White Sox

Eloy Jimenez is getting compared to ... Kyle Schwarber?

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USA TODAY

Eloy Jimenez is getting compared to ... Kyle Schwarber?

During a seminar this past weekend at SoxFest, Eloy Jimenez found out how he, one of the stars of the White Sox rebuild, could get booed by a room full of South Side baseball fans.

He confessed that he grew up rooting for the team on the other side of town.

Yolmer Sanchez, meanwhile, played the crowd like an umpire-impersonating Frank Drebin and earned cheers by saying he grew up rooting for the White Sox, but that's beside the point.

Jimenez came over in that crosstown swap with the Cubs last summer and is now arguably the White Sox prospect fans are most looking forward to seeing in the big leagues. He's rated extremely high, the No. 4 prospect in the game, according to MLB Pipeline's recently released rankings.

In other words, there seems to be little that could dampen White Sox fans' enthusiasm over Jimenez — except maybe more Cubs talk.

Monday, MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis went through the site's top 10 prospects — which include both Jimenez and White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech — and drew up some comparisons with past prospects who are now, mostly, starring at the major league level. To do this, he used scouting grades for each "tool" — bat, power, speed, arm and defense. And White Sox fans not too fond of the team that plays to the immediate north might not be too happy that Jimenez was compared to current Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

It's mighty important to note that this comparison is between Jimenez now and Schwarber when he was a highly touted prospect during the 2015 season. It's not a projection of what kind of big league player Jimenez will end up being.

The two have one main thing in common: power. Schwarber hit 30 home runs last season and hit 46 over the course of his first 200 major league games. There'd be nothing wrong with Jimenez doing something like that. He's got 43 homers in his 300 career minor league games.

But the crosstown rivalry means White Sox fans would be expected to focus on the struggles Schwarber has had, specifically last year, when he was sent down to Triple-A for a stretch. His 2017 woes were blown a bit out of proportion, perhaps, given all the expectations on the North Side, but a 40-point dip in his on-base percentage between his 2015 rookie year and last year was significant. White Sox fans hearing their top prospect compared to a guy who was sent down last season aren't likely to be dancing in the streets.

Again, however, this is a prospect-to-prospect comparison. At the moment, both young players have enormous potential to be cranking homers out of Chicago ballparks for years to come.

For what it's worth, Jimenez now gets a better power grade and a better arm grade than what Schwarber got midway through 2015. The grades are the same for bat, speed and defense.

Kopech's comparison isn't likely to fire up the White Sox fan base one way or the other. He was matched with current Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who was terrific in 15 games at Triple-A last season but posted some pretty ugly numbers in 15 games with the big league Bucs.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.