White Sox

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

Put the shift on against Nicky Delmonico and he’s going to drop down a bunt to beat you.

The White Sox rookie has tried his solution for shift-happy defenses already three times this season and it’s worked in each instance.

And while its undoubtedly the long ball -- he’s hit five home runs -- that has caught everyone’s attention during the White Sox rookie’s unbelievable start, don’t overlook the little things, especially Delmonico’s ability to bunt for a hit and the impact it’s had on opposing defenses.

Whenever opponents try to employ a shift, and they’ve done it more often this season, Delmonico has shown no fear in trying to beat them with a bunt down the third-base line.

He bunted for a single in Sunday’s win when he reached base three times to bring his on-base percentage to .451 through 71 plate appearances. There’s no question that forcing defenses to play him straight up is partly responsible for Delmonico reaching base safely in 15 of 17 games to start his major league career.

“It opens up a hole,” Delmonico said. “There’s been a lot of times in Charlotte where you hit a hard ground ball through the four hole and think it’s a hit, but then there’s a guy deep in right field. You want those (to be hits). Any time you can take advantage of bunting and show you can bunt they’ll move out of the shift.”

Take a look at Delmonico’s spray chart and it’ll tell you he’s pull-happy. He’s pulled 47.9 percent of all balls put in play since reaching the majors, according to Fangraphs.com. Were he to be qualified for a batting title, Delmonico would currently be 15th in pull percentage in baseball, easily within range of leader Salvador Perez’s 54.6 percent.

Either way, Delmonico’s spray chart is the type that often leads defenses to load up three gloves on the right side of the infield no matter the count (teams tend to shift to a hitter’s pull side most often with two strikes).

But Delmonico has made them think twice --- at least early in the count.

“Any time I see them all over that’s when it’s the best time to lay one down,” Delmonico said. “You’ve just got to get it past the pitcher and fair.”

You also have to catch the attention of advance scouts. Based on the way he’s been defended so far, hitting coach Todd Steverson thinks opponents have taken notice of Delmonico’s skills.

“It’s got to be in their notes,” Steverson said. “It’s got to be in their data: “This guy will bunt.” Even just the words “he will bunt” keeps somebody close for a minute before they move to another spot. If you have none, then they don’t have to do nothing.

“They want to play him in the full shift. That’s what they did to him from the get-go. He dropped two bunts down on them and said ‘Ok.’ ”

Delmonico said he’s seen an increased number of shifts since reached Triple-A two years ago.

“But it was all different kinds of shifts,” Delmonico said. “Very rarely I would see them all over until two strikes.”

Delmonico works on bunting the same as anyone else. There’s the round he takes each day at the start of batting practice each day. And every few weeks or so, Charlotte brought out the pitching machine.

But what may make him standout are his confidence and conviction. While Delmonico realizes he may be taking the potential for extra bases out of his hands for one at-bat, he’s knows he’s still giving himself a chance to jumpstart a rally and he’s creating a world of opportunities for the rest of his trips to the plate.

“I feel like they’re pretty good,” Delmonico said. “I’ve worked a lot on it the last two years because I know eventually they will shift and to get that hole open you’ve got to prove to them that you will bunt.

“Overall it helps you out and two, it gives you a chance to get on base and get going. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

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."