Chuck Garfien

Danny Farquhar shares first public photo since leaving hospital

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USA TODAY

Danny Farquhar shares first public photo since leaving hospital

White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar continues to show incredible progress from the brain hemorrhage he suffered last month during a game.

Thursday, Farquhar posted a photo of himself and his wife, Lexie. In the caption he said he is "overwhelmed with the love and support that was shown to me and my family these past few weeks." He continued, "I am home and healing and can't wait to be back on the mound."

Farquhar was released from the hospital on Monday. He visited his White Sox teammates in the clubhouse on Tuesday. White Sox reliever Nate Jones called him "a miracle."

This is the first public photo we've seen of Farquhar since the incident occurred on April 20.

The White Sox haven't had two promising catching prospects like this since the '50s: So what's next?

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USA TODAY

The White Sox haven't had two promising catching prospects like this since the '50s: So what's next?

These are rare times in the White Sox minor league system. Even with the promotions of Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, they still have a top 3 farm system in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. They’re loaded with outfielders, flush with starting pitching and have enough intriguing prospects outside of the top 20 (Thyago Vieira, Justin Yurchak, Joel Booker, Lincoln Henzman to name a few) that should give White Sox fans hope that better days are ahead.

But what makes the current state of the White Sox farm system so unique is that they have two promising catchers in Zack Collins and Seby Zavala, who might turn out to be bona fide major leaguer backstops in the future.

When was the last time this happened? Two highly touted White Sox catchers in the minors? I honestly can’t recall. I’ll ask our resident White Sox history expert Chris Kamka and get back to you at the end of the story.

In the meantime, let’s talk about these two talented catchers who are actually sharing the position on the same team at Double-A Birmingham.

Collins, who was the White Sox first round pick in 2016, got off to a slow start at the plate this year, hitting below .100 as recent as a week ago. Panic started setting in with White Sox fans. Collins is supposed to be the White Sox best catcher since A.J. Pierzynski! Was he turning into another catcher-gone-bust?

Take a breath. It turns out he was making some adjustments at the plate. Everything is fine now. Collins batted .438 last week with a homer, 6 RBIs, 6 walks, he even stole a base and was named the Southern League Player of the Week.

“He’s at a new level,” White Sox director of player development Chris Getz, who spent time watching Collins and the Barons last week, told me. “I think he was focusing on certain things. Whenever you’re focusing on anything internally you have a tough time just competing in the box. What we were really seeing is a guy who was having difficulty with the outer half. He had plate coverage issues. Now what he’s been able to accomplish in the last week, he’s closed that hole. Now he’s the Zack Collins that we know. He now has freedom in his swing. He has electric hands in the box. He can drive a ball out of the ballpark in all directions.  We’re just on the right track. To be honest, with those early season struggles, in the end it’s going to be a positive for him because it’s helped him get to where he is now.”

As for Zavala, a 12th round pick out of San Diego State in 2015, he was one of the big surprises last season, leading all White Sox minor leaguers with 21 home runs between Class-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. He hasn’t missed a beat so far this year with the promotion to Birmingham, slashing .315/.411/.616 in April and was named White Sox Minor League co-Player of the Month along with Winston-Salem outfielder Luis Basabe.

"He’s got a very simple swing from a mechanical standpoint,” Getz said. “He’s got a solid approach.  He’s got very consistent thinking patterns. He’s got a good temperament about him. So all those ingredients make for a pretty good player in the box. He’s a strong kid, uses his legs and can also drive the ball in different directions. He’s a threat when he steps in the box. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark. He stays on the ball well, so it’s been a positive start for Seby."

On the surface it might seem counterproductive to have both Collins and Zavala sharing catching duties on the same team. Getz dug into this scenerio while mapping out each minor league roster before the season began, and concluded that they were best suited dividing the playing time in Double-A. When one player is catching, the other is the designated hitter.

“I looked back historically at the top catchers in the game and how many games at an average they caught in the minor leagues. We’re not going to be missing a beat with these guys,” Getz said about Collins and Zavala sharing time. “I’ve looked at this going into the season as a long-term positive having these guys together because I think they complement each other so well. They’re both going to be major league players. But they’re very different with the skills that they have. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to learn from each other. That was the No. 1 priority here: getting them the playing time has not been challenging. We’re obviously catching these guys and using the DH.”

Each of them catch three to four times a week. If the White Sox feel like one of them needs more time behind the plate a certain week, or a certain month, those numbers might change. Both are feeling the boost of a certain outfielder who is now healthy and is cranking baseballs all over the place. Eloy Jimenez is batting third in the Barons lineup, sandwiched between Collins and Zavala in the lineup each night.

Could this be a preview of a 2020 White Sox lineup? Or could one of these catchers be trade bait if both are ready for the majors at the same time? Welington Castillo is signed through next season with an $8 million team option for 2020.

“To be able to graduate these guys at some point to Chicago, and be able to play out their careers here, I think from a player development standpoint that’s certainly a goal of ours,” Getz said.

Now back to my earlier question: How rare is it for the White Sox to have two promising catchers in their minor league system at the same time?

Chris Kamka says you have to go back to the 1950s, when catchers John Romano and Earl Battey were in the minors. The White Sox traded both away because they decided to stay with an aging, but still effective, Sherm Lollar. Romano and Battey went on to become All-Stars elsewhere: Romano with the Indians before coming back to the White Sox in 1965, and Battey a five-time All-Star with the Senators and Twins. He also won 3 Gold Gloves. Ouch.

Kamka adds that the next best catching tandem from the White Sox minor league system would be Ron Karkovice and Joel Skinner in the 1980s. Neither of them made an All-Star team or won a Gold Glove.The hope is that Collins and/or Zavala will have better major league careers than both of them. Sorry Ron. Sorry Joel.

Every franchise has its strengths and weaknesses. Drafting and developing catchers has been an issue for the White Sox for years. However, it’s clearly something they are trying to fix. Collins and Zavala might be the turning point that represents the changing times on the South Side.

“I can’t really speak to the past here. We’re just looking at what’s in front of us with the talent that we have,” Getz said. “I think it is unique for any organization to have two guys like this and they’re in similar points of their development careers. I think there’s a lot to be excited about with having these guys and fairly close. It is a unique situation and we’re grateful to have these guys developing at the pace that they are.”

Why this player might just be the most underrated prospect in White Sox farm system

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CLINTON COLE/FUTURESOX

Why this player might just be the most underrated prospect in White Sox farm system

If you’ve been following the prospects in the stacked White Sox minor league farm system, you’ve probably heard all about Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, and Luis Robert. If you know those guys, then chances are you’re also aware of Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease, Micker Adolfo, Alec Hansen, Blake Rutherford, Zack Collins and Luis Basabe.

There’s so much talent to speak of, White Sox fans are salivating at the chances of all of them (or most of them) reaching the major leagues in the not-so-distant future.

Each one are headline players--either high draft picks, important international signings or big pieces from trades--who are expected to arrive in the majors like surfers, hitting Chicago in waves.

However, there’s one player not mentioned above who’s been hanging ten in Class-A. He’s a 22nd round pick of the White Sox from 2016 who’s raising eyebrows and expectations at the top of the lineup for the Winston-Salem Dash.

His name is Joel Booker. If you’re looking for the most underrated player currently in the White Sox farm system, it might be him. At the very least, he’s definitely one of the most underrated.

“I think it’s safe to say that,”  White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said about Booker. “He’s certainly not asked about as much as some of these other guys. He hasn’t been getting the attention, but he’s a guy who certainly can move up the ladder based on his speed factor.”

Booker has speed (seven stolen bases in nine attempts) but what’s really been standing out for the 24-year-old outfielder this year is his bat. Booker finished the month of April with a slash line of .353/.421/.515. That .353 batting average leads the Carolina League (Rutherford is second at .338). If you ask opposing teams about Booker, they’d likely recommend the same thing: promote him to Double-A immediately just so they get him out of their hair.

“When he gets on the basepaths, he wreaks havoc,” Getz said. “He gets in the heads of pitchers. Even when he stands in the box, he puts stress on the defense and certainly on the pitcher as well, knowing that all this guy needs to do is make contact and he’s a threat to score a run.”

How many players can you name who have ever stolen home to win a game?

Booker did it on April 12, dashing safely for home with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game to beat the Carolina Mudcats.

“He’s got a tool that plays in the major leagues and that’s obviously his speed and he has some contact ability,” Getz said. “He’s certainly on a pretty good offensive team that creates situations for him to utilize his speed. (Winston-Salem manager) Omar (Vizquel) has done a really great job using him with a crowded outfield and he’s really answered the bell.”

The Winston-Salem outfield that Getz mentions is so cramped it’s borderline humorous. There’s Booker, Rutherford, Basabe and 2016 3rd round pick Alex Call. Micker Adolfo is also an outfielder, being used as a full-time DH while he deals with a sprained UCL and strained flexor tendon in his throwing arm. Then there’s prized outfield prospect Luis Robert who will begin his minor league career with the Dash once his sprained thumb heals, likely sometime in May.  

Could this create a logjam in the White Sox outfield if all of them are ready for the majors around the same time?

“I certainly hope so. The optimist in me will say yes that’s going to happen,” Getz said. “Each guy has a different skill set. Some guys have power, some guys have speed, some guys have really good hitting ability, and some have defense, so from an organization standpoint, it’s a great place to be in because you can pick and choose what the major league team needs at a certain juncture.”

As for Booker, it will be interesting to see if his splashy start to the season has some staying power. He doesn’t have to match those gaudy April numbers, but after slashing .233/.284/.296 in 208 plate appearances for Winston-Salem last season, something seems to have clicked this time around.

“If he continues to do what he’s doing, and I don’t mean put up a slash line that he’s been doing, he’s going to find himself knocking on the door of the big leagues, just based on the fact that his speed plus the consistent at-bats that he’s given us,” Getz said. “If he does that, then he’s got a chance to be a major league baseball player, one that is attractive to every team in baseball because of what he’s capable of doing and how hard they are to find.”

You don’t have to look hard to find Booker. His name is pasted at the top of the Dash batting order every night. Maybe not for long.

How about a few other underrated White Sox prospects to watch:

Ryan Burr:  The 24-year-old right-handed reliever has a 2.89 ERA with eight strikeouts in 9.1 innings for Birmingham. Last season with three Class-A teams he combined for a 1.65 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65.1 IP. Stats say one thing. Watching him pitch says another. High velocity with late life. If he can effectively throw his slider, he could move up fast. White Sox acquired him from Arizona in August for internationals signing bonus pool money.  

Matt Rose: An easily overlooked player in the Jose Quintana blockbuster with the Cubs, Rose may not have the upside of Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, but he’s got some pop in that bat of his. Monday against Biloxi, Rose went 3-for-5 with two home runs and a career-high 6 RBIs. In 23 games, the 6-4 corner infielder is .282/.330/.494 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

Laz Rivera: He’s a 23-year-old infielder chosen in the 28th round by the White Sox in 2017. That doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but he’s a gamer. So far with Class-A Kannapolis, he’s .333/.356./.471 with two home runs and 9 RBI. 

A scout for Baseball Census might have summed Rivera up perfectly when he saw him play in the Arizona League last summer: “Seemed to be in the middle of everything the AZL White Sox did in multiple viewings this summer; rally starter, table setter, defensive leader, etc. Consensus top AZL prospects aside, Laz Rivera is my pick for an under-the-radar guy I liked the most this summer in Arizona; grew on me more each time I saw him.”