White Sox

White Sox couldn't be happier with first day of MLB Draft

White Sox couldn't be happier with first day of MLB Draft

A day after they said they wanted true baseball players, the White Sox think they added three first-round talents on Thursday.

The club used its top selection, the 10th overall pick of baseball’s amateur draft, to select University of Miami catcher Zack Collins, who ESPN describes as “having the best approach” in the country. Later Thursday, the White Sox added “advanced” reliever Zack Burdi with the 26th pick before they selected Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Alec Hansen, at No. 49, who at one time was projected to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft.

“I couldn’t be happier,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “I couldn’t tell you how excited that room is right now. I think we took three impact players.

“I can’t be happier with the way Day One went.”

Though they like Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, Hostetler said he’s had his eye on Collins since early April. He made sure every important set of eyes in the organization watched one of Collins’ games (general manager Rick Hahn saw Collins strike out three times on his day).

While analysts have doubts whether or not the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder can stick as a catcher, Hostetler and the White Sox think he can.

“There’s always improvements to be made,” Collins said on a conference call. “I made huge improvements throughout this past year, even six months. It just shows how much I need to improve at the next level. You can always improve, defense or hitting or whatever. That’s how you become the best player you can be. Anybody can improve.”

There are fewer questions in relation to the bat of Collins, 21, who has a career .316/.467/.589 slash line with 39 home runs in 623 at-bats for the Hurricanes. The Pembroke Pines, Fla.-native has drawn 168 walks in three seasons for Miami while striking out only 159 times.

“Huge kid,” said ESPN’s Keith Law. “Can really hit.”

Collins was named First Team All-American by Baseball America and is a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards.

“Great plate discipline,” Hostetler said. “Understands the strike zone as well as anybody, more walks than strikeouts. Big, big raw power. This is something we’ve been looking for a long time in our organization and we think we found it today.”

In Burdi, the White Sox believe they found a reliever in the short term who may have starting potential. Burdi’s fastball has touched 102 mph and he mixes it with a more consistent slider and what Hostetler described as a “devastating” changeup to left-handed hitters.  

The Downers Grove native, who said he was a huge Mark Buehrle fan, struck out 46 batters in 28 2/3 innings this season for the Cardinals. He has 82 strikeouts and 22 walks in 68 innings at Louisville.

“He’s a little more advanced because he only has to throw one inning at a time,” Hostetler said. “But yeah, the stuff is that good.”

Ditto for the 6-foot-7, 235-pound Hansen, who was described on MLB Network as needing work but having a “high ceiling.” ESPN.com said Hansen, who features a fastball that ranges from 93-98 mph and a plus slider, regressed this season, at times featuring 20 command on the 20-80 scale. Hostetler said the organization thinks Hansen can get back on track with several mechanical adjustments.

“It’s four plus pitches when he’s on,” Hostetler said. “There’s some mechanical things we feel we can fix. The guys in the room, Don Cooper looked at some video for us, feel there’s some small mechanical adjustments that as soon as we make with him, he’s going to take off.”

The pick used to grab Burdi was compensation for losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency.

While having the extra pick is significant for a farm system thin on talent, the extra $2 million-plus in signing bonus money is equally as important. The White Sox have more than $9.4 million in slotted signing bonus money for the 2016 draft.

Hostetler said over the last month he hoped the White Sox would wind up with three players off their main board. Even though it was touch-and-go for a minute, Hostetler is pleased with how the first day of the his first draft as the team’s scouting director played out.

“All three did (come from the big board),” Hostetler said. “The last nine picks we were sweating out. That side started to shrink a little bit. But it held true and we got the guy we wanted.”

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.