White Sox

Youkilis returns to Boston with Middlebrooks scuffling

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Youkilis returns to Boston with Middlebrooks scuffling

Both Joe Crede and Frank Thomas received rousing ovations from White Sox fans in their first trips to U.S. Cellular Field as a member of another team. Both players homered immediately after those ovations, too, trotting around the bases in Twins and Athletics uniforms, respectively. It was, to put it bluntly, kind of a weird sight.

Red Sox fans will probably give Kevin Youkilis the same kind of reception when he returns to Boston tonight (6 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) wearing a White Sox uniform. Maybe he won't hit a home run, but given how he's played with the White Sox, chances seem good that he'll at least get on base.

Youkilis joined the White Sox hitting .233.315.377 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Thanks to the lights-out production of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks -- who had a .949 OPS and nine home runs in 41 games on the day Youkilis was dealt -- and a strained relationship with manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox had to deal Youkilis. That's why the return for him was only a utility player and a pitcher who had serious home run issues, not to mention Boston sending a load of cash to Chicago with Youkilis.

But since that June 24 trade, Youkilis has looked like his old self, while Middlebrooks has rapidly regressed.

In 16 games with the White Sox, Youkilis is hitting .295.397.475 with three home runs, 15 RBIs and a 1012 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He's looked like his old self, serving as an ideal No. 2 hitter for a team that's gone 11-5 since acquiring him.

The same laudatory statements can't be said for Middlebrooks since the trade. He strained a hamstring and missed some time in early July, but post-Youkilis he's hitting .205.220.410 in 10 games.

That's an incredibly small sample size, but the 23-year-old was due for a regression. Middlebrooks' pre-trade BABIP sat at .380; since the deal it's at .214.

Like most young hitters, Middlebrooks doesn't have good plate discipline, walking in 4.6 percent of his plate appearances with a 23.9 percent strikeout rate. He has one walk and 10 strikeouts since the Youkilis trade, and as his BABIP regresses to the mean, his on-base percentage will continue to drop.

Consider this: On the season, Youkilis is hitting .251.340.406, while Middlebrooks is hitting .301.335.546. Despite Youkilis passing Middlebrooks in OBP, the younger third baseman is still offensively superior (.325 wOBA for Youkilis, .374 for Middlebrooks).

The Red Sox shouldn't have egg on their face over the trade with the White Sox -- their hands were tied, and Youkilis had to go. Maybe he improves if he stays in Boston, but maybe a move to Chicago to play for Robin Ventura was a breath of fresh air.

Regardless, as Youkilis receives a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful, kudos should be in order for the White Sox front office. Because 16 games in, the Youkilis trade has been an absolute steal.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen