White Sox

Why White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season

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USA TODAY

Why White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Though many of his Charlotte teammates are in the majors and his own prospects for a promotion are promising, Lucas Giolito doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.

The Triple-A Charlotte pitcher is absolutely thrilled for teammates Yoan Moncada, Aaron Bummer, Nicky Delmonico and Reynaldo Lopez. He hopes to be there in Chicago to join them soon, too. But given all the effort he’s put in to reach this place, a spot in which he’s produced the consistency he desires, Giolito wants to keep his focus.

His overall numbers aren’t what he’d like, but Giolito -- who is 5-10 with a 4.70 ERA in 23 starts -- feels comfortable with what he has accomplished in 2017. The right-hander’s curveball is sharp, he’s throwing his offspeed pitches in all types of situations and pitching deeper into games.

“It’s super exciting,” Giolito said of teammates’ promotions. “At the same time, the position I’m in, the stuff I’m trying to work on, I can’t be worried about when am I getting the call. …

“You don’t want to put the GM hat on. I’m here to play. I’m here to go out there every fifth day and win for my team. I’m here in Charlotte and that’s what I’m here to do and I’m going to keep working on that.”

Those fifth days have been much better of late. Giolito pitched fewer than five innings in six of his first 16 starts this season. He had allowed 85 hits in 83 1/3 innings and posted a 5.40 ERA. Opposing hitters produced an .835 OPS against Giolito.

[MORE: Two of White Sox top 10 prospects get minor league promotions

But a curveball he’d been working to command since spring training and throw for called strikes has started to come around. Giolito said the improvement has come from a combination of better mechanics and commitment to throwing and trusting the pitch. He also trusts that the work he puts in with pitching coach Steve McCatty between starts has him in the right place to succeed, which has allowed him to not overthink things.

“There were some games I really just wouldn’t have it, I’d be throwing it in the dirt, it wasn’t a competitive pitch,” Giolito said. “Now I go out there with confidence every outing that I can throw it over for a strike.”

“Early in the season there were a lot of starts where I was thinking about too many things at the same time of trying to get guys out and pitch deep into games. It’s too much. Now I go out there and I’m not worried about the stuff that I’m working on in the four days in between starts.”

Giolito has also continued to throw the slider/cutter that he learned this spring with more success. Between that, his curve and changeup, Giolito said he’s worked to throw all of his pitches in different counts so he can do the same with comfort in the majors.

But spotting the curveball for strikes consistently is a big key. In his last outing, Giolito said he threw roughly 20 curves with confidence.

“He’s just simplified his delivery, simplified his thought process and he’s been able to kind of execute the plan that he has,” White Sox player development director Chris Getz said. “That is commanding his fastball and curveball for strikes. He’s had an effective slider and his changeup has been pretty good. The stuff is good. The delivery can be very good. That’s what’s he has been able to do, just kind of putting it all together

“The combination of all those things will give him a good chance to be effective up here at this level.”

One American League scout said of Giolito that “all the tools are there,” it’s just a matter of consistency. Over his last seven starts, Giolito has pitched into the seventh inning four times and gone at least five innings all but once. He has a 3.20 ERA in that span with 40 strikeouts, 30 hits and 19 walks in 39 1/3 innings.

The performance would appear to have Giolito in line for a September promotion at the least.

He’d love for nothing more than to be back in the same rotation as Lopez, who made his White Sox debut on Friday. But he’s there, Giolito said he intends to stay focused on here where the everyday attention to detail has helped him improve.

“I’m definitely watching a ton of the games and keeping my eye on stat lines like Lopey’s debut,” Giolito said. “I was all over trying to watch as much as I could. I’m super happy for him. At the same time, I look forward to getting that opportunity to go up there and be with those guys.

“While that’s there, there’s still a lot of work to be done here. And I know that as far as all the stuff I’m trying to put together, it’s not perfect, it never will be perfect. But I’m doing everything I can to build up that consistency.”

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."