White Sox

White Sox intrigued by Simeon grad, 7th-rounder Blake Hickman

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White Sox intrigued by Simeon grad, 7th-rounder Blake Hickman

A few weeks ago, the White Sox didn’t expect their local protege to make it to pick No. 112, let alone the seventh round.

But after Iowa pitcher Blake Hickman’s velocity dropped and he was roughed up a bit last month, the Simeon graduate and South Side native slipped to the White Sox with pick No. 202 in Tuesday’s MLB Draft.

Thanks to the work of scout J.J. Lally and a longstanding relationship with Hickman, who participated in the White Sox Amateur City Elite program growing up, the organization not only drafted the 6-foot-5 right-hander but also is hopeful he can turn into a solid prospect.

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“We’re excited about him,” assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “We think there is a huge projection there. The ACE part of it and him being a local kid was kind of a bonus for us. … We’ve known him forever and when we made the call when he was our pick it sounded like — you would never know he fell somewhat in the draft with his reaction. He was so excited to be here.”

Hickman is a natural catcher/first baseman who transitioned to full-time pitching in 2014, his sophomore year at Iowa. He posted a 3.26 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 65 walks over 118 2/3 collegiate innings (21 starts, 12 relief appearances).

The White Sox see his progress being keyed by the development of his curveball to pair with a fastball Hostetler said has been clocked between 91 and 97 miles per hour.

“The curveball, the breaking ball just has to get tighter, better, and it’s going to happen with time,” Hostetler said. “He’s a young kid and you almost have to treat him like a high school kid as a pitcher because he hasn’t pitched much. The upside is tremendous with his body and arm strength and whatnot. There is a chance that if his curveball comes, he has a chance to be special.”

[MLB DRAFT: Get to know the new selections of the White Sox]

Hickman, who played in the White Sox Double Duty Classic every year from 2008-2011, is the first ACE player to be picked in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft. He was drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round out of high school, but that was as a catcher.

As a pitcher, the White Sox like his raw stuff and his makeup. And there’s a hope that someday he could become a true success story, from Englewood to the majors at U.S. Cellular Field.

“He’s a tough kid and a smart kid,” Hostetler said. “When we made the call, ‘Hey Blake, this is the time for you,’ you could tell this is where he wants to be. So it’s exciting for us.”

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

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.