White Sox

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia to try 'different' stance

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White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia to try 'different' stance

He experienced enough inconsistency last season to make a change, and so far Avisail Garcia is encouraged after making a slight tweak to his batting stance.

Though they also remain hopeful, the White Sox are realistic that Garcia has much ground to cover.

But with spring training near — pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 19 — the expectation is the young outfielder will receive enough repetitions to get comfortable with a new stance at the plate before Opening Day.

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Although they don’t see it as a radical change, last month, the White Sox started to work with Garcia to stand taller in the box. They think he’ll need time to adjust to and get comfortable with the alterations. But if the plan works, the White Sox are confident Garcia can eliminate some of the inconsistencies that dominated his 2015 campaign.

And only then might Garcia — who hit .257/.309/.365 with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 601 plate appearances — fulfill the lofty expectations that were attached to him when he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade in July 2013.

“We’re working to get better because last year I was down then up,” Garcia said late last month. “This year I am focused to be tall and being patient and swinging at strikes. When I swing at strikes, I can hit like the start of the season.”

Garcia looked like he may realize his potential when he began last season hitting at a .346/.380/.492 clip in his first 137 plate appearances. Buoyed by an impossible-to-sustain .423 average on balls in play, Garcia had 11 extra-base hits, including four homers, and drove in 17 runs in a torrid start that ran from Opening Day through mid-May.  

Then came the bad times, and they arrived in bunches.

Whether due to bad luck, pitchers’ adjustments or struggling teammates, Garcia’s production collapsed.

He produced a .383 OPS over 11 games (41 plate appearances) from May 18-June 4. A 46-game homerless stretch from June 9-Aug. 3 resulted in a .533 OPS over 187 plate appearances. And Garcia endured another lengthy streak from Sept. 2-25 when he had a .536 OPS in 87 plate appearances.

Throughout it all, Garcia switched stances as he tried to find proper balance at the plate.

Either he saw the ball well, but couldn’t connect for much power whenever he crouched near the front, or he had poor pitch selection and a more powerful stroke deep in the box. Rarely did he find middle ground.

But those struggles may have given Garcia the perspective necessary to realize changes at the plate are needed. Last month, hitting coach Todd Steverson traveled to Miami for a three-day session with Garcia and Jose Abreu. He found Garcia receptive and together they developed a plan.

Steverson is encouraged by the initial work, though he stressed that it’s early in the process.

“You can tell people, tell people, tell people,” Steverson said. “But until they get a hold of it in their own head that says, ‘It’s time to make an adjustment’ or ‘It’s time to do something different,’ then that’s when it comes down to it.

“We put in some time. We need more time, a good thing about spring training. But we’ve done some things that are positive. He likes it. It’s going to take a while repetition-wise to get used to it. He’s gonna look different than you’ve seen, I’ll say that.

“It’s nothing drastic, but hopefully it allows him to be more competitive.”

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Abreu admits that he’s naturally an optimistic guy. Still, he called the three-day session “important” and likes how Garcia is carrying himself. Abreu said he mostly reaffirmed what Steverson said to Garcia and likes how the outfielder has responded.

“Especially to see Avi in the shape that he is and the kind of mindset that he is having now,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s very good.”

“When I look at him, I think that wow, he could be that kind of player that all people are suspecting.”

The White Sox could use a heavy dose of good from Garcia.

In December, they upgraded the lineup with the additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie and a catching combo projected to produce 3 Wins Above Replacement, according to ZiPS.

But an offense that produced three or fewer runs in 82 contests in 2015 needs as much help as it can get.

The team — which is projected to win 84-85 games — has since pursued free agent outfielders Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes only to come up short.

While Rick Hahn said he’ll continue to look for roster upgrades before the team’s April 4 opener at Oakland, the White Sox are likely to give Garcia his share of at-bats. But they need him to be much better than the player who finished 115th out of 141 qualified hitters with an isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .108 — especially if his defense doesn’t improve.

“He’s got work to do, there’s no question about it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He understands where he’s at in his career and what he needs to do in order to make improvements in different parts in his game. Everybody reacts differently when they get in that situation and I’ve really enjoyed and liked his reaction to it. He’s come in great shape, ready to go and is determined to prove to everybody that he should be on a roster and playing every day.”

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Said Hahn: “We believe in the talent. There are specific things he needs to work on and he knows that. And he has the aptitude to make those adjustments.”

Garcia said he’s worked hard to prepare himself for success. This offseason differed from the previous one. In 2014, Garcia played winter ball to make up for the at-bats he lost to a shoulder injury. This winter, Garcia stayed home and focused more on physical preparation, resulting in a slimmer build.

Though he did offer a declaration of self-confidence, Garcia didn’t discuss his plan much to avoid setting high expectations.

“I know who I am and what I can offer to my team,” Garcia said. “I really don’t want to get into what I can and can’t prove.

“It’s just not good to spread expectations like that.

“I know I can do better. That’s why I’ve been preparing myself. When you work hard and prepare for something you don’t have a chance to fall.”

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.