White Sox

White Sox season review: Catchers

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White Sox season review: Catchers

As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. Next up is catching.

Depth chart (notable names)

Tyler Flowers: Arbitration eligible (4.184 major league service)

Geovany Soto: Free agent

Rob Brantly: Pre-arbitration eligible

Kevan Smith: Pre-arbitration eligible

What went right

Depending on which site you use, Flowers either tied for first with Francisco Cervelli or finished in the top three in pitching framing, which accounts for called strikes that weren’t. Statcorner.com notes that Flowers earned an average of 1.79 extra strikes per game for his pitchers, which along with solid game-calling skills speaks to why White Sox pitchers praise him ad nausea for his work behind the plate (Chris Sale spent several minutes praising Flowers as key to the operation at the All-Star Game and after every start).

[SOX IN REVIEW: Starting pitching]

Working with the pitchers, Flowers and Soto -- who stayed healthy all season -- also helped keep the opposition’s running game in check. The White Sox allowed 75 stolen bases, tied for 11th in the majors and below the league average of 83 1/2.

What went wrong

Even though his strikeout rate decreased by seven percent, Flowers’ production fell off from 2014 on a team starved for offense. His Weighted Runs Created dipped by 17 points to 78 while his OPS-plus dropped from 97 to 82,which was magnified because of the team’s production issues, particularly at the bottom of the lineup. Flowers hit .239/.295/.356 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 361 plate appearances after he had 15 homers and 50 RBIs in 442 PAs in 2014. Soto wasn’t any better, hitting .219/.301/.406 with nine homers in 210 PAs. Still, the team’s offensive woes at catcher were over-exaggerated as the club’s combined .656 OPS ranked 17th in the majors (yes, 13 teams were worse).

Also, the team’s 22 passed balls were tied for the second-most in the league, led by Flowers’ 15.

The future

With Soto a free agent, the White Sox will likely seek an offensive upgrade behind the dish this offseason (as if that’s easy) because the system doesn’t seem close to producing an everyday option. The White Sox like both Smith and Brantly but are likelier to try to trade or sign someone to split the duties with Flowers --- or perhaps even make him the backup. Down on the farm, the White Sox like Brett Austin, but he must prove he can hit enough. Omar Narvaez hit enough at High-A but has to make strides behind the dish. Seby Zavala, a 2015-draftee out of San Diego State, hit a ton for the Arizona Rookie League champion club but is years away. The team also likes 17-year-old Jhoandro Alfaro, but he had plenty of hiccups in his first season of pro ball.

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.