Tag Archives: Jose Abreu

The Math is Out for the 2018 White Sox

By Cat Garcia

It’s quite fitting that in the dead of winter, with Chicago on the verge of a weekend long snowstorm that will render the city buried under up to a foot of snow, Baseball Prospectus’ annual PECOTA projections were released.

BP’s PECOTA projections offer fans a calculated look at the season ahead and often give something to keep their baseball-deprived minds occupied; something fans need during one of the most historically slow offseasons baseball has seen in years.

This year’s projections for the 2018 Chicago White Sox are not excellent but, given the team’s status as dead-center of a rebuilding process, not much more was to be expected.

PECOTA shows the Southsiders finishing in third place in the AL Central with a 73-89 record, just behind the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians. Not much of a surprise there, as the Indians have been on a tear in recent years while Minnesota has made additions to their roster this offseason that significantly improve their outlook on the 2018 season (at least in the dilapidated landscape of the AL Central). PECOTA still only has the Twins projected at 81-81–as a second place team.

However, PECOTA did bury a few interesting surprises in their individual player projections. Here are the top five most notable projections for the White Sox.

Yoan Moncada — .233/.330/.410 – 20 HR – 96 RBI – 2.1 WARP

Though what the White Sox saw from Moncada during his 2017 Southside debut was a bit of a rough-and-tumble start plagued with untimely injury, the projections for Moncada in 2018 seem tepid at best. It’s well-understood that Moncada’s main difficulty is his elevated strikeout rate, as he posted a swinging strike rate of 12.6 percent in 2017 (though it should be noted that he lowered that from the 17.2 percent he posted in Boston). If he can make decent contact, a projection of 20 home runs could be a bit low given that PECOTA has Moncada slated for 577 plate appearances. Moncada is also projected for a 2.1 WARP–the second-highest projection on the team behind friend and countryman Jose Abreu. While that number is likely helped out by his flashy range and fielding ability, Moncada’s first full season in the big leagues is given quite the seal of approval with a number like that.

Avisail Garcia — .275/.329/.427 – 17 HR – 72 RBI – 1.6 WARP

These projections for Avisail Garcia feel like a perfect middle ground between tempering expectations and not letting Garcia’s disappointing past follow too closely behind him. Though Garcia posted an extremely high BABIP of .392 to prop up his monster 2017 season, there were certainly flashes of improvement that lent themselves to the idea that these numbers might hold water. After all, Garcia did lower his strikeout rate by 5.6 percentage points from 2016 to 2017, showed vast improvements in his previously poor defensive skills, and made it to his first All-Star Game. Though his efforts in 2017 were quite unsustainable going forward, even the vast drop off from those numbers to what PECOTA sees him as this season would be an extreme upgrade from the fate he once held for his future.

Eloy Jimenez — .255/.329/.427 – 6 HR – 19 RBI – 0.1 WARP

Considering PECOTA has Jimenez totalling only 68 plate appearances during his first stint in the majors, these are pretty lofty numbers. Then again, most wouldn’t expect any less out of the gate from a player with the persistence and success of Jimenez. There is always a game of adjustments when a new young prospect arrives in the majors but, in this case, it’s likely going to be the league that needs to adjust to Jimenez. Of course, that will fizzle as it always does. Once the league figures Jimenez out he will have to make more adjustments of his own and he, much like many highly touted prospects, will be proven mortal—even if just for a short time. But posting 19 RBIs in just 68 plate appearances is quite the scorching start, one that’s sure entertain a fanbase that will be in desperate need of a sign that the future is still very bright for this White Sox team.

Nicky Delmonico — .246/.232/.434 – 16 HR – 56 RBI – 1.6 WARP

PECOTA has certainly tempered their expectations of Delmonico for the 2018 season, but one would have to assume that everyone else has as well. After a record-breaking start to a rejuvenated major league career (Delmonico almost didn’t come back to baseball after being granted his release from the Brewers), Delmonico holds a bit of promise that he can add a solid switch hitting bat to this lineup and eventually, to this team’s bench. Delmonico was notorious for his plate patience during his White Sox debut, walking 13.9 percent of the time, which lends itself to a solid foundation for success. If the power can stay while Delmonico continues his quest to drive the ball up the middle of the field, perhaps these projections aren’t extremely overzealous — but I wouldn’t hold my breathe just yet.

Lucas Giolito — 160 IP – 4.47 ERA – 1.38 WHIP – 163 SO – 67 BB – 26 HR

PECOTA doesn’t seem to have much faith in Giolito’s ability to strike batters out this season. These projections have Giolito striking out approximately one batter per inning, which seems low even for those most dubious of spectators. Giolito managed to strike out 6.75 batters per nine during his 45 inning stint on the Southside in 2017, while keeping his walk rate at a respectable 2.38 per nine. PECOTA seems to show Giolito having similar numbers in the way of walks, as well as home runs per inning as he did in 2017, which isn’t completely unrealistic in a hitter friendly ballpark such as Guaranteed Rate Field. While Giolito has made it vehemently clear that he intends to get to the 200 inning mark in 2018, let’s face it, the only pitchers who were able to do that in 2017 were guys such as Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Gio Gonzalez and Marcus Stroman—all who have a good amount of years as starters under their belt and are considered to be some of the leagues top arms. Even Justin Verlander only topped out at 206 innings in 2017.

2017 White Sox Top Five

Despite being in likely the grittiest phase of a rebuild and finishing the season with the second worst record in the American League, White Sox fans have echoed the same sentiment—this has been one of the most exciting 60-win teams to watch grow.

The departure of names such as Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have been harsh realities but the arrival of fresh blood and new leaders in the clubhouse seemed to quickly erase those wounds. Let’s take a look at the top five surprises from the South Side in 2017.

Nicky Delmonico’s record breaking arrival

After a nasty collision with newcomer Yoan Moncada landed Willy Garcia on the disabled list with a fractured jaw on July 31st, the stop-gap recalled from Charlotte was infielder/outfielder Nicky Delmonico. Delmonico was making his major league debut at the age of 25 after a rough road with the Brewers coupled with personal struggles. But, what Delmonico did, was deliver the next chapter of an already unpredictably compelling season. Delmonico hit his first home run off Cy Young winner Rick Porcello at Fenway Park just three days after his call-up. He reached base in 13 straight games, garnered a few multi-hit campaigns, and hit six home runs in his first 19 games. Sadly, Delmonico was then placed on the DL with a sprained wrist, but the minds of Sox fans were simply sent reeling. Delmonico was yet another unexpected and extremely entertaining piece in this 2017 season and looks to be a solid addition to the White Sox outfield contingent in 2018.

Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu’s Impactful Seasons

The need for strong, diligent leadership in was crucial this season and though first baseman Jose Abreu’s role in the White Sox clubhouse was already quite established, Abreu reached new levels of achievement in 2017. From becoming a fourth-year veteran and joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols as just the third player in MLB history to hit 25+ home runs and 100+ RBIs in his first four seasons to guiding fellow countryman Yoan Moncada through the start of his big league career, Abreu’s voice was heard and his impact felt on the field and off the field throughout the season. As the longest tenured position player on the team, outfielder Avisail Garcia, who had been known for his struggles during his career, not only began to flourish on the field, but also invigorated a young fresh clubhouse by example. Though both Abreu’s and Garcia’s future with the club may not be certain, the impression that they will leave during this immensely important stage in this team’s development was not only serendipitous in timing, but will leave a strong lasting impression on this team as they continue to grow together — and perhaps even apart.

Reynaldo Lopez’s Early Struggles

After the success of number one prospect Yoan Moncada’s arrival on the scene, everything seemed to be rolling along perfectly as the White Sox continued giving fans a glimpse of their future in calling up Reynaldo Lopez, who was simply the secondary piece in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals last December. Lopez dazzled, hitting as high as 99 on the gun during his White Sox debut coupled with exceptional break on his curveball. Lopez wasn’t without his blemishes though, his command seemed shaky and that continued down the road, with Lopez walking 14 batter over 47 innings, closing his season with a 4.72 ERA and 7 homers allowed. Lopez left what was just his second start with the White Sox suffering a strained back and was placed on the DL for two weeks before returning to the rotation. Although Lopez’s debut was less than superb in the eyes of many, taking into consideration the short duration of his time on the big league roster, suffering an injury, and still having less than 100 major league innings under his belt — Lopez’s stuff showed much promise for the future.

Loss and Gain

It was a rough summer on the South Side, day after day watching players pack up their lockers while fresh faces arrived. As is the case with any strong rebuild, those faces weren’t always emerging in the major league clubhouse. The Sox saw the departure of everyone from David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, to those defined as leaders in Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier, and players they considered part of their bright future such as Jose Quintana. But the rewards reaped from these deals should leave this team hopeful as they saw the arrival of players such as Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito, all whose rapid progress and success during 2017 no doubt caught many folks by surprise.

Alec Hansen’s Success

While we talk so much about the success of players acquired through trades of significant measure, let’s not forget those that came simply at the cost of an educated gamble. Drafted 49th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft, the White Sox’s selection of pitcher Alec Hansen led to some justified skeptics. Hansen struggled during his junior year of college and still struggles with commanding his pitches, but has come onboard and simply dazzled during his short time in the White Sox organization. Hansen lead the minors this season in strikeouts with 191, and was promptly promoted to Double-A Birmingham after posting a 2.93 ERA with 83 strikeouts in just 58 IP at Winston-Salem. Hansen’s main attribute is his fastball that sits between 94-97 mph, coupled with a strong slider and curveball, and is currently working to perfect his changeup in the coming season.

Is Jose Abreu Part of the White Sox Future?

When looking back at the White Sox’s extremely intriguing 2017 season, it’s hard not to immediately mention Jose Abreu.

Abreu is coming off his fourth season in the majors after being signed in October of 2013 to a six-year, $68 million deal and has had his best season since his rookie year in 2014.

But with Abreu approaching his age-31 season as a right-handed first baseman, questions loom as to whether or not Abreu has much of a future left on the South Side. Abreu currently has two years left on his six-year contract before he will become a free agent and the White Sox window of true contention doesn’t look to be opening up until around 2019 — Abreu’s age 33 season.

“They’re both special cases,” GM Rick Hahn said of Abreu and Avisail Garcia, who is also coming off of a stellar campaign. “And there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond. Abreu, obviously you can’t say enough about the season he had on the field, but [also] his importance in the role he plays in our clubhouse.”

As of September 29th, Abreu is hitting .306/.356/.556 with 33 home runs, the most since his rookie season. He has hit over 100 RBIs this season, marking the third season in which he has hit 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs.

This year, Abreu also became just the sixth White Sox player to hit for the cycle on September 9th, earning him a gift from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf — a commemorative ring to help celebrate his achievement.

“I would like to stay here forever,” Abreu said through the White Sox interpreter. “I would like to play with this team my whole career. But it is a business and we have to accept and respect what’s in the future. I would like to stay here forever.”

Abreu’s role in the clubhouse has become a pertinent piece in the discussion regarding his future. Abreu has taken on the role of a veteran leader in this clubhouse. He’s also been a friend and mentor to a precious piece of the White Sox’s future — Yoan Moncada. Moncada and Abreu grew up playing together in Cuba and have kept up a strong bond over the years. Having both Abreu serving as a mentor to both Moncada and the rest of the team’s budding youth could be considered a priceless asset.

“Most of the improvement or change since he first got here,” Hahn said, “It’s been with his comfort level in that clubhouse and the role of leader he has assumed, that he has always wanted to. We talked about that as far back as his rookie season—that that’s how he viewed himself and that’s what he wanted to be for this organization. But I think you’ve seen more public examples than you were able to see in the past of him playing that role for this club.”

Thankfully for the White Sox and Abreu, there’s no rush to make any decisions just yet. “Frankly, those decisions don’t have to be made this offseason,” Hahn said of entertaining the idea of moving the first baseman. “[He’s] controllable through 2019. We have the luxury, if we want, to play it out another year [or] play it out another half-a-year to see if the performance continues, see if the trade market changes.”

Hahn cited another important move that White Sox made this season that could have been made earlier, but the timing wasn’t right.

“As was the case when we sat here with [Jose] Quintana a year ago,” Hahn said, “yes, he was potentially a trade candidate, but the market didn’t respond the way we had anticipated, so we had to wait. There isn’t a firm answer right now. We don’t know what the options are. One of them conceivably is extending, and we have to wait and see what that cost entails.”

But Hahn realizes that luxury isn’t always afforded for long. “Sometimes a player needs to see what their free agent value is,” Hahn said. “And they perhaps have a different view of what their value is than what the market tells them it is. You’ve certainly seen a lot of players who have had to go out into the market, get whatever information they needed, and then return back to our club.”

Whether Abreu has a long term future in a Sox uniform remains to be seen right now. But the important part is that he’s continuing to make strides that indicate he’s still healthy and strong as ever, and has made a lasting impression on the White Sox’s young clubhouse. That impression cannot be erased, so even should the future find Abreu’s locker empty, his legacy will linger throughout the clubhouse as this team climbs to it’s bright, promising future.

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.

Tense Moments after Moncada-Garcia Collision

It all started with Adam Engel–in case anyone forgot that happened.

Though he was not one of those stricken by an injury serious enough to remove him from the game, Engel started off what would be a strange White Sox affair with a thunderous crash into the centerfield wall attempting to rob a Josh Donaldson home run in the first inning. Engel fell to the ground and didn’t move for a few seconds but stayed in the game.

Later, the peculiar evening would continue. In the sixth inning, Guaranteed Rate Field fell quiet as new, young superstar Yoan Moncada collided with right fielder Willy Garcia in an attempt to save a bases-loaded hit off the bat of Blue Jays’ second baseman Darwin Barney.

While Moncada was the one who was carted off the field, Garcia admits that he was knocked out upon impact and did not remember the play until he was shown video. “When I saw the video I saw the collision, I was like, ‘Wow, that was hard,’ Garcia said post-game. “At first, I was knocked out. I didn’t remember anything before I saw the video. And then I saw the video, and I said, ‘Wow, it was hard.’”

The last time Guaranteed Rate Field felt so grim was June 29 when then-Yankees outfielder Dustin Fowler crashed into the right field wall during his Major League debut. Fowler ruptured his patella tendon which ended his season before he even stepped up to the plate.

But, luckily for the White Sox, a team for whom Moncada has been a glimmer of hope amongst the dog-days of a rebuild process, the injury to the second baseman was simply a quad bruise right above the knee. Moncada is listed day-to-day.

“I thought both of them were down,” Renteria said of his initial reaction to the play. “I thought they were both out, is what it looked like to me. Neither of them were moving.”

Willy Garcia has been placed on the 7-day concussion list and the White Sox have promoted Nicky Delmonico from Triple-A Charlotte to fill the vacated roster spot. Delmonico will wear number 30, and be the second player two make his Major League debut with the White Sox this week, following the promotion of Aaron Bummer on July 27.

The White Sox found themselves down six runs and two players at one point on Monday evening, and headed in the eighth inning they trailed 6-1. That didn’t phase this team though, as Matt Davidson hit a walk-off bloop single to score the winning run, after contributing to the score by hitting a 2-run homer to the opposite field just one at-bat earlier. This was the second walk-off win led by Matt Davidson in as many games.

“It’s huge for us,” Davidson said of the victory. “I’ll take it. We’re all contributing, to win like that is awesome.”

Davidson attributes some of his recent success to a team meeting the White Sox held in Kansas City. “I think we had a good players’ only meeting” he said. “Us individually as position players talked about what we needed to do together as a position players. I think it’s good for the chemistry and we’ll continue to do it going forward.”

Jose Abreu spoke of the team meeting and Davidson’s recent success as well. “We had a meeting a few weeks ago in KC and we talked about how we can do things better on the field,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I think that [Davidson has] been taking advantage of that situation, using the whole field and that’s something that lets you know that the kids are trying to do better and trying to take any piece of advice that you could give them.”

Abreu noted that despite their recent struggles, he’s proud of the way this team continues to fight for every win. “I’m just happy, not just because of the win today but because of how they’re playing, how we’re fighting,” Abreu said.

“It’s probably lifting him up to the sky right now,” Renteria said post game of Davidson. “He’s feeling good about himself. Obviously the situation was to put together a great at-bat. He didn’t try to do too much. Put the bat on the ball and was able to allow us to drive in the final run and win the ballgame. It just takes you, for him, to a point where your confidence builds a little. I think you gain more and more trust in who you are what you’re capable of doing.”

Moncada has Landed

“He’s an outstanding player and I’m going to be here right by his side to help him with anything he needs.”

The gleam in White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu’s eyes was unmistakable Wednesday afternoon as the media gathered around him to ask questions unrelated to him for nearly ten minutes. Abreu couldn’t have seemed more sincere and heartfelt when he spoke of new White Sox second baseman, friend, and fellow countryman Yoan Moncada.

Moncada was called up after a flurry of moves after Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. One of them included the recall of baseball’s number one prospect. Somehow, from the small Cuban town that is Cienfuegos, located about 150 miles from Havana, Abreu and Moncada managed to reunite. This time, on the game’s biggest stage.

“When I made my debut with this team Alexei [Ramirez] and [Adrian] Nieto were here and they helped me a lot to get through this new process, to get through that first season,” Abreu said recounting his White Sox debut in 2014. “I appreciate that. And that’s why now I want to give Moncada as much as I know and as much help as I can give him,” Abreu continued. “It’s an honor, to be playing with someone who is from my same country, and from my same town and that’s why I take a lot of pride in helping him to get better.”

Abreu even went as far as becoming Moncada’s personal driver, picking him up at the airport upon his arrival to Chicago. “I asked him in the morning if he can pick me up at the airport and he did it,” Moncada said. “I was glad to see him there and we talked a little about everything—nothing in specific.” These two go way back, Moncada remembers  Abreu as “the superstar” of their hometown when he was just 15-years-old. “At that moment in Cuba, he was the best player in the country,” Moncada said.

The emotions flew in the clubhouse during this Dodgers series. Pregame Tuesday consisted of the media zooming in on how Todd Frazier handled trade rumours, and just 24-hours later, three vacant lockers that belonged to former teammates were quickly identifiable. All the while, the number one prospect in baseball was suddenly present in his new environment.

“Those are two different moments,” Abreu said of the quick turnover. “From one end we are saying goodbye to good friends, good teammates, people who you play with for two years and people that you care about. But on the other hand we are happy because Moncada was coming up. I was really happy for him and to have him here. But it was a very bittersweet situation.”

The energy around the ballpark was unmistakable, as fans gathered around to get a glimpse of Moncada on the field, shower him with boxes of Twinkies, his favorite snack, and to witness a turning point of the White Sox rebuild began to slowly take shape.

“I think it’s the beginning of what hopefully will be a transition from a lot of the youth we’ve been accumulating in the system,” Renteria said pre-game on Wednesday. “Everybody in the organization felt it was time for him to be a part of the White Sox.”

Despite the box score showing Moncada recording no hits and one walk in his debut, watching Moncada’s three plate appearances showed a strong and very disciplined plate approach.

Moncada’s saw an impressive nine pitches from Dodgers’ starter Kenta Maeda to start his White Sock career, and quickly found himself in an 0-2 count before working a walk, prompting what was likely the most heralded walk baseball has seen in quite a while. “I was excited, I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me,” Moncada said of his first trip to the plate at the corner of 35th and Shields. “I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark.”

Moncada was also down 0-2 in his second plate appearance of the night, working himself to a 2-2 count before grounding out. He quickly got himself into a 2-0 count during his final plate appearance of the evening, one in which he would line out on a ball scorched to centerfield.

“I felt good. I think that I executed my plan,” Moncada said postgame. “I didn’t get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan. I was very comfortable with the strike zone. I was very aware of the strike zone.”

Manager Rick Renteria had high praise for his new second baseman after Wednesday’s rain shortened contest as well. “He looked very comfortable,” Renteria said. “Turned a nice double play. I think he didn’t look overwhelmed. I think he ended his first day here with us as well as you could have it be. I know he didn’t get any hits but I thought he had some pretty good at-bats.”

The 9-1 loss may have been dismal for Carlos Rodon and the White Sox, but the South Side came away with true hope for their future on Wednesday evening. The box scores may read that the Dodgers swept the Sox, but the Sox came away with a win this series in their own right. Baseball’s shiny new number one prospect in pinstripes.

All Star Avi

The road to the sustained success has been a long one for White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and the fact his success in 2017 held water long enough to merit him an invitation to the All-Star Game has been long awaited. For many on-lookers though, it began to feel like a pipe dream. Before this season, Garcia had never seen his batting average any higher than .257 in a White Sox uniform and, despite having as much power potential as he does, had never seen his slugging average reach anything higher that .385 in a full season of work.

“I learned from all my mistakes, and now I’m learning everyday,” Garcia said of his past struggles. “That’s the word: believe. Believe in yourself.”

With a newfound approach at the plate and the knowledge he’s acquired since his debut in 2013, Garcia is slashing a healthy line of .318/.362/.518 and finally able to tap into his potential. It’s likely that Garcia is just now getting started, but what baseball has seen from him was enough to land him his first trip to the Midsummer Classic.

“I am very happy to represent the White Sox in the All-Star game,” Garcia said. “I know I believed in myself, so I knew I would work hard to improve myself and my career,” He continued. “If you believe in yourself and do the work, you have the opportunity like I have now of representing the White Sox in the All-Star Game.”

The work Garcia has put in has paid off, and it’s been on display in full force this season. He’s taken on a rigorous workout routine and even changed his diet.

“First of all, I lost weight,” Garcia said. “I wake up every day at like 5 a.m. to go to the gym and work hard, I go back home in the afternoon and then go to hit like three times per week. All that work is coming together.”

Indeed it is. Next Tuesday, Garcia will be the lone White Sox player to represent the South Side on the American League team. He’ll be alongside his former teammate Chris Sale, Yankees breakout star Aaron Judge, and other surprising players like Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak.

The special announcement didn’t come without his fellow teammates and coaches close by. “I was in the training room when they called us together as a team,” Garcia said of the team meeting called at 11:30am on Sunday. “When they said my name, I was really proud. Really proud. This now gives me even more motivation.”

“I can’t wait for when they hang the All-Star jersey in your locker room,” Garcia said, the sound of pure excitement in his voice. “I can’t wait for that. It’s exciting.”

Garcia has seen his struggles at the plate recently, currently sitting an 1-for-23 stretch, yet that still hasn’t derailed the 26-year-old’s numbers on the season. Garcia has also been day-to-day since suffering a minor knee injury in the White Sox’s series finale against the Yankees on Thursday. “We’re just taking it a little slow,” manager Rick Renteria after the game of Garcia, “He said he felt good.”

So will the Garcia family be in Miami to help him celebrate this very special achievement? “Of course,” Garcia said without hesitation. “I asked Jose [Abreu], he said make sure you bring your family with you because you know, it’s the first time. Hopefully many more to come.”

A Sale of Two Cities

The question was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and the forefront of everyone’s minds on Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field; What’s it going to be like facing your former teammate Chris Sale?

The mark that Sale left on the White Sox clubhouse he used to call home was unmistakable as teammates remembered Sale fondly, not just as a teammate and a competitor but as a friend.

“He was just a great guy. He was just a guy who if you ever needed anything he was there for you,” Todd Frazier said before Tuesday’s matchup. “We became real close over a six, eight month span, and I still talk to him today. He’s a friend you can talk to.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Sale’s return trip to his old stomping grounds without a good jersey cutting remark. “I think that’d be a great idea,” Frazier replied when asked if he thought it would be good homage to wear the throwback jersey style Sale famously cut up before a start last July. “I don’t know if we can wear the cut-up ones, but maybe we can put some tape around some of the shirts like Edward Scissorhands out there or something. That’d be cool. I think he’d probably chuckle at that too, why not?”

But, all joking aside, at the end of the day the goal for the White Sox was to go out and face the American League’s best lefty on the mound—whether he be a friend or a former teammate was left in the dugout as the team took the field, thirsty for a win.

“He was my teammate for two years and I like him. Now it’s just we are competing against each other,” Jose Abreu said through an interpreter Tuesday afternoon on facing Sale. “He’s with the Red Sox and we are now here and have to face him. I know that he is going to try to do his best and we are also going to try to do our best.”

Unfortunately for the White Sox, things didn’t go their way as the evening which promised a pitcher’s duel and instead delivered a slug fest ended with the Boston taking the match 13-7.

“Who would have thought that with the two starters on the mound tonight that we’d have nearly 150 pitches thrown between them through three innings,” Boston manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s game.

“I stunk tonight. I didn’t do a whole lot to help us win,” Sale told the media post game. Sale allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in just five innings pitched, marking Sale’s shortest outing of the season and shortest outing since his last start in a White Sox uniform on October 2nd of 2016.

“I don’t think I was very accurate either. I don’t think I was throwing to specific spots, just throwing to general areas, too.” Sale still managed to strike out nine White Sox batters on the evening despite the erratic outing.

So how did it feel for Sale to be back on the mound he called home for seven season? “Different. But the same. I’ve thrown off that mound however many times it was. A little different coming from the first-base side,” Sale said, clearly fueled by bouts of nostalgia as he answered questions with a heartfelt tone in his voice.

“This is where I called home for a long time. A little piece of my heart will always be here for sure. I gave these guys everything I had while I was here, and I’m appreciative they do the same in return.”

As for Quintana, there’s still no real concern. “He’s passing through a very tough moment on the mound, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league and we have plenty of confidence in him,” Melky Cabrera said about Quintana’s struggled through an interpreter after Tuesday’s game.

“He’s just a little up in the zone,” Kevan Smith said. “I’ve told him, when he’s successful he lives in that zone knee to shins, we’re just like six inches above that, and you could tell when he really started thinking about it we started losing control and he was almost too far down,” Smith continued about Quintana’s location Tuesday night.

Quintana’s struggles have cascaded recently, leading him to a 5.60 ERA in his 11 starts this season. But the White Sox have seen what Quintana is capable of, it’s just a matter of getting him out of his own head and helping him regain confidence. “It’s just one of those things where you have to get confidence back,” Smith said. “He has the stuff, obviously we’ve all seen it. He’s just got to go out there, work hard and get back to the Q we all know.”

The White Sox will finish their series with Boston on Wednesday evening at Guaranteed Rate Field, and as for Sale Day, was the lanky hurler glad his return to Chicago is over? “No. It was nothing like that. I was actually looking forward to tonight. Pitching against my buddies, my old team.” Sale said. “Obviously the end result wasn’t what we had expected. By no means am I glad that this is over. I wish I enjoyed it more, but it was something I was looking forward to.”

Until next time, Boston.

Welcome to the South Side, Robert

It’s almost as if Mother Nature knew it was the day.

After a night of brutal rain that postponed the first game of a doubleheader and caused a delay of the second on Friday evening, the sun shined brightly on a clear, warm morning at Guaranteed Rate Field.

With his family and new teammate Jose Abreu, Luis Robert stepped off the top step of the dugout onto the foul territory he will eventually call home to a flurry of camera flashes and reporters, eager to get a glimpse of the newest addition to the White Sox’s increasingly bright future. Robert couldn’t have asked for a better welcoming.

The White Sox officially announced Saturday morning that 19 year-old Cuban hype-machine was officially signed to a minor league contract with a signing bonus of $26 million.

“Today’s an important day for the organization and one that marks another step forward in this process we began over a year ago,” Hahn said during a press conference to announce the signing. “In adding Luis to our organization we feel we’ve added another dynamic, potential talent to our organization.”

Indeed, they have. Robert will arguably rank as the third best prospect in the White Sox’s system, hitting .312/.402/.467 with 29 stolen bases and 82 walks during his final season with Ciego de Avila. Though Major League Baseball is an entirely different level of play, Robert possesses the raw tools and room for growth for those skills to successfully transfer to the majors in the coming seasons.

Questions were raised about the level of concern the organization has regarding the fact that Robert has not played competitive baseball in 11 months as he has been preparing for team workouts. What we must remember is, regardless of that fact, Robert is still only 19-years-old and has a long developmental path ahead of him.

“There’s still a fair amount of development for this player,” Hahn said. “This will take some time here. But with his raw set of materials and what he’s accomplished in international competition and at the highest league in Cuba at a young age, helps reinforce how you project this player to develop,” Hahn continued. “He’s obviously put together extremely well. Projecting too much addition of strength and power is unnecessary given what he already possesses. But if he continues to get stronger that will serve him well, as well.”

As far as where Robert will fit best on the field, the general consensus is still centerfield, but as Hahn has said before, development isn’t always linear. There’s room for Robert to move where the organization thinks he fits best as he progresses.

“He presents all five tools, plus power, plus speed,” Hahn said. “We think he has the ability to remain in centerfield and if for whatever reason he doesn’t wind up in the big leagues at centerfield, he certainly has enough offensive prowess to contribute strongly on either corner. It’s a rare opportunity to get a guy with this potential level of impact into the organization at only the expense of cash.”

Robert was as enthusiastic as a young player beginning his career in the majors should be on Saturday. He attributed his reasoning for choosing the South side to many things, including his Cuban heritage. Robert said that he was proud to don the same jersey as the late, great Minnie Minoso and current Cuban star Jose Abreu. “The White Sox tradition for Cuban players was something that motivated me to sign with this team. It’s something that made me feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel proud because those players were examples for us in Cuba. For me now to be here wearing the same uniform as them is a huge honor for me.”

Robert also took note of how interested the White Sox were in him, stating that they were the organization that scouted him the most. “I picked the Chicago White Sox because it was the team that scouted me most,” Robert said. “The video helps a lot but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest. That was something that made me feel good.”

Robert also put to rest the lingering confusion about how to correctly pronounce his name. “In Cuba [people] call me more like ‘Robber.’ Outside people call me ‘Robert’ with the “T” but in Cuba it’s ‘Robber,'” he said. When asked what we should call him in America, he responded “Robber.”

So, what’s next for Robert? He will leave Chicago for the Dominican Republic, where he will get his feet wet again in the Dominican Summer League. He’ll also have to get to his shopping list, which includes buying three houses; “As for what can I buy first: a house for my family, a house for my uncle and also a house for me,” Robert said.

As far as White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn goes, it was a happy ending to a stressful week. “I think it was very similar to with Abreu,” Hahn said of his anxiety about landing Robert. “I don’t know if we’ve ever said we’re getting a guy no matter what, but we were prepared to be aggressive here and were comfortable up to the $26 million bonus we gave plus the similar amount in taxed that we wound up paying as a result of the deal.”

Hahn gave many other members of the White Sox organization credit for helping make this day possible, including Director of International Scouting, Marco Paddy. “Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization. Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”

Rest well, South siders. We have more than just an Instagram photo now. We have ink.

Jose Abreu to Miss Time While Testifying in Miami Court

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is expected to return to camp on Friday as his testimony in the trial of two men accused of alien smuggling and conspiracy will continue into Thursday. Abreu, who relied on smugglers to escape Cuba and eventually signed to play with the White Sox, told the court Wednesday that he ate a page of his passport in order to travel from Haiti to Miami. Abreu was trying to get to the states in time to sign the $68 million dollar deal that was offered to him by the White Sox. Had he not arrived in time, the offer would go away.

Abreu’s struggle to leave Cuba has been well-documented by Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports and others. Abreu’s story, however, is one of many sad, trying tales of leaving Cuba for the Big Leagues. After signing the deal, Abreu, like many others, was extorted for money by the very men who brought him over to the United States. Typically, human trafficking isn’t the only crime committed by the types that transport and extort players.

Abreu will fly back to Phoenix at some point Thursday though the White Sox will not rush him into game action.

Chris Sale Heads to Boston, White Sox Get Haul

The day after the 2016 season had ended, the White Sox called a press conference to announce Ricky Renteria as their new field manager. General Manager Rick Hahn was there to introduce Renteria and, in so doing, spelled out a few things about the coming off season and what it would bring for the organization. You’d be able to tell, he said, the direction of the club by the first big move they make.

Chris Sale is headed to Boston and a massive prospect haul is headed back to the White Sox.

The direction, it seems, is getting younger, deeper and better. Questions remain, of course, as to just how deep and thorough the seeming rebuild will be. As for the Red Sox, they’re getting one of the best pitchers in baseball. In his seven years with the White Sox, Sale both made the All Star team and finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting each year he was a member of the White Sox rotation. A voracious competitor, Sale wasn’t without incident with the Sox. Still, in the end, his focus was on winning games. Unfortunately, that’s something the club wasn’t able do enough of and in moving Sale, they hope to deepen a young talent base that will mature into contenders.

As for the return on Sale, it’s huge. Yoan Moncada is rated by many as the top prospect in baseball. Though his first eight games at the big league level were a struggle, he was promoted to the Bigs straight from AA. It’s not unthinkable that the White Sox would keep Moncada in the minor leagues to start the 2017 season. He’ll turn 22 in May 27th so some seasoning could be worthwhile. Regardless, Sox fans should be able to dream of a stellar double play combo in Tim Anderson and Moncada and witness it in just a short time.

Michael Kopech is the the second best prospect in the deal and was the third ranked player in Boston’s treasure chest. Kopech, though it may be a bit apocryphal, reportedly hit 105 mph during a minor league outing last year. At 20 years old with flowing blond locks and a huge frame, the comparisons to Mets Ace Noah Syndergaard are many. Kopech’s arrival to the majors may be a bit farther away as he’s only thrown at the high A level. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, ranked 8th in the Red Sox system, and right hander Victor Diaz complete the haul.

While the return on Sale has plenty of value, questions remain about how much more the White Sox intend to do this winter. It’s conceivable that with their number one starter traded, they see what kind of impact their still talented core could make come April. Equally understandable would be the idea of trading off key members of that core. Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier would all bring back quality returns. Like the Yankees at last summer’s trade deadline, the White Sox could be have a rebuild well underway and have talent ready for competing at the majors in short order.

You can hear the latest on the White Sox each Saturday at noon on White Sox Weekly with Connor McKnight on WLS AM 890.

White Sox By Position: First Base

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to put Jose Abreu’s 2016 season into proper context. In April, as the Sox broke camp and headed for Oakland, Abreu was one of two players in history to start his career with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Albert Pujols is the other. Counting stats what they are, Abreu also had a few other metrics supporting his potential as a top 10 first baseman.

Then, for two months, Jose Abreu simply did not hit.

After a while it became fairly evident that the book was was out on Jose. He was being pitched in. Hard in. He was seeing the usual breaking stuff away but this was different. Abreu was swinging at pitches up near his throat. He had expanded the zone and made himself a far too easy out.

Or had he?

I’ll ask that you keep these next few sentences in context of a very good hitter suddenly turning. Despite a lack of power (six home runs in April and May) Abreu was still getting on base at a .304 clip. His batting average (.242) was actually survivable in light of his .282 BABIP. Abreu wasn’t making great contact, to be sure, but by some measurements, he was also a bit… unlucky.

I had conversations with broadcasters, front office people, players and fans. At points, members of every group would essentially confirm two things: 1) He’d dangerously widened his strike zone. 2) It was remarkable that he was able to get the ball on the bat given he was swinging at everything. The turnaround came, albeit strangely. June saw Abreu hit five home runs and slash .306/.355/.531. In the heat of July his power melt away. Zero home runs but a .340 OBP. From the start of August to the end of the season, Abreu hit like… well, Abreu. He mashed 14 home runs, hit .338 and held a .969 OPS.

Baseball has an endless amount of cliche. It’s been around 150 years and with the advent of Sabermetrics, new cliche is getting added to the lexicon. Take these two:

“Don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit.”

April 4th – May 31st

White Sox: 27-25

Abreu: .242/.304/.382

“There’s no such thing as clutch.”

June 1st – October 2nd

White Sox: 49-58

Abreu: .319/.376/.511

By no means am I insinuating causation. That kind of math would need to be done by someone much, much smarter. I only offer those two pieces to point out how damn weird baseball can be.

Baring massive change, of course, Abreu is part of the Sox core for the foreseeable future. Further, he’s the solution at least one offensive variable for the 2017 White Sox. Well, the guy from the last four months is, anyway.

Sox Top The American League

Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu (79), celebrates his game winning single with Adam Eaton (1) and Brett Lawrie (15) against the Texas Rangers during the eleventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Chicago.The White Sox won 4-3 in eleven innings. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu (79), celebrates his game winning single with Adam Eaton (1) and Brett Lawrie (15) against the Texas Rangers during the eleventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Chicago.The White Sox won 4-3 in eleven innings. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Connor McKnight

White Sox Pre and Post Game Host on WLS AM 890

The White Sox have the best record in the American League.

At 14-6 the Sox have tied their best 19-game start since 2006. They’ve gotten it done with spectacular pitching, highlight-reel defense and just enough hitting.

Just enough.

The offense, it would seem, is an easy enough fix. Really, it comes down to two guys doing exactly what everyone in the industry thought they’d do. In a way, the fact that Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have struggled out of the gate is a best-case problem; those two will hit.

When that starts, and they’re coupled with Melky Cabrera’s .400 OBP and Adam Eaton’s constant table-setting (.309/.356/.397), the run-scoring issues should—in a rather profound way—resolve themselves.

Pitching and hitting often vacillate throughout a season. Defense, we’re told, is more stable. Granted, guys can have bad days or weeks but typically, the type of defense we see over the course of a season is a relative constant.

Defensively, the White Sox have been stellar. In most cases, it’s affecting their margin for error—for the better.

Look no further than the triple play Friday night against the Rangers—the very first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in MLB history. Triple plays, as they go, are rare enough but when they do happen, they’re even rarer when they start in the outfield. (Around 10% of triple plays have been started by outfielders. Thanks to JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com for that number.)

Adam Eaton’s break on the line drive from Mitch Moreland was just another example of his impressive work in the corner this year. Eaton has been able to read fly balls from the corner and it’s shown; FanGraphs has Eaton leading MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at seven. Abreu’s back-and-forth with Ian Desmond after the Rangers outfielder had overrun first base showed… well something, I’m not sure what exactly but let’s give Pito some props for the athleticism. Plus it was ridiculously fun to watch.

Brett Lawrie did a great job yelling for Abreu to throw home after he’d tagged out Desmond. Abreu couldn’t have assessed the situation himself after going three-rounds with Desmond (how could he?) and Lawrie was there to help out.

After Abreu had thrown home (from his knees, no less) Dioner Navarro and Tyler Saladino worked together to cut Prince Fielder from the herd and line him up for the third out of the inning. Saladino made, perhaps, the most heads-up play in the entire mess. His decision to run to third and freeze the runner there then cut the corner and force Fielder into a no-win decision.

There it is all in one play. Improvement from incumbent players, better communication on the field, smarter decision making.

When a team isn’t hitting it needs all of those gears to mesh to win ballgames. They’ve meshed, clearly, and now the White Sox have a cushion to get the offense sorted out. No doubt sooner would be better than later but with an unrelenting April schedule (27 games in 28 days including a stretch of 19 straight) and dates with homer-happy offenses in Toronto and Baltimore, the Sox have another test in front of them.

Remember though, the White Sox have the best record in the American League.

Sox Hot Start, Cool Bats

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a spring training baseball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a spring training baseball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By Connor McKnight

WLS AM 890 White Sox Pre and Post Game Host

The White Sox are off to their best start in years. Not only did their 8-2 start match the best 10-game starting stretch since 1982, the Sox 7-3 start on the road is the best since 2005’s 8-2 road start.

Now, at 8-4, the Sox are tied at the top of the AL Central with the defending World Series Champion Royals.

And they’re not hitting. Not yet.

Instead, it’s been the pitching and defense that’s held the White Sox up to start the season. Whether looking at Chris Sale’s magnificent complete game shutout of the Rays on April 15th or Mat Latos’ two quality starts (12 IP, .75 ERA, .50 WHIP, .098 BA) the White Sox arms have kept them in every game but two.

Todd Frazier has been fantastic at third base and has saved no fewer than three hits to start the year. One of those completed a sweep of the Twins and helped David Robertson earn his fifth save in five outings. Roberston didn’t notch his fifth save until May 6th of 2015.

It’s very clear—remarkably so—that the pitching is good and the defense is much, much better than last season. As a team goes through the ups and downs—the inescapable drag of attrition—the hope is that defense stays as constant as possible. Pitching and hitting have natural, expected peaks and valleys. There will be times where even Chris Sale can’t get anyone out. (OK, not him. He doesn’t have those. Maybe someone else. Someone human.)

Looking at the start of the year for the offense, leaves you to strain a bit at the stat lines. Todd Frazier’s start has been typical of his career, unfortunately. He’s a career .236/.316/.474 hitter in April and March. Things heat up for him as the season progresses, however, and hopefully the friendly hitters park that is US Cellular Field and the wonderful weather Chicago is supposed to get over the next few days (Seriously, it’s supposed to be 80 on Monday. Get out to the ballpark.) help heat up his bat.

Jose Abreu has been struggling to find his comfort zone as well. It seems that he’s a bit unsure of the strike zone right now but the amorphous strike zone typically set forth by CB Bucknor can make a lot of hitters question their livelihoods.

The difference between the slow offensive start for this year’s White Sox has to do with the names on the back of the jerseys. Those names are Abreu and Frazier. They have track records. They sell trading cards and bubble gum. They’ve hit 134 home runs since the start of the 2014 season.

There’s every reason to believe they’ll be just fine.


Sunday night, the 17th of April, a full two weeks into the season, was the fourth time since the start of the month the White Sox have been in their own beds. The White Sox have played more road games than anyone in baseball. To boot, (people still say that, right?) the Sox are in a stretch of 19 straight games between off days. They play 17 of their first 27 on the road.

It’s not an excuse for anything. You won’t hear anyone use it as such.

It’s just kind of crazy and I thought you should know.