White Sox

Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list


Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
12:12 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini

CHICAGO As the coals in the hot stove are just beginning to get stoked up, its time to rank the current Chicago White Sox, in order of importance for 2011 and beyond. Its not intended to be a strict list of merely the best players, or best values, on the White Sox. Rather, it takes into account team depth, the free agent market, or answering the question of which player would hurt the most not being on the team?

This is meant as a precursor to longer, individual profiles that will appear on CSNChicago.com between now and the end of the year. Thus the list could take different shape over the coming weeks, due to current players being cut loose or new ones acquired.

The first part of this 30-player list tracks the least essential players on the White Sox, leading off with the only player in the bottom third actually deserving of increased playing time in 2011:

21. Ramon Castro, C

Playing in just 37 games in 2010, Castro posted the second-best value of his career, at 4.5 million. The White Sox will welcome back A.J. Pierzynski at the right number (read: a cut in salary) and will otherwise explore the free-agent market. But no matter who the new Chisox starter is, Castro should see his starts double; he certainly earned more playing time with his performance last season.
22. Tony Pena, RP
Pena is a favorite piata for White Sox critics, but his mop-up, emergency-starter role does little for stats and overall value. As it is, it was a bit of a miracle he squeezed a million in value from an up-and-down 2010. With few ready pitching options in the minors, Pena is almost certain to be offered arbitration and duplicate his 2010 role in 2011.
23. Freddy Garcia, SP

Where else can you place an otherwise useful starter who has no rotation slot remaining in Chicago? Garcia is almost certain to bolt elsewhere, as nearly every other major league team is aching for the fifth-starter innings Garcia can eat, while the rotation-rich Chisox can offer no guarantees.
24. Jared Mitchell, OF

Its a lot to call a player whos seen not a sniff of the majors the 24th-most important player on the roster, but after a terrible ankle injury that may end up costing Mitchell at least some of the breakout speed he showed at LSU, how Mitchell rebounds in the minors in 2011 is crucial to Chicagos outfield plans going forward. Expect Mitchell to be Juan Pierres shadow throughout spring training.

25. Omar Vizquel, IF

Yep, an infielder turning 44 early next season still qualifies as this important on the White Sox. Look no farther than the turnaround the team undertook once Vizquel subbed for an injured Teahen at third base, a turnaround that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (perhaps wildly) credits to Vizquel. However, it will be hard to again expect the offensive season Vizquel gave the Chisox in 2010, and if they need him to provide a similar boost in 2011, it spells big trouble.

26. Mark Teahen, OF-IF

Dis 2010s re-signing of Mark Kotsay all you like, but the blind extension of Teahen was Williams biggest mistake of the last offseason. Teahen is not among Chicagos top position players any longer, and barring a breakout performance at the plate next spring, Teahen is destined for a superutility (and salary albatross) role in 2011.

27. Tyler Flowers, C

That the White Sox would like nothing more than to pay Pierzynski and Castro around 5 million total to assume catching duties in 2011 says all it needs to about Flowers and his progress in the minors. In fact, the immediate pickup of Castros team option indicates that Flowers will be patrolling AAA yards until next September.
28. Brent Lillibridge, IF-OF

Lillibridge will fill the same superutility role that Teahen projects to in 2011, albeit at a drastically cheaper price. The truth is, both roster spots could be taken by up-and-coming minor leaguers. In fact, a healthy Teahen and re-signed Vizquel likely turns Lillibridge into a Charlotte Knight.

29. Gregory Infante, RP

With the bullpen perhaps losing Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Chris Sale in 2011, Infante looms more and more important. The right-hander wasnt bad in his first five major-league games last September, but would do better with extra seasoning at Charlotte. Barring a Sergio Santos-style breakout in Arizona, the role Infante is expected to fill in 2011 will go a long way toward estimating Chicagos overall prospects.
30. Eduardo Escobar, SS

One great AFL season does not make a prospect. But given that Escobar has lit up a fall season that earns more than its fair share of attention from major-league eyes, Escobar becomes an important trade chip this winter. Perhaps the inclusion of the shortstop in a Carlos Quentin-Colby Rasmus deal with St. Louis gets that trade done.

Honorable (?) Mentions:

Manny Ramirez, DH: Plenty of smiles, ever-lengthening dreads, but no pop or clutch at-bats left.
Scott Linebrink, RP: Just riding the storm out

Lucas Harrell, P: First startwin last summer may have been his peak.
Alejandro De Aza, OF: A better Dewayne Wise?
Mark Kotsay, 1B-OF: Once star-level WAR has dwindled to negatives in three of last four seasons.
Erick Threets, RP: Will miss 2011; would have been a major lefty contributor.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season


It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future


Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.