White Sox

Recent draftee key in White Sox acquisition of Brett Lawrie

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Recent draftee key in White Sox acquisition of Brett Lawrie

NASHVILLE — The 2015 baseball draft is only six months old and yet it has already produced a major leaguer for the White Sox — sort of.

Same as the Arizona Diamondbacks a day earlier, the White Sox took advantage of a new rule on Wednesday night when they included 2015 draftee Zack Erwin in a deal with the Oakland A’s for infielder Brett Lawrie. 

[RELATED - White Sox acquire third baseman Brett Lawrie from A's]

A left-handed pitcher out of Clemson selected in the fourth round, Erwin was traded under a provision recently altered that allows teams to deal first-year pros after the World Series concludes. Prior to the rule change, one enacted after San Diego traded 2014 first-rounder Trea Turner as a player to be named later to Washington last offseason, players had to remain with their drafting club until one year after they signed. Though he was traded last December, Turner remained in the Padres farm system until June 13, a year after he signed his first pro contract. The idea that their most recent draft has already affected the major league roster was a point of emphasis for new White Sox amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler.

"It’s exciting from a standpoint of you realize your draft has immediate impact," Hostetler said. "When you can get an immediate impact out of a draft, you have to entertain it. With a situation like Zack, we liked him, he was our second pick in the draft, he was a major part of our draft. But to know that pick has already turned into a big leaguer, it’s a success. If we already look at the 2015 draft, it helped produce a major league part."

Erwin, who had a combined 1.43 ERA in 40 1/3 innings last season at the Rookie level and Single-A, profiles as a back-end starting pitcher. Because they forfeited their choices in the second and third rounds to sign free agents last December, Erwin actually was the team's second overall pick behind first-rounder Carson Fulmer. But similar to Arizona, which surrendered Dansby Swanson, the first player taken in last June's draft, in the Shelby Miller trade on Tuesday, the White Sox were OK with giving up future potential for an established product. Given they have a handful of very good minor league pitchers, don't rule out the possibility they could do the same with Fulmer were it absolutely necessary.

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General manager Rick Hahn said he's in favor of the rule change.

"It’s good," Hahn said. "Sitting in this chair you want as many assets at your disposal to try to make the team better, and certainly not having to find yourself in an awkward situation where a player is a player to be named later but remains in your system for several months of his development. There’s not only risk, but a level of awkwardness involved in that. So the ability to avoid that is definitely a positive step."

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”