White Sox

Jose Abreu explains why he is in 'a great position' despite All-Star absence

Jose Abreu explains why he is in 'a great position' despite All-Star absence

OAKLAND, Calif. — He may not be an All-Star, but Jose Abreu is unquestionably in a better place than he was one year ago.

The White Sox slugger said on Saturday morning one reason he’s rebounded this season is he’s focused too much on the present to spend time worrying about the past. A year removed from the worst stretch of his pro career, Abreu has rediscovered the form that made him the runaway winner for the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year award. He belted his 16th home run of the season on Tuesday as the White Sox fell to the Oakland A’s 7-6. Abreu, who finished 1-for-5 with three RBIs, is on pace to drive in 100 runs for a fourth straight season.

“I don’t like to turn back the page, I like to turn the page forward,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It was a tough situation for me last year. I’m glad I’ve overcome all those situations. I’m in a great position right now. I’m playing more like I know I can play. I’m doing my best. I’m glad for all the people who supported to me in that tough moment. I’m just glad to be at this point and doing my best.”

Abreu has contended since March he’s in a “much better place” this season.

The first baseman endured his share of trying times last year, especially off the field. He learned of the arrest of his trainer and close friend Julio Estrada last April for Estrada’s involvement in the smuggling case that helped bring Abreu to the United States in late 2013. Abreu also was informed he would have to testify in the case, though he’d be granted immunity for his participation. Beyond that, Abreu wondered if he’d ever be reunited with his young son, Dariel, who he’d only seen once since escaping Cuba.

Abreu headed into the 2016 All-Star break with 11 home runs and a .756 OPS. At that point he was only two weeks into a 32-game homerless stretch that ended on Aug. 4.

But Abreu has since been reunited with his son, who visits again next week, and testified in the trial in March.

Those developments have freed Abreu up and his play would suggest it to be the case. Through Saturday, Abreu is hitting .292/.340/.515 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs in 82 games. He didn’t drive in his 58th run of 2016 until his 107th game.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Changeup played big role in Carlos Rodon's 'confidence' inspiring start]

The White Sox have benefitted from Abreu’s improved play. Saturday was the 40th time in which the White Sox have scored five or more runs this season. Last season, the White Sox scored five or more runs only 67 times.

“It’s a big impact,” manager Rick Renteria said. “All of our guys have started to pick it up. (Todd Frazier), (Abreu), (Avisail Garcia) has been consistent all season. We’ve had output from guys nobody expected that we hoped would give us some, (Yolmer Sanchez) and (Matt) Davidson. All through the lineup everybody doing their thing and giving us moments. They continue to grind and play. Abreu’s consistency has been impactful. They just feed on each other.”

They root each other on, too.

Abreu has shown only love for Garcia, who two days ago was named the team’s lone All-Star representative. Abreu has championed Garcia’s accomplishment, stepping into his interview on Monday afternoon to inform reporters that Garcia was “happy, happy, happy” to be headed to Miami for next week’s exhibition.

Even though his numbers have been All-Star worthy as well, Abreu is content to be in a good spot. After all, he’ll also be in Miami, hanging out with his son and the rest of his family, including wife, Yusmary, who is due in October.

“(The All-Star Game) is not a disappointment,” Abreu said. “I’m realistic and I know there are a lot of players that have better stats than me. I’m glad for them to go. I did my best and I’m just working hard to help my team win games. I’ve had the experience. I experienced it three years ago. No regrets 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."