White Sox

White Sox could deal pitching this winter to solve other issues

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White Sox could deal pitching this winter to solve other issues

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The White Sox may have to tap into their young pitching cache this offseason to answer other questions.

There’s little debate the White Sox farm system has improved the past three years, going from the bottom of the barrel in 2012 to the middle of the pack earlier this season. But even though they’ve made strides, general manager Rick Hahn knows the organization’s pitching prospects are on a different level than most of its position players. With several potential needs to fill this winter, Hahn said Thursday he would consider trading young arms to help fortify the White Sox roster. That may mean anyone not named Chris Sale could be dangled on the trade market in the upcoming hot stove season.

“Being as objective as we can, the strength of the system is obviously pitching and at the big league level,” Hahn said. “Knock on wood, over the course of the first five months of the season, most of our issues have been on the offensive side of things. Come the offseason it may be something we have to look at as sort of reallocating some of those assets to address player position needs.”

The only positions at which the White Sox seem to be set for 2016 are first base, center field, left field and designated hitter, as Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche are all signed through at least next season.

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Beyond that, the White Sox have to figure out how to remedy an offense that has consistently disappointed this season. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez has a $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout that Hahn must decide upon. Tyler Saladino could be an option at short until Tim Anderson is ready if the White Sox move on from Ramirez. The White Sox are likely to continue searching for a long-term answer at catcher and they have to determine whether or not Avisail Garcia is the hitter he’s been in April, May and August or the one who went two months without a homer.  They also love Saladino’s glove at third, but unless LaRoche rebounds -- and even if he did -- the White Sox would seem to need a big bat if they field a lineup featuringboth he and Carlos Sanchez. With so much uncertainty only one thing is sure -- the White Sox need to improve offensively.

Despite a recent hot streak, the White Sox have averaged 3.70 runs per game this season and entered Thursday on pace to score 600 runs. Even with the additions of Cabrera and LaRoche, the White Sox have scored three or fewer runs in 64 of 118 contests (54 percent) and are 17-47 in those games.

“I wouldn’t say it’s one particular pitcher,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It kind of runs the gamut -- left, right, hard, soft.

“We’ve got to find some kind of rhythm to score some guys from third and keep the line moving, and it’s been tough at times. When we went on our run, it just seemed like you just kept seeing balls find a hole. Balls hit hard. This one has just been inconsistent.”

Which brings it back to the one area that is tried and true with the White Sox -- pitching. Back in 2013, the White Sox felt good enough about their stock of arms to trade Hector Santiago in a deal that netted Eaton and Addison Reed for minor leaguer Matt Davidson.

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Over the past three seasons they’ve drafted or traded for a number of talented pitchers, many of who are the top prospects in the system. Currently, Carson Fulmer is the No. 2 prospect, Frankie Montas is No. 3 and Spencer Adams is ranked fourth with Tyler Danish coming in at seven, according to MLB.com. And that’s a system that has already graduated Carlos Rodon and has seen a rebound at Triple-A Charlotte from former No. 2 Erik Johnson and feels good about other potential pitchers who don’t have the same notoriety as their top arms.

With so many pitchers close to making an impact in the majors, the White Sox might consider dealing Jose Quintana or Rodon, though that price would likely be extreme as the rookie has six more seasons under team control.

Not that Quintana would come cheap.

Two offseasons ago, Quintana was considered one of four players the White Sox wanted to build around and therefore would have been nearly impossible to acquire. Since then, Quintana -- whose 3.20 Fielding Independent Pitching ranks 23rd among starters this season -- has posted a 3.32 ERA in 200 1/3 innings and also signed a five-year, $26.5-million contract potentially worth $47.5 million -- a deal rated as the 41st best in baseball by fangraphs.com.

Though the prospect of trading any pitching can’t be easy for Hahn to stomach, its likely his only solution to address some of the team’s bigger needs.

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Update: Our Chuck Garfien found this video of Enoy taking some cuts with his big brother — all decked out in White Sox gear, too.

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.