White Sox

If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

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If the Sox need pitching, could Simon Castro help?

In a perfect world for the White Sox, Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber would put their struggles behind them, pitching at the level the team believes the pair can. But if one or both pitchers can't keep runs from scoring -- Floyd has an ERA of 10.38 in his last seven starts and Humber has a 7.47 ERA since his perfect game -- the Sox may be forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching.

A name that popped up this week is Simon Castro, who the White Sox acquired from San Diego in last winter's Carlos Quentin trade. Once a highly-touted prospect in the Padres' system, Castro's star fell considerably during a 2011 season that saw him post a 5.63 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. Castro began the season with Triple-A Tucson, but was sent back to Double-A after six rough starts.

But Castro has pitched well with Double-A Birmingham, sporting a 3.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts, 16 walks and four home runs allowed in 85 innings. And he's caught the eye of Kenny Wiliams, who discussed the pitcher's progress on Monday.

"We're really happy with his progress," Williams said. "He has returned to the guy that he was when he was one of the top prospects in baseball with San Diego."

The question, though, is if Castro can handle opponents at a level higher than Double-A. 2012 is Castro's third go-around in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.52 ERA in 304 career innings. But Castro has struggled at Triple-A, making eight starts at that level in the San Diego organization with a 9.50 ERA. His control has escaped him in Triple-A, with 24 walks and 27 strikeouts to his name in 36 innings.

Williams says the main question with Castro is if he can handle the mental aspect of pitching above Double-A.

"We're going to make sure that continues and have the conversations like we did with Jose Quintana and some of the other guys we brought up quickly: Can he handle it makeup-wise and will he continue to grow and not go backwards? It's a delicate situation when you're discussing things along those lines, but we couldn't be any more pleased than where we are with him."

Quintana has shown the mettle to pitch above Double-A, posting a 1.53 ERA in 35 13 innings with the Sox this season. Unlike Castro, Quintana never failed at Triple-A, although that's because he hasn't thrown an inning at that level in his career.

To Castro's credit, the Pacific Coast League is a cruel place for pitchers, and he's hardly thrown enough innings in Triple-A to make a long-term judgment about his ability to pitch at that level.

The Sox don't appear ready to shake up the starting rotation just yet, especially with John Danks out for at least another month. But if they do reach that point, Castro may find himself in the pitching help discussion.

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."