White Sox

Manto, Ventura discuss Beckham's approach

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Manto, Ventura discuss Beckham's approach

On Wednesday, Frank Thomas offered up his thoughts on Gordon Beckham's new hitting approach. In looking at Beckham, Thomas figured the second baseman could use a few days off to clear his head and really nail down his timing, which has escaped him in trying to get his front foot down.

While Beckham isn't in Thursday's getaway day lineup, don't expect him to get multiple days off to get comfortable with his swing.

"Any time you do something different, it's going to take a little time. But it's not like we're asking him to hit left-handed," manager Robin Ventura said prior to Thursday's game. "We're just asking him to get started a little earlier. It's something that happens to most guys -- everybody changes an approach or tinkers with things enough during the season that you're used to doing that. I don't see it taking a whole long time for him to do that."

Hitting coach Jeff Manto and Ventura are on the same page: Beckham's change really isn't very drastic.

"What we're asking is not invasive at all," Manto said. "It's a very easy fix -- it's a timing mechanism, it's not like we're moving hands, moving feet, moving heads -- it's just a matter of getting your foot down and the at-bat's over. Let the at-bat take care of itself once you get ready to hit. If we got a little bit to where it's invasive, that would be a problem."

The goal of having Beckham getting his foot down early is to improve his pitch recognition, which has escaped him for extended stretches since his outstanding rookie year. Since he hit .270.347.460 in 2009, Beckham's production has slid to a .238.303.351 line with just 19 home runs in 1,091 plate appearances -- only five more than he had in 430 trips to the plate three years ago.

Thomas and Manto agree that Beckham has too much talent to stay down for much longer. And Beckham's struggles haven't been for a lack of effort, either.

"He's been working his butt off in the cage every day, he hasn't backed down from the work," Manto said. "He's not complaining, he's staying positive, and he is close. Like Frank's saying, as soon as he gets the ability to stay behind the ball, he's going to be fine."

When he's going to be fine, though, is still the question. The White Sox have been waiting for him to be fine for three seasons now. Beckham's had flashes of his 2009 self here or there -- he had an .811 OPS through his first 13 games in 2011 and had an .877 OPS after the All-Star break in 2010 -- but he hasn't been able to sustain those bursts of success.

Perhaps working in his favor, too, is that the Sox don't have a viable replacement for him at second base in their organization. Eduardo Escobar hasn't hit outside of short spurts in Arizona, while Brent Lillibridge may not have the defensive prowess the Sox want.

Short-term, though, Manto won't panic if results don't start to come for Beckham as the Sox head to Seattle and Oakland. Although two-thirds of the year is a bit of an exaggeration.

"I hate to put a timetable on it, because you don't know what we're going to run into out west," Manto said. "But more importantly, he's in a good frame of mind, we just work it from there. He stays positive. Hell, we got eight months left, so there's no urgency."

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."