White Sox

Ramirez's second homer is a walk-off winner

444053.jpg

Ramirez's second homer is a walk-off winner

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Posted: April 12, 10:49 p.m. Updated: 12:12 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago White Sox entered their 11th game of the season at 6-4, a seeming letdown for a club that even manager Ozzie Guillen has acknowledged could easily be 9-1 at this juncture.

WATCH: Ozzie upset with Sox fans

But a .600 winning percentage gets you 97 wins on the major-league slate, even any Baseball Prospectus antimatter wouldnt require that many Ws to win the American League Central.

The White Sox upped that winning percentage to .636 with an improbably sloppy win, a game that started strong, got truly slushy in the middle, then finishing in thrilling fashion, as Alexei Ramirez launched a two-out solo homer in the 10th his second round-tripper of the game to send the Pale Hose home victorious, 6-5. It was the first game-ending home run of Ramirezs career.

The notoriously slow-starting Ramirez equaled his April home run output over the first three years of his career with Tuesday nights output, and the quiet shortstop has applied some fuzzy meteorology toward the solution to the problem.

Four years ago it was a lot colder than it was now, he said. Im just making the best of what the climate is and Im enjoying it.

Alexei has been great over the years against lefties, a very dangerous hitter, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I almost got him to swing 3-0 he was looking at me. I wanted someone on base but the last thing you expect is a home run.

Hes swung the bat very well this is the best month of April hes swung the bat. He got a big hit for us early in the game, especially against Trevor Cahill. Cahill is a kid who throws a lot of ground balls. I never thought wed hit a home run in April in this weather against him, and Alexei did.

The White Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead courtesy of Ramirezs first homer, the three-run blast Guillen was referencing. The White Sox then kept the train rolling vs. the recently-extended righty, pushing across one more run on a Paul Konerko fielders choice.

The bounty proved too big for White Sox starter Edwin Jackson, coming off his best start in a White Sox uniform, his eight-inning masterpiece vs. the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. The righthander scuffled through every inning and was knocked from the box at 100 pitches and one out short of qualifying for his third win of the season.

Today, I just had no feel for my off-speed pitches, Jackson said. Everything came out spinning. You have to compete with what you have, and try to keep the game as close as possible.

One of the toughest decisions we had to make today is taking Jackson out with one out left in the fifth, Guillen said. He couldnt get the win. It was a bad feeling about it. There was a lefty hitter out there, and I wanted to switch him around. Thats the reason we made the move.

Jacksons body language slowly stalking off the field, looking back at Ramirez (who had just made his first error and second miscue of the inning) twice while leaving betrayed just how furious he was at the inefficient effort.

I dont know any starter that is going to be pretty happy going 4 23 innings, he said. Its definitely not helping the pen out, and you want to be in there as long as possible. But its part of the game and one of those things.

The sixth inning was reserved for the worst of the White Sox tonight. First, Tony Pena came on as the third pitcher of the night and promptly surrendered a single to Mark Ellis and a home run to Kevin Kouzmanoff - Oaklands seventh and eighth hitters - turning what had been a 4-3 lead upside-down. Just one out later, Alex Rios dropped a fly ball for an error, the outfields fifth in just 11 games.

The Bronx cheers from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd all game long and intensified after Rios drop bothered Guillen.

I know were not playing well weve made a couple mistakes that cost us a couple games, but every time we catch the ball and fans are going to boo, I dont think thats fair, Guillen said. I know we all want to win, but every fly ball were going to get booed? Dont kick the outfield when theyre down. Try to support them.

I dont see any better center fielder than Alex, and the way Juan plays for the White Sox the past couple years, I dont think he deserves every fly ball he catches to have people booing him. Youre going to boo someone, boo me. Because Im the one who makes the lineup and Im the one who plays those guys Weve only played 11 games. I played here for a long time. Its a bad feeling every time were booed when we catch the ball in the outfield.

Still, Guillen was pleased once again with how his team bounced back from a heartbreaking loss.

We needed this win bad, he said. With the loss last night, we bounced back again and played well.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Nick Madrigal left out of Keith Law's top 100 prospect list

1001_nick_madrigal.jpg
Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

Nick Madrigal left out of Keith Law's top 100 prospect list

There are plenty of prospect rankings in the baseball world and typically some level of consensus is formed among where prospects fall.

As far as the White Sox are concerned, Luis Robert is a top 10 prospect in baseball by just about everyone, Michael Kopech is usually in the top 20 or 30 and Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal aren’t too far behind.

Keith Law of The Athletic sees it differently for one of those four. Law released his top 100 prospects on Monday and featured just three White Sox prospects.

Robert came in at No. 6, Kopech was at No. 16 and Vaughn was ranked 28th. There was no Madrigal though.

Madrigal is ranked 40 by MLB Pipeline, 48 by Baseball America, 41 by Fangraphs and even as high as 13 on Baseball Prospectus. Law is the outlier here and he got plenty of questions about it.


The argument against Madrigal is fairly obvious. He has almost no power. The question is can he overcome that and still bring value to a team? Most scouts have said yes.

Madrigal’s notable skill is his elite contact rate. He almost never strikes out, which tends to lead to a high batting average. Madrigal is also a good defender who is noted as a smart baserunner. Throw those things together and you have a solid contributor to a big league team, but far from a star.

Offensively, Madrigal will have to consistently hit for a high average to overcome his lack of power. He has four home runs in 163 games in the minors. He won’t be an OPS hero by any stretch. That said, he hit .311 across three levels of the minors in 2019, including a .331 batting average in 29 games in Triple-A.

If Law thinks Madrigal’s contact skills are very good as opposed to elite and doesn’t believe in growth in other parts of his game, it’s reasonable to think he’s not a top 100 prospect. Still, this is the minority opinion at this point.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Yasmani Grandal hard at work molding pitching staff that drew him to White Sox

0224_yasmani_grandal.jpg
AP

Yasmani Grandal hard at work molding pitching staff that drew him to White Sox

It should come as no surprise that Yasmani Grandal is already making a big impact, even in the early weeks of spring training.

After all, his impact was being felt before anyone even showed up to Camelback Ranch.

But the team’s new No. 1 catcher — perhaps its most important acquisition during a busy offseason — has expectedly gotten to work with a White Sox pitching staff that helped draw him to the South Side.

“I don't care where I'm going as long as I see a future in the pitching staff,” he said back in November, after he signed his team-record contract. “If I see that I can help that pitching staff, for me, that's pretty much No. 1. So their sales pitch was that: ‘Look at the young arms we have, look at the guys we have coming up. We have an opportunity here to win, and we think you can help them out.’”

Certainly there’s a ton of promise with these young pitchers. Lucas Giolito already morphed himself from the pitcher with the worst statistics in baseball to an All Star last season. Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez all have front-of-the-rotation potential, as well.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t question marks. Giolito has to show his transformation was a permanent one. Kopech is finally returning from Tommy John surgery, and though he’s still ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, he’s got just four big league starts under his belt. Cease and Lopez could be the White Sox biggest mysteries heading into the 2020 campaign after they put up some ugly numbers in 2019.

Grandal should be able to help move all those guys in positive directions, and he’s started on that work early this spring. After catching bullpen sessions from Kopech and Lopez, he stuck around for lengthy chats to discuss what he saw. The same was true after Cease threw live batting practice last week, sitting in the dugout for an extended talk.

This might not be incredibly unusual behavior, especially for a catcher who hasn’t caught any of these guys before, getting to know his pitching staff ahead of the regular season. But Grandal’s desire to help develop these pitchers into the type of hurlers the White Sox believe they can be has been evident.

For him, that’s business as usual.

“We’re as strong as our weakest link, right?” he said in the early days of White Sox camp. “I feel like we need to make everybody better, it doesn’t matter if you’re a reliever or a position player. I’m going to do my homework on everybody and make sure everybody is on the same page and then we’ll go from there. We’ll make adjustments as the year goes on.

“The quicker we can do it, the better.”

Grandal figures to help these White Sox in a lot of different ways, hence why they handed him a four-year deal that, until options are exercised on some of the other contracts the team gave out this winter, is the richest in club history. He’s fresh off a career year at the dish that could land him right in the thick of Rick Renteria’s lineup. After ranking in the top five in baseball with 109 walks in 2019, he’s hoping some of his on-base skills might catch on with his new teammates. There’s the pitch-framing, a skill which is still valuable as we await baseball’s robot revolution. Grandal’s one of the best in the game at it. And his work ethic and love of baseball-related homework leaps out at anyone who talks with him.

It all adds up to a guy who can’t help but make his presence felt right away.

“I could tell right off the bat that it was going to be great for us,” Giolito said. “Obviously, he’s proving that to be true, even in these early days of spring training. Very in-depth conversations with each pitcher that he’s working with. … He’s kind of introducing us to some things that he’s learned along the way, which is exactly what we need for an organization trying to turn that page. He’s coming from winning organizations. He knows what it takes, and he’s implementing that whole-heartedly.”

“The conversations he has with the coaches, the conversations he has with some of the young starters, in terms of preparation, in terms of adjustments, in terms of game-planning, he’s just a pleasure to have around and an outstanding baseball guy who’s going to help this team not just with what he does offensively or even from the defensive-metrics standpoint, but just from an all-around culture and environment standpoint, as well,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “And that’s come through early.”

As Giolito mentioned, Grandal’s winning experience could prove one of his bigger contributions as the White Sox look to snap a playoff drought that’s lasted more than a decade. A talented roster has legitimate postseason expectations in 2020, and considering Grandal’s played in the last five postseasons, that’s a valuable asset to have in the fold.

Making a team-wide jump from rebuilding mode to contenting mode happens on a day-by-day basis, sometimes an inning-by-inning or pitch-by-pitch basis. That’s the kind of work Grandal can help the White Sox do and do well.

“He’s been around the block,” Renteria said. “He’s got a lot of high-impact, high-leverage type experiences in his major league career, and that helps, in many instances, slow things down a lot. So right now, when we’re focusing on trying to clean up and do things that will help our pitchers and any other aspect of the game get better, he’s able to step in and do certain things that allow us to do that.”

“Stuff at game speed goes a little bit quicker,” Kopech said. “It can kind of get away from you if you don’t take control of it. And I think that’s what he’s going to be able to help us with, at game speed, because he’s been there at game speed for a long time. He’s going to help be able to slow the game down for us and stuff like that.”

Considering Grandal is under contract for the next four seasons and that he is set for a prominent role both at and behind the plate, his signing could be the biggest deal among a ton of big deals during the just completed White Sox offseason. His part in the big league portion of development for these young pitchers — and remember, there’s more of them on the way, like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever — will be just as crucial.

Grandal will touch much of the final stage of this rebuilding project. And if the results are as positive as his first impression has been at Camelback Ranch, then the White Sox will probably consider that team-record contract well worth it.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.