White Sox

Has Alexei Ramirez' offense peaked?

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Has Alexei Ramirez' offense peaked?

At this time last year, those waiting for Alexei Ramirez to have a breakout offensive season kept repeating this mantra: If he can hit in April and May, he'll be awesome.

From 2008-2010, Ramirez was dreadful at the plate through mid-May. In 2008, Ramirez posted a .353 OPS (.163 OBP.190 SLG) from March 31-May 15. In 2009, Ramirez had a .509 OPS on May 17. And in 2010, his OPS was .556 on the morning of May 15.

But after the middle of May, Ramirez took off in each of those seasons. In 2008 -- his best offensive season in the majors -- Ramirez posted an .833 OPS in 118 games from May 16 through the end of the campaign. In 2009, that mid-May-to-end-of-season OPS was .779, and in 2010, it was .791.

So when Ramirez came out of the gate strong in 2011, it looked like he was on pace to have the big offensive season some had been projecting for years.

On May 15, 2011, Ramirez had a .739 OPS. Nothing extraordinary, but given his previous AprilMay struggles, the hope was that his usual JuneJuly surge, coupled with a non-abysmal OPS base, would lead his full-season production to new heights. That didn't happen.

Ramirez peaked in early June. His OPS was a cool .812 after going 2-4 against Justin Verlander on June 4, but it slipped below .800 a few days later and was well into the mid-.700 range by the middle of the month. By August, Ramirez' OPS was .730, and it remained remarkably consistent in that range through the end of the season -- which saw Ramirez finish with a .727 OPS.

That left him with a three-year OPS of .732. In other words, his 2011 was basically an average offensive year for Alexei Ramirez. His wOBAs (basically, a better version of OPS) from 2009-2011 go as follows: .319, .321, .319.

So when Hardball Talk's Matthew Pouliot projected Ramirez to have an OPS of .766 in 2012, I had to be skeptical. That would represent a pretty sharp deviation from the last three years, and at 30, it's hard for me to believe Ramirez will ever be more than a .730-OPS guy.

But here's the really, really good news: it doesn't matter. Ramirez is so skilled with the glove that all he needs is roughly average offensive seasons to make him an incredibly valuable asset to the White Sox. Thanks to his shoulda-been-Gold-Glove defense in the last two seasons, Ramirez has racked up 9.2 WAR.

That two-year WAR total is behind only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and is right in the same range as Jose Reyes. Ramirez has also provided significantly more WAR than Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro and Derek Jeter since 2010.

Ramirez is one of baseball's elite shortstops. No lack of an offensive breakout will change that.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.