Author Archives: Connor McKnight

Rodon Has Surgery, Opening Day ’18 In Question

White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn told reporters at Guaranteed Rate Field today that left hander Carlos Rodon underwent arthroscopic surgery to fix a “significant case of bursitis” in his left shoulder. The procedure was preformed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal El Attrache  and Rodon’s tentative timeline for return is in six to eight months. That timeline, obviously, puts his Opening Day status in question. The diagnoses for Rodon, who started the year on the disabled list with bursitis, is about as good as the White Sox could hope for, Hahn said. Rodon’s biceps and labrum were fine and the injury was limited to the bursitis in his shoulder.

In total, Rodon started 12 games for the White Sox in 2017. His season debut didn’t arrive until June 28th as he rehabbed his ailing shoulder in Arizona to start the year. Although his ERA was 4.15 over the 69.1 innings he threw, Rodon was able to lock things in and give White Sox fans a glimpse of his potential for a stretch of six starts from late July into August. Over those six, Rodon went 40 innings with a 2.93 ERA and struck out 48 hitters while walking only 12.

It’s not the first injury for Rodon. He sprained his wrist in the 2016 season, which interrupted a comeback-type second half, and injuries have kept sightings of that type of performances to just a glimpse.

Rodon will turn 25 before the end of the year and, even at such a young age, could very well be the “elder statesman” in the White Sox rotation. Only James Shields, who has one year left on his deal, is older and Rodon, should he make the full recovery that he and the White Sox hope for, has plenty of potential to keep White Sox fans dreaming about his return all winter.

While Rodon heals, the White Sox rebuild rolls on. There are a number of young, talented arms in the minors (Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, and Dane Dunning to name a few) that could push for starts late in the 2018 campaign. How Rodon fits back in will largely be a question of health.

With An Eye Toward the Future

As the season winds down for the White Sox, a few of the younger bats have been heating up. Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Yolmer Sanchez have all been on a run in the final weeks of the 2017 season. They’ve been the kind of runs that, coupled with the continued stellar production from Avi Garcia and Jose Abreu, make you wonder about just how quickly the White Sox rebuild can take shape.

Anderson’s first four months were tough, to say the least. What he had to deal with off the field was tragic and well-documented. In August, once he was able to start sleeping and dealing with the death of his best friend—a brother, nearly—Anderson’s performance on the field began to come around.

He’s picked up 30 points in batting average from August 1st to now. In 41 games, he’s slashed .320/.331/.543 and reminded most of his rookie campaign.

As for Moncada, Jose Abreu has helped in ways other than lineup protection. Although Abreu hitting behind Moncada and doing his best impression of a wrecking ball (.337/.380/.639 over the last two months) can’t hurt. Abreu suggested that Moncada use a lighter bat. A new shipment of lumber arrived for the White Sox rookie in time for the four-game series against the Royals on September 11th.

Since, Moncada has hit .448 over six games. He’s hit two homers and a triple. He’s driven in six and registered multi-hit games in four of the six. Quite simply, he’s been the sensation White Sox fans and front office alike were hoping for.

Yolmer Sanchez, who’s often been one of the younger players at whatever level of the minors he’s competed at, has shown enough extra-base pop to open eyes. His plate discipline has improved by quite a stretch as well. Through his first 687 MLB plate appearances, his OBP sat at .261. This season it seems regular playing time has benefited the 25 year-old infielder. His OBP is up a full 40 points (.320) and he’s added 11 home runs for good measure.

White Sox manager Ricky Renteria has been quick to say that while Sanchez may not be the double-digit home run type in the future, he’s a big proponent of what Yolmer adds defensively—especially at third.

Each of these three players are, to differing degrees, important to the rebuild. Moncada may very-well be the face of the transition. Anderson, perhaps, a potential steadying force. Sanchez, a meaningful bonus. Regardless of import, we’ll watch each try and carry hot finishes into the start of the 2018 season.

Kopech, Jimenez to Visit Future Work Place

Over the next week, top White Sox prospects Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez will visit Guaranteed Rate Field. They’re not being put on the roster, mind you. It’s just a meet and greet for two bright young prospects who may hold the fate of the franchise in their talented hands.

No biggie.

Kopech, who tore through his aggressive AA assignment this season and finished the year with three starts at AAA Charlotte, may be the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. He’ll certainly be in the discussion when the Sox start camp in Glendale in 2018. In fact, White Sox Scouting Director Nick Hosteler has mentioned that Kopech could compete for a job in the Big League rotation while in camp next year.

More likely, because of service time and time tables, Kopech starts the year in Charlotte and gets a full dose of seasoning at the penultimate minor league level. It’s entirely possible he pitches himself into the White Sox rotation come August.

Eloy Jimenez, who handled a late promotion to AA with aplomb, torched minor league pitching this year. He is, now that Yoan Moncada is a major-league regular, the top positional prospect in the White Sox organization. Jimenez was praised by Sox manager Ricky Renteria for putting in a significant amount of work into learning English, and maintaining a positive attitude that permeates through his team. Though, it’s hard to imagine not being positive after slashing .312/.378/.570 across two levels this year.

Giolito Shines on Sunday

White Sox rookie Lucas Giolito took the mound on Sunday looking to be a different guy than he was in his first start of 2017.

In his debut against the Twins, he gave up four runs on three home runs; each homer came on a fastball. The curveball, Giolito said after the start, wasn’t there the way he’d have liked and it forced the young right hander to throw the heater.

In Sunday’s start against the Tigers, which saw Giolito go 7 scoreless innings and give up just three hits, three walks and strike out four, the curveball seemed to have much better shape and command. All in all, it was a big step forward for the young man who started the season reworking his mechanics in AAA. What’s more, the White Sox won their 51st game of the year by beating the Tigers, 7-1.

Especially poignant in Sunday’s game was Giolito’s final inning of work. After retiring Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos to start the inning, he walked Mikie Mattock, gave up a single to John Hicks, and walked Jacoby Jones. It was the biggest trouble-spot of the day.

Manager Ricky Renteria came out to talk with his young charge and, instead of pulling him for a fresh bullpen arm, left him in the game to finish his work.

The next pitch to Jose Iglesias went over the fence in left for a grand slam.

At least, that’s what the umpires thought. Iglesias had pounded a ball, that’s for sure, but it went foul–just a few feet left of the foul pole. The call was reversed, Giolito hung in and got Iglesias to ground out, and the White Sox kept the shutout alive.

It would be Giolito’s last inning but the final lesson learned might have been the most powerful.

As the Sox finish out the month of August and head into September, Giolito’s starts (as well as Reynaldo Lopez’ once he’s off the disabled list) are the can’t-miss games for the Sox. As they develop and begin to mesh with Carlo Rodon, the White Sox could get a large piece of the puzzle figured out.

Everything Must Go

The White Sox continued flipping major-league assets with the late night trade of reliever Tyler Clippard to the Astros Sunday night. Clippard, who worked just 10 innings for the White Sox after coming over in a seven-player trade with the Yankees on July 19th, was moved for a player to be named later or cash.

Despite a decent track record of success (2.78 ERA in 527.1 IP from 2010-2016), Clippard’s 2017 started like a nightmare. In 46.1 innings with the Yankees, Clippard logged a 4.27 ERA, the Yankees saw leads evaporate and fans lost patience at a record pace–even for Yankee fans. Still, after coming over to the White Sox, Clippard worked his bread-and-butter change-up back into shape and was reliable enough (10 IP, 2 ER, 10 K, 5 BB).

While the quality of player (or amount of money) the White Sox receive will certainly depend on Clippard’s performance down the stretch for Houston, credit GM Rick Hahn for moving a short-term asset for, well, anything.

It seems likely that Dylan Covey, whose been rehabbing at AAA Charlotte, will come up to take Clippard’s spot. Covey, who started the year as the fifth man in the White Sox rotation, is a Rule 5 pick and needs to be on the 25-man roster or be returned to Oakland at the end of the year.

-Jimenez Rakes

Eloy Jimenez, the power-laden outfielder who headlined the Jose Quintana trade, was having a wonderful season before being traded to the White Sox. Since the deal, he’s been nothing short of incredible. Over 100 at-bats with the Winston-Salem Dash, Jimenez has slashed .380/.446/.750. He’s hit eight home runs–the same number he’d hit in the 155 at-bats prior to the trade. It’s entirely possible that he’s ready for the test at double-A but the White Sox have said, many times, they’re not interested in rushing prospects through this rebuilding process.

And Soon, Lopez?

The 2017 trade deadline was the end of the first chapter of the White Sox rebuild. While there may be an addendum or two with potential sign-and-trades in the year or two to come, the means to acquire young talent are, mostly, spent. The next chapter will be spent figuring out which young talent will make it in the MLB. While Yoan Moncada seems destined to have the staring role in that part of the drama, there will be others. The next could be Reynaldo Lopez.

While guest speaking at Boston’s Saber Seminar over the weekend, GM Rick Hahn teased that Friday could be the debut of Lopez. He seems ready. While Lucas Giolito may have more prospect shine and Carson Fulmer has had big league experience with the White Sox, Lopez has been the most consistent starter for the AAA Charlotte Knights this season. That’s not to say Lopez is without flash. Over his last five starts, he’s thrown 30 innings, struck out 38 and held a 2.38 ERA. He was voted as the White Sox Minor League Player of the Month in July and has impressed both teammates and coaches with his cool, collected character.

When Lopez makes his White Sox debut, he’ll be pitching for his second MLB team. Lopez worked 44 innings for the Washington Nationals last season. He started six games and relieved in one while also throwing two innings of relief in Game Four of the NLDS against the Dodgers. 2016 saw Lopez miss a fair amount of bats (42 strikeouts in the regular season) but miss a the strike zone too often, as well (22 walks). Lack of command has been, as it is with so many young pitchers, the developmental issue for Lopez thus far. While nothing is a bigger tell than the GM of a team telling fans to buy tickets for Friday night against the Royals, Lopez’ walk numbers since the start of June do a fair amount of talking. He’s given a free pass to 22 hitters over 11 starts (62 innings). Just for the sake of quick review–Lopez walked 4.5 per nine in his 44 innings with the Nationals last season. In his first two months at AAA this year, he walked 5.65 per nine. Since the start of June, the rate has dropped to 3.19 per nine.

Reynaldo Lopez may well have little left to prove at AAA.

Should the White Sox bring him up for Friday’s start, it’s possible he could get 10 or even 12 starts in the remainder of the season. Last season, he threw 155.1 total innings across three levels (AA, AAA and MLB). He’s logged 121 innings so far this season so, when Hahn announces the move, it’s fair to wonder wether an innings cap will be thrown on top of Lopez’ new White Sox lid; the team a has preached patience with their new horde of top-tier talent.

Another question asked will be about how the rest of the rotation will change. With Mike Pelfrey, Derek Holland and James Shields all struggling to get out of the fifth innings on a regular basis, one wonders whether simply adding a sixth man (Lopez) into the rotation might just be easiest on everyone. It’d space out long relief work for a beleaguered bullpen and help Lopez ease into his first go in the Sox rotation.

Either way, listen to Rick Hahn. Maybe buy tickets for Friday night.

White Sox Trade Melky Cabrera to Royals

By Connor McKnight, WLS-AM News

(CHICAGO) Just before Sunday’s game against the Indians, the White Sox completed their sixth trade since the start of 2017. This time, Melky Cabrera, and cash, was sent to the Kansas City Royals for two pitchers, A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis. Meekly is the ninth player to be traded by GM Rick Hahn since the team began the rebuilding process this winter. In all, the six trades have returned 19 prospects to the organization–10 of whom are rated in the top 100 Prospects by MLB.com.

Melky, one of the last tradable assets on the 25-man roster, was a leader in the club house and professional hitter. Since the start of June, Cabrera slashed .325/.358/.483 and played a solid, if unorthodox, left field for the White Sox.

After announcing the trade, the White Sox reinstated Leury Garcia from the DL. Garcia had been on the shelf since June 16th with a finger sprain and went 0-4 in his lone rehab game at AAA Charlotte on Saturday night. Garcia was then subbed into the lineup for Cabrera.

The MLB Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CST on Monday afternoon. The White Sox could, theoretically, still trade a player or two. Miguel Gonzalez has pitched well since coming off the DL (three starts, 19.1 IP, 2.33 ERA) and could be a piece added to the back-end of a contender’s rotation or even into the bullpen. Infielders Yolmer Sanchez and Tyler Saladino have show enough defensive ability to be a utility player on any team although their offensive potential may not boost their trade value all that much.

Jose Abreu is unlikely to move but has produced enough at the plate that a team could make an offer for him. Whether the White Sox would move a player that, with all the trades, has become the center and heart of the clubhouse is a fair question.

 

@ 2017 WLS-AM Sports

Crosstown Connections

The press box at Wrigley Field is very small.

The place was built just before the rise of the Roman Empire, however, and back then there were no cameras. Radio was, essentially, two tin cans connected by string. Broadcasters just didn’t need that much space to spread the word of baseball from town to town.

Despite its small size, the Executive Producer of White Sox baseball on WLS-AM 890, managed to secure a secondary booth high atop the perch of this ancient and austere baseball palace. From this distance, the smell of last night’s beer on the concourse fades all the way into memory.

For whatever reason–maybe the punctuated silence of the neighborhood at this hour, perhaps the rumbling of the Red Line in the distance but, more likely, the recent trade the two clubs made–I’ve been thinking about the connected histories of these teams.

From this chair, the first that comes to mind is Steve Stone. Stone, of course, played for both clubs and broadcast for both clubs. Stone might just be the best analyst in the business and is a more than competent play-by-play man, to boot. From Stone, the natural jump is to Harry Caray. It’s always strikes me as odd that Caray, started with the Cardinals, left for the White Sox, and landed with the Cubs. As far as those fandoms go, it’s pretty incongruous group. The fact that Caray was, I think, welcomed by all only adds to his legend.

Ron Santo’s legacy in this ballpark is palpable. As a player and broadcaster for the Cubs, he was and still is loved. Santo, of course, was traded to the Sox in 1973 for, among others, Steve Stone.

Bill Veeck, a man whose hand shaped the history of the White Sox franchise as much as any other, has connections deep into the ground at Wrigley. First, his father, Bill Veek Sr., was president of the Cubs from 1919 until 1933. Veeck, Jr. planted the ivy in the outfield. He was also the brainchild of the exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park.

Probably, you knew most of this. It’s entirely possible you knew all of it.

The next chapter of the White Sox-Cubs relationship, however, was just given a title. The Jose Quintana trade.

It remains to be seen exactly how critical the deal will be to each side. Odds are, however, it’s much more impactful than the last trade the two sides made. (Neal Cotts for David Aardsma in 2006.) Just yesterday, Quintana pitched well (and won) a game against the Cubs division rival, the Cardinals. While the White Sox have lost nine in a row, Eloy Jimenez had the first five-hit game of his career for the White Sox high A affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash. Jimenez had two singles, two doubles and a dinger.

While they may be headed down different roads for the time being, history has taught us that their paths will cross again.

So Long, Q

Just one day before the start of the second half, the White Sox had their druthers in the most dramatic way possible. The White Sox traded Jose Quintana, their most valuable trade asset, to the Cubs for a top-tier package of prospects headlined by the MLB.com’s 8th-ranked Eloy Jimenez. Since the end of January, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was asked what it would take to move Jose Quintana. He was asked when it would happen. He was asked, coyly, if he’d ever deal with the Cubs. Today, there were answers.

On a conference call, Hahn expressed how hard it was to make the phone call and tell Quintana he’d been traded. “There was no part of this call to trade Q that I enjoyed,” Hahn said. The White Sox picked up Quintana as a minor-league free agent. Those pick ups never work out. Never. The Sox identified a talent. They molded him. Quintana worked as hard as anyone could ask and more.

By trading Quintana, the White Sox have added more into their pipeline. Jimenez, a massive corner outfielder, gives the White Sox their 7th top-100 prospect. It’s now becoming an embarrassment of riches throughout the White Sox system. Dylan Cease, the next best player in the deal, becomes the next in a growing line of White Sox minor league arms who hit triple digits on the radar gun.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the trade is the actual surprise of the trade.

No one had this. It was announced via press release. There were no leaks. There were no hints. There were no unnamed sources. Like a minor-league free agent panning out, that never happens.

There was, seemingly, many suitors for Quintana. Hahn told reporters there were multiple clubs interested–including teams who are not currently in contention. “Theo and I exchanged texts shortly after the draft about potential fits,” Hahn said. Sunday morning before the All Star game is when conversations really started to move. Hahn said he told the Cubs things were getting hot around Quintana and that it was time to act if they wanted him. Jimenez would need to be in the deal, however. “[There was] nothing for us to talk about with Cubs without Eloy in the deal,” Hahn said.

The trade reinforces the White Sox rebuild. Quintana is a top-of-the-rotation arm the Cubs desperately need for this season and beyond. Hopefully, for both teams, it’s a win-win.

Word was that the White Sox and Cubs would never do a deal. Hahn called that notion “somewhat laughable.” The White Sox front office is in the business of making the best deal possible. It’s devoted to setting up the long-term success of the club and, to that end, nothing is off the table. There is still work to do before the deadline at the end of the month. The Sox may well deal more talent to bolster a preposterously strong minor league system. One thing is for sure; the biggest headline has been made.

 

 

No. 56 Gets its Place in History

Mark Buehrle Day had all the fanfare he never really wanted. Sometimes, though, a celebration needs fanfare regardless.

With Hawk Harrelson leading the parade, Buehrle was joined on the field by family and friends, teammates and trainers, coaches and chairmen. He spoke, briefly but earnestly, about his appreciation and genuine awe about the honor being given to him. For a guy who said time and time again he hates public speaking, he seemed comfortable–if overwhelmed–by his latest chance to perform at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle’s career is filled with unbelievable fun facts. He was cut by his high school team–twice. He was drafted in the 38th round. He never threw a 95 mph fastball. He threw a complete game in the World Series–and earned a save. He threw over 200 innings in 14 of his 16 big league seasons. The only two in which he failed to throw 200+ were his rookie season (in which he was mostly a reliever) and his final season (where he threw on two-days rest on the final day of the season needing two innings to hit the mark).

Despite a lack of swing-and-miss stuff, Buehrle threw a no-hitter and a perfect game. He logged 27 career complete games–one of them in the 2005 World Series. That championship, he said, was the greatest achievement of his career. It’s an achievement reached by a team, not just one man. A fitting choice for Buehrle.

Once at the podium to speak to fans, Buehrle called up his wife and two children to stand by his side. He acknowledged them all for their help and support through his career. As he moved on to the next part of his speech, the other three Buehrles went to sit back down. “Where are you all going?” Buehlre said. “I didn’t tell you to sit down yet,” he joked.

There they stood, the four of them, as Buehrle wrapped up his thank-yous.

No. 56 was finally unveiled on the facade behind home plate. It’s up there forever, now. Alongside Nellie Fox, Harlod Baines, Luke Appling, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Paul Konerko, Ted Lyons, Billy Pierce, Frank Thomas, and Carlton Fisk.

He’ll always be welcome at the park. He’ll come back into the fold sooner or later. Just as soon as he’s had enough time with his family. They haven’t told him to go sit down just yet.

Sox Draft Power and Discipline

With the 11th and 49th pick in the Monday night’s MLB draft, the White Sox added two players to their budding minor league talent pool. Taken at 11 was third baseman Jake Burger out of Missouri State while pick 49 was Gavin Sheets, a first baseman out of Wake Forest.

Burger was ranked as the best third baseman in the draft and was the first hot corner defender taken. The White Sox believe he has the ability to stick at third defensively. Power, however, is Burger’s calling card.

“Jake was the guy we identified early in the process, back with Team USA, as being a guy that we felt had the best right-handed power in the country,” White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Nick Hosteler said. “Last year we feel like we added the best left-handed power in the country (catcher Zach Collins). This year we added the best right-handed power in the country. We identified Jake early and he was a guy, hit-wise, that was exactly what we wanted to do as an organization.

Burger piled up some meaty numbers in his three seasons with the Bears with a career slash line of .339/.420/.620. In 710 at-bats he posted 47 home runs and 79 walks against 102 strike outs. In 2017, he walked 43 times and struck out 38 times with a .328/.443/.648 slash line and 22 home runs in 247 at-bats.

Power would be the theme of the night. Sheets pounded 20 home runs in in 227 at-bats his final year at Wake Forest. He also put up a .322/.429/.634 slash line and walked more than he struck out (44 walks versus 33 strike outs).

Hostetler has said a number of times that the White Sox are reshaping their organization with plate-discipline throughout the minor leagues. Whether Zach Collins with their first pick of last year’s draft or, now Burger and Sheets, the idea seems to be grabbing bats that know their way around the strike zone and what pitches they can do damage on. In that regard, Burger and Sheets fit cleanly into a talent-packed system that, prior to this draft, was heavier on arms than hitters.

 

Injuries Are Zero Fun

While the White Sox have done a more than fair job of keeping their heads above water as arm after arm hits the disabled list, the mounting injuries have certainly left many wanting for more.

It’s not just the White Sox dealing with bumps, bruises and busted bones. The best player on the planet, Mike Trout, and the pitcher with the best stuff on earth, Noah Syndergaard, are both banged up. As are countless other super stars, critical pieces, crucial role players, and indispensable bullpen arms.

The White Sox, with Carlos Rodon, Charlie Tilson, James Shields, Nate Jones, Geovany Soto, Tyler Saladino, Dylan Covey, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, and Michael Ynoa all on the DL, are only middle-of-the-pack in terms of DL trips made. (Leading MLB with 24 DL trips, the Dodgers are either having the worst luck of all time or abusing a new system.)

The White Sox aren’t even at the top in terms of quality of injured player. Other teams have lost luminaries (Trout, Syndergaard, Robinson Cano, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Madison Bumgarner). Still, for the Sox, the players they’ve lost had significant importance to this season.

Rodon was on track to have 2017 become a potential breakout season. He could still evolve as a pitcher but it won’t be more than 150 innings worth of work at this point. Jones, Putnam, and Shields all could have had varying trade value to various teams. With the Sox still looking to deal, losing innings on those arms doesn’t help. With injury comes opportunity, however. It’s possible that injuries to bullpen arms opened the door to both Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak getting extended, high-leverage looks.

There’s still two months until the trade deadline, however, and it seems like the White Sox are trending toward getting healthier than not. This season, that’s all a team can ask.

Luis Robert and the White Sox Make It Official

News White Sox fans knew was coming for the better part of a week was made official by the White Sox on Saturday morning. They announced the signing of Cuban OF prospect Luis Robert and, in so doing, put another tentpole in the ground for the continual construction of their minor-league pipeline.

Robert, who will be ranked somewhere in the 20-30 range of the top 100 prospects in baseball, won’t make an immediate impact in the states, however. GM Rick Hahn told reporters today that Robert will start his White Sox career in the Dominican Summer League; Robert currently lives in the Dominican Republic.  The reasons for starting Robert in the DSL are multi-fold (and include a tax break) but they center on his not having played competitive baseball since last July due to the immigration process.

The connection the White Sox organization was able to create with Robert–through coaches, players and front office members–seemingly played a giant role in his closing to play on the South Side. Prior to Game One of Saturday’s double header, Robert threw out the first pitch. Behind home plate was Jose Abreu, Cuban Legend.

The Sox Cuban ties are deep. From Minnie Minoso to Abreu, the Sox have a tangible past to work with. Plus, manager Ricky Renteria is bilingual and featured prominently in a recruiting video that was used to pitch Robert.

WLS’s Catherine Garcia will have more on the day–including comments from Robert–in her piece this week. As always, you can check out the White Sox Weekly podcast on WLSAM.com. Rick Hahn’s opening statement about the signing are on the show.

The Only Yolmer in the Game

Yolmer Sanchez has been a killer on the auto correct of many a White Sox beat writer since day one of Spring Training. Yolmer (whose name my auto correct wants to change to Holmer) is the only Yolmer to have ever played Major League Baseball. Yolmer is an up-beat, positive guy in the clubhouse. He seems to always call people “my friend,” whether he knows their name or not. Yolmer has been a favorite of White Sox manager Ricky Renteria since the latter took the job… and possibly even before. It’s possible it’s because of the former’s personality but, more likely, because of his production.

Yolmer (I’m going to buck convention and keep using his first name in this post so as to teach my auto correct a lesson) has been an everyday player since April 25th. The Sox have played 22 games over that stretch and Yolmer has started 15 and played in 19. Over the 61 at bats he’s accrued in that run, he’s slashing .361/.412/.475.

Two immediate issues have allowed for Yolmer to take the bulk of the playing time since the April showers turned to… well… May showers.

One: The White Sox have been desperate for left handed production in the lineup. As a switch hitter, Yolmer provides in that department. Renteria has hit Yolmer mostly in the two- or seven-spot in the lineup and, while the Sox really could use a left hander who’s a middle-of-the-order thumper, it’s worked out well.

Two: Tyler Saladino, despite taking the second longest average at-bats for the White Sox this year (4.45 pitches per plate appearance, a rate that would be good for a top-five placement in MLB if he was qualified with enough PAs), hasn’t been able to put the ball in play enough. Saladino has walked plenty (13 walks is second on the team, behind Omar Narvaez and Todd Frazier) but his 34 strikeouts (also good for third on the team, behind Matt Davidson and Tim Anderson) have been too much to bear.

That brings us to the tipping point, perhaps, on Yolmer. He hasn’t walked a whole lot—just six times in 99 trips—but his 21 K’s are somewhat concerning. That Yolmer likes to swing isn’t a bad thing in a vacuum, it’s just that the White Sox have plenty of hitters who fit that description.

While the White Sox wait for Yoan Moncada (heir to the keystone and potential usurper of Most Popular White Sox Whose First Name Starts With A ‘Y’) it will be interesting to see how quickly Renteria shuffles his options at second base.

My Right Arm for a Lefty Bat

Over the course of the White Sox six-game losing streak, runs have been tough to come by. No kidding, right? That’s what makes a losing streak. Still even when the White Sox have clicked, there’s been a glaring deficiency: A lefty bat.

Friday night against Jhoulys Chacin, the White Sox two-through-six hitters were all right handed. Chacin, also, is right handed. The White Sox entered the game hitting .218 off right handed pitching–last in the league. The White Sox two-through-six went 2-15 with one walk and three strikeouts against right handed pitching. The White Sox could really use a lefty bat.

That’s not so say they don’t have just such bats. After starting hot with two doubles in the season opener and steady work through April, it’s been a rough May for Melky Cabrera. Melky (who’s obviously a switch hitter) has much better numbers against right handers (.256/.308/.341) this year than left handers (.182/.250/.273) but neither slash line really jumps off the page. That such a veteran and versatile bat has been cold to start the year has been tough for the Sox to swallow. Good news is Melky is hardly striking out. Perhaps it’s just a run of the mill slump. After a putting up a .289/.429/.667 slash line in Spring Training, Cody Asche looked like he might give the White Sox some of the balance they needed. At least he’d be counted on to give a competitive at-bat in a platoon split with Matt Davidson in the corner/DH role but Asche’s struggles have been mighty and lengthy. Yolmer Sanchez gives a bit of pop off the bench and in situational roles but the switch-hitting, sawed-off utility man is buried behind Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson in the middle of the infield and, Matt Davidson and Todd Frazier at third.

Omar Narvaez has been productive, but in a very unsurprising way. His .377 OBP is second on the team (Avisail Garcia is first at .382) but he simply doesn’t hit for power. Don’t get me wrong, a .260 average and a .380 on-base is just fine for a backstop but it seems the plan all along was to have Narvaez work in a time share with Geovany Soto (now Kevan Smith with Soto on the DL for the second time). That plan, too, makes sense as Narvaez has just 388 plate appearances above high A ball with 183 of those coming in The Show. How nuts is that? Kind of makes you look at ‘ol Omar (he’s 25) in a different light.

Which brings us to another switch hitter: Leury Garcia. The Middle Garcia. After plugging two home runs in Friday night’s loss to the Padres, the Median Garcia is hitting .304/.343/.489. It gives him the second highest average, the third highest on-base, and the third highest slugging percentage on the White Sox this year. Leury the Middlemost has never hit for power. Ever. His career slugging percentage in the minor leagues is .275 though, to be fair, he did hit the crap out of the ball in the 2011 Arizona Fall League (.361/.379/.590). Right now, past be damned, Leury might be the most intriguing player on the White Sox. He just turned 26. He can handle at least three and possibly up to six positions at major-league average caliber. He has raked. His strikeout rate, which was at 27 percent all through his minor league career and 33 percent in all of his major league time, is at 14 percent this year. Fourteen percent! That’s in the DJ LeMahieu-Francisco Lindor-Ian Kinsler-Anthony Rizzo range.

I have no idea if Leury can rise above the Mean and become Leury the… well… other meaning of mean. Odds are, no, he can’t keep up this kind of production. But, hell, every early-season column ends up with that same conclusion and that’s absolutely no fun. So, for now, enjoy what we’re watching and just maybe the White Sox have helped Leury elevate from the middle ground.

The White Sox’ Future Is Close

Yoan Moncada wore a White Sox hoodie throughout infield practice in Indianapolis on Monday. While it didn’t exactly seem like a statement from baseball’s top prospect, it didn’t look out of place, either.

Moncada, who had plenty of Chicago press coming to see him and the Knights take on the Indianapolis Indians, just finished the kind of week that turns heads. He was 11-for-22 (.500) with two homers, a double, four RBIs and eight runs scored over six games. That’s incredible work. His coaches say his defense at second has improved. His teammates say he’s come out of his shell (he’s a bit of a quiet guy) and is a joy to have in the clubhouse, regardless of how much noise he makes (or doesn’t). White Sox fans say they’d prefer he play his home games on the South Side, rather than in the South.

The fans, it seems, will have to wait. On May 15th, the calendar turns on Moncada. At that point, the White Sox will have saved enough time in the minors to keep control of Moncada for seven seasons. It will be some time shortly after the All Star break, when the Super Two deadline passes. That’s a more complicated return for the Sox but, essentially, they’ll save a payment of about $10 million if they wait until the end of July to move Moncada up north.

While the circumstances surrounding the arrival of Moncada are far from unique (the Cubs faced the same situation with Kris Bryant, the Astros with Carlos Correa, the Indians with Francisco Lindor), the player might be. Moncada received a massive amount of money for signing with the Red Sox in 2015. Bryant, Correa, and Lindor were all drafted; their bonuses carefully capped by a CBA that works to keep teams from spending too much.

There are boxes for Moncada to check in AAA, however. It’s not a mere shell game keeping him from the Keystone at 35th and Shields. He strikes out quite a bit–right around the 30% mark for his minor league career. Typically, you can count on an increase of a few percentage points when a player moves up to the Bigs. That would be, as they say, a lot of strikeouts. Ideally, the Sox would like to see him decrease the swing and miss.

Also, as GM Rick Hahn is fond of pointing out, Moncada (who turns 22 at the end of the month) has just over 300 at-bats above A ball. That, as they say, just isn’t a lot. In baseball, there is concrete value in repetition.

Right now, Moncada’s repetition will be dominating AAA pitchers. If he wants to wear a White Sox hoodie the entire time, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with it.

The White Sox Bullpen has been Nails

We’re closing in on a month of baseball. We can still say “It’s early,” but that window is closing. Trends are starting to solidify. Themes are starting to build. You get the point.

There is nothing so volatile in baseball as the bullpen so even making this observation is, perhaps, foolhardy but… The White Sox bullpen has been nails.

Let’s start from the back. David Roberston has thrown 7.2 innings, recorded five saves in five chances, struck out 13 of 29 batters faced and holds a WHIP of .783. He’s produced like the David Robertson of old. Or, at least, not the 2016 version. While Nate Jones seemed to take a few outings to round back into form, he’s achieved his requisite nastiness. If you take Jones’ first three outings (3.1 IP, 4 BB, 2 ER, .364 BA) and toss them by the wayside, his numbers look a lot like Robertson’s. Eight and a third innings, a 1.08 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 33 batters faced. Anthony Swarzak has been a revelation. Not only has he struck out over a third of the batters he’s faced (14 of 38), he’s walked exactly one hitter. He put up a stretch of 18 consecutive hitters retired. He’s given length to the ‘pen by pitching multiple innings in five of his eight outings. Considering the White Sox rotation has had some shorter (albeit decent enough) starts from Derek Holland and James Shields, getting length out the pen has been necessary. With Shields joining Carlos Rodon on the DL and Mike Pelfrey working to get back into shape and deeper in games, length is even more than that.

And let’s not leave out Tommy Kahnle. He’s striking out 18/9 IP. That’s bananas. Kahnle and I talked last Saturday on White Sox Weekly about the mechanical changes he’s made to his delivery. There are a few small tweaks that have helped him throw strikes at a far, far higher rate than ever before. Couple that with his velocity ticking up into the triple digits and you’ve got an arm that even the big national writers can’t ignore.

Seriously. Check it out. This is big-time, smart baseball stuff: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-white-sox-have-had-one-of-the-best-pitchers-on-the-planet/

The Sox bullpen isn’t even healthy. They lost Jake Petricka to a lat strain after just one outing and Zach Putnam is back on the DL with an elbow issue. There’s no telling when either will be back. Putnam was part of the Nails Brigade while he was healthy, however. His performance (8.2 IP, .346 WHIP) speaks for itself but his ability to pitch to right or left handed batters made the bullpen more versatile.

Like all “It’s early” observations, this one comes with the same caveat: They probably can’t all keep this up. These are staggering rates at an individual level. Having them all in the same bullpen? Even more so. Baseball will turn even the most heart-warming story into a mid-June fizzle but, for now, the White Sox bullpen has been nails.

Holland Throwing with Dutch Courage

Through four starts with the White Sox, Derek Holland’s fastball has sat right around 93 mph. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ninety-three miles per hour is a perfectly acceptable velocity to throw in the big leagues. What’s a little curious is where Holland is throwing with that type of velocity (and the rest of his arsenal, for that matter) and the effectiveness he’s found while doing it.

Holland, a left-hander, is trying to bounce back from various injuries in his age-30 season. He’s completed six innings in three of four starts so far this season. His ERA is a sparkling 1.99. (Though it would have been higher had MLB not gone back and ruled Jose Abreu committed an error April 17th against the Yankees. That miscue took five runs off Holland’s sheet.) His K/9 are up at 7.5. His BB/9 (3.6) are up a bit, too.

Holland is working inside to right handers. Repeatedly. Without pause. Often. All the time. That’s the game plan he’s developed. That’s the game plan he’s stuck with. For the most part, it’s worked.

Holland isn’t just throwing the fastball in to righties, either. At 93 it’d be dangerous to work in with just one pitch–especially when that pitch, if it leaks over to the middle of the plate, becomes much more hittable. He’s throwing his slider, curve and change in on the right hander, as well.

In his first start of the year against the Twins, when he hit his spots more often than not, he punched out five over six innings. In his latest start against the Indians, when he hit his spots and got some calls from home plate umpire Dan Belino, he punched out six over six. That April 17th start against the Yankees, when he missed his spots and wasn’t getting a call here or there, he gave up seven runs, albeit two of them earned.

It’s a high-risk, high-reward type approach that takes conviction and repetition to pull off. If Holland’s command stays where it is, it looks like he’ll be able to pull of this hybrid mix of crafty lefty (throwing everything but the kitchen sink) and working inside. If he excels at it and his velocity stays at the workable 93 mph range, it might be fair to wonder if another team would ask the White Sox about trading the courageous left-hander.

Fear Not Joy, Baseball Fans

Chicago White Sox’ Matt Davidson celebrates his solo home run off Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Ryan Pressly as he heads to the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, April 14, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

By Connor McKnight

Don’t fret over dingers.

That’s the best advice I can give you after two weeks of baseball
I’ll explain.
Whether it’s in phone calls to the Post Game Show or tweets to the Mailbag, there have been some White Sox fans worrying themselves over quality production from Avisail Garcia and/or Matt Davidson. Both players, it seems, come with their own, individual hang-ups. I’ll see if I can describe them to you.
“But Garcia has ALWAYS been streaky! He’s been through weeks like this before where he looks like the second coming and then, all of a sudden, he turns into empty at-bats and all the swing and miss you can handle. Why should I be excited about him now?”
For Davidson, it’s a bit different: “Sure, a .909 slugging percentage is wonderful but what about that 50% strikeout rate? There’s no way he’s worth getting hyped over.”
Early baseball does weird things to everyone. My best advice, though admittedly it’s probably more patronizing than you’d like, is to not worry about it. Just let yourself enjoy it for a little bit. Let the weirdness of the small sample size wash over you, secure in the knowledge that a month from now, we’ll have numbers attached to players that firmly constitute their worth and tell us exactly what we’ve been dying to know for months… probably.
There’s no mistaking the fact that the White Sox have, by and large, pitched themselves to right around the .500 mark. The bullpen has been fantastic and holding slim leads while the Sox starters have only once taken a game into the seventh inning (Jose Quintana’s second start of the year). The offense hasn’t exactly achieved the “feast or famine” cliche–even in low scoring games, the Sox have gotten runners on to threaten. It has, however, lived and died on the power bats of three players; Garcia, Davidson and Geovany Soto. With Soto on the DL with elbow inflammation, the list gets thinner. Still, my advice is revel in the little things.
For instance on Friday night, Davidson, facing Ryan Pressly’s 97 mph heater, looked absolutely lost through four pitches. Pressly had thrown a clean first inning, striking out two, and looked in command of his breaking stuff and the fastball. Davidson tipped the first pitch, a 93 mph fastball foul. The second, another fastball, perfectly hit the low and away corner of the strike zone for strike two. Davidson, now 0-2, managed to lay off pitch high and away that could have easily been called strike three. It wasn’t, and by the grace of the baseball gods, Davidson would see another pitch. The fourth, a curveball low and away, was a waste-pitch that anyone could have seen coming. Davidson took and prepared for the 2-2. Mind you, he hasn’t seemed comfortable, taken a quality swing or had a quality take all at-bat. The closest things got were knowing on 1-2, after three straight fastballs, a breaking ball was coming.
The fifth pitch of the at-bat was a belt-high 90 mph slider that did anything but. Davidson pounced, rode it out to right field, and gave the Sox the 2-1 lead.
Watching Davidson, strikeout problems and all, hang in an at-bat he seemingly had no right to be in and STILL drive a mistake pitch out of the ball park is a blast. It can be for you, too.
I don’t mean to just whistle Dixie. It would be nice to see Tim Anderson lower his sights some and lay off the high fastball. Todd Frazier seemed to just start taking quality hacks before food poisoning took him (and his lunch) from where they were supposed to be. Tyler Saladino has had some incredibly patient at bats but has yet to be completely rewarded for solid contact. Jacob May is yet to get a hit.
These are things you’re right to want to turn around and smart to keep an
Connor McKnight is the pre- and post-game host for Chicago White Sox baseball on WLS-AM 890. He also hosts White Sox Live, a weekend radio podcast .

It’s Been One Week

Although the White Sox haven’t played as many games as they’d planned through a week of the season, there’s plenty to dig in and digest. Obviously, we’ll have to wait a bit longer–at least one full trip through the rotation would be nice–to make any grand statements but here’s what popped most in the Sox first three games.

–Jose Quintana will probably be just fine. He gave up six runs on three home runs against the Tigers. First, he never gives up three home runs. Second, he hasn’t matched up well against the Tigers in the past. Third, with the rainout on Wednesday, the Sox have the chance to start Quintana three times and skip the as-yet technically unnamed fifth starter. They’ll do just that. Q will be fine.

–Matt Davidson hit a 428-foot home run in his first at-bat of the year. He rounded all the bases, did not get hurt, and finished the game. That did not happen after his only at-bat last season. It’s been a long, long road to the Major Leagues after being acquired from the Diamondbacks in 2013. Davidson did not have a good spring, by any measure. He had a fantastic first game and, if nothing else, can take that confidence and run with it.

–Tyler Saladino has seemed extra patient in the leadoff spot. His eye has been sharp, his takes have been keen and when he’s swung early (like belting the second pitch of the game Friday night against Phil Hughes deep to center) he hit the ball hard (but was robbed by Byron Buxton who made a preposterous catch).

–James Shields’ velocity is up. That may mean a lot, if it’s true. Fangraphs.com has an excellent article up about velocity across baseball and how it’s being measured this year as opposed to last. Whether he’s throwing harder or not, he got swings and misses on the fastball in his first start. That simply did not happen last season.

–Geovany Soto became the seventh player in MLB history to homer twice in a game for both the White Sox and the Cubs. The others are Ron Santo, Jay Johnstone, Vance Law, George Bell, Sammy Sosa and WLS’ own Darrin Jackson.

–Jake Petricka will start, pretty much, on the DL this year. A lat strain has sidelined the right hander after just one appearance. He was healthy this offseason after hip surgery put him on the shelf all last season. His absence hurt the Sox as they careened out of contention last year. Hopefully, he gets back quickly. His ability to throw ground balls is an asset to the bullpen.

There’s more but we’ll leave it there for now. Catch all the latest on the Sox live on White Sox Weekly or check the podcast.

Opening Day is Upon Us

When the White Sox hit the field to start the 2017 season at Guaranteed Rate, the wait for baseball will be over. There will be more waiting, however, as rumors of franchise altering trades have persisted through spring.

Pieces of the organization’s future will certainly be seen. The Sox anointed Tim Anderson as a franchise short stop with a long term extension. When he’s healthy, Carlos Rodon will work to prove himself an Ace.
Others, like Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson, are ties to the past with clear impact on the future. When and if the veterans are traded, the analysis of the prospect haul will begin anew. So far, the players received from the Red Sox and Nationals in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades have gone through a fairly typical national reception.
First, the hauls were lauded. Then, expectations were tempered by the Sox front office with GM Rick Hahn telling all who would listen that prospects would be given time to grow in the minors. Call-up dates were pondered and calendar dates circled by fans and press. Prospects were reevaluated after spring training performances that may or may not mean anything.
It’s baseball as usual.
The gravity of this season can’t be denied. The White Sox have laid out the path they’re on. There’s been no mincing of words. Watching minor league results and trade rumors will be as much a part of evaluating on field talent.
For our part, on the Post Game Show and White Sox Weekly, we know that’s where the focus will be. We’ll bring you updates from Charlotte, Birmingham, WInston-Salem, and Kannapolis. We’ll talk trade rumors and entertain trade ideas from fans.
While the business of rebuilding a franchise is a serious one, let’s not forget that baseball is fun and there’s fun to be had while a young team grows. We won’t discourage that.
So, Sox fans, through the cold (and rain?) of opening day through the trade deadline and barreling through the dog days of August, we want you involved with the broadcast here on WLS. The Sox have chosen to reshape the franchise and you can come along for the ride with us.

Ricky Renteria Pleased with Lopez’ Start to Spring

Reynaldo Lopez showed White Sox fans the flash and promise that’s followed him through his minor league career in his second Cactus League start Monday. While Lopez was wild in the first inning, he harnessed the fastball and made quick work of the Diamondbacks in the second and third inning.

Manager Ricky Renteria went over Lopez’ start to spring and reiterated the team’s desire to start him in the minors–likely at AAA and definitely in the rotation.

Big Day for News with Young Sox Pitchers

Sunday was a day full of news for three young pitchers in White Sox camp. The oldest of the news-making trio, Carlos Rodon, threw his second bullpen session. He threw 35 pitches (and felt, presumably, much better than while throwing his first bullpen of the year) and seemed to focus on the changeup. Rodon will throw his first live batting practice on Wednesday and could make his Cactus League debut as soon as March 13th against the Indians. The White Sox maintain that the schedule for Rodon has him on track to make a start in the first time through the rotation.

The youngest of the three pitchers, Michael Kopech, was slated to work against the Diamondbacks on Sunday but had his work rescheduled for Tuesday. Kopech, who gave up four earned in one inning of work in his first start, will throw 3 innings in a simulated game. The idea is to control the conditions of Kopech’s outing and allow him to work on specific pitches in addition to getting stretched out more. The move doesn’t shift the high expectations the Sox have for Kopech as he’s still one of the brightest stars in the system. Still, the plan was always for him to start in the minors–perhaps AA or even high A.

The middle child, Reynaldo Lopez, debut his electric stuff and improving command in three innings of one run ball against he Diamondbacks Sunday. Lopez was a bit wild in the first inning and gave up two doubles and a run but finished the day throwing more strikes with the fastball in the second and third innings. He also struck out Paul Goldschmidt, one of the of the best hitters in the game, twice–one looking, one swinging.

All in all, good news for the young White Sox pitchers as the young Spring gets just a little older.

Brett Lawrie Released

The White Sox have requested waivers on second baseman Brett Lawrie for the purposes of granting his unconditional release. Lawrie’s last game with the Sox, it seems, was July 21st of the 2016 season. Numerous leg injuries Lawrie attributed to wearing orthotics for the first time in his career sidelined him for the vast majority of the second half.

Releasing Lawrie, however, was a philosophical decision by the organization not cutting bait on an injured player.

“As we talked about throughout this offseason, part of this process of building something sustainable for the future involves making some difficult decisions and today was a difficult decision,” GM Rick Hahn said. “Brett is a talented player who, no doubt in any of our minds, will help a club this season. At the same time we are committed to giving an opportunity to several of our young players–players who are going to be here for an extended period of time and we want to find out about.”

Lawrie (who slashed .248/.310/.413 with 12 HRs and 36 RBI) started 2016 on a tear and was part of the reason the Sox were able to get off to such a hot start while Abreu and other struggled at the plate. He was acquired December 9th, 2015 when the Sox sent JB Wendleken and Zack Erwin to the A’s.

After resigning Lawrie for the 2017 season for $3.5 million dollars, it was widely thought that Lawrie, if he got off to a hot start like last year, could be trade bait as the White Sox continued their rebuild. Health would be a big factor, however, as up until his release, Lawrie had not been able to get into a game. He’d been recovering, still, from nagging injuries related to orthotics and told reporters late last week that he was “close” to being comfortable enough to get into games.

With Lawrie’s release, Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez figure to be the replacements at the keystone at least until top prospect Yoan Moncada is ready for the Big Leagues. The White Sox currently have 38 players on the 40-man roster with 59 players in camp. First baseman Jose Abreu returned from his testimony in a Miami court and is in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Padres. The White Sox will be on the hook for just under $600,000 of Lawrie’s $3.5 million dollar deal. The major league minimum salary is $535,000 for 2017.

 

Nate Jones bruised but OK after being hit by comebacker

White Sox reliever Nate Jones, who will also pitch for Team USA in the World baseball classic, left yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks after being hit by a one-hopper in the back of the right knee. Jones was in obvious pain and wasted little time coming out of the game. Jones had been hit right by a nerve in the back of the knee but, fortunately, it was more a sudden pain than lasting damage. He’s got quite the bruise and, since the ball hit right where the hamstring connects, will be fairly sore for a day or two. Take a look as he filled in reporters on how he’s feeling and his plans for he WBC.