White Sox

Mistakes abound as White Sox lose to Twins

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Mistakes abound as White Sox lose to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — John Danks took the blame for Monday night’s loss and there’s no question he played a significant role in the outcome.

But make no mistake: the White Sox lost 13-2 to the Minnesota Twins in front of 24,094 at Target Field behind a team effort. The White Sox made three outs on the bases, committed three errors and Danks allowed nine runs in 5 1/3 innings as Minnesota won the eighth of 11 meetings between the teams.

“I stunk,” Danks said. “There’s really no other way to put it. Wasn’t good in the bullpen, wasn’t good in the game. Made bad pitches, got hit. Got to throw early strikes, get ahead, make quality pitches. I did none of those.”

His teammates didn’t cross off many of the necessary boxes to win a ballgame behind him.

It began innocently enough on the bases.

[MORE: White Sox: Melky Cabrera's bat has heated up in June]

Trailing 1-0, the White Sox rallied on a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single by Adam LaRoche in the third inning. The White Sox appeared to be in line for a big inning as Alexei Ramirez followed with another two-out hit — something they sorely lacked — but Melky Cabrera was thrown out at home after he appeared to look back to locate the ball. Byron Buxton fired a rope from center to throw Cabrera out by two steps to end the inning.

Gordon Beckham started the fourth with a single to shallow center, a play that took the middle infielders far away from the base. Beckham hustled and tried to sneak into second only to be easily thrown out as pitcher Tommy Milone covered and tagged the runner out.

Geovany Soto followed Beckham with a double to right and one out later, he was thrown out on the bases. Soto headed for third on Adam Eaton’s fielder’s choice and rather than throw to first — where he likely would have had time to retire Eaton for the final out — Trevor Plouffe started an inning-ending rundown to retire Soto.

“Right now we’re just not finding a way to win the game, make the plays to win the game, getting the knocks to win the game,” Beckham said. “We’re just not finding the way to do it.”

The three outs on the bases gives the White Sox 36 for the season, which is how many Tampa Bay, who had the most OOB in the majors, had to start the day.

Then the defense took over.

Shortly after Joe Mauer tied the game at 2 with a solo homer off Danks, the defense let things get out of hand. Danks walked Torii Hunter but appeared to get a routine double play off the bat of Plouffe only for Ramirez to throw over the head of second baseman Carlos Sanchez and into right field. On the next play, Cabrera hauled in a routine fly to left and Ramirez didn’t catch his relay throw, which struck Hunter and allowed Plouffe to advance to second base on an error. Kurt Suzuki made it 3-2 with a sac fly and Kennys Vargas put the Twins ahead by two runs with a two-out single to left.

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Three more errors give the White Sox 49 on the season, the sixth-most in the majors.

“There’s one of that you should have made, we know that,” Ventura said. “At that point it does get frustrating, but that wasn’t the reason for the game.”

“We made some mistakes but they swung it, too.”

Danks left one up to Eduardo Nunez, who homered to give Minnesota a 6-2 lead. Two innings later, Danks gave up three more hits, including a massive three-run homer to Vargas as the Twins went up 9-2.

Danks — who entered the game with a 5.16 ERA — has allowed 14 homers in 80 1/3 innings this season. Last season, Danks gave up 25 homers in 193 2/3 innings.

The Twins’ power surge wasn’t finished as Hunter doubled in two more runs in the sixth inning off Scott Carroll. Then in the eighth, Brian Dozier hit a two-run homer off reliever Junior Guerra.

“It wasn’t for a lack of trying, lack of care,” Danks said of the Ramirez error. “Just the game of baseball. That play had no bearing on any pitches after that. It was my job to pick him up and I didn’t do it. That play had no bearing on the sixth inning, either. “That’s not why we lost the game.”

Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez lead Charlotte Knights on NBC Sports Chicago

Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez lead Charlotte Knights on NBC Sports Chicago

Tonight, White Sox Triple-A affiliate Charlotte (44-52) will go head-to-head with the Pawtucket Red Sox (45-49) on NBC Sports Chicago at 6 p.m.

Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech (2-5, 4.88 ERA) faces William Cuevas (5-3, 3.21 ERA) at BB&T Ballpark. The flame-throwing Kopech is coming off an 11-strikeout performance in his last start when he completed six innings of work and allowed only four hits and one earned run.

Kopech has been inconsistent for the Knights this season, but leads the International League with a whopping 122 strikeouts. He had a forgettable month of June, when he went 1-4 with a 5.46 ERA, but he looks to be getting on the right track recently.

Charlotte’s batting lineup is highlighted by White Sox No. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez, who has performed well since his promotion from Double-A Birmingham in mid-June. The powerful hitter has a .283/.348/.483 slash line with three home runs in 60 at-bats with the Knights.

Reliever Ian Hamilton (2.71 ERA), who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 18 White Sox prospect, has served as the team’s closer since his June promotion to Triple-A. The 23-year-old has converted four of five save opportunities with Charlotte, making him a player to monitor during tonight’s game. He has 10 strikeouts with only two walks in 9 2/3 innings.

Everything that's gone right this year in the White Sox farm system

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USA TODAY

Everything that's gone right this year in the White Sox farm system

If there’s a sweet spot in the White Sox rebuild, you will find it in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

That’s where first-time manager Omar Vizquel and a surge of talent have quickly burst onto the scene in the Carolina League. From big names like Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford to under the radar types like Jimmy Lambert and Ti’Quan Forbes, Vizquel has been in charge of an overflow of prospects the White Sox minor league system hasn’t seen in years.  

Injuries this year to Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Alec Hanson, Jake Burger, Dane Dunning, Micker Adolfo and Ryan Cordell may have put a damper on your spirits about the White Sox rebuild and the speed in which it will take for the big league club to be good again. But despite those setbacks, the organizational depth Rick Hahn has preached about and has attempted to create in the farm system is starting to become a reality.

Even after some of Vizquel’s best players like Cease, Joel Booker, Luis Basabe and Bernardo Flores were promoted to Double-A Birmingham in June, Vizquel has inherited a brand new wave of talent from Class-A Kannapolis in the form of Luis Gonzalez, Laz Rivera, Tyler Johnson and Blake Battenfield and they haven’t skipped a beat, excelling in a higher league, creating more late-game drama like we saw from the Dash in the first half of the season.

Here’s 28th round pick Laz Rivera hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday night in the 10th inning.

If you want to feel down about the lost development time for Burger, Robert and Dunning, go ahead. It’s real. Their timetables to the big leagues might be pushed back (although Basabe told me at the Futures Game that Robert “is going to learn very quick.” Store that in the back of your mind when he returns, possibly in the first week in August).  

But if you ask Vizquel about the players he has managed this year, he believes that many of them are on an accelerated path for the major leagues.

“We’re seeing a lot of explosive players who can go through the system and maybe surprise some people and be in the big leagues a little sooner than people expected,” Vizquel said in a phone interview.

Who is Vizquel speaking about? Let’s start with Cease who started the year in Winston-Salem. Vizquel likened him to Justin Verlander. Yeah, he went there.

“A guy I can compare (Cease) with, I would say he’s a Justin Verlander type. I was with Justin the last four years in Detroit and obviously he’s one of the most veteran pitchers in the game. Just the way he handles the situation when he’s on the mound, he’s just amazing. What impressed me about Cease was his composure. The way he takes the mound every time,” Vizquel said. “Obviously, he’s got a really good fastball that can go up to 98, 99, and he can go to 100 pitches and he still has the strength to go out there in the ninth inning and shut people down. At his age it’s really tough to find guys like that who can handle the pressure and everything that goes around the pitcher’s mound. And he has that.”

Cease and Basabe both played in the Futures Game. If Robert wasn’t injured, he very likely would have joined them in Washington, D.C.   

Basabe made a big splash in the game, drilling a 102 mph pitch from Reds prospect Hunter Greene deep into the right field seats.  The third player in the Chris Sale trade, Basabe battled a knee injury last season. Healthy this year, he’s showing off all the tools and promise the White Sox were expecting.

“He’s one of those guys who can run balls down in every outfield position. We used him in every spot. Right, center and left. With his speed and his arm he can play anywhere. He can hit the ball with power, he can hit consistently for average,” Vizquel said about Basabe. “He can be one of those players who can change the game with one at-bat. He can bunt, he can hit for power and he can also steal a base. When you have a player that is complete in every aspect of the game, he can be a really good player for anybody.”

Basabe and Joel Booker have both had big comeback seasons. Booker has been a revelation, raising eyebrows in the White Sox farm system.

“Joel Booker is the most underrated guy we have,” Cease said during an interview before the Futures Game.

Booker was named the MVP of the Carolina League All-Star Game, got promoted to Birmingham where he’s leading off for the Barons, hitting ahead of fellow outfielder Basabe.

“(Booker) is another guy who has the same tools that Basabe has, except he’s a little faster than Basabe,” Vizquel said. “I think he wasn’t being mentioned too much in the White Sox organization because there are so many high top prospects here that he probably gets lost in that group of people. Obviously, when the game starts you can see that he’s one of those players who can bring a lot of attention. He can steal bases, he can hit the ball hard. Even though he’s a leadoff guy he can hit the ball a long way. He’s a guy who is still learning the game and I think because he hasn’t played baseball that long, people overlook him a little bit, but he’s going to be a great player, too."

When Booker got promoted to Birmingham, that opened up a spot in the Winston-Salem outfield for Luis Gonzalez. The White Sox third-round pick from 2017 immediately became one of the Dash’s best players.

“Luis Gonzalez is one of these guys who can hit in every spot in the lineup. He’s a good leadoff guy and is very aggressive with the count. He likes to swing the bat. As a matter of fact, he got mad at me because I don’t let him hit in the 3-hole sometimes. He can tell you that he’s ready to swing at every pitch,” Vizquel said about Gonzalez who is slashing .306/.349/.449 in 22 games in Winston-Salem.

“He’s a left-handed hitter who doesn’t care if he has a left-handed pitcher on the mound. He still sticks his nose in there and he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time. That’s who I have at the top of the lineup right now and he’s another player who’s learning the game real quick. Even in his young age, he looks like a veteran out there.”

But wait, there’s more. Outfielder Blake Rutherford, who the White Sox acquired in the Todd Frazier/David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle trade last July, has quickly made people forget about his struggles in Kannapolis last year (.213/.289/.254 in 30 games). This year in a higher league, he’s been one of its top hitters (.300/.345/.459), ranking second in RBIs and fourth in hits.

“Rutherford is a guy who is really young too. I love to have him with runners in scoring position because he can bring an RBI anytime,” Vizquel said about the Dash right fielder, who turned 21 in May and is batting .343 with 57 RBIs with RISP. “He’s a guy who makes contact. He’s going to be good. He’s another great outfielder, not as good as defensively as (Booker and Gonzalez), but he still does have great tools to be out there playing everyday.”

When it comes to starting pitching, Cease, Dunning, Hansen and Michael Kopech get most of the attention in the minor leagues. But there are some other pitchers making names for themselves this year. Left-hander Bernardo Flores has combined for a 2.56 ERA in 109 innings for Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Since being called up to Double-A, Jimmy Lambert is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA. He flirted with a no-hitter in his last start against the Cubs Double-A team, giving up one hit over seven innings with 10 strikeouts.

“He’s gross,” Cease said about Lambert. “He throws his fastball 92 to 95. Disgusting change-up. He can throw 15 change-ups in an inning and he’ll get 11 swings and misses on it.

"Good curveball and slider. He’s gross.”

Cease and Lambert are now throwing to catcher Zack Collins, who leads the Southern League with a .409 on-base percentage and 77 walks. The next closest in the league in walks has 53.

We know Collins can hit and get on base. What about his defense?

“From when I threw to him during spring training to now he’s like almost a new guy,” Cease said about Collins. “He’s framing well, calling a good game and blocking and that’s all you need from a catcher.”

In Charlotte, there’s 23-year-old reliever Ian Hamilton, who got called up last month and gave up only 2 hits in his first 6.2 IP with nine strikeouts and one walk. His fastball can hit 98 mph and he has a hard slider that can reach 90. He’s a possible future closer for the White Sox.

He also has a teammate named Eloy Jimenez. I hear he’s having a big season as well.

In a perfect world, every White Sox prospect listed here will stay healthy, all of them will max out their potential, and in the coming years they’ll win every World Series title from 2020 to 2023.

But life isn’t perfect, especially in baseball.  Too much can go wrong, and often does.

The way to withstand the inevitable setbacks is by stocking your organization with waves of talent. For a long time, you could only find ripples of this in the White Sox farm system.

Now in Winston-Salem, it’s surf’s up! The hope is that one day they’ll be hangin’ ten from Kannapolis to Chicago.

For now, Omar Vizquel is handing out longboards to his first-place Dash who have been the class of the Carolina League.  

If he can create a winning culture like he experienced with the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s, and have that success flow upstream into the big leagues, the future at 35th and Shields will be very bright.

“I’m glad that I have this opportunity to be involved with all these young bright stars and make a difference and teach them the right way to play fundamental baseball and just play the game the right way,” Vizquel said. “It’s something that I learned with all my years of experience. I think we’ve been trying to let these guys know how to play the right way and I think it’s paying off.”