White Sox

Cardinals explain what makes White Sox ace Chris Sale so good

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Cardinals explain what makes White Sox ace Chris Sale so good

Chris Sale has a 2.02 ERA against National League opponents during his six-year career, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the way members of the St. Louis Cardinals talked about the White Sox ace.

Sale won’t face the Cardinals, who have the best record in baseball, during this week’s brief two-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. But the 26-year-old struck out 12 over eight innings of one-run ball against St. Louis June 30 at Busch Stadium and left a strong impression on some of the guys he faced.

“He throws 95, 97 (miles per hour), and he’s deceptive so that makes it even more of a challenge,” outfielder Peter Bourjos said. “Usually the guys that are deceptive are the guys that are in that 88-90 range. Not only is he deceptive, but he throws hard with good movement and good stuff. All that combines with him locating, and it makes it a very challenging at-bat.”

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Bourjos, though, had the benefit of previously facing Sale while he played for the Los Angeles Angels. Outfielder Randal Grichuk faced Sale for the first time June 30 and described the challenge of preparing for the lanky left-hander.

“A lot of the video footage isn’t straight behind (home plate), so you don’t realize how far he’s throwing over from the first base side and how it comes kind of from out of nowhere,” Grichuk, who went 3-4 with a home run off Sale, said. “It’s a lot different seeing him live versus on video.

“He steps over so you can’t really see it when it’s coming, it just kind of comes out of there.”

First baseman Mark Reynolds said even if a hitter has prior experience against Sale, adjusting to his three-quarters arm slot and deceptive motion — Sale does a good job hiding the ball during his delivery — isn’t easy the first time through the order. And Reynolds is right: In his career as a starter, Sale is limiting opponents to a .211 batting average and .586 OPS with 291 strikeouts the first time he faces them.

So what’s the plan of attack for a hitter facing Sale?

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“You just try to wait for him to make a mistake,” Bourjos said. “I think that’s the plan against a lot of good pitches, hopefully they make a mistake and you’re able to execute on it because the top-tier pitches don’t make too many and I think the same thing with (Clayton) Kershaw, you’re waiting for one of those pitches out over and hopefully you can take advantage of it.”

Said Reynolds: “You just gotta look fastball and react to everything else. And then it’s tough to catch up to 97.”

Given his tall, skinny build, blazing fastball and ability to rack up strikeouts, Sale’s been compared to Randy Johnson by plenty of people around baseball — White Sox manager Robin Ventura included. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who faced Johnson more times than any other pitcher during his 13-year career, said it’s fair to draw a line between the two pitchers.

“Yeah, I see that,” Matheny said. “Left side, different arm angle, hides the ball and explosive strikeout stuff. That pretty much explains it.”

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

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.