in the rotation is not secure. The Sox are 0-3 in Danks' three starts this year, and 13-3 behind their other four starting pitchers.

Obviously, there will be some regression in those numbers as we go along, but Danks has earned his 0-3 record, which is coupled with a 6.23 ERA, a 5.52 FIP, a 1.65 WHIP and a 1.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

His struggles cannot be attributed to a small sample size, either, given his high ERAs in the past three seasons (4.75, 4.74, and 4.71). Right-handed batters are hitting .309 against Danks this year, after hitting .294 against him last year. Sending him to the mound against Toronto would be akin to raising the white flag, given the strong right-handed hitters in the Blue Jays lineup (Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki).

Toronto hitters had a 1.021 OPS in two games against Danks last year. In contrast, Danks had one of his best starts of 2015 -- seven scoreless innings -- against Baltimore, so from a matchup perspective, this Toronto series is a great time to skip Danks.

And, in case you were wondering, here are Gonzalez's numbers against the Blue Jays since 2012:

7-3, 2.61 ERA, 76 IP, 56 H, 7 HR, 21 BB, 54 K

Having played in Baltimore, Gonzalez has seen quite a bit of the Blue Jays, and he's won his share of the battles. That doesn't mean he'll win Monday -- there's a reason Baltimore released him. The Orioles let him go because his fastball velocity had dipped from 90-92 to 86-88. The Sox say Gonzalez's velocity came back in the two starts he has made at Charlotte, and that's why they are giving him a chance.

If nothing else, it's encouraging to see the Sox are considering other options for the No. 5 starting job beyond Danks, who has simply not pitched well enough to have a firm grip on the spot. We might learn that he's still the best option they have (for the time being), but it's clear the longest-serving, highest-paid member of the Sox is now officially pitching to keep his job.

Friday, August 29, 2014

White Sox will send seven prospects to Arizona Fall League

Some members of the Chicago media would have you believe the White Sox farm system is in a hopeless state of disrepair. Maybe they think that because for many years, it was.

But not anymore.

There is hope on the horizon, and the organization will be sending an interesting group of seven players to the Arizona Fall League this year. Let's take a look at them, in alphabetical order:

1. Tim Anderson, SS -- The former No. 1 draft pick missed some time with a broken wrist this season, but he recently came off the disabled list. His return coincided with a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, where he has gone 12 for 27 with a home run in his first six games. Unfortunately, he's also committed three errors in his first six games. This is the top position prospect in the Sox organization. He has hit everywhere he has been, but the glove remains a question mark. Is shortstop his long-term position? The Sox hope so, but they don't know so.

2. Chris Bassitt, RHP -- Bassitt was out with a broken hand until mid-July, but he's overmatched Double-A hitters since his return. He's 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 34.2 IP in six starts at Birmingham. The 25-year-old is a former 16th-round draft pick, but he's on the verge of pitching himself into the organization's plans -- so much so that he'll be called up to start the second game of Saturday's doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers.

3. Francellis Montas, RHP -- Montas fanned 56 men in 62 IP at Class-A Winston-Salem and was chosen to participate in the MLB Futures Game before he was sidelined with a torn meniscus in his knee. Montas, who was acquired from Boston in the Jake Peavy deal in 2013, is currently rehabbing in the Arizona Rookie League. He's one of the better pitching prospects the Sox have.

4. Jefferson Olacio, LHP -- Olacio is interesting because he is a large man -- 6-foot-7, 270 pounds -- and he throws the ball with his left hand. His numbers aren't going to get your attention. He went 0-5 with a 4.69 ERA with 58 Ks in 55.2 IP at Winston-Salem. He has a 6.75 ERA in eight games since a promotion to Birmingham. However, he's only 20 years old. He's a project, for sure, but it's worth watching to see how he responds against the good hitting prospects in the AFL.

5. Rangel Ravelo, 1B -- Ravelo has had a breakout year at Double-A Birmingham. The 22-year-old has posted a .307/.386/.432 slash line with 37 doubles and 11 home runs. Of course, there is no opening at first base in Chicago, but good prospects also can be used as trade bait. It's not a bad thing if Ravelo continues to develop, even though he does not play a position of need for the White Sox.

6. Kevan Smith, C -- The good news about Smith: He gets better every year, and he plays a position of need: catcher. The bad news: He's already 26 years old, so maybe that lessens the excitement about a .292/.374/.432 slash line at Double-A. But, this is a player who has had a very nice season in Birmingham.

7. Scott Snodgress, LHP -- This is a pitcher who has moved down on a lot of the prospect lists after a disappointing season as a starter in Birmingham, where he went 6-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 21 games. The Sox have promoted him to Charlotte with the idea that he can be a relief pitcher. The major league team is looking for a left-hander in the bullpen, so the door is open if Snodgress can show well this fall.