White Sox

Why the White Sox hardly celebrated when they drafted Chris Sale

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Why the White Sox hardly celebrated when they drafted Chris Sale

White Sox officials couldn’t celebrate too enthusiastically when they selected Chris Sale with their first-round pick five years ago.

Sale, the lanky left-hander from Florida Gulf Coast, was projected by Baseball America to be picked fourth overall by Kansas City in 2010. He was on the White Sox radar, but the feeling in the club’s draft room was that he wouldn’t fall out of the Top 10. The White Sox had the No. 13 pick in that year's MLB Draft.

“We certainly expected him to be gone when we started off that day and in the days leading up,” general manager Rick Hahn recalled. “He was a guy who our scouts and the people in the room pointed to as someone who could certainly help us at the big league level soon but in all probability was not going to be available to us.”

[MORE: White Sox see Chris Sale sliding back into ace form]

Under normal circumstances, when Sale fell to the White Sox, it would’ve led to plenty of high fives and cheers. But MLB Network cameras were following the White Sox around that summer for the TV show “The Club,” and were in the team’s draft room when Sale was picked.

Last week, Hahn — then the team’s assistant GM — recalled the muted reaction.

“When we made the selection of Chris we were all excited that we got Chris but at the same time, there were some signability concerns so there was at least a chance that he wasn’t going to sign,” Hahn explained. “There was all this footage of our exuberance and (if he didn’t sign) it was then going to be shown as the kid goes back to school. We found ourselves with the cameras in the room a little bit reserved in terms of all our excitement level because we didn’t want to look too foolish if things wound up going south.”

Those concerns were short-lived. The White Sox and Sale quickly agreed to terms, and less than two months later, he made his major league debut as a reliever in Baltimore. Two years later, Sale was in the White Sox rotation and earned his first of three All-Star appearances (it could very well be four this year).

Five years removed from the 2010 draft, no player selected that year has been worth more WAR than Sale (24.4) — and that’s a draft class that includes, among others, Bryce Harper (14.4 WAR), Manny Machado (12.6 WAR) Matt Harvey (8.6 WAR) and teammate Adam Eaton (6.0 WAR). Only five White Sox first-round picks have been worth more WAR in their career than Sale: Frank Thomas (73.7), Robin Ventura (56.0), Harold Baines (38.5), Alex Fernandez (28.9) and Jack McDowell (28.2).

[MORE: White Sox front office mocks Monday's amateur draft]

Since 2000, only Clayton Kershaw (42.3 WAR), Justin Verlander (41.4 WAR), Jered Weaver (36.7 WAR), Adam Wainwright (36.4 WAR) and David Price (24.6 WAR) have amassed more value than Sale among first-round pick pitchers. The second-highest WAR totaled by a player drafted in 2010 or later is Harper at 14.4.

Entering his start Monday night against Houston, Sale has a 2.81 ERA with 816 strikeouts in 740 2/3 major league innings. So while the White Sox weren’t able to celebrate immediately after drafting him, they’ve done plenty since.

“We were able to speak to him directly fairly quickly and his dad and the agent,” Hahn said. “We worked something out fairly quickly and it worked out okay since then."

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.”