White Sox

Sox Drawer: Easy as Juan-2-3

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Sox Drawer: Easy as Juan-2-3

Tuesday, December 15

Juan Pierre steals bases.

Kenny Williams steals leadoff hitters.

Thats the kind of thievery we saw today with the White Sox, who in a market (and in a league) where there are very few pure tablesetters, Williams found a guy who comes to the Southside with a full set of silverware.

Juan is certainly someone who fits the bill, Williams said. I love his work ethic. I love his intensity. He adds a lot to the club other than what he does on the field. And what he does on the field is pretty special.

The speedy outfielder had been on the Sox radar for the last 3 years. In fact, Williams did all he could to pry him away from the Dodgers while Pierre was in LA. I probably irritated (Dodgers GM) Ned (Colletti) more than once or twice, Williams said.

Heres why:

Pierre can run. He can hit. He can bunt, and he can chase down any fly ball in the 312 area code.

Trademark Ozzie Ball.

Yes, Pierre doesnt have the greatest arm in the world. But neither did Scott Podsednik, whose negotiations with the White Sox never got close, and who could ironically become the next leadoff hitter for...the Cubs.

Hows that for irony.

Speaking of the Cubs, Jim Hendry paid dearly for Pierre back in 2005, when he dealt Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, and Renyel Pinto to Florida for Pierre, who was set to be a free agent the following season.

Hendry felt the Cubs could re-sign him. Whoops. Didnt happen. Pierre inked a 5-year, 44 million contract with the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Nolasco has won 28 games the last 2 years with the Marlins. Pinto is a solid arm out of the Marlins bullpen. Mitre is now a Yankee.

As for Pierre, the Sox picked him up at the local discount store. Not a store most of us will ever be able to shop at, but baseball-speaking...what a bargain.

The Sox are on the hook for just 3 million of Pierres 10 million salary for 2010. The Dodgers are paying the remaining 7 million. In 2011, hell be on the Sox books for 5.5 million, with the Dodgers still paying 3.5 million.

The Sox gave up a couple of minor league pitchers in the deal, reportedly Jon Link and John Ely, who happened to play at my alma-mater, Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Anytime I get the chance to mention the Vikings, I will. Cant help it.

Link and Ely might turn out to be the next Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. But they could also be the next Royce Ring and Brandon McCarthy.

You just never know.

Thats why Id make this deal every day of the week.

It didnt work out so well for Hendry and the Cubs. Things should be different with the Sox. First, they get him for two years instead of one. And they get a Juan Pierre who is hungry, and like Andruw Jones, is looking to prove his doubters (like the Dodgers) wrong.

See a pattern developing here?

I dont hit for power, I dont have an arm, said Pierre, talking about the fan reaction in LA. Ive been criticized so much these last 3 years Im prepared for the Chicago media again thats for sure.

Hell also be extremely fresh for a 32-year-old who relies on his legs. Pierre got bumped from a crowded outfield with the Dodgers, losing playing time to Matt Kemp, Andre Either, and Manny Ramirez.

Ive been in the Witness Protection Program the last few years, Pierre said.

He was lost. Now hes found. And reunited with his old 3rd base coach Ozzie Guillen. Both of them were on the winning side of the Steve Bartman game in 2003 with the Marlins, and later got a ring.

When I asked Guillen the one thing he wanted last week at the winter meetings, he replied, A leadoff hitter.

Hes got one now, and he cant believe its Pierre.

I think Kenny did a miracle, Guillen said. I dont know how he did it.

Thievery.

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.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

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USA TODAY

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”