White Sox

Updating the White Sox closer competition

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Updating the White Sox closer competition

Heading into the spring, it seemed like the general consensus around the White Sox was that Matt Thornton would begin 2012 as the team's closer with Addison Reed ultimately sliding in the role at some point during the season.

Through three weeks of spring training action, Thornton hasn't done anything to warrant a move away from the ninth inning. In 4 23 innings, he's allowed one run with three strikeouts and no walks. Yes, it's spring, but he hasn't given the White Sox any reason to not name him the closer on Opening Day.

Jesse Crain's oblique injury has eliminated him from any consideration for the gig, although he was a longshot given he's the only dependable right-handed setup man on the roster.

Robin Ventura has said he'd rather ease Addison Reed into high-pressure situations, so throwing him into the ninth-inning role doesn't appear likely to begin the season.

But here's the interesting wrinkle: Will Ohman and Hector Santiago, reportedly, have joined the fray.

Ohman is a longshot given his career leftyrighty splits -- even with the changeup he's worked on this year, he doesn't have a reliable track record to get righties out in addition to lefties.

But Santiago has a good fastball and a screwball, both of which may play well against righties. He's been impressive this spring, striking out nine with four walks and one run allowed -- a solo home run -- in eight innings pitched. He earned the save Sunday against San Francisco, and while that probably doesn't mean much, it's at least worth noting in light of the recent closer developments.

The question for the White Sox boils down to whether or not Thornton is more valuable in the ninth inning as opposed to the seventh or eighth. In a perfect world, Thornton would be used based on the pressure of the situation -- if there's a high-pressure spot in the eighth, he'd enter the game then to get the more important outs.

Things don't work that way, though, and there probably is something to be said for a defined bullpen role. If the White Sox view whoever opens the 2012 season as the closer as a bridge to Reed, though, perhaps giving Santiago a shot isn't the worst idea ever. If he struggles, it'd be easy to swap him out for Reed. If he succeeds, it'd give Reed some time to acclimate to high-leverage spots in the majors.

Ventura's decision is hardly a foregone conclusion. With less than two weeks left in spring training, it's one that'll probably come down to the wire.

White Sox free-agent focus: Patrick Corbin

White Sox free-agent focus: Patrick Corbin

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

Much of the conversation around the White Sox and free agency has focused on the two biggest fish in this winter's pond: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. But as good as those guys are at baseball, there's one thing they definitively cannot do: pitch.

Maybe it's because the White Sox have the potential to field a homegrown rotation of the future just one year from now, but making a big-splash pitching addition hasn't seemed to be as exciting a talking point as the possibility of adding Harper or Machado. And that's weird because the White Sox have said they're going to go out and get a pitcher, multiple pitchers most likely.

Certainly there are vocal fans out there who want the White Sox to bring this winter's best available starting pitcher to the South Side. Patrick Corbin is just 29 years old and coming off a remarkable season in which he posted a 3.15 ERA and struck out 246 batters in 200 innings. That was good enough to place him in the top five in this year's NL Cy Young vote.

Prior to this campaign, the numbers weren't nearly as good. In his first five major league seasons, he posted a combined 4.12 ERA and averaged 130 strikeouts a year. But the contract year rarely disappoints, and Corbin took full advantage, hitting the free-agent market on one heck of an upswing. He's going to be a very popular man as the winter wears on because everyone's always in the market for premium starting pitching. Given that he's two years younger than fellow free agent and 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, Corbin is as premium as it gets on this year's free-agent market.

Of course, the White Sox have starting pitching as a stated need, with two holes in their rotation thanks to Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery and James Shields' departure. And because of the flexibility this rebuilding process has created, they have multiple ways they could go about filling those holes. They could add a couple one-year fill-ins and simply wait for Kopech to get healthy and for pitching prospect Dylan Cease to reach the majors. Add those two guys to the trio of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and you've got a homegrown starting staff heading into 2020. Or, they could provide a safety net in the form of a longer-term deal for a bigger-name. That guy would help anchor the rotation as the team plans to transition from rebuilding to contending on an annual basis.

Corbin would fall into the latter category, though he'll likely be in such high demand across the league that the same challenges facing the White Sox in a pursuit of Harper or Machado would apply. They'd have to outbid some of baseball's biggest spenders — including the New York Yankees, who have been mentioned as a likely landing spot for Corbin — and convince a young star to pick planned future success over the ability to join up with a roster capable of winning multiple championships right now.

Corbin is a great pitcher who would line up nicely with the White Sox long-term plans. But like Harper and Machado, there's a big difference between wanting to add an All-Star player and convincing them to sign.

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up on Thursday for White Sox prospects and the overall results were mixed.

Perhaps the most important thing from the seven-week season is that Luis Robert began to show his potential. After injuries limited him to just 50 games in 2018, his first season playing in the U.S., Robert added 18 games and 79 plate appearances against much more experienced players in Arizona.

Robert, still just 21 and the second-youngest hitter on the team, hit in his first 14 games in the AFL and tallied a hit in 16 of his 18 games. He did this while missing over a week in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury. The Cuban outfielder’s final numbers are .324/.367/.432. He had five walks, which isn’t an inspiring total, but he kept the strikeouts down at 13.

One of the things that still hasn’t shown in games very often is Robert’s power. He didn’t hit a home run in the 2018 minor league season, but it’s possible his thumb injury was affecting his ability to hit for power. Robert’s power didn’t come through much in the AFL, but there was definitely improvement. He hit two home runs and had two doubles, but this home run last week was definitely seductive.

The AFL isn’t make or break for prospects. Adam Engel hit .403/.523/.642 in the AFL in 2015 and hasn’t shown the ability to hit in the majors yet. Still, Robert showed flashes of his potential with the bat while also causing chaos on the base paths with five stolen bases in five attempts.

Robert was one of seven White Sox minor leaguers who played for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Glendale finished the season 12-18.

The next biggest hitting prospect on Glendale was Luis Alexander Basabe. Basabe struggled in his time in Arizona, but did show some of what has makes him an intriguing prospect.

Basabe hit just .180, but did draw 12 walks in 63 plate appearances. The 22-year-old isn’t known for hitting for average. He is a career .258 hitter in six minor league seasons, including a .251 mark in Double-A in the second half of 2018. However, if he can draw walks at a high rate while bringing good speed in the outfield, he can have some value.

Overall, hitting .180/.333/.180 is a disappointing stint, but there was at least one positive with the walk rate.

Laz Rivera rounded out White Sox hitters with a line of .215/.271/.246. Rivera had solid stints at both levels of Single-A in 2018, his first full season of pro ball, but the AFL showed he may find the adjustment to Double-A a tough one.

On the pitching side the only marquee name was Zack Burdi, but he got shut down early in the season. He made only five appearances (4 2/3 innings, 3 unearned runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits), but Rick Hahn said there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Tanner Banks (4.43 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 5 walks, 30 hits in 22 1/3 innings), Zach Thompson (2.70 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 6 walks, 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings) and Danny Dopico (6.57 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 12 walks, 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings) also pitched for Glendale. All three will be 25 or older when 2019 rolls around.