Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

James Shields prevails against C.C. Sabathia in matchup of declining pitchers

C.C. Sabathia
Seven or eight years ago, a pitching matchup between James Shields and C.C. Sabathia would have been marquee material.

On Monday, it was just another game, featuring a 34-year-old right-hander with an ERA near six and a soon-to-be-36-year-old 300-pound left-hander with bad knees.

Who would win this battle of titans?

Fortunately for the White Sox, it was Shields, who fired six innings of two-run ball to help the South Siders to an 8-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Neither starter was on solid ground in this game. Shields put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole when he gave up a two-run homer to Chase Headley in the top of the second inning. Sabathia surrendered the lead when Tim Anderson took him deep for a two-run homer to tie the score in the third.

The game remained tied at 2 at the halfway point, and there was a definite feeling that both teams should have had more runs.

The Sox got two men on in the first inning, but didn't score. They loaded the bases with one out in the third after Anderson's homer, but couldn't tack on any runs. They stranded a man at third in the fourth.

The Yankees had runners at second and third with one out in the fourth, but couldn't cash in. They got a runner to second base with one out as the result of two Sox errors in the fifth, but failed to score.

This came down to which pitcher was going to crack the third time through the batting order, and it was Sabathia. The Sox touched him up for three runs in the fifth. Brett Lawrie's sacrifice fly scored Todd Frazier, who had doubled, and Dioner Navarro's two-run homer put the Sox ahead, 5-2.

Shields once again walked the tightrope in the sixth inning, but the Yankees failed to score after placing runners at first and third. The Sox right-hander escaped that situation by getting Aaron Hicks to fly out to right field.

Shields' final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 1 HR. That was good enough for his second win in a Sox uniform.

The Sox tacked on one in the seventh and two in the eighth. Four Sox relievers combined for three innings of scoreless relief, and for a change, David Robertson's services were not needed to close out a victory.

Dan Jennings allowed two base runners in the top of the ninth, but finished off the six-run win in comfortable fashion.

The Sox enter Tuesday's play having won 10 of their past 14 games. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

White Sox take two out of three from Blue Jays

Todd Frazier (21)
Since when did Toronto Blue Jays fans start traveling well?

I feel like U.S. Cellular Field was overrun with Toronto fans this weekend -- especially during Saturday's game.

I blame White Sox management for the large quantities of visiting fans that have been populating the Cell this season. Seven years without a playoff appearance has led to fewer Sox fans wanting to come to the park and support the team, so that makes more tickets available for fans of the visiting club.

I get that, but that didn't make it any less annoying when I had the Toronto version of Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers seated to my left on Saturday.

I have little patience for fans who excessively celebrate mundane things, such as major league players executing routine defensive plays. On Saturday, I heard more "Wooooooooooo!" than I care to discuss. This fan seemed pretty excited every time a Blue Jays fielder successfully caught a pop fly.

Even though the Sox lost Saturday, they took two out of three in the series, and Mr. "Wooooooooooo!" can go back to Canada secure in the knowledge that his beloved Jays went 1-5 against the Sox this season.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, June 25
White Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: Todd Frazier's two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Tim Anderson with what proved to be the winning run in a game that was nip-and-tuck throughout.

It's been an interesting season for Frazier, to say the least. His batting average has been hovering around the Mendoza line -- he's at .201 through Sunday's play -- and that has led to fans drawing comparisons between him and past Sox busts such as Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche.

Thing is, Frazier has 21 home runs and 49 RBIs, which puts him on pace to hit about 44 homers and knock in 104 runs if he keeps this pace over 162 games.

LaRoche had only 12 homers and 44 RBIs for the entire 2015 season, and I struggle to come up with any key hits he had for the Sox.

Frazier needs to get more hits, no question about that, but at least he has provided some key hits at important times that have produced victory for the Sox. Friday night was the latest example.

Closer David Robertson escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth to preserve this win. He struck out Edwin Encarnacion on a 3-2 pitch, then got Michael Saunders to pop out to shortstop to end a heart-stopping inning.

Saturday, June 26
Blue Jays 10, White Sox 8: Now I've seen everything. The Sox out-homered the Blue Jays, 7-1, in this game, but still managed to lose, thanks to poor starting pitching by Miguel Gonzalez.

Toronto had a 5-0 lead by the time it finished hitting in the second inning. The Sox fought back -- Brett Lawrie's inside-the-park home run was the first of back-to-back-to-back home runs that brought the South Siders within two runs at 5-3.

Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck went deep during the barrage against Toronto starter R.A. Dickey.

Lawrie would go on to become the first Sox player since Ron Santo(!) to hit a inside-the-parker and a conventional homer in the same game. Santo accomplished that feat June 9, 1974, in a loss to the Boston Red Sox at Comiskey Park.

Shortly after the Sox got back into Saturday's game, Gonzalez put them back in the hole by coughing up a three-run top of the fourth inning that extended Toronto's lead to 8-3.

The Sox chipped away, mostly with solo home runs. Lawrie went deep in the fourth and added an RBI single in the sixth. Anderson homered in the seventh. Alex Avila's blast in the eighth made it 8-7.

But Toronto scored two insurance runs in the top of the ninth to go up 10-7, which proved important when Adam Eaton hit a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to cap the scoring.

Sunday, June 27
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 2: Chris Sale once again showed why he is the best pitcher in the American League with another masterful performance in the rubber match.

He shut the Jays out through the first seven innings, and needed only 99 pitches to get through the eighth. Sale struck out seven, walked only two and allowed five hits to pick up his major league-best 13th victory of the season.

The Sox got a three-hit day from Melky Cabrera and another home run from Anderson to build a 4-0 lead through seven innings.

Toronto finally chipped away at Sale with two in the eighth on solo home runs by Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake.

Shuck, of all people, answered with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth that made the Sox lead a little more comfortable at 5-2.

There would be no drama from Robertson on this day. He needed just 10 pitches to retire Josh Donaldson, Encarnacion and Saunders, all on lazy fly balls to the outfield. The Sox closer is now 20 for 22 in save opportunities this season.

The Sox have won two consecutive series and have pulled their record back to .500 at 38-38. Next up, three games at home against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

White Sox ace Chris Sale becomes first 12-game winner in majors

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale became the major leagues' first 12-game winner Tuesday night, as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball to lift the South Siders to a 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Sale (12-2) allowed just four hits and one walk. He equaled his season high in strikeouts with nine.

Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson staked Sale to an early lead by hitting the first pitch of the game from Boston starter Clay Buchholz over the Green Monster for his first career home run. The Sox added one more in the first inning when Adam Eaton doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.

The Sox remained ahead 2-0 until the third inning when Boston scored its lone run on two singles and a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts. The Red Sox loaded the bases after that, as Dustin Pedroia singled and Xander Bogaerts walked. But Sale escaped any further trouble by striking out Hanley Ramirez on a nasty slider.

Boston never threatened against Sale the rest of the night.

Todd Frazier connected for his 20th home run of the season in the fourth inning to put the Sox ahead 3-1 and complete the scoring. Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for two innings of shutout relief, with Robertson earning a four-out save -- his 18th of the year.

The Sox (35-36) have won two games in a row for the just the second time in June, and with the team playing in Boston, ESPN is predictably starting the rumors about how the Sox need to trade Sale to the Red Sox.

Sale is probably the best pitcher in the American League, and he is signed to a team-friendly deal through the 2019 season. His production and his contract make him one of the most valuable players in baseball. I have no doubt the Red Sox would covet him for their rotation. What team wouldn't?

But here's the thing that really pisses me off about these "trade Sale" articles: The authors always make it sound as if Sale can be had for a package of prospects who are currently toiling at Double-A or Triple-A.

I don't think so, friends.

The White Sox should not trade the best pitcher in the league unless they are getting at least one major league position player in return. The ESPN author of this Red Sox article touts the three "young, inexpensive" stars on the Boston roster -- Bogaerts, Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr

My message to "Red Sox Nation" and ESPN is this: If you want the best pitcher in the American League on your roster, it's going to cost you one of either Betts or Bradley Jr. Highly regarded prospects aren't enough.

The White Sox are not anybody's farm team, and you're not acquiring a potential Cy Young winner for nothing more than a package of ifs and maybes, because after all, prospects are nothing more than ifs and maybes. There are plenty of teams out there that could use Sale, and I'll bet you one of them will be willing to send along a player or players who are already big-league caliber.

Any club that acquires Sale is getting three and a half years of an All-Star pitcher in his prime at cost-controlled price. I'm sorry, but that's worth more than Double-A players. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tim Anderson sparks White Sox offense from leadoff spot

Tim Anderson
I was skeptical when the White Sox called up shortstop Tim Anderson from Triple-A Charlotte last week.

Is Anderson really ready for the big leagues, or were the Sox just rushing him up to try to provide a spark for a struggling team?

Well, if the Sox were looking for a spark, they got one from Anderson in this past series against the Detroit Tigers. Manager Robin Ventura moved Anderson into the leadoff spot, and he responded by going 6 for 16 with 10 total bases and four runs scored in the three-game set.

Anderson was 3 for 5 with a triple and three runs scored Wednesday, as the Sox rallied for a 5-3 win over the Tigers and helped ace Chris Sale improve his record to 11-2.

With Anderson's promotion, Adam Eaton has been dropped from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole. Eaton's results also took a turn for the better against the Tigers. He went 8 for 14 with a double, a triple, four runs scored in three RBIs in the series.

By way of comparison, Eaton had been 9 for 60 (.150 average) hitting leadoff in his previous 16 games.

The Sox offense plated 23 runs in the series, largely because Anderson and Eaton were both consistently getting on base during the three games. The South Siders won two out of three, taking their first series from a division foe since they swept the last-place Minnesota Twins from May 6 to 8.

Through his first six games, Anderson is 8 for 25 (.320 average) with five runs scored. He has yet to draw his first walk, but he has four extra-base hits (3 doubles, 1 triple) and has only struck out four times.

All the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but the Sox have to be encouraged by what they've seen from their top prospect during his first week in the major leagues.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Some random Tuesday thoughts on the White Sox

Tim Lincecum is headed to the Angels.
The White Sox had their first bad week of the season last week, going 2-4 on a six-game road trip through Texas and New York.

Here's the good news: The Sox had a five-game lead in the AL Central when they left for the trip. They had a five-game lead when they came home. Sometimes, when it's going bad, treading water in the standings is a good thing.

Some other random thoughts:
  • The Sox own a league-best 3.17 team ERA, but their team ERA is 5.93 over the past 12 games (6-6 record). Only Chris Sale and Jose Quintana seem immune from the pitching suck bug right now. But perhaps some regression was inevitable.
  • The Sox bullpen did not lose a single game through the first 33 games of the season. They have now lost three of the past five games.
  • Tim Lincecum's decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angels instead of the Sox isn't worth much heartache. I wouldn't have objected had the Sox signed Lincecum -- what's the harm in giving a guy a one-year deal and taking a chance? But it's also true that Lincecum hasn't had a good season since 2011, is coming off hip surgery, and didn't have a spring training. He probably won't make a start in the big leagues for about a month. The odds of him making a major impact are not high.
  • On April 23, Avisail Garcia was hitting .135. In 15 games since, he's hitting .393 with five doubles, a triple, two home runs and 10 RBIs. He has raised his batting average to a respectable .269 after hitting safely in 13 of those 15 games. But every time I feel like Garcia is turning a corner, he follows a good stretch with a slump that disappoints me. I need to see more before I believe in him.
  • White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is adjusting nicely to Triple-A competition after a slow start to the season. The shortstop was named International League batter of the week Monday after hitting .432 with three home runs and six RBIs during an eight-game stretch. Anderson's season slash line of .287/.310/.380 is respectable, but also reflective of a rough beginning. However, recency suggests he is starting to figure out Triple-A pitching.

Friday, March 18, 2016

FanGraphs: 'How the White Sox Could Win the Pennant'

It's hard not to feel bad about White Sox baseball today. Chris Sale and Adam Eaton are fanning the flames of the Adam LaRoche retirement controversy, and the organization is coming off looking bad.

But here's an article that could inspire some hope: A FanGraphs blogger has charted a potential path to the pennant for the Sox.

Cliff notes version: The Sox project as an 81-win team, so they need to find another 10 wins to be a playoff team. How do they get those 10 wins? A young and hard-to-project Carlos Rodon blossoms into a top-of-the-rotation stud, Mat Latos is healthy and returns to his 2013 form, and Avisail Garcia surprises the critics by learning how to hit for power.

The LaRoche retirement creates savings that allow the Sox to acquire a player to fill in a hole, and shortstop prospect Tim Anderson comes up the second half and makes the team better.

Yes, that's a lot of stuff that needs to go right, but realistically, that's probably the course the Sox would need to take to reach the postseason in 2016.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spring training lookahead: Five White Sox players to watch

Avisail Garcia
As pitchers and catchers report to spring training, let's take a look at five White Sox players who will be worth watching as the Cactus League schedule unfolds:

1. Avisail Garcia, RF -- The Sox considered replacing Garcia over the offseason. They were linked to two major outfield free agents in Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes before apparently deciding the price was too high. As it stands now, the 24-year-old Garcia is getting another kick at the can, and it's likely make-or-break time for him. He's trimmed down since last season, so expect to read stories about him "being in the best shape of his life." He also will try a new batting stance this spring after a recent three-day session with hitting coach Todd Steverson. Even with the acquisition of Todd Frazier to bat cleanup, the Sox need Garcia to become a run producer in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup. If he's still the 6-foot-4, 240-pound punch-and-judy hitter we've seen in the past, the Sox will need to move on from him.

2. Tim Anderson, SS -- The team's No. 1 prospect is a long shot to make the roster. Barring an acquisition from outside the organization, good-glove, no-hit Tyler Saladino is likely to be the Sox's shortstop on Opening Day. However, he's likely just keeping the seat warm for Anderson, who figures to get extensive playing time this spring. Many fans have read the glowing reports on him, but those who watch spring training games will get to see him play more frequently for the first time. It will be interesting to see how close he is to ready. Anderson improved in all facets of his game last season, and there's not much question he's eventually going to get a shot with the big club. But will he live up to his star potential and become a core player, or will he be just another guy?

3. Adam LaRoche, 1B/DH -- Like it or not -- and chances are you don't like it -- the Sox are stuck with LaRoche, so they have to pray he rebounds from the worst full season of his career, which saw him hit .207 with only 12 home runs. LaRoche has 10 seasons of 20 or more home runs in his career. That's the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him before the start of the 2015 season, and they need him to be that guy -- there is no other left-handed power threat on the roster. But at age 36, last year's woes could be a sign that LaRoche is simply washed up. Everyone will feel much better going into the year if LaRoche has a productive spring and provides some hope that he still can be a presence in the middle of the lineup.

4. Mat Latos, SP -- We've already stated a couple times on this blog that Latos could be a bargain at $3 million this year for the Sox. He was one of the top 50 pitchers in the sport before he hurt his knee, and if he returns to that form, the Sox will have a legitimate, playoff-caliber starting rotation. Of course, that's a big 'if,' given that Latos has been hurt the past two years. When watching him this spring, don't worry so much about results. Check to see if his velocity is back. Pitchers tend to see their velocity dip when they have a lower-body injury. Despite his veteran status, Latos is only 28, so you would think time would be on his side in terms of injury recovery. It's not like he's in his mid-30s and at the end of his baseball life.

5. Carson Fulmer, SP -- General manager Rick Hahn has gone out of his way to put the brakes on high expectations for the Sox's 2015 first-round draft pick. Fulmer is not a candidate to make the team. He likely needs a full season in the minors, and he wasn't as advanced coming out of college as Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon were. When the season begins, Fulmer is likely going to be at Double-A Birmingham. That said, he is a high-end pitching prospect, and it will be exciting to see how he fares in his first big-league spring training.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Report: 'Ship has sailed' on Ian Desmond-to-the-White Sox rumor

Ian Desmond
Today's blog was going to address the possibility of free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond signing with the White Sox, but according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, a team official has said "that ship has sailed."

I was a little surprised when I heard the Desmond rumors, anyway. The top position player prospect in the Sox's system is a shortstop -- Tim Anderson -- and it's possible we'll see him on the South Side of Chicago before 2016 is over. Tyler Saladino doesn't have much of a bat, but he's good with the glove, and we've received every indication the team is comfortable going with Saladino as a stopgap measure at shortstop until Anderson arrives.

We're less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting now, and Desmond still does not have a job. Perhaps the Sox wondered if the veteran would be desperate enough to sign a one-year deal. It wouldn't make sense for the team to offer a multiyear deal, knowing that Anderson is getting close. But what could it hurt to kick the tires on a one-year deal with Desmond? That's probably where this rumor came from. The Sox asked Desmond if he'd be interested in a one-year deal, and he told them no. And with that, the "ship sailed." That would be my speculation here.

Also, Desmond rejected a qualifying offer from his most recent club -- the Washington Nationals -- and accordingly, the Sox would have to forfeit the No. 28 pick in the draft in order to sign him. Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke about the value of that pick at SoxFest. I don't think he would part with it lightly, and I think Desmond would have to be willing to come real cheap for Hahn to make the deal.

Even though Desmond is a better player than Saladino, without question, the circumstances surrounding the situation seem to point toward there being no match between Desmond and the Sox.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

USA Today publishes organizational report on White Sox

Carlos Rodon
If you live in Chicago or the surrounding area, it can be hard to find accurate, useful analysis of the White Sox organization. Most of the local media members are obsessed with the Bears and Cubs, and listening to them talk, it sometimes seems like they haven't watched a Sox game in two or three years.

They simply don't care about White Sox baseball. They dismiss the team as irrelevant, and while it may be irrelevant to them, it's still very much a passion for many of us fans. If you're a diehard Sox fan, it's far more useful to seek the national perspective on the team than to listen to the local talking heads. The national writers tend to be more knowledgeable, in spite of the fact that they have 30 teams to cover, and they tend to be more fair, as well.

That's why I look forward to reading articles about the Sox from national publications such as USA Today's Sports Weekly, which recently published its organizational report on the Sox. Not that any of this should be taken as gospel. Like anything else, I agree with some things in the article and disagree with others, but it's just nice to read a perspective that is outside the usual local talking points.

A few things that caught my attention from this article:

1. They expect the White Sox starting rotation to be better in 2016 than it was last year. It's an interesting thought, because the Sox rotation ranked No. 4 in the majors in WAR, according to FanGraphs.com. In fact, the Sox rotation was the best in the American League a year ago, according to those rankings. The writer of this article sees the departure of Jeff Samardzija to the San Francisco Giants as addition by subtraction, and there's no question Samardzija had a poor year last season. While I share the author's confidence in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana -- and I also expect Carlos Rodon to take the next step forward in his development -- I think Erik Johnson is a question mark as a replacement for Samardzija. Sure, Johnson won International League pitcher of the year honors at Triple-A Charlotte last year, and he showed well in six big-league starts at the end of the year. But Samardzija's team-leading 214.1 innings have to be covered by somebody. Johnson won't do that alone; he has only 86.1 big-league innings under his belt to this point. I question whether the Sox have built enough depth at this point to cover back-of-the-rotation starts.

2. The author doesn't think much of the Sox's bullpen, an area that has gone mostly unaddressed this offseason. Sox relievers logged a league-low 441.2 innings last year. I attribute that to the Sox having a strong rotation, plus manager Robin Ventura's tendency to stay with his starters too long. The writer of the article agrees that figure speaks to the quality of the Sox rotation, but also says a lack of bullpen depth perhaps handcuffed Ventura last season. Contrary to local beliefs, the author notes that David Robertson delivered in the closer's role, but the arms behind him were described as merely "serviceable." We'll see if Nate Jones can stay healthy and lock down the eighth inning for the Sox in 2016. If he can, that makes a big difference.

3. The prospects list is remarkably similar to the one provided by Baseball America, with shortstop Tim Anderson, RHP Carson Fulmer, RHP Spencer Adams and 3B Trey Michalczewski making up the consensus top four. The only variance is the inclusion of RHP Tyler Danish at No. 5. Danish was No. 6 on the Baseball America list, so there isn't much disagreement on who the top Sox prospects are. It's worth noting the author thinks Fulmer is close to contributing in Chicago. I expect Fulmer to remain the minors for all of 2016, but we'll see. You still hear some people saying Fulmer projects as a reliever, and this article alludes to that possibility. I don't think that's going to happen. Fulmer has three pitches and never showed any sort of stamina problem during his college days. For me, he stands a good shot of cracking the Sox rotation early in 2017.

Tim Anderson leads Baseball America's list of top White Sox prospects

Baseball America updated its list of top 10 White Sox prospects Monday, and it comes as no surprise that shortstop Tim Anderson occupies the No. 1 spot.

Anderson, the Sox's 2013 first-round draft pick, made major strides both offensively and defensively while playing with the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 2015. He posted a .312/.350/.429 slash line with five home runs, 46 RBIs and 49 stolen bases in 125 games.

Anderson is expected to start the season in Triple-A Charlotte, and could be in line to make his major-league debut sometime in the 2016 season.

Second on the list is last year's first-round draft pick, right-hander Carson Fulmer. The Vanderbilt product threw 26 minor-league innings in 2015 and struck out 26 while compiling a 2.08 ERA. The Sox have a history of fast-tracking first-round college pitchers (Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon) to the big leagues, but fans should not expect to see Fulmer on the South Side in 2016. He's a fine prospect, but not quite as advanced at this stage of his career as Sale and Rodon were.

Right-handed pitcher Spencer Adams ranks third. One thing I like about the 6-foot-3 Adams is he throws strikes. He split 2015 between Single-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. In 24 combined starts and 129.1 innings, Adams went 12-5 with a 2.99 ERA. He fanned 96 and walked just 18.

Twenty-year-old third base prospect Trey Michalczewski checks in at No. 4. Michalczewski posted a .259/.295/.366 slash with seven home runs and 75 RBIs in 127 games at Winston-Salem last year. The kid is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so the Sox are hoping he develops into a player with extra-base pop.

Jacob May is No. 5. The speedy outfielder swiped 37 bags in 98 games at Birmingham last year, but he's just a punch-and-judy hitter at this point, as evidenced by his .275/.329/.334 slash line.

Rounding at the top 10 are right-handed pitcher Tyler Danish, outfielder Adam Engel, left-handed pitcher Jordan Guerrero, outfielder Courtney Hawkins and first baseman Corey Zangari.

Engel is probably the most notable of those five names. He played his way onto the list by winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League this year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

White Sox decline team option on Alexei Ramirez

The White Sox on Wednesday declined to pick up a $10 million option on shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

The club instead opted to buy out Ramirez's contract for $1 million. The veteran will become a free agent on Saturday, and the Sox could still bring Ramirez back in 2016 on a smaller contract.

Ramirez has spent eight years on the South Side, and he enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2014. During that year, he hit .273 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs and won the Silver Slugger Award. He also was a finalist for the Gold Glove.

However, Ramirez regressed in 2015, hitting just .249 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. His OPS dropped from .713 in 2014 to .642 this year.

Despite that regression, this move comes as a bit of a surprise, because top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson is considered to be about a year away from breaking into the big leagues. Many observers, including me, thought Ramirez would return for one more season as a stopgap, keeping the spot warm for Anderson in 2017. Instead, the Sox appear to be moving in a different direction.

The other internal option is Tyler Saladino, who is a capable defensive shortstop, but figures to struggle with the bat. Saladino hit just .225 with a .602 OPS in 254 plate appearances after the Sox called him up in July.

The list of free-agent shortstops this offseason is not a strong one. The best names out there (besides Ramirez) are Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins and Asdrubal Cabrera. Desmond is probably the most attractive option of that group, but he will probably get more than a one-year deal, which wouldn't make much sense for the Sox.

It's impossible to judge this move without seeing how the decision fits into the bigger picture of the offseason. There are only two conclusions we can draw today:
  1. The Sox saved themselves $9 million, which could allow them to be bigger players in free agency; and 
  2. The Sox have added shortstop to their list of offseason questions marks. 
The hot stove season is just beginning, and as always, it promises to be interesting. Stay tuned.

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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

White Sox prospect update

Thursday is an off-day for the White Sox, so let's take a moment to update the activities of some of the top prospects in the organization.

1. Matt Davidson, 3B, Charlotte -- Davidson continued his hottest stretch of the season on Wednesday, going 2-for-5 with two doubles for the Knights. He hit two home runs in the second game of a doubleheader on Monday night, including a walk-off blast in the 10th inning that lifted Charlotte to a 7-5 win. Davidson had an extremely poor first two months, so his overall slash line looks sickly: .206/.282/.419. But he hit .353 over his last 10 games in June. He homered nine times during the month, and now ranks second in the International League with 15 home runs. At least he's trending in the right direction.

2. Micah Johnson, 2B, Charlotte -- The "game changer" started the year at Double-A Birmingham and dominated opposing pitchers, posting a .329/.414/.466 slash with three homers, 16 RBIs and 10 steals in 37 games. Since his promotion to Charlotte, the numbers are a little more modest: .272/.303/.353 with a homer, 15 RBIs and five steals in 31 games. To be fair, there's often an adjustment period when a player is promoted to the next level, and that's been the case for Johnson. He's highly regarded enough that he was named to the U.S. roster for the Futures Game. It wouldn't be shocking if he gets a September callup this year. Scouts rank his speed as an 80 on the 20-to-80 scale, so that tool combined with his decent-to-good bat will likely get him to the majors. The question is, is he a second baseman or an outfielder moving forward?

3. Tim Anderson, SS, Winston-Salem -- The Sox recently got bad news on Anderson, who was hit by a pitch and will miss four to six weeks with a fracture in his right wrist. Anderson continued to play after he was struck, but the pain worsened and he was shut down after an X-ray revealed the fracture. He was hitting .297/.323/.472 at the time of the injury with six home runs, 10 stolen bases, 31 RBIs and 48 runs scored in 68 games. Anderson's glove is a much bigger question mark than his bat. He's committed a whopping 31 errors this season. Still, the Sox have given no indication they plan to move him off shortstop.

4. Tyler Danish, RHP, Winston Salem -- The second-round pick in the 2013 draft started the year in Kannapolis and overmatched opposing hitters, going 3-0 with 0.71 ERA in seven starts. He was elevated to Winston-Salem, which is an aggressive placement for a 19-year-old kid. In seven starts at High-A, he's 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA, but at least he's got 26 strikeouts in 29.2 IP over seven starts. He recently returned from a short stint on the disabled list, and his three-quarters arm slot (think Jake Peavy) has some scouts concerned about his durability. But, Danish has a 95 mph heater with good sink, and the Sox like pitchers with good sinkers. Danish is a longer-term prospect. You won't be seeing him in Chicago this year or next year. Maybe 2016 if all goes well.

5. Courtney Hawkins, OF, Winston-Salem -- I heard a report today that Hawkins might be headed to the seven-day DL after crashing into a wall in left field on Wednesday night. I haven't heard anything about the extent of the injury, but hopefully it is not serious. The 2012 first-round pick dropped on some of the prospect lists after a wretched 2013 that saw him hit .178/.249/.384 in High-A. Again, though, that was an aggressive placement by the Sox. Hawkins was a 19-year-old playing against older guys last summer. This year, he's repeating the same level and has improved. He's hitting .255/.337/.482 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 79 games. That's a good RBI total. He had only 62 in all of 2013. I think 2015 will be the big year for Hawkins. He'll probably be moved up to Double-A, and we'll see if he can keep his career on an upward arc.