White Sox

Yoan Moncada plays role of hero twice late as White Sox sweep Astros

Yoan Moncada plays role of hero twice late as White Sox sweep Astros

He’d never had a game-winning hit before at any level so Yoan Moncada might have been surprised by what all his White Sox teammates threw at him late Thursday night.

“Everything,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “Gatorade, ice — they ripped my jersey, too.”

The White Sox rookie was all cleaned up by the time he addressed reporters following a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros in 11 innings. But for a good period of time, Moncada was soaking wet and later likely covered in any usable substance teammates could find after the biggest game of his career. After previously striking out twice with the tying run aboard, Moncada belted a game-tying solo home run in the ninth inning and then singled home the winning run to set off a celebration unlike any he’d ever been at the center of before.

“It was something indescribable,” Moncada said. “I think that my feelings, all my emotions, were to the roof when I hit that ball and then when I was running the bases. It was something unique.”

Having had a chance to scout Moncada when both played at Triple-A Charlotte in June, White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon has a sense that Moncada’s breakthrough moment won’t be his last. Rodon, who earned a no decision with eight sharp innings (two earned runs and nine hits allowed with no walks and four strikeouts), is very impressed with the second baseman’s approach.

While Moncada brought a .688 OPS into Thursday’s game, he carried a .366 on-base percentage thanks in part to 13 walks in his first 71 plate appearances. Rodon and the White Sox figured it would only be a matter of time before Moncada, the top prospect in baseball, started to put the ball in play more often and do some damage.

That moment arrived in the ninth inning against Astros closer Ken Giles, who fell behind Moncada 2-0 in the count. Moncada looked for a fastball and drove the 98.7 mph pitch from Giles out to the opposite-field. It was only the third blown save in 25 tries for Giles.

Two innings later, Moncada came to the plate with Leury Garcia at second and no outs. Garcia singled off Astros reliever Francis Martes and advanced to second on Jake Marisnick’s error in center. Moncada then ripped a 97-mph fastball from Martes past the dive of shortstop Marwin Gonzalez into center to begin the celebration.

“He battles up there and it’s about time,” Rodon said. “He’s got a good bat. Just a special player, man.

“For a young guy, just real patient. He’s aggressive sometimes, but he’ll wait it out and has good at-bats and strings them along and makes the pitcher work.”

[RELATED: Yoan Moncada's son celebrates dad's walk-off hit in adorable fashion]

White Sox manager Rick Renteria hoped any of his young charges would have an opportunity for redemption after their earlier struggles with men in scoring position. Moncada struck out to end the fifth with a man on second base in a 1-0 contest. He also struck out with runners on the corners in the seventh inning and the White Sox trailing by one. Yolmer Sanchez and Tim Anderson also missed out on key opportunities.

But Moncada bounced back, first against Giles and then against Martes. His composure is another reason why Renteria believes Moncada can excel in the big leagues.

“We were just talking about 'OK it's time for them to have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the game of baseball,'” Renteria said. “And see what they take from the previous at-bat in terms of how they were going to approach it. He did a nice job and got a pitch he could handle and hit it pretty hard through the infield to be able to get it out as far as it did.”

Afterward, Moncada was rewarded appropriately. Teammates threw ice at him halfway between first and second base, where Moncada wildly pumped his fist and jumped up and down.

Teammates raced from the dugout bearing gifts. Some brought ice while pitcher Derek Holland delivered a full bottle of Gatorade. They then mobbed Moncada and ripped his jersey, after which only the top button remained fastened.

“This is my first time that I hit a walkoff hit to win a game,” Moncada said. “I feel very excited.”

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease


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


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."