White Sox

Bears will stay the course with rookie McClellin and thats the best thing for him

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Bears will stay the course with rookie McClellin and thats the best thing for him

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Looking a little deeper at the Shea McClellin situation at defensive end... (and if the coverage and critiquing of the rookie defensive end has seemed tsunami-ish, theres a reason: McClellin is the first No. 1 draft choice of Phil Emery, and drafting, particularly the No. 1s, is the No. 1 reason why the Bears GM job was open in the first place.)
As I discussed Tuesday morning with Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670, I spent some of the last couple days going back and looking again at as much film as I could of McClellins play at Boise State.
What I was looking for was what worked so well for McClellin, because what the rookie was doing too often last Saturday and especially on Sunday wasnt working well at all.
He broke up a couple of passes, which qualify as impact plays, but one was down field in zone-blitz coverage and the other was at the line of scrimmage, and the Bears want McClellin to be past the line of scrimmage, not just at it.
But McClellin as a pass rusher was a flop and thats why he was a No. 1 pick and the best indicator of where the Bears view their biggest need to be.
Two- vs. three?
What I saw was McClellin primarily upright in a two-point stance rather than with a hand on the ground in a three-point. The Bears have McClellin exclusively hand-down and a question would be whether they are force-feeding a player something that does not play to his strength.
Its not that simple.
The reason for coaches putting McClellin exclusively in the three-point sprinters stance is for explosiveness. They want him forcing tackles to deal with as much speed as possible.
DeMarcus Ware is among the NFLs elite pass rushers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds, about the same size as McClellin. Ware plays in a two-point stance. But Ware plays in a Dallas scheme with a 3-4 core.
Terrell Suggs in Baltimore, Osi Umenyiora for the New York Giants, even Clay Matthews up in Green Bay all are in the 6-3, 255-pound bracket with McClellin. Matthews (also in a 3-4) rushes from both two- and three-point starts, but is a blur upfield when he works with his hand on the ground.
For what its worth, NFL sack leader Jared Allen is on record as stating that if the Minnesota Vikings tell him to play in a two-point stance, hes gone.
Dont look for McClellin to go back to Boise anytime soon.
See a little...
McClellins problems in the short stretch of camp so far are based in his thinking too much, and seeing too much. If he sees a little, meaning that he sees exactly whats in front of him and deals with it, he sees a lot.
If he sees a lot, meaning the whole play, which is what hes seeing now as he stands too upright, he actually sees nothing.
The Bears one-gap scheme is based on a player owning his assigned gap. McClellin is seeing too much too often, and at a time when he is only beginning to work on NFL-grade techniques and moves, the result is paralysis at the hands of an obliging offensive tackle.
Outside linebacker? Nope
The Bears would be extremely happy to get 21 sacks from McClellin over his first two years. Thats what they did get from Roosevelt Colvin in 2001-2002 using Colvin as a strong-side linebacker (the position he beat out Brian Urlacher at in 2000) and moving him to defensive end in nickel.
McClellin wont be doing that anytime soon.
And Colvins sacks came primarily when he put his hand on the ground and rushed the passer.
Thats what the Bears have in mind for McClellin. Period.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

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USA TODAY

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”