White Sox

If Humber loses his spot, who should take it?

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If Humber loses his spot, who should take it?

After allowing six runs (five earned) in 5 13 innings on Sunday, Philip Humber's stats since his April 21 perfect game read like a script to a slasher movie: 48 IP, 7.50 ERA, 26 BB, 43 K, 12 HR and an opponent slash line of .280.372.523, an .896 OPS. Essentially, Humber has faced nothing but Prince Fielders, who enters Monday with an .895 OPS.

Humber is officially on notice after Robin Ventura intimated there was an ongoing discussion about the righty's future role. It could be in the bullpen, or it could be in the starting rotation -- but that's something the Sox will decide after Humber's next start, which will come this weekend in Los Angeles.

John Danks will make his first minor-league rehab start tomorrow. He may need one more, which would buy the White Sox some time to make a decision on what their roster will look like when Danks returns.

Here's the dilemma the Sox are facing: Keep Humber and send Jose Quintana back to Triple-A, or keep Quintana in the rotation, send Humber to the bullpen and demote someone to Triple-A (long-relievermop-up man Zach Stewart would be the likely candidate). The White Sox also could send Quintana to Charlotte and call up Dylan Axelrod, who's made one start this season and has been outstanding in 10 Triple-A starts.

But Quintana has had fantastic results in 22 innings spanning three starts and two relief appearances. He owns a 2.05 ERA and hasn't looked intimidated on the mound, impressive for someone who still has yet to throw an inning in Triple-A.

By the numbers, though, Quintana's early success may not be sustainable. Opponents have a batting average on balls in play of .200 against him, and his FIP -- a good predictor of future ERA -- sits at 4.14. Of course, 22 innings is hardly a large enough sample size, but the wasn't a book on Quintana when he was called up.

Unlike Axelrod, Quintana was relatively or completely unknown by most in the major leagues. But Quintana has faced Cleveland twice and succeeded in both outings. He did a fine job against Tampa Bay before Mark Wegner booted him for throwing behind Ben Zobrist. He's yet to have bad results when he's taken the mound.

It's been easy to forget Quintana is just 23 in his three starts -- he was born 15 days after Nestor Molina, who probably isn't an option for the majors at this point. But Quintana still has some things he needs to work on -- mainly, developing his tertiary offerings -- that most every young pitcher does in Triple-A. As it stands, Quintana has thrown about 70 percent fastballs and 19 percent sliders, opting for a slow curveball 9 percent of the time and a changeup 2 percent of the time.

That changeup is the pitch the Sox probably want to see Quintana develop. He throws it at an average velocity of 85 mph, only about 4 mph slower than his fastball. It's a pitch that could use some work, and it'd be more beneficial for Quintana to work on it in Charlotte than Chicago.

The best-case scenario is for Humber to work through his struggles, throw a good game against Los Angeles and keep his rotation spot. That would allow Quintana to continue to develop in Charlotte and give the Sox multiple reserves (him and Axelrod) ready to join the majors if need be.

But if Humber does need to go to the bullpen, the Sox wouldn't be wrong to try to ride Quintana's success as long as they can while hoping Humber finds himself working in relief. It's unlikely a move to the bullpen would be permanent for Humber, only lasting until he starts to see better results. When that happens, unless Quintana is doing his best Chris Sale impression, he'll probably board a plane back to Charlotte.

And don't forget about Axelrod in all of this -- if Humber needs more time in the bullpen and Quintana needs more development in the minors, he'd be a viable option to fill in.

This is a debate, though, that Humber can render moot. It'll start with a good side session in St. Louis, and then a solid outing in Los Angeles would do the trick. Quintana will face St. Louis on Tuesday, and how he handles that test will certainly play into this as well.

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."