White Sox

Sox Drawer: Beckham, Morel trying to stay positive

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Sox Drawer: Beckham, Morel trying to stay positive

Take a look at the batting averages in the White Sox starting lineup, and there are two numbers that stand out like a pair of Cubs fans walking down the middle of a street in Bridgeport: .115 & .103.

Those are the current averages, respectively, for Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel, who have been digging themselves in a such a hole at the plate there are fans and critics who wonder if the team should begin a rescue mission -- one that includes a long rope strong enough to pull both of them onto the bench (or even to Triple-A) until they figure out their hitting woes.

In nine games, Morel has 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats. Beckham has 11 punchouts in 26 at-bats, and has yet to drive in a run.

So whats the problem? How has this gone so wrong so fast? And what can both of them do to get out their rut?

Before Tuesdays game, the struggling infielders spoke openly and honestly about their early battles.

I dont know whats going on with the strikeouts. Its amazing how many strikeouts Ive had because I usually dont do that, said Beckham, sitting at his locker. I hit some balls hard yesterday after the first at-bat to the rest of the at-bats. I made an adjustment and it was the right adjustment. So there was progress last night in an 0-for-4 in a positive way.

What kind of an adjustment did he make?

Its just getting my foot down and let my hands do the work, because the hands are my moneymaker, he explained.

In his rookie year in 2009, we saw what those hands can do. Beckham would often drive the ball to all parts of the field, where the ball found plenty of grass. He batted .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games. But after two consecutive lost seasons, the pressure is on for Beckham to perform. He knows it, but hes not about to panic.

I think that a lot of this has gotten blown up a little bit because its seven or eight games in and averages are fluctuating, Beckham said. I just heard a stat where Miguel Cabrera came in and was hitting .533. Now hes hitting .219 (Actually .222). Early in the season a lot of this is magnified to where maybe in the middle of the season it wouldnt be.

As for talk amongst fans and media about him possibly losing his job, its news to Gordon.

I havent heard anything like that, he said. Whoever that is, is not my problem. People can think what they want to think. Its nine games.

After belting eight homers and driving in 19 runs last September, Morel was hoping to carry that over to the start of this season. However, that hasnt happened yet. Brents struggles are even more magnified because hes batting second. He has three hits -- only one for extra bases -- and at this point, doesnt have an answer to fix whats wrong.

I dont know. If I knew, I wouldnt be in this position, Morel said. Im just trying to battle and not to try to look in the past, and not try to gain it all back too quick. Just trying to take it at short time frames and looking at good at-bats.

Morel believes hell eventually break out of his slump, but walking to the plate with a .103 batting average flashing next to your name is not easy.

Its tough. Nobody wants to go up here and fail, Morel said. Its tough on you. Its a lot easier when were winning. Like last night, you get that loss and it makes it a little bit worse.

Despite their struggles at the plate, Beckham and Morel are not taking their problems to the field, where both have played exceptional defense.

So, when will the hits come?

I know I had a good spring, Beckham said. I know its right there.

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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