White Sox

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

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AP

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Anderson’s confidence increasingly continues to return.

The White Sox shortstop chose the right moment to take a big risk when he stole third base in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s the kind of call that either earns a player kudos if it works or an earful from the manager if it fails. Turns out Anderson’s risky decision to steal third base with All-Star catcher Salvador Perez behind the plate helped the White Sox win their first road series since June. 

Only minutes after a similar play backfired for the Kansas City Royals, Anderson’s steal allowed him to easily score on a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Jose Abreu. The White Sox tacked on another run to topple the Kansas City Royals 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium. 

“He wanted to get there for (Abreu),” manager Rick Renteria said. “A steal of third has to be 100 percent or otherwise it’s fruitless. He had a good feel for it. He wanted to get over there and he did.”

Anderson’s 11th steal in 12 tries was the latest big moment in a resurgent second half. The second-year player slumped through July as he struggled to cope with the May death of close friend Branden Moss. Moss was shot and killed attempting to aide an assault victim outside of a bar near the University of Alabama campus on May 7.

But Anderson has looked much more like himself since he began to see a counselor in late July. Once again, the 2013 first-round draft pick is playing free of restriction and with the kind of confidence he displayed often throughout a rookie campaign in which he produced 2.5 f-Wins Above Replacement.

How else to explain running on Perez — who has thrown out 159 of 470 runners in his career (33.8 percent) — with one of the hottest hitters in baseball on deck? 

If Anderson is thrown out, questions about his thought process with Abreu coming to bat with a man in scoring position are asked. It’s the same type of questions asked on sports talk radio about Kansas City's Alcides Escobar after he made the final out of the eighth inning with the score tied.

But Anderson trusted the instincts that made him a top-50 prospect before the 2016 season and his read of pitcher Scott Alexander’s move. With Yoan Moncada at bat and a 3-2 count, Anderson, who went 2-for-5, his seventh multi-hit game in the last 10, took off running and beat Perez’s throw.

“Really just going off the pitcher,” Anderson said. “He was giving me slow deliveries and I feel like with my speed I was able to get there.”

“I wanted to take it in such a key moment.”

Three pitches later, Abreu drove a fly ball to deep center to bring in Anderson and give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. 

Anderson hasn’t attempted to steal bases at similar rate to what he did in the minors when he was 100 of 128, including in Arizona Fall League play. But he’s been more effective in the majors, swiping 21 of 24 tries (87.5 percent). And the confident Anderson promises this only the beginning as he gets more comfortable with pitchers around the league and their moves.

“It’s just a matter of time before the stolen bases keep coming,” Anderson said. “I was able to get a pretty good jump on it. 

“It’s definitely the more attempts I can get and more comfortable I can get that I feel like I can run more.”

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."