Showing posts with label Yoan Moncada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yoan Moncada. Show all posts

Friday, July 13, 2018

Signs of a bad offense: Low OPS

So, I was looking at the White Sox hitting statistics, and with recent slumps by Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Daniel Palka -- and Avisail Garcia's return to the disabled list -- the Sox don't have a single hitter with an OPS at or above .800.

Here's what we're looking at for OPS on the current Sox roster:

Davidson: .776
Abreu: .746
Omar Narvaez: .740
Tim Anderson: .723
Yolmer Sanchez: .723
Palka: .711
Yoan Moncada: .710
Kevan Smith: .692
Leury Garcia: .678
Charlie Tilson: .640
Ryan LaMarre: .634
Adam Engel: .591

Yuck.

Well, the Kansas City Royals (26-66) are coming into Chicago this weekend. Maybe that will be the cure for what ails Davidson and other Sox hitters. We shall see.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Grinder Bash 2018 at Guaranteed Rate Field -- let's visit the home clubhouse

Grinder Bash, the White Sox's annual party for season-ticket holders, was sparsely attended Saturday, perhaps because this rebuilding team doesn't have many season-ticket holders anymore.

That's fine. More room for us, and for the first time (at least in the years I've attended this event), fans had access to the home clubhouse.


You can see Yoan Moncada's locker right behind me, near the front of the clubhouse. Not surprisingly, Moncada's locker is between those of Hector Santiago and Jose Abreu, whose locker is just out of frame to the right. The Sox obviously want Moncada hanging around a couple of the veteran Latino players who have been there and done that. Let's hope for the sake of the Sox's rebuild that young Yoan gets it going soon. His batting average is down to .221 entering Monday's play; his on-base percentage is down to .289.


Danny Farquhar's locker remain full and intact, even though he hasn't been around the team as much since suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm during a game April 20 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Notably, Farquhar has a signed Frank Thomas jersey hanging in his locker. That's a pretty cool piece of memorabilia to have. I think the entire baseball community, not just the White Sox organization and its fans, wishes Farquhar well as he continues to recover from one of the scariest situations I've seen happen at a major league ballpark.


I probably found this funnier than it really is, but I got a kick out of seeing a suitcase in Juan Minaya's locker. This guy has been up and down between the Sox and Triple-A Charlotte all season, and I can't help but wonder if that suitcase is there just in case he gets another tap on the shoulder and another plane ticket to North Carolina. Well, actually, with the way Bruce Rondon has been pitching lately, perhaps Minaya's roster spot is safer than it's been at other points during the season.


Off in the corner, here is James Shields' locker. He has nobody to his left, and nobody to his right. Has he really earned all that personal space? Yeah, he's a veteran and all, but his record is 3-9. In the past, perhaps this roomy part of the clubhouse might have belonged to an accomplished Sox player such as, say, Paul Konerko. It seems as though Shields is the guy who currently gets the royal treatment, deserving or not. Or, perhaps they just make him sit in the corner for not being very good at pitching at this stage of his career.


Here's the view from behind home plate. If you ever want to feel small, go down on the field at a major league stadium on a non-game day when the ballpark is empty. You never realize just how big a place it is until you're down at field level.


One other interesting little note: On the wall in the Sox bullpen, the relief corps keeps track of the number of calls received from the dugout. During the 2017 season, there were 888 calls made to the bullpen during the 81 home games. It looks as though the Sox are on pace to exceed that total this season. So far, 502 calls have been made to the bullpen through 43 home games. That's an average of about 11.6 a game. That puts the Sox on pace for 945.6 calls over an 81-game period. Yes, these are rough days. By way of comparison, the calls during the 2013 season only numbered in the 400s. The 2013 Sox were a bad club -- 99 losses -- but starting pitching was the strength: Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy, the pre-injury Santiago, etc. These days, starting pitching is a weakness, and the bullpen is busy.

The other great thing about Grinder Bash: Free food and drinks, including beer, for those who choose to partake. As I said, the season-ticket base for the Sox is fewer in number than it has ever been, and those of us who have chosen to stick it out through this rebuild have earned a perk such as this.

When all is said and done, it might be one of the more enjoyable days at the ballpark in 2018. After all, we weren't walking back to our cars after a White Sox loss, which has so often been the case during this most trying of seasons.

Monday, June 25, 2018

White Sox salvage split with Oakland with Sunday blowout

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon went eight innings and got the win Sunday. Yoan Moncada had six RBIs as the White Sox trounced the Oakland Athletics, 10-3.

It was cathartic, wasn't it?

The Sox recently have been through another really rough stretch of baseball, but you take the positives where you can, and Sunday's rout to salvage a split of a four-game set with Oakland was one of those days where it was OK to smile.

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

Friday, June 22
Athletics 11, White Sox 2 (Game 1): The Sox entered this series off a 12-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, and the "clownish" play continued in the opener of a doubleheader.

Sox starter James Shields (2-9) allowed eight runs over 4.2 innings, but only two were earned as the South Siders totaled three errors -- two by Moncada.

Oakland scored four runs in the second inning and four more in the fifth to take an 8-0 lead, so this was one over early and ugly throughout.

White Sox 6, Athletics 4 (Game 2): This probably was the best outing we've seen from Lucas Giolito (5-7) all season, as his fastball was sitting at 95 mph for much of the game, unlike the 91-92 we've become accustomed to in several of his previous starts.

Giolito's line doesn't look all that great: four earned runs allowed in seven plus innings, but he walked off the mound with a 5-2 lead in the eighth. A couple of inherited runners scored that were added to his line.

Give left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno some credit -- he entered the game with runners on first and third and no outs in the top of the eighth with the Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead. Cedeno pitched out of it, and Tim Anderson added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run.

Anderson went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and three runs scored.

Saturday, June 23
Athletics 7, White Sox 6: Anderson continued his hot hitting with a three-run homer in the first inning Saturday that staked the Sox to an early 5-0 lead.

Alas, Oakland rallied for the win. Dylan Covey exited in the fifth inning with a groin strain -- the Sox were leading 5-2 at the time -- and the wheels came off from there. Chris Volstad allowed two inherited runners to score, and gave up two earned runs of his own.

Juan Minaya (0-2) took the loss by allowing a run in the eighth, but some poor defense was played behind him. Minaya struck out the first two hitters, and got a routine fly to right off the bat of Stephen Piscotty. OK, maybe it wasn't routine, because Avisail Garcia lost the ball in the sun. It fell for a "double."

Piscotty then scored on a two-out RBI single by Nick Martini that put the A's up, 7-6.

Oakland committed two infield errors in the bottom of the ninth. Despite its efforts to give the game back to the Sox, the South Siders could not take advantage. Matt Davidson grounded into a game-ending double play with two runners on.

Sunday, June 24
White Sox 10, Athletics 3: The turning point came in the top of the fifth inning. Oakland led, 2-0, and had runners on second and third with nobody out.

Rodon was on the ropes, but he punched his way out of it, inducing a weak grounder to third, getting a strikeout, and then a weak popout to second base.

The Sox scored five in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by Moncada's two-out, three run double. The second baseman added three more RBIs with a home run in the bottom of the sixth, as the Sox added five more runs.

Given a 10-2 lead, Rodon cruised through the eighth inning. He only struck out three, but he did not walk a batter -- note to all Sox pitchers, everything works better when you throw strikes.

Sox relievers walked three men in the top of the ninth, and Oakland scored a run, but the Sox effectively ended any doubt about the outcome when Moncada homered in the sixth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

James Shields beats Indians, gets first win since March 29

James Shields
I had a sense that Tuesday's pitching matchup provided the White Sox with their best chance to beat the Cleveland Indians in this week's four-game series.

Sure enough, the Sox won Tuesday, 5-1. 

Does it sound weird that I expected to win a James Shields start? Maybe, but my hopes for victory Tuesday were less about Shields and more about the Cleveland starter, Adam Plutko.

Plutko's name is not Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger, and I figured he would be the one Indians starter the Sox could hit.

They hit him all right, as Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez hit home runs on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Davidson added a pair of RBI doubles -- one in the first and one in the fifth -- and Omar Narvaez contributed an RBI single as the Sox touched up Plutko for five runs over 4.2 innings.

And, oh yeah, credit Shields (2-7) for doing his job. He went seven innings and allowed only one run on four hits. He didn't miss many bats -- only two strikeouts -- but he didn't walk anybody, and he induced a fair amount of weak contact with 14 fly-ball outs.

Shields has pitched six innings or more in each of his past 10 games, and this is his first victory since March 29 -- the season opener in Kansas City. His ERA is down to 4.63, after being at 6.14 after the month of April.

Is Shields emerging as a potential midseason trade candidate? I'm not holding my breath, but Sox fans can hope. He's pitching better now than at any point since he put on a Sox uniform.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

White Sox select infielder Nick Madrigal with No. 4 pick in MLB draft

In a decision that wasn't surprising, the White Sox selected Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal with the No. 4 overall pick in Monday's MLB draft.

Madrigal has been playing second base this season, but has played shortstop in the past. His fielding percentage is 1.000, and his offensive slash isn't half-bad either: .406/.470/.586 with three home runs, four triples, seven doubles, 32 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 32 games.

Unlike other Sox prospects, the hit tool seems to be Madrigal's strength. He has only struck out five times in 133 at-bats this season, and some consider him to be the best pure hitter in this year's draft.

Coming into the draft, the debate seemed to be whether the Sox would select Madrigal or Florida pitcher Brady Singer.

Me personally, I'm normally someone who says, "When in doubt, take the pitcher." This time, I broke from the norm and wanted the Sox to take a position player.

From everything I've seen and read, the only pitcher in this year's draft worth a top-5 selection was Auburn right-hander Casey Mize. Detroit took Mize first overall, as expected, and there was never a thought he'd still be on the board for the Sox at No. 4.

I think Singer can be a good pitcher, but I didn't see him as good enough to merit being drafted in the top 5. MLB executives seemed to agree, as Singer fell to Kansas City as the 18th overall selection.

Madrigal was a consensus top-5 pick in every mock draft I saw, so this seems to be a reasonable selection by the Sox.

But he's a middle infielder, you say. What about Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada? Yes, indeed the Sox have a pair of young players in the middle infield that they hope to make cornerstones of their future. However, if Madrigal pans out, and the Sox have too many good players in the middle infield, that's the sort of problem every team would like to have.

And, it's the opposite problem that the Sox have had for most of this decade, which is not enough good players at any position. Thumbs-up for more depth and more options.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Rare strong start by James Shields goes to waste

James Shields
Here's a sentence we rarely type on this blog: James Shields deserved better.

The veteran White Sox right-hander retired 15 St. Louis Cardinals batters in a row at one point Tuesday night. After giving up a leadoff homer to Tommy Pham, Shields did not allow another St. Louis base runner until the sixth inning.

He completed six innings, allowing only one run on two hits. He struck out four, and surprisingly, he did not walk anyone.

Too bad the Sox lost, 3-2, when the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth off another erstwhile veteran pitcher who has seen better days, Sox "closer" Joakim Soria.

The Sox took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on a two-out, two run double from Yoan Moncada. That stuck all the way until the ninth inning.

Soria gave up a home run to Matt Carpenter, a double to Marcell Ozuna and a game-deciding single to Yadier Molina.

The Cardinals weren't exactly hot coming into this series -- they had lost three in a row. But don't worry, St. Louis. The Sox are the cure for what ails every team not named the Kansas City Royals.

The South Siders are now 3-17 against teams not named the Royals, and 8-19 overall.

It's going to be a bad, long, boring season. What else can you say right now?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

White Sox drop another one-run game to the Mariners

Felix Hernandez
The White Sox don't seem capable of winning a series right now -- they've lost their past six series in a row -- but at least this latest three-game set against the Seattle Mariners was more competitive than some of the others.

After winning the first game, the Sox suffered two one-run losses, including a 4-3 defeat Wednesday afternoon.

The Sox got off to a good start. Yoan Moncada hit Felix Hernandez's first pitch of the game for a solo home run. Yolmer Sanchez hit Hernandez's second pitch of the game for a double, and he scored later in the inning on a broken-bat single by Tim Anderson.

But James Shields (1-3) couldn't hold the early 2-0 lead. Seattle tied it at 2 with two runs in the third. The Sox retook the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the inning on a bases-loaded groundout by Daniel Palka, who went 0 for 4 in his major league debut.

The Mariners tied it in the fifth on an RBI single by Nelson Cruz and took the lead for good in the sixth when Mike Zunino homered off Shields. Hernandez (3-2) kept the Sox off the board in the middle innings, and the Seattle bullpen tossed three innings of shutout relief.

The Sox dropped to 3-5 in one-run games. They've already lost two 1-0 games this season, including one Tuesday against the Mariners. This is a Sox team that is hitting .198 with runners in scoring position. With two outs and runners in scoring position, they are hitting a meager .161.

For all the justifiable consternation about the pitching staff, the Sox would have a few more wins if they were hitting, say, .230 with runners in scoring position. The overall team batting average is .236, so that shouldn't be too much to ask.

I keep thinking a market correction is coming on this, and while the Sox will never be a winning team this season, they should be able to pull out a few more victories with even a modest increase in production with men on base.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

White Sox (mercifully) snap 7-game losing streak with win over Mariners

Jose Abreu -- two HRs Monday night
Seven straight hits to start the game. Five runs in the first inning. Eighteen hits overall.

Who would have saw this coming? The White Sox had only two runs on 15 hits in three games over the weekend against the Houston Astros, but they finally found some offense Monday in a 10-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Granted, Mike Leake is not anywhere near as good as Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel, but the Sox have made pitchers worse than Leake look like perennial All-Stars this season.

But not Monday.  

Yoan Moncada opened the game with a triple that led to the five-run rally. The Sox added two runs in the second and another in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead and knock Leake (2-2) out early.

It was a big night for Moncada and Jose Abreu, as the two combined to go 7 for 10 with three home runs, a triple, a double, six runs scored and four RBIs.

Moncada went 3 for 5 and had a triple, a double and a home run in his first three at-bats. He had two opportunities to hit a single to complete the cycle, but he struck out looking on a pitch that appeared to be outside and flew out to left field in his last two at-bats. It probably didn't help that Seattle used left-hander Wade LeBlanc to mop up -- the switch-hitting Moncada is clearly weaker batting right-handed, which was the case for the two plate appearances in which he did not reach base.

Abreu, meanwhile, raised his batting average to .308 by going 4 for 5. He hit a two-run homer off Leake in the second inning and a solo homer off LeBlanc in the sixth. Abreu now has a team-high six home runs on the season.

This time, Carson Fulmer (1-1) held a big lead. The right-hander has been struggling, but he pitched six innings of three-hit ball to earn the win. A two-run homer by Mike Zunino in the fifth was the only blemish on Fulmer's line. He struck out three and walked only one -- a refreshing change from previous wildness.

Chris Beck allowed two runs and six hits over three innings of relief, but he didn't walk anybody while pitching with a big lead, which also is a refreshing change from previous wildness. Beck earned his first career save.

Garcia to DL; Palka called up

Of course, no Sox game recap can be complete this season without some bad news.

Right fielder Avisail Garcia strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball Monday night and has been placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Outfielder Daniel Palka has been called up to take Garcia's place on the 25-man roster.

It has been a slow start for Garcia this season. A 2-for-34 slump has left him with an unimpressive .233/.250/.315 slash line with one home run and four RBIs in 18 games. Garcia is the only qualifying batter in Major League Baseball who has yet to draw a walk this season.

Palka, 26, is a former Minnesota Twins prospect who was claimed off waivers in the offseason. The left-handed hitter was batting .286/.384/.476 with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Charlotte.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Carson Fulmer continues to struggle in White Sox rotation

The White Sox are wish-casting with Carson Fulmer.

There is plenty of evidence that the 2015 first-round draft pick is not ready to be a major league starting pitcher, but the Sox continue to push forward with the idea that everything will be OK with Fulmer if we just remain patient.

I don't buy it.

Fulmer was handed a golden opportunity to get his first victory of the season Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. Yoan Moncada's first career grand slam highlighted a five-run second inning that staked Fulmer and the Sox to an early 6-1 lead.

Alas, the right-hander never recorded an out in the bottom half of the inning. The Sox ended up using a franchise-record 10 pitchers in a 12-11, 14-inning loss.

Fulmer's final line: 1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 0 Ks.

His season ERA has swelled to 7.59. His WHIP is a hideous 2.156. He has walked nine batters and struck out nine in 10.2 innings pitched over three starts. This is not a recipe for success, friends, and we shouldn't be surprised.

Yes, I know. Fulmer had three good starts in September of last season. But let's remember, those three outings came against the last-place San Francisco Giants, the last-place Detroit Tigers and a Cleveland Indians team that already had secured its playoff positioning and had nothing to play for.

Before that, Fulmer had a struggling season at Triple-A Charlotte. He went 7-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 25 starts. We would expect numbers such as those from veteran journeymen such as Chris Volstad. You'd like to see better from Fulmer, but it's just not there.

Spring training didn't go well for Fulmer either. He didn't throw strikes, walking 13 men over 10.2 IP in the Cactus League. The end result was an 11.81 ERA, 17 runs allowed, 14 of them earned.

The Sox, for some reason, seem to be ignoring the rough season Fulmer had overall in 2017. They also seem to be ignoring the terrible spring he had, instead choosing to believe that good results in three 2017 games against uninterested opponents are going to translate into success this season.

I just don't see it. Fulmer doesn't belong in a major league rotation now. Maybe someday he will, but that day isn't today. For the good of his development, send him back to Triple-A to work on his control. Only bring him back when he's demonstrated that he can throw strikes on a consistent basis.

The Sox seem to be forcing Fulmer into the rotation, hoping and praying that all that has been invested in him now will start to pay off. It isn't working.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Talk about Yoan Moncada masks slow starts by other White Sox players

Avisail Garcia
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada has put together two good games in a row this week against the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox have been outscored, 18-3, in the first two games of the three-game set, but Moncada has been a bright spot. He has gone
3 for 7 with a double, a home run, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, two RBIs and two stolen bases.

There's no denying the fact that Moncada is off to a slow start this season. He's struck out a lot -- 28 times in 66 plate appearances -- and his .214/.323/.393 slash line is well below par.

However, I think all the Moncada talk has deflected some criticism away from a couple other Sox hitters who deserve more blame for the team's 4-10 start.

Let's take a look at what happened in the first inning each of the past two nights in Oakland.

On Monday night, Moncada hit the first pitch of the game for a base hit to right field. He stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Avisail Garcia grounded out to move Moncada to third. But Jose Abreu struck out swinging at a bad pitch, and after Matt Davidson walked, Nick Delmonico popped out to the catcher.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 8-1.

On Tuesday night, Moncada saw six pitches and opened the game by drawing a walk. Once again, he stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Garcia struck out, while Abreu and Davidson grounded out.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 10-2.

Moncada set the table. The alleged RBI men are not doing their jobs.

Abreu is hitting .200/.250/.600 with runners in scoring position. Granted, two of the three hits he's had in those situations are home runs, but he's also grounded into two double plays and failed to pick up the easy RBI with a man at third and less than two outs, such as the first-inning situation in Monday's game.

That said, Abreu's clutch numbers make him look like Babe Ruth when compared to Garcia.

Thus far, Garcia is 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position this season. His slash line is .067/.118/.067 in those situations.

Small sample sizes, yes, but let's not point too many fingers at the young Sox second baseman at this stage. If you want to know why the offense is struggling, look no further than the slow starts by the Sox's two most established run producers -- Abreu and Garcia.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Kansas City's bullpen -- it's not what it used to be

Brandon Maurer
Remember the time when it was a six-inning game against the Kansas City Royals? It wasn't that long ago that they had Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland at the back end of their bullpen.

If you were trailing in the late innings against the Royals, you were done. Plain and simple. Kansas City used that dominant bullpen to win back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015, and it won it all in 2015.

Those days now are gone. Only Herrera remains from that juggernaut bullpen, and he's pitching the ninth inning these days -- not the sixth or the seventh as he did during the Royals' heyday.

And right now, it looks as though Kansas City is going to struggle to get through the seventh and eighth innings and get save opportunities for Herrera.

The White Sox on Saturday victimized Kansas City's setup-man-for-now, Brandon Maurer, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth inning to rally for a 4-3 victory.

Sunday's game was snowed out, so the Sox left Kansas City with a 2-0 record.

With the Sox trailing 3-1, Yoan Moncada started Saturday's rally with a 433-foot home run off Maurer. Two outs, a single and a walk later, Welington Castillo took a 3-0 fastball from Maurer off the right-center field wall for a two-run double to give the Sox a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Give manager Rick Renteria credit for green-lighting Castillo on a 3-0 pitch. It wasn't an obvious call because Castillo was 0 for 8 on the season to that point, while the on-deck hitter in that situation, Tim Anderson, already has two home runs this year.

Bullpen management was the other storyline in this game. Nate Jones worked a scoreless eighth, while Joakim Soria held off Kansas City in the ninth to earn his first save in a Sox uniform.

Is that the way Renteria is going to handle late-inning, high-leverage situations moving forward? Possibly, but not necessarily.

Jones likely is the Sox's best reliever when healthy, and he was summoned to face the heart of the Kansas City order in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda, before a single and flyout concluded the inning.

That left Soria to face the bottom of the order in the ninth, and he worked around a broken-bat single by Alex Gordon and a walk to Jon Jay to get the save.

But what if the bottom of the order had been due up in the bottom of the eighth? Would Renteria still have used Jones, and then gone to Soria to face the top of the Kansas City order in the ninth? We don't know, but I will say I like the idea of using Jones to pitch in the most high-leverage situation.

In this particular game, that situation was the eighth inning, with powerful left-handed hitters Moustakas and Duda coming up for the Royals. Renteria went with Jones, and the move worked out for the Sox in this case.

Friday, March 30, 2018

White Sox tie MLB record with six home runs on Opening Day

Matt Davidson
Let's take a moment to rejoice: It's March 30, and the White Sox are alone in first place in the American League Central Division.

OK, that isn't worth much, but the traditional day off after Opening Day is much more enjoyable when your favorite team's record is 1-0.

I wasn't expecting the Sox to win Thursday, especially with James Shields on the mound, but an offensive onslaught allowed the South Siders to blow out the Kansas City Royals, 14-7.

The Sox hit six home runs on Opening Day, which ties a major league record -- the 1988 New York Mets were the other team to do it. And Matt Davidson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in an opener -- George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) were the others.

Davidson's performance overshadowed a two-homer game for Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu also homered for the Sox.

Indeed, Sox fans are feeling good today, but they weren't feeling so good at 3:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about 13 minutes after the season began. The Sox went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, and Shields put the Sox in a 4-0 hole only four batters into the bottom of the first inning.

Lucas Duda's three-run homer put the Royals ahead 4-0, as the first four Kansas City batters recorded hits. Same old Shields, right.

Well, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the 36-year-old veteran, but after that horrible start, the right-hander settled down and gave up nothing over the next five innings. He got through six innings, allowing only the four runs that came across in the first.

If you would have told me Thursday morning that Shields would get through six innings and give up four runs, I would have taken it. So, I'll take it.

Not to mention, Shields was better than Duffy, who fell apart the second time through the batting order. The Kansas City left-hander battled shoulder problems during spring training, so perhaps he just wasn't ready to go more than a few innings. He limited the Sox to one hit through the first three innings, but the roof caved in on him in the fourth.

Avisail Garcia doubled. Abreu homered. Davidson homered. Anderson homered. Yolmer Sanchez walked. Adam Engel singled. Yoan Moncada doubled. All of a sudden, it was 5-4 Sox, and the rout was on from there.

The Sox added three runs in the fifth, three in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The only concern I have from this game is the struggles of relief pitcher Juan Minaya, who gave up two runs and could not finish the ninth inning. Minaya walked a batter and threw two wild pitches in his two-thirds of an inning, and that wildness has been a pattern going back to his last couple of spring training outings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was 9 for 10 in save opportunities down the stretch in 2017, but I don't think he should be the closer now, with Nate Jones healthy and Joakim Soria also on the roster.

It will be interesting to see how manager Rick Renteria uses the bullpen the first time the Sox are in a late-inning, high-leverage situation.

The Sox have two more games with the Royals this weekend, weather permitting. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will pitch for the Sox at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He'll be opposed by Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy. Reynaldo Lopez gets the start for the Sox at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel.

Monday, January 22, 2018

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

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

The five players are:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.