White Sox

Sunday best: Lucas Giolito's latest gem puts future on display in middle of White Sox rebuild

Sunday best: Lucas Giolito's latest gem puts future on display in middle of White Sox rebuild

Fans playing along with the White Sox waiting game had reason to smile for a second straight Sunday.

Lucas Giolito turned in his second consecutive stellar outing, silencing the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and taking the next step in his quest to be a part of the White Sox rotation of the future.

It’s going to be a crowded field, one would figure. Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Giolito are already at the big league level, with Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning taking turns dazzling in the minor leagues. But Giolito, at least through his first three games in a White Sox uniform, has stated his case for being as strong a candidate as any to earn a spot on that future starting staff.

Sunday, he shut down the Rays’ lineup, holding them to one run on three hits over seven innings. This after he tossed seven shutout frames against the Detroit Tigers a week earlier. Combine the last two outings with his first, when he allowed four runs in six innings against the Minnesota Twins, and Giolito has a 2.25 ERA in his first three trips to the mound since joining the White Sox.

“He threw very, very well,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Riding his fastball, using his changeup really effectively, breaking ball mixed in. I though he attacked hitters, just went right after them. They were taking some very uncomfortable swings, it seemed like, so there must be obviously some deception to his delivery.

“The ball comes out of his hand pretty good, and it’s getting on top of those hitters. The 91, 92 looks like 95, 96 probably to them. He did a very, very nice job. Very, very nice job.”

This isn’t Giolito’s first taste of big league ball, mind you. He had a rocky go of things last season with the Washington Nationals, making one start in June, two in July and one in August before a pair of September relief appearances. All in all he posted a 6.75 ERA over 21.1 innings.

At 20 innings with the White Sox over the past few weeks, he’s faring much better, perhaps a credit to the South Siders’ place in the standings. The last-place season is allowing Giolito — and plenty of other young players, for that matter — to focus on improving and developing and not worrying about a roster spot.

“Knowing that I’m here and I’m not going anywhere and I get to work on what I need to work on and go out and compete every fifth day without having to worry about ‘Am I going to be sent down? Am I going to perform well enough?’ Just going out there and competing and giving it my all every time, it’s much more relaxed,” Giolito said. “I’m really enjoying it so far.”

Of course, that setup is also allowing the White Sox to get a look at a guy who could wind up in that rotation of the future.

While Kopech dominates the minors and Hansen and Dunning take turns racking up big strikeout totals, Giolito, Lopez and even the slightly more experienced Rodon can continue their own developments at the big league level and earn experience against big league lineups.

Giolito can count Sunday as a solid step forward. He struck out 10 Rays batters in the White Sox 6-2 win.

“Just continuing to feel comfortable out there throwing any pitch in any count,” he said. “I think that’s pretty important at this level, being able to throw that slider behind or throw a changeup behind, keep guys off balance. Just going out there and working and feeling like I can get my best stuff out there every time. Feeling really good.”

“He looked just as composed as he did his last outing,” Renteria said. “It’s like anything, as you continue to trust the stuff that you have and you’re able to command it and you’re seeing that you’re getting big league hitters out, good big league hitters, I think it’s just a matter of continuing to maintain his approach and the consistency with which he’s delivering the pitch to the plate. And now it’s just time. Time will start to tell us who he is or isn’t. Right now, thankfully, it’s a pretty good start for him.”

That’s one thing the White Sox are currently blessed with, time. And Giolito and the others will figure to get plenty of it to prove whether or not they belong in the franchise’s long-term plans. Ever since the White Sox acquired Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade this past offseason, he’s figured to be in those plans. Now he’s proving it.

It might be a last-place season on the South Side, but the future is already happening.

“You always want to win. That’s my goal every time I go out there: I want to give the team a chance to win, put up as many zeroes as possible,” Giolito said, who now has two wins in his last two outings. “But having all the young talent starting to work together and build up together, it’s really fun. And I’m looking forward to the future a lot.”

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."