White Sox

White Sox confident in less-hyped position player prospects


White Sox confident in less-hyped position player prospects

All eyes will be on Tim Anderson this summer, with the White Sox top prospect in position to make a move toward locking down the team’s starting shortstop job at some point.

The White Sox haven’t drafted/signed and developed a consistently productive position player since the early 2000s, when Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede both emerged as everyday guys and key cogs in 2005’s World Series title run. But beyond Anderson, there are some players in the farm system that those in the White Sox front office believe have the right traits to become solid major league players down the road.

Baseball America’s recently-released list of the White Sox top 10 prospects features six position players: Anderson (No. 1), 3B Trey Michalczewski (No. 4), OF Jacob May (No. 5), OF Adam Engel (No. 7), OF Courtney Hawkins (No. 9) and 1B Corey Zangari (No. 10).

Engel, while he’s a 24-year-old who hasn’t played above advanced Class-A Winston-Salem, put himself on the team’s radar with an impressive 2015 in which he hit .251/.335/.369 with 65 stolen bases. He followed the regular season by winning the Arizona Fall League’s MVP honors, hitting .403 with a 1.165 OPS.

What those in the White Sox organization have seen from Engel recently is an improved offensive approach, which he’s married with his excellent athleticism to become a player to keep an eye on in 2016.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Top prospect Tim Anderson wants to prove he can stay at SS]

"I don’t know if we’ve got a better athlete in our system than Adam Engel,” White Sox amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “He’s as athletic a runner as anybody we have. He’s a plus, plus defender, he can go get the ball from gap to gap, he’s a pitcher’s dream.

“He’s been a guy that all of his career, even back to college, he struggled with consistency at the plate. It’s more for him as far as consistency where he’s not taking the same approach up each time. And that’s something that he’s worked extremely hard on with our (player development) guys and he has looked terrific in the fall league, he looked good the last couple days out here, he’s really buying into a repetitive approach at the plate and I think we’re going to see next year, Double-A, the guy that can blossom and just become the real deal.”

Engel was a 19th-round pick out of the University of Louisville in 2013 -- hardly a position in which many players are able to push into the major leagues. The last White Sox 19th-round pick to reach the majors was third baseman Chris Heintz, who was drafted in 1996 and played in 34 games for the Minnesota Twins from 2005-2007. But Engel’s dedication has put him on the map as a guy who could have a chance to break through someday.

“Great mentality,” White Sox director of player development Nick Capra said. “The kid’s a dirt dog, he works his tail off. He’s one of our best workers. … He really listens, he applies what he learns, just an outstanding kid. I can’t say enough about his work ethic.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tim Anderson headlines Baseball America's White Sox prospect rankings]

Michalczewski, on the other hand, just completed a full season at Winston-Salem as a 20-year-old -- about two and a half years younger than the league average player. While he only hit seven home runs with a .395 slugging percentage, he did hit 35 doubles, and the organization is optimistic those doubles will begin turning into home runs once his 6-foot-3 frame fills out.

“He’s still growing into his man body,” Hostetler said. “He’s still a young kid. … He’s getting stronger, getting bigger. Once that man strength comes in the next year or so there’s going to be an uptick in home runs.”

Zangari was an intriguing inclusion on Baseball America’s list, given the 18-year-old 2015 sixth-round pick only played in 54 rookie ball games last summer. But the 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman hit six home runs with a .316/.358/.481 slash line and has as much raw power as anyone in the White Sox farm system.

But beyond his hitting ability, both Hostetler and Capra pointed to Zangari’s intangibles as a reason to be intrigued by the Oklahoma City native.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“Really good kid,” Capra said. “He’s a goofy kid in a good way. Very personable, smart kid.”

“He’s an absolutely terrific makeup kid,” Hostetler said. “Infectious personality, teammates love being around him, he controls locker rooms. He’s just one of those guys that he just has that natural-born leadership about him.”

Zangari’s offensive approach is advanced for a teenager, too, in the way he understands the strike zone.

“He’s got a pretty good idea of the strike zone for being an 18-year-old kid,” Capra said. “He’s got some strikeouts in there, but he doesn’t offer at a lot of bad pitches, pitcher’s pitches. That’s where he’ll continue to get better at that. He hasn’t seen a lot of really good breaking balls maybe in high school, maybe he’s seeing a tick better now when he lays off some of those tough pitches. He’s got some discipline at the plate.” 

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka


Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?


Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.