White Sox

Who's the White Sox ace of the future? 'We'll have five of them'

Who's the White Sox ace of the future? 'We'll have five of them'

Monday at Camelback Ranch, there was Michael Kopech, mowing down the Oakland A’s with an array of fastballs ranging from 97 to 101 mph, looking very much like the White Sox ace of the future.

It’s a role he envisions for himself one day. Just not yet.

“Right now, I’m focused on cracking the rotation at some point and helping the team win as much as I possibly can,” Kopech said during a recent interview at White Sox camp. “If that lands me a spot as the ace in the future, then I’ll be extremely honored and grateful, but right now it’s one step at a time.”

It’s one step for Kopech, but what if many of these top pitching prospects take that giant leap and reach their potential in the majors?

Forget about one ace. The White Sox could end up with several.

“Personally, I want the White Sox staff to have five aces,” fellow starter Lucas Giolito said. “Every single day, whoever is taking that mound is the ace of that day and that’s who we’re behind. That’s the ace of the staff on the mound. We’ll have five of them.”

At a time when teams like the Cubs, Astros and Red Sox have given up top prospects to acquire high-end starting pitching, the White Sox system might be loaded with it. Granted, they needed to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton to accumulate a good chunk of that pitching depth (they also got possible superstars Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez in those deals), but if they’re able to hit on most of these hurlers, it’ll be a great problem to have.

Besides Kopech and Giolito, there’s Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning, not to mention Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer.

Forget about a five-man rotation. I joked with Kopech they might eventually need a 10-man rotation to find room for everyone.

“We should. There’s really no point in shortening it,” Kopech said. “Yeah, it’s going to be unbelievable if everything goes as planned.”

The key word here is “if.” Not every top prospect reaches his potential, let alone the majors. Look at Jake Burger, who suffered an Achilles injury in Monday’s game. The White Sox top draft pick could be out for months.

But while you can’t see into the future, you can see all the high-end arms the White Sox possess and feel hopeful about what is possible.

“Especially with the stuff guys have, watching the bullpens, it’s kind of crazy,” Giolito said. “The A-ball guys and up. The current big league guys. Everyone’s got nasty stuff. It’s going to be real fun.”

What does it take to be an ace? Kopech has an idea.

“It’s the guys who want to be great that end up being great for some reason,” Kopech explained. “It has a lot to do with the mindset. I think Hansen has it. I think Cease is another who has it.”

When I read that quote back to Cease, who the White Sox acquired in the Quintana trade, he was at a loss for words.

“I don’t even know what to say. That’s awesome. I really appreciate him saying that,” Cease said. “I want to get better everyday. I want to grow. Wherever that takes me, I’m excited.”

Hansen believes the White Sox have “four or five” possible aces, with him being one of them. He’d personally like to see him and Kopech be 1-2 in a future White Sox rotation.

“It sounds good to say that, and I hope that happens because I think that could be really special,” he said of a Kopech-Hansen combo.

We’ll let them decide who’s 1 and who’s 2. But right now, Hansen knows it’s just talk. Both are miles away from reaching such heights. They’ll need to match those words with action.

“Everyone’s got potential. It’s just a matter of fulfilling it,” Hansen said. “Who’s going to do what it takes to fulfill their potential?”

That’s the big question. If most of these prospects hit their ceiling, the White Sox will love the final answer.

“It’s exciting that we’re all at the same point of our careers,” Kopech said. “I’m really excited to see what the future has in store for us.”

Will Ozzie Guillen ever manage again? 'I think my time's going to come up, maybe'

Will Ozzie Guillen ever manage again? 'I think my time's going to come up, maybe'

Will Ozzie Guillen ever manage again?

He was the guy who helped bring a World Series championship to the South Side in 2005 hasn't been a big league skipper since 2012, in his one ill-fated season managing the Miami Marlins. But his name has come up as a social-media suggestion for open jobs for years, including just two winters ago when the White Sox needed to replace Robin Ventura.

But Guillen, who spent eight seasons as the White Sox manager, said on the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast that he hasn't interviewed for any jobs since leaving the Marlins and discussed the trend of hiring young managers who just recently finished their playing careers.

"A couple tried, not to interview me but say, 'Can we talk to you about it?' And I knew I'm not going to be the manager of that team," Guillen told NBC Sports Chicago's Chuck Garfien. "When you look at the manager list, you're going to interview me and you have kid, kid, kid, kid, kid, Ozzie. What's the chance I'm going to manage that team? None. 'Thank you for thinking about me,' and it's cool.

"I've known I'm not going to be the guy because the list. Before, they interview you for a managing job, it's two or three or four guys. Now they've got 30. Nowadays, it's harder to become a manager than win the World Series. Because there are so many interviews.

But does that mean he'll never manage again?

"I think my time's going to come up, maybe," Guillen said. "I always think about (former Florida Marlins manager) Jack McKeon. Jack McKeon was out of baseball for 30 years and all of a sudden came out and won the World Series (in 2003). ... I hope I don't die before that. Jack was 70-plus when he was managing. But we'll see."

Guillen talked about his hopes to be more involved in the White Sox organization after the way his tenure ended back in 2011, saying he hopes to be at spring training with the team one day.

"I'd like to go to spring training with them, that's the first time I'm going to say that, just because I see everybody in baseball, they're bringing former players to the field," he said. "But the problem is, I go there, here we go. 'Why is it ... you're coming here?'

"I don't (want to be a distraction), and I never will be."

Hear more of Garfien's interview with Guillen on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Will Avisail Garcia be on the White Sox by season's end?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Will Avisail Garcia be on the White Sox by season's end?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

Avisail Garcia was great last year for the White Sox.

But does that mean he's a long-term part of this rebuilding team or a potential trade piece?

How Garcia follows things up in 2018 will go a long way in determining the answer to that question, as well as a perhaps more pressing one: Will Garcia still be on the White Sox when the 2018 campaign comes to a close?

Whatever your scouting-eye impressions might have been, statistically, Garcia was one of baseball's best hitters last season. He ranked second in the American League with a .346 batting average. Only league MVP Jose Altuve ranked above Garcia. The White Sox right fielder also ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage. His .885 OPS ranked in the top 10 in the Junior Circuit.

It was the much-anticipated breakout for a guy who's had big expectations ever since he hit the bigs as a 21-year-old in 2012, when he carried a pressure-packed comparison to Detroit Tigers teammate and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. After coming to the South Side in a mid-2013 trade, his first three seasons were impacted by injuries and featured an unimpressive .250/.308/.380 slash line with only 32 homers in 314 games.

But last season, that all changed. He had a career year, slashing .330/.380/.506 with 18 homers, 80 RBIs, 27 doubles and 171 hits. Garcia was named to the AL All-Star team and established himself as the second best hitter on a team where the best hitter, Jose Abreu, is one of baseball's most productive and most consistent.

So can he do it again? That remains to be seen, of course. The scale of the improvements in so many statistical categories make one think that Garcia being able to do it two years in a row would almost be as surprising or more surprising than him doing it just once.

But if Garcia can repeat his performance, at least in the season's first few months, he could potentially draw the eyes of numerous contending teams looking for a bat to add to their lineups. One season of production perhaps wasn't enough to demand the kind of return package Rick Hahn's front office got in return for Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana. But a few good months at the outset of 2018 could draw plenty of interest, making the question of whether Garcia will stay in a White Sox uniform for the entirety of the season a valid one.

All that being said, Garcia's situation — he's under team control for two more seasons — allows the White Sox to be flexible. Garcia's still young, entering his age-27 season. The White Sox could opt to keep a talented hitter, extend him and make him a part of the rebuilding effort, penciling him into the lineup of the future alongside younger hitters like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Or they could wait to move him, perhaps next offseason or at the 2019 trade deadline.

But Garcia's performance will dictate how viable each of those options ends up being. He finally put it all together in 2017. In 2018, he'll have to keep it all together.