White Sox

Can Paul Konerko hit 500?

745334.png

Can Paul Konerko hit 500?

A 33-year-old Paul Konerko finished the 2009 season with 28 home runs. He hit No. 300 in memorable fashion, going back-to-back with Jermaine Dye in Detroit as both players hit that milestone dinger.

He had 326 home runs heading into 2010. It was the last year of his five-year deal, and the hope was that he would re-sign and hit career home run No. 400 with the White Sox sometime in late 2012.

Instead, Konerko hit the 400th home run of his career only a few weeks into the 2012 season. He's seen a power renaissance, hitting 70 home runs in the last two years -- 39 in 2010, 31 in 2011. Those totals came after a total of 50 home runs in 2008 and 2009.

Wednesday's home run put Konerko exactly 100 blasts away from the 500 mark, and what would probably turn into an interesting Hall of Fame debate. Few have viewed Konerko as a Hall of Famer throughout his 14-year career, as he's been overshadowed by the likes of Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez at first base.

In fact, since 2000, Konerko has the 13th-highest OPS of any first baseman with at least 3,000 at-bats. Ahead of him: Pujols, Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, Howard, Prince Fielder, Jeff Bagwell, Teixeira, Rafael Palmeiro, Gonzalez, Derrek Lee and Kevin Youkilis. Konerko hasn't dominated an extended period of time like so many other Hall of Famers.

But no player who hasn't been implicated as a steroid user with 500 or more home runs has been shut out of the Hall of Fame. And while anyone can cook up a steroid conspiracy to justify not voting for someone -- as has ridiculously been the case with Bagwell -- Konerko is, by all accounts, clean.

All Konerko has to do is hit 25 more home runs in 2012, then average that number for the next three seasons. That'll get him to 500. Doesn't seem like a very tall order, does it?

There's the problem of Konerko's age, though, and the injuries and regression that come with the late 30's. Yes, Konerko has stayed healthy for the last three seasons. And when he has picked up a knock (like when Andrew Miller drilled his knee with a fastball last summer), he's played through it.

No matter how good of shape Konerko is in, any player who's 37, 38, 39 is going to be an injury risk. Even one trip to the disabled list could derail Konerko's efforts to reach the 500-homer mark.

And then there's the question of exactly how long Konerko will play. His contract with the White Sox runs through 2013, and he's already openly talked about retirement.

"In all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year," Konerko told Chuck Garfien at SoxFest. "I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."

Konerko added that he'd keep playing if teams wanted him -- and if he keeps marching toward the 500-homer plateau, some organization will take him. There's a good chance that'll be the Sox -- they don't have a viable replacement coming through the farm system just yet (Andy Wilkins could be that guy, but he's a ways off). And the Sox are a very loyal organization, so as long as Konerko keeps producing, he'd probably stick around for a few more years.

There does exist a chance for Konerko to hit 500 home runs in his career. And that could very well come with the White Sox.

But it'll be a long climb. Four years is a lot, especially for someone Konerko's age. But until he stops hitting, we'll keep believing.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

justin.png

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

1121_chicago_white_sox.jpg
USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen