White Sox

Prospect Jacob May gives White Sox glimpse of skillset

Prospect Jacob May gives White Sox glimpse of skillset

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Several past injuries have helped Jacob May avoid speculating on a big picture that became much more interesting with the December trade of Adam Eaton.

Limited to 83 games in 2016 after suffering abdomen strains on the left and right sides, May wants to show the White Sox he’s able to bring his highly-energetic approach to the field every day.

Of course he heard about it when Eaton was shipped to the Washington Nationals for three minor-league pitchers. The trade opened a starting spot in the White Sox outfield. But May – who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored in a 13-7 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Saturday – doesn’t want to let a distraction prevent him from accomplishing his goals.

“I go out there every day and try to play hard and show off my athleticism,” May said. “I think that’s what I kind of bring to the table, a little bit of speed and I feel like that can help any team. Any time I can go out there and make a big play on defense or steal a base, that’s ultimately my goal to be that guy in the major leagues. So I feel like that and still obviously have a lot more to show. I have to show them I can stay consistent.”

A third-round draftee in 2013, May is hitting .357/.386/.548 in 44 plate appearances and four steals in his second big league camp. He produced an .882 OPS with four stolen bases in 44 plate appearances last spring and looked as if he’d given the White Sox something to ponder when it was time for September promotions.

Then the two disabled list trips happened.

A season earlier, May was limited to 101 games after a concussion sidelined him for seven weeks. May’s 2014 campaign also ended a few weeks early because of a bruised right pinky.

“He’s missed some time because of it,” said former player development director and current third-base coach Nick Capra. “But we’ve seen small sample sizes of what he can do along the way. He’s got tools and he knows how to play the game.”

May is currently ranked the No. 18 prospect in the farm system, according to MLB.com. Scouting analysts project May to be more of a fourth outfielder than a starter. But with Charlie Tilson set to begin this season on the DL, May has put himself in the mix of players who potentially could travel north with the White Sox when they head to Chicago in 11 days. Peter Bourjos is thought to be the front-runner for center field with May and Adam Engel in the mix.

“(May is) an excellent defender, can swing from both sides of the plate,” said manager Rick Renteria, who was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes. “He’s been trying to get on base by bunting to both sides. He’s trying to see the landscape of how they try to play him.

“He can do a lot of things. We can move him around from center to left to right. Just his ability to try to get on base. Him just being himself is what I’m looking for him to do.”

May believes he’s displaying his skillset by focusing on himself and not focusing on any decisions he doesn’t have a say in. Even though the Eaton trade caught his eye, May knew not to pay too much attention after a series of “frustrating” injuries.

“I definitely got text messages with people letting me know that,” May said. “But it still didn’t change anything whether I make the club or not. If the Chicago White Sox want me in the big leagues than ultimately they’ll bring me up there. Eaton is an amazing player and he’s really good and it’s tough to lose somebody like that on the club. But it’s part of the business. It’s not going to change my mindset. I came in here last year with the same mentality, determined to make an impression on the coaching staff. When my time comes it comes.”

Starting pitcher Carson Fulmer had a tough time Saturday against the Dodgers. He allowed three runs and five hits in four innings. Jake Petricka also allowed two runs while Zach Putnam gave up three.

The White Sox also said that relief pitcher Juan Minaya is out indefinitely with an abdominal tear. Renteria said Minaya would rest for the next few weeks, which would hurt his chances of breaking with the club. 

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.