If a major league clubs farm system is any forecast of the future of a franchise, the Chicago White Sox should plan for a little bit of rain. Much like its crosstown rival, the Sox are in desperate need of a number of successful drafts to add depth to their now sparse lower level talent.In an attempt to beef up their minor league pitching this winter, the Sox elected to trade inconsistent closer Sergio Santos in return for right handed prospect Nestor Molina. Molina is an above average pitcher with a mid-range fastball complimented by a slider, a changeup, and a pretty active splitter. The only problem is some scouts do not think that Molina has a very high ceiling -- in other words, he is already peaking and shows little room for improvement. With some fine tuning, Molina could end up a back-of-the-rotation starter at best, but probably has a better chance of being a late-inning reliever.South Side farm system poster boy Addison Reed is one of the bright spots for a farm system lacking depth in the worst way. The large-framed Reed tops out in the 95 mph range, but his biting slider has catapulted him to the next level and his active arm and electric stuff will eventually land him in the closers role. The Sox are a team still searching for someone to call their everyday closer and while Chis Sale appears to be the next to get his shot in that role Reed will probably get his audition this summer.Another pitcher walking the line between starter and bullpen is former Padre Simon Castro. Castro was acquired in the Carlos Quentin trade and is the high-potential type player you love to have in your farm system. On the contrary, there are some question marks that come along with Castro. The 6-foot-5 righty has a mid-90s fastball and a changeup with good movement, both of which he has trouble locating. Castros command problems stem from a number of mechanical issues that have plagued him in the past, but the hope is that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can fix his flaws like he has done with so many others in the past.One of the White Sox top outfield prospects is Jared Mitchell. Mitchell, a two-sport standout at LSU, was the White Sox first-round selection in the 2009 draft. General manager Kenny Williams and the rest of the Sox organization had high hopes for the extremely athletic outfielder, and in 2009 Mitchell hit .327 with 25 extra base hits, 36 steals and showed great power to the opposite field. Mitchell was also named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. It seemed as if the sky was the limit for him until he ruptured his Achilles' tendon making a circus catch in a 2010 spring training game. The unfortunate incident surrounded Mitchell with a great deal of uncertainty because such a large part of his game relies on speed. At times his outstanding acceleration made up for his lack of experience and instinct in the field.Mitchell returned to the lineup and played a full 2011 schedule but he struggled significantly, hitting only.222 and fanning 183 times -- 38 percent of his trips to the plate. He has shown signs of improvement early this season with Double-A Birmingham and is currently hitting .341 with a .471 OBP in 24 appearances. Perhaps more importantly, he is showing significant speed which means he is close to 100 percent recovered from the Achilles' injury. That is giving Williams and Co. hope that he is not far from playing in the big leagues on an everyday basis.The White Sox system is not considered strong by most talent evaluators, but after changing scouting directors and putting a renewed emphasis on developing pitching the Sox are hopeful that brighter days are ahead for an organization that trying to retool from within. Right now the major league club is led by a solid core of veterans, but as they continue to age it will be imperative that the team's drafts start producing at a solid rate of return.Joe Musso contributed to this article.
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.
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.