White Sox

White Sox plan to keep building momentum with 2017 MLB Draft: 'We're going to take our shots'

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AP

White Sox plan to keep building momentum with 2017 MLB Draft: 'We're going to take our shots'

The Yoan Moncadas, Michael Kopechs and Luis Roberts aren’t likely to be there when the White Sox pick 11th on Monday night. But the rebuilding White Sox should be able to find the kind of talent to continue strengthening their farm system.

The 2017 MLB Draft begins at 6 p.m. CST on Monday night. The likelihood that the grouping of players awaiting the White Sox when they pick at the No. 11 spot includes impact talent isn’t very high. But amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler believes the White Sox can continue to flush out baseball’s most improved farm system.

“(The rebuild) started along a little bit more quickly than what we expected, but at the same time, this year’s draft, we’re going to continue to add to that,” Hostetler said recently. “We want to keep that going. That was the problem before, we just didn’t have enough assets in our system for that to hold true throughout. We’ve got to continue each year to keep pushing forward.”

The White Sox have added a ton of impact talent over the last year. The signing of Robert last month was another critical piece, giving them the No. 25 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. The White Sox added some potential impact pieces in last year's draft in Zack Collins, Zack Burdi and Alec Hansen. But this year's class doesn't seem as likely to yield the same type of talent at the spot at which the White Sox pick. 

"This is an interesting draft," Hostetler said. "In the past there has been a pretty decent gap between the first 10 or 15 (selections) to the next group. This year there difference isn’t that much. From 11 to 49, there’s a bunch of players who will be very similar."

The possibility of adding more impact talent through that draft seems far more likely in 2018 if the White Sox continue to play like they have of late. After Sunday's loss at Cleveland, the White Sox have the fourth-lowest win percentage in the majors.

As for who the White Sox will take? Both MLB.com analysts and ESPN.com top project the pick will be North Carolina right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas. BaseballAmerica.com thinks the White Sox would take Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith. Prep outfielders Jordan Adell and Austin Beck, as well as Kentucky first baseman Evan White and Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger, have also been listed as under consideration.

"We’re looking for the best guy, regardless of position, but also somebody who fits in to what we’re trying to do," Hostetler said. "We do want to limit a guy with a swing and miss, we want to make sure that we have hitters who put the ball in play and pitchers who pound the zone. I sound like a broken record with it, but it is true, it’s something we believe in. We want to make sure that that’s where we stick with. We’re going to take our shots. There’s going to be certain times where you want to step outside the box, and you’ve got to take a shot because if not, you’re going to end up with the same type of player throughout your system, and you don’t want that."

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."