White Sox

Flowers' first appearance goes well

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Flowers' first appearance goes well

Tyler Flowers posed for pictures, shook hands and received sound advice from White Sox fans at the Palmer House Hilton on Friday night.

Save for a few pithy remarks, Flowers first appearance as A.J. Pierzynskis heir apparent was smooth.

The White Sox catcher knows it will be difficult to replace Pierzynski, a South Side fan favorite who signed with the Texas Rangers this offseason. But for Flowers to get what he desires most -- an everyday catching job -- he will have to do just that, and hes ready for a chance.

Someone has got to be that guy, Flowers said. Its a challenge; another something to go along with the story. But it really has no affect on me. You wouldnt wish it for anybody, but thats what the situation is.

While one question directed at general manager Rick Hahn in his SoxFest seminar on Friday was whether or not the team is better off without Pierzynski, White Sox decision makers are confident they have made the right choice.

The two-time top-100 Baseball America prospect was the top minor-leaguer the White Sox received in a December 2008 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta and they intend to give him a try. Though he hasnt been handed the job, Flowers is the clear favorite with spring camp 2 12 weeks away.

Were going to give Tyler his shot, Hahn said. Nows his opportunity, his chance to fulfill a lot of the promise that we saw. Were not going to bring in someone to push it or enforce it.

Flowers has already earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. Pitchers are on board with his receiving and defensive skills and his arm. Manager Robin Venturas coaching staff appreciates how Flowers, as asked, focused on his catching duties and didnt fret over his offensive struggles in limited plate appearances last season. Players know hes a hard worker, whether its conditioning, refining his defense or pre-game preparation.

Tyler's no slouch behind the plate, pitcher Chris Sale said. He works hard, he studies video, he looks at -- he's got 15 sheets of paper on the desk before a start. He prepares with the best of them and behind the plate he's awesome. I think with some consistent at-bats we're going to see a different guy this year. If there's anybody to step up and fill that void, it's him.

Still, Flowers, his teammates and coaches are aware fans will make a big deal of the fact Pierzynski is gone after eight seasons. They know the diehards are disappointed Pierzynski wont return after he slugged a career-high 27 home runs last season. The trick is -- and Flowers said it wont be a problem -- to not make the season about Pierzynski. Manager Robin Ventura has a plan in place.

I want him to just be prepared to do his job, Ventura said. He doesnt have to do his job and the perceptions of somebody elses job. Nobody knows what that would have been. Nobodys numbers are guaranteed. Its about going in at spring training and doing the work and thats for me to keep him focused on simple stuff, not thinking about outside pressures and expectations that somebody else has.

All Flowers would like is a chance.

He doesnt expect to waltz in and immediately win over the fan base. Thanks to several autograph seekers on Friday, Flowers knows I have big shoes to fill. He isnt going to be the same guy at the plate. Flowers will strike out more often than Pierzynski and wont hit .300. But he does offer big power and plans to make himself invaluable through his defensive play and hard work.

As long as hes given a fair shot, Flowers has no complaints.

Im going to strike out a lot more than he did, Flowers said. So we can go ahead and get over that. Its going to happen. I hope the stats look good at the end of the year. But the biggest thing is catching and handling the staff. I think (fans are) going to be open enough to give me a shot at it. Thats all I want. All I wanted was an opportunity. Its all on my shoulders now to do what Im capable of.

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

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Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

The Cubs made the Jose Quintana deal knowing it would have been more difficult to give up Dylan Cease if he was already performing at the Double-A level, and that the White Sox organization would be a good place to continue his education as a young pitcher.

While Eloy Jimenez keeps drawing ridiculous comparisons – the running total now includes Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz – Cease is more than just the other name prospect from the deal that shocked the baseball world during the All-Star break.

“We still project him as a starter,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during this week’s GM meetings in Florida. “He certainly has the stuff where it’s easy to envision him as a potential dominant reliever. But to this point – for the foreseeable future – we deal with the starting and continue to develop him as a potential front-end arm.”

The Theo Epstein regime still hasn’t developed an impact homegrown pitcher, but that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from winning 292 games, six playoff rounds and a World Series title across the last three seasons, while still being in a strong position to win the National League Central again in 2018.

Without Quintana and his affordable contract that can run through 2020, Epstein’s front office might have been looking at the daunting possibility of trying to acquire three starting pitchers this winter.

While surveying a farm system in the middle of a natural downturn, Baseball America ranked seven pitchers on its top-10 list of prospects from the Cubs organization: Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, Brendon Little, Thomas Hatch and Jen-Ho Tseng.

So far, only Alzolay, an Arizona Fall League Fall Star with seven starts for Double-A Tennessee on his resume, and Tseng, who made his big-league debut in September, have pitched above the A-ball level.

Cease – who went 0-8 with a 3.89 ERA for Class-A Kannapolis in his first nine starts in the White Sox system – has a 100-mph fastball and a big curveball and won’t turn 22 until next month. That stuff allowed Cease to pile up 126 strikeouts against 44 walks in 93.1 innings this year, putting him in the wave that includes Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

“Ideally, we have a lot of guys we project to be part of the future, very good, championship-caliber rotation,” Hahn said. “In an ideal world, there’s not going to be room at the inn for all of them. You only have five in that rotation and some of these guys will wind up in the bullpen. In reality, as players develop, you’re going to see some attrition.”

One spot after the White Sox grabbed Carlos Rodon with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cubs did Kyle Schwarber’s below-slot deal, using part of the savings to buy out Cease’s commitment to Vanderbilt University ($1.5 million bonus for a sixth-rounder) and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Cease was never going to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, and now the White Sox hope he can be part of the foundation on the South Side, where it’s easier to sell a rebuild after watching the Cubs and Houston Astros become World Series champions.

“It doesn’t change really for us internally in terms of our commitment or focus or our plan or our timeline or anything along those lines,” Hahn said. “I do think, perhaps, it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and how long the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series (was). In Chicago, many fans saw it firsthand with the Cubs.

“There are certainly more and more examples in the game over the last several years to help sort of show fans the path and justification for what we’re (doing).”

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

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USA TODAY

The White Sox just traded for a really intriguing arm

The White Sox continued their rebuild Thursday by trading for an intriguing young right-handed pitcher.

The South Siders acquired Thyago Vieira from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.

The 24-year-old Vieira is a Brazilian native and has only made one appearance in the big leagues, striking out a batter in one perfect inning of work in 2017.

While his career minor-league numbers don't jump off the page — 14-19 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 13 saves and 7.4 K/9 in 290.2 innings \— Vieira has been reportedly clocked at 104 mph with his fastball and was ranked as the Mariners' No. 8 prospect at the time of the deal. He also held righties to .194 batting average in 2017.

Here's video of Vieira throwing gas:

And this may explain why Vieira was even available:

Control has been an issue throughout his career, as he's walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in the minors. He has improved in that regard over the last few seasons, however, walking only 22 batters in 54 innings across three levels in 2017 and he doled out only one free pass in 5.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

What does this deal mean in the big picture for baseball? How did the Sox pull off a move like this while not having to give up a player in return? 

This may help shed light on the situation from Baseball America's Kyle Glaser:

Either way, the White Sox may have just acquired a guy who could potentially throw his name in the hat for "future closer." Or at the very least, throw his name in the hat for "best name."