White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez good again but White Sox fall to Royals

Miguel Gonzalez good again but White Sox fall to Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miguel Gonzalez continues to look like he could be a valuable member of the White Sox rotation next season.

Gonzalez made his 10th quality start in 11 tries on Saturday night, but the White Sox offense couldn’t solve the Kansas City Royals’ Jason Vargas/Dylan Gee combination in a 3-2 loss in front of 34,805 at Kauffman Stadium. Vargas and Gee combined to allow two runs in 7 1/3 innings and outpitch Gonzalez, who has a 2.70 ERA dating back to July 1. Catcher Kevan Smith recorded his first major league hit when he singled in the fifth inning in the losing effort.

“Nothing you can do,” Gonzalez said. “It’s part of the game. It’s a game of inches. I made some good pitches. Really the fifth inning was the one that got me. I got a little tired, had to work a little bit more. Smitty did a really good job back there, I’m really happy for him, he got his first hit in the big leagues.”

Signed at the last minute for depth, Gonzalez has been anything but over the past 2 1/2 months. The addition of the cut-fastball has helped Gonzalez get inside on left-handed hitters more easily and makes him a viable option for the White Sox going forward.

Kansas City still did get to Gonzalez for three runs, including a pair in the decisive fifth inning. Alcides Escobar tripled to right to start the inning and scored on Hunter Dozier’s single to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. Eric Hosmer also singled in a run to put his team ahead by two.

But that was all Gonzalez would surrender in a 104-pitch effort. He allowed three earned runs and six hits in seven innings.

The only outing by Gonzalez since July 1 that wasn’t a quality start was on Aug. 11 when he left a start after only one inning with an injury.

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The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Melky Cabrera RBI single to center off Vargas, who pitched for the first time all season. Avisail Garcia appeared to have the White Sox in line for more, but Whit Merrifield made a diving stop on a two-out grounder to prevent a run-scoring hit and end the inning.

“We had opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That was a nice play up the middle. We had something rolling there. You would like to get a little more out of it, but defensively they are pretty good. That kid plays all over the place and he does a pretty good job.”

The White Sox wouldn’t mount another threat until the eighth inning. Two one-out singles knocked Gee out of the game and Joakim Soria took over. Garcia’s one-hopper with two outs took a strange bounce off third base and went for an RBI double as the White Sox got to within a run. But Soria retired pinch hitter J.B. Shuck on a grounder to short to strand the tying and go-ahead runs.

Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth inning to close it out for the Royals.

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

The White Sox catching depth will soon be put to the test.

Saturday, the White Sox placed catcher Welington Castillo on seven-day concussion list. In a corresponding move, the team promoted catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte, 

In 26 games this season, Castillo holds a .176/.286/.318 slashline with three home runs in 85 at-bats. He exited Friday's game against the Twins in the eighth inning after taking two foul tips off of his catcher's mask. 

While White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Castillo didn't go into concussion protocol, the team is likely being precautious due to the nature of the injury. 

Zavala, 25, has yet to appear in the big leagues, though he's played in 360 minor league games since the White Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He holds a career slashline of .267/.335/.457 across all minor league levels, reaching Triple-A for the first time last season. 

Zavala's slashline this season is currently below his career averages (.218/.253/.506 in 21 games), but he's hit six home runs in 87 at-bats. Last season, he hit 13 in a combined 380 at-bats between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Although the circumstances of his promotion are not ideal, Zavala is leaving Charlotte on a high-note. In last night's game against the Durham Bulls, he went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run.

With Castillo out, the White Sox will likely lean on James McCann more. In 31 games this season, McCann holds a stellar .333/.373/.523 slashline

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White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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