White Sox

White Sox in ideal spot as amateur draft nears

White Sox in ideal spot as amateur draft nears

The White Sox are in an ideal spot, competing right now and yet still building for the future.

The team heads into June’s amateur draft with all its picks — including one received after Jeff Samardzija departed via free agency — despite adding nine new players and pursuing several high-profile free agents this winter.

Off to a 23-12 start and in first place in the American League Central, the White Sox possess the 10th, 26th and 49th selections in the draft, which will be held from June 9 to June 11.

They would have sacrificed their second pick to reel in Alex Gordon, but he opted to stay with the Kansas City Royals, and the White Sox found alternatives.

Though this is exactly how he preferred it, first-year amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler swears no voodoo was involved. But he also made it clear to general manager Rick Hahn early in the offseason he hoped the team could field its roster without sacrificing the future.

“I actually told Rick I don’t want to know,” Hostetler said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘I’ll find out on Twitter, which is better for me.’ I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was totally honest with him — if they asked me my opinion of the player, I was going to be completely jaded and biased. I wasn’t going to like anybody.

“Having that extra pick puts us in play for some other guys that quite honestly ... we wouldn’t have had a chance.”

The opportunity to make an additional pick — and the extra $2 million in the bonus pool that comes with it — only arrived after a series of close calls. The White Sox pursued Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes down to the bitter end only to see them go back to the Royals and New York Mets, respectively. There was also talk in February about potentially signing Ian Desmond to fill the vacancy at shortstop.

Gordon and Desmond would have meant the team surrendered the 26th pick.

But none of the moves came together. Hostetler swears he didn’t use hypnosis, nor does he possess voodoo dolls representing Hahn, Kenny Williams or chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Hahn was willing to forfeit the pick for the right player.

Yet the club moved on and filled in some of its biggest holes with players who didn’t cost draft picks: Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson and Mat Latos.

“For us, the ideal scenario was to be able to win in Chicago while continuing to build our minor league system in a way that enhanced our chances for sustained success,” Hahn said. “Certainly, having three picks in the top 49 goes a long way towards helping that latter part happen.

“Since winning in Chicago is the No. 1 priority, we would have sacrificed the comp pick if the right deal was available this past off season. Given the start we've had and the fact that we kept the pick, we're arguably in position to potentially serve both of those goals.”

The additional money in the team’s draft bonus pool is equally as big as the pick.

Last year’s slotted amount for the 26th pick was $2,034,500. That’s $2 million extra to pour into a system that didn’t have a second- or third-round pick in 2015 (compensation for signing David Robertson and Melky Cabrera) and surrendered its fourth-round pick (Zack Erwin) in the Brett Lawrie trade.

The farm system has good talent up top in Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer. But trades for Samardzija, Todd Frazier and Lawrie have hurt the system’s depth.

The extra money could come in handy if a player with signability issues falls to the White Sox at No. 10 or at No. 26. Even though there’s no consensus No. 1 pick, Hostetler said the top 10 to 12 picks include premium talent that potentially could join the team’s core group within two seasons. He also notes the White Sox are heavily scouting the top 10 to 12 players because nobody knows who will end up where.

“It’s that type of year,” Hostetler said. “The first 10 to 12 guys are pretty lumped together.”

As of now, the team’s board for their top two selections includes a group of 35 to 40 players, Hostetler said. That figure has grown by about 10 players over the last month. Hostetler is actually hopeful the team’s first three selections come from the pool.

“We’d have to have some pretty bad luck if they don’t,” Hostetler said. “One of the most exciting things for this year is we’ve got so much financial flexibility that we needed to expand our board more, we needed more options for 10 and 26 just because when we’re comparing all these, seeing where we can allocate money.”

Hostetler said enthusiasm for the team’s start is rampant throughout the organization. He hears it when he reports to Hahn, Williams or Buddy Bell. It's also present when he talks to his scouts.

He would have signed off on the addition of a Gordon or a Cespedes because winning is the goal. But Hostetler likes his current position better — and that he didn’t have to resort dark magic to get it done.

Quite honestly the biggest thing we stress for is, at the end of the day, if the best thing for this club was to give away that pick for a player, if it ultimately resulted in putting a diamond ring on the finger in October or November, I could live with it,” Hostetler said.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”