White Sox

New White Sox ambassador A.J. Pierzynski wants to get Hawk Harrelson into the Hall of Fame — and Hawk thinks A.J. should be there, too

New White Sox ambassador A.J. Pierzynski wants to get Hawk Harrelson into the Hall of Fame — and Hawk thinks A.J. should be there, too

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A.J. Pierzynski is back with the White Sox, somewhat informally announcing himself Monday in the crowded lobby of the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort that he’ll be a team ambassador.

But while ambassadors typically spend time glad-handing, making appearances and throwing out ceremonial first pitches, Pierzynski has a very specific No. 1 goal now that he’s back on the South Side: send Hawk Harrelson to Cooperstown.

“My biggest goal is to get him into the Hall of Fame,” Pierzynski said, obviously beginning his campaign by wearing a baseball hat that said “Hawk” on it. “How you guys haven’t voted him into the Hall of Fame is beyond me. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame. Hawk is a special person and once in a multi-generation announcer. People use his phrases all the time walking down the street. They don’t even know where it came from. Hawk is special and special to White Sox fans and special to me and my family.”

Pierzynski spoke lovingly of the White Sox icon, the longtime announcer who will spend his final season in the broadcast booth in 2018. That’s one of Pierzynski’s other goals, by the way, to call a game alongside Harrelson in this, his last season behind the mic.

“Hopefully we’ll make it work,” Pierzynski said. He’s got some broadcasting chops now, too, after working with FOX. “I’ll move heaven and Earth to make sure I’m able to get at least one game in with Hawk, since it is his last year and we need to make this happen. We tried to make it happen last year, timing didn’t work because of FOX stuff. This year only doing Sunday games, it will make it a lot easier to be able to come out and just ride on Hawk’s coattails.”

But before you think it was a one-sided lovefest, the other half of that broadcasting-duo-to-be was present, too. Both Pierzynski and Harrelson are Orlando residents, so the drive to Disney World couldn’t have been a long one.

Harrelson had some reciprocal love for Pierzynski, making his own statement that the former catcher should get Hall of Fame consideration, as well.

“A.J., to me, you know he’s done something no other catcher will probably do, and that’s why I think he’s a very strong candidate for the Hall of Fame, is he caught 1,000 or more innings 12 consecutive years. I don’t think we'll ever see that again.”

“There’s nobody in baseball, with all these people here, every organization in baseball, there’s nobody in this room, this hotel and both these hotels, who knows more than about baseball than A.J. Pierzynski. He looks at the game differently than most people. If you watch him on TV as an analyst, he brings up some stuff that’s just fantastic. So he’s got a future in that.”

What becomes of this mutual Hall of Fame stumping remains to be seen. Pierzynski’s immediate future with the White Sox will include being part of the Opening Day festivities, representing the club at the Major League Baseball draft and attending some games on the South Side. Of course, the game or games that will likely be of most interest to White Sox fans are the ones where Pierzynski gets to team up with Harrelson in the booth.

That’s a lock to be entertaining television.

“A.J. has been one of my real joys, ever since he was a kid,” Harrelson said before reaffirming Pierzynski’s longtime reputation — something that often endeared himself to White Sox fans. “He was the most hated high school baseball player in Orlando. He had guys knocking down, drilling him, they hated him. He just carried it right on through, minor leagues to the big leagues. Ozzie (Guillen) said it best, he said half the guys on the team don’t like him, the other half hate him.”

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

It’s no secret that the White Sox and their fans are hoping to see both Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech in the big leagues in 2018. And according to one full-season projection system, it seems that the computers agree that both will be MLB contributors very soon.

FanGraphs’ Steamer600 projections forecast what MLB hitters would do over 600 plate appearances and what pitchers would do over 200 innings – and both Jimenez and Kopech are close to MLB-ready.

Jimenez, MLB.com’s 5th ranked prospect, is projected to provide a 1.9 offensive WAR and Kopech, MLB.com’s 10th ranked prospect, would account for 1.4 WAR over the course of a full season.

So what does that mean?

Here are some comparable MLB players from 2017 in offensive Wins Above Replacement for Jimenez:

Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS – 1.9 (541 PA) 

Jedd Gyorko, STL – 1.9 (481 PA)

Andrew Benintendi, BOS – 1.9 (658 PA)

Yasiel Puig, LAD – 1.9 (570 PA)

Salvador Perez, KC – 1.9 (499 PA)

Very solid company, considering those five players combined for an average OPS of .788. The Steamer600 projections peg Jimenez for a .770 OPS over 600 plate appearances.

The full forecast is as follows: a .267 batting average, an on-base percentage of .317 and a .453 slugging percentage to go along with 23 home runs.

Meanwhile, Kopech might be a bit further away from being an impact player with a projected WAR of 1.4 over 200 innings.

Here are some MLB WAR comparisons from 2017 for Kopech:

Julio Teheran, ATL – 1.6 (188.1 IP)

Lucas Giolito, CHW – 1.5 (45.1 IP)

Dellin Betances, NYY – 1.5 (59.2 IP)

Miguel Gonzalez, CHW/TEX – 1.5 (156.0 IP)

Greg Holland, COL – 1.4 (44.2 IP)

As you can see, the comparisons are not nearly as promising for Kopech as they are for Jimenez. The comparable range is mostly made up of late-inning relievers or middle-of-the-pack starting pitchers.

With a 100 mile-per-hour fastball and wipeout slider come the occasional control issues, and that is where the Steamer600 projections hurt Kopech the most, with a forecasted walk rate of 5.4 walks per 9 innings pitched.

The full forecast for Kopech includes a 4.84 ERA with 216 strikeouts over 32 starts with 32 home runs allowed. 

Whether these projections come close to reality or not, having Kopech and Jimenez on the Major League doorstep is sure to give the White Sox rebuild yet another boost in the coming season.

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

After a breakout season in 2017, don’t expect any more name changes from the man formerly known as Carlos Sanchez.

“Yolmer hit more home runs so I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer,” said Sanchez in an exclusive interview from his Arizona home. “I’m the same person, but Yolmer worked good this year, so I’ll stay with Yolmer.”

After doing away with the name Carlos, the 25-year old infielder set career-highs across the board last year, slugging 12 home runs, driving in 59 runs while posting a .732 OPS.  

He ranked third on the White Sox in Wins Above Replacement with 3.5, trailing only Jose Abreu’s 4.7 and Avisail Garcia’s 4.5. In the three seasons prior, Sanchez totaled just 0.4 WAR in 201 combined games. 

And now, 2018 provides a new opportunity. Sanchez is expected to be the everyday starting third baseman, the spot he took over following Todd Frazier’s midseason trade to the New York Yankees.

With an elevated role comes a vigorous offseason schedule. He took only 20 days off after the regular season before starting to train for the upcoming spring. 

“I don’t want to work just on one thing. I want to do everything and that’s why I start training so early,” he said. “My speed. More power. Agility. A lot of things.”

Sanchez certainly isn’t the flashiest name in a White Sox infield that includes Abreu and the middle-infield tandem of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. But he knows his role on the team – being flashy off the field and bringing energy to the clubhouse. 

“If you go with a lot of energy to the game, a lot of things change,” said Sanchez. “That makes a lot of difference in one game. And one game can make a lot of difference during the season.”

But a 70-92 record by the White Sox certainly was not due to a lack of energy as much as a general lack of talent. That should change in 2018 – when fans can expect to see Moncada, as well as other names like Nicky Delmonico, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez play a full major league season. Not to mention prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech knocking on the door to the big leagues.

And that excites Sanchez.

“We’ve got really young players but really talented [players],” said Sanchez. “We have to get better, but I think we can do a lot of good things next year.”

Are there any young players Sanchez is specifically excited to see develop? 

“They’re all going to be really good if they keep working,” he said. “Moncada could be a superstar.” 

That’s exactly what the White Sox are hoping as well.