White Sox

Lack of high picks could sway White Sox first-round selection


Lack of high picks could sway White Sox first-round selection

The obscenely large gap between their first and second picks in the 2015 amateur draft could heavily weigh on how the White Sox pick Monday.

They’re likely hitting with a two-strike approach instead of swinging for the fences.

While the White Sox own the eighth overall selection in today’s proceedings, their next choice doesn’t come until No. 112 on Tuesday. The team surrendered its second- and third-round picks in the 2015 draft this offseason when free agents David Robertson and Melky Cabrera were signed in December. That 104-pick gap could sway whom they take when they make their selection at approximately 6:37 p.m. CST on Monday.

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“You always want to make sure you get No. 1 right,” assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “But at the same time, I don’t know you if you can take the chance on No. 1 as maybe you could if you had some backups in the second and third rounds. If you swing and miss at one now, you don’t have a guy until your fourth round. You don’t want to blow your whole year of development and getting players in.”

The players at the top of the 2015 draft don’t have the same sort of flash as the 2014 class - “It’s not a sexy year,” Hostetler said.

Ultimately, the best pitcher might not immediately surface in the majors and could come from a later round. But this year’s class is stocked with college arms, players whom could quickly reach the majors as a reliever.

The White Sox have almost exclusively been linked to those pitchers. In their latest mock drafts, Baseball America and MLB.com have the White Sox selecting UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate. Those publications have also linked them to Tyler Jay (Illinois), Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville), Carson Fulmer (Vanderbilt) and Missouri State’s Jon Harris.

Because they don’t pick again until the fourth round, scouting director Doug Laumann has familiarized himself with the group the White Sox believe will be there at No. 8 more than in past years.

“There’s going to be 100 names that come off the board between our picks, so we don’t want to spend a lot of time and a lot of man-hours talking about players that aren’t going to be there,” Laumann said. “But ultimately somebody’s going to fall to us and we have to be prepared for whoever that happens to be.”

[MORE: White Sox front office mocks Monday's amateur draft]

Though they say they’re almost certain they’ll grab a pitcher, the White Sox could try to fill another void in the farm system. The farm system has a need for outfielders and catchers. Perhaps a player like Arkansas sophomore outfielder Andrew Benintendi - who has seen his stock quickly rise (BA now has him going fifth overall to Houston) - could tempt the White Sox if he’s there.

The left-handed hitting Benintendi hit .443 this season and “has above-average tools, from his bat to his speed to his power potential,” according to Baseball America

No matter where they end up, the White Sox believe they are in a good position.

“We are going to get a good player at eight,” general manager Rick Hahn said last week. “We feel real good about who will likely be available there and the number of names we have in our mix there at eight.” 

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect


Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.