White Sox

White Sox in ideal spot as amateur draft nears

White Sox in ideal spot as amateur draft nears

The White Sox are in an ideal spot, competing right now and yet still building for the future.

The team heads into June’s amateur draft with all its picks — including one received after Jeff Samardzija departed via free agency — despite adding nine new players and pursuing several high-profile free agents this winter.

Off to a 23-12 start and in first place in the American League Central, the White Sox possess the 10th, 26th and 49th selections in the draft, which will be held from June 9 to June 11.

They would have sacrificed their second pick to reel in Alex Gordon, but he opted to stay with the Kansas City Royals, and the White Sox found alternatives.

Though this is exactly how he preferred it, first-year amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler swears no voodoo was involved. But he also made it clear to general manager Rick Hahn early in the offseason he hoped the team could field its roster without sacrificing the future.

“I actually told Rick I don’t want to know,” Hostetler said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘I’ll find out on Twitter, which is better for me.’ I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was totally honest with him — if they asked me my opinion of the player, I was going to be completely jaded and biased. I wasn’t going to like anybody.

“Having that extra pick puts us in play for some other guys that quite honestly ... we wouldn’t have had a chance.”

The opportunity to make an additional pick — and the extra $2 million in the bonus pool that comes with it — only arrived after a series of close calls. The White Sox pursued Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes down to the bitter end only to see them go back to the Royals and New York Mets, respectively. There was also talk in February about potentially signing Ian Desmond to fill the vacancy at shortstop.

Gordon and Desmond would have meant the team surrendered the 26th pick.

But none of the moves came together. Hostetler swears he didn’t use hypnosis, nor does he possess voodoo dolls representing Hahn, Kenny Williams or chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Hahn was willing to forfeit the pick for the right player.

Yet the club moved on and filled in some of its biggest holes with players who didn’t cost draft picks: Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson and Mat Latos.

“For us, the ideal scenario was to be able to win in Chicago while continuing to build our minor league system in a way that enhanced our chances for sustained success,” Hahn said. “Certainly, having three picks in the top 49 goes a long way towards helping that latter part happen.

“Since winning in Chicago is the No. 1 priority, we would have sacrificed the comp pick if the right deal was available this past off season. Given the start we've had and the fact that we kept the pick, we're arguably in position to potentially serve both of those goals.”

The additional money in the team’s draft bonus pool is equally as big as the pick.

Last year’s slotted amount for the 26th pick was $2,034,500. That’s $2 million extra to pour into a system that didn’t have a second- or third-round pick in 2015 (compensation for signing David Robertson and Melky Cabrera) and surrendered its fourth-round pick (Zack Erwin) in the Brett Lawrie trade.

The farm system has good talent up top in Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer. But trades for Samardzija, Todd Frazier and Lawrie have hurt the system’s depth.

The extra money could come in handy if a player with signability issues falls to the White Sox at No. 10 or at No. 26. Even though there’s no consensus No. 1 pick, Hostetler said the top 10 to 12 picks include premium talent that potentially could join the team’s core group within two seasons. He also notes the White Sox are heavily scouting the top 10 to 12 players because nobody knows who will end up where.

“It’s that type of year,” Hostetler said. “The first 10 to 12 guys are pretty lumped together.”

As of now, the team’s board for their top two selections includes a group of 35 to 40 players, Hostetler said. That figure has grown by about 10 players over the last month. Hostetler is actually hopeful the team’s first three selections come from the pool.

“We’d have to have some pretty bad luck if they don’t,” Hostetler said. “One of the most exciting things for this year is we’ve got so much financial flexibility that we needed to expand our board more, we needed more options for 10 and 26 just because when we’re comparing all these, seeing where we can allocate money.”

Hostetler said enthusiasm for the team’s start is rampant throughout the organization. He hears it when he reports to Hahn, Williams or Buddy Bell. It's also present when he talks to his scouts.

He would have signed off on the addition of a Gordon or a Cespedes because winning is the goal. But Hostetler likes his current position better — and that he didn’t have to resort dark magic to get it done.

Quite honestly the biggest thing we stress for is, at the end of the day, if the best thing for this club was to give away that pick for a player, if it ultimately resulted in putting a diamond ring on the finger in October or November, I could live with it,” Hostetler said.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'


Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one


Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.