White Sox

To stay in the hunt, White Sox need Sale to stay strong

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To stay in the hunt, White Sox need Sale to stay strong

KANSAS CITY There are two ways to look at it: You can focus on how far Chris Sale has come in the last two years, or how much he still has to do in the second half.

Sale rocketed through the system after the White Sox took him with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft. It took only 11 games in the minors to go from Florida Gulf Coast University to the big leagues. Its not going to slow down.

There was Sale on Monday at Kauffman Stadium, taping the Top Ten Fun Facts about the All-Star Game for David Letterman. Sale followed Justin Verlander and Joe Mauer at No. 8: After the Home Run Derby, there's now a Weak Grounder to Third Derby.

It does get kind of crazy at times, Sale said Tuesday, but you kind of learn to deal with it and go along with it and just have fun with it.

Yes, the Late Show appearance was pretty sweet. But Sales Q rating is only going to increase if the White Sox continue to prove the experts wrong and stay in first place, and the left-hander with the nasty slider puts up more numbers (10-2, 2.19 ERA).

This will be the next frontier: Sale has already thrown 102.2 innings after accounting for 71 out of the bullpen last season.

Were just going to kind of play it by ear, Sale said, and just go on how I feel and how my stuff is. Well cross that bridge when we get there.

The White Sox never seem to get much love or hype from Baseball America and the prospect rankings. But they have now developed a 23-year-old frontline starter, and enough homegrown talent to come out of the All-Star break with a three-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central.

How Sale responds to the heat of a pennant race and how the White Sox protect their investment will be telling.

Jake Peavy has emerged from his own physical issues to return to the All-Star Game for the first time since his Cy Young season with the San Diego Padres in 2007. This is the underlying tension.

I understand Chris Sale has got to be looked after, Peavy said. Hes a prized possession for any organization to have. At the same time, when I look back and think about when I got into the league in 2003, my first full season, (and guys like Roy Oswalt), we were throwing around 200 innings.

For us to win, Chris Sale is going to have to start. Its going to be interesting to see how that plays out. Well just leave that up to the organization and what they feel is best. They certainly know. But the biggest thing comes down to him taking care of himself and his body.

There may be nothing more fragile or expensive than elite starting pitching. The Washington Nationals intend to shut down All-Star Stephen Strasburg in September. The Cubs dont have a hard limit, but they are targeting around 180 innings for Jeff Samardzija, who has a body that was built to play in the NFL. Sale is listed at 6-foot-6, 180 pounds.

Obviously, Im trying to do everything I can to put on weight, but its something that I dont think is in my control, Sale said. The main thing is just trying to stay strong and get my shoulder right and make sure everythings feeling good. (Its) getting stronger so I can do what I need to do for this team.

General manager Kenny Williams thinks big and likes to be aggressive. The Detroit Tigers appear to be gathering momentum and are only 3.5 games out. Maybe Kevin Youkilis was only the start for Williams.

Hes going to do what he has to do to help our team in whatever way, Sale said. Going and getting Youkilis was a big part of that. I dont mean having him on the field. Having him in that clubhouse, too, has made our team that much better. Hes fit right in and hes an unbelievable guy.

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."