White Sox

White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert

White Sox officially announce signing of Luis Robert

The worst kept secret is finally out of the bag.

The White Sox officially announced the signing of free agent Cuban outfielder Luis Robert to a minor-league contract, which includes a $26-million signing bonus.

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“We are excited to add Luis — another young, extremely talented and impactful prospect — to the White Sox organization,” White Sox senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn said. “Luis has the potential to be a dynamic, five-tool player at the major-league level, and we look forward to watching him develop in our system over coming seasons. Luis will immediately be viewed as one of the top prospects in baseball, and his signing adds to the growing depth of quality young players within our organization.”

The 19-year-old Robert played in 210 career games (including postseason) with Ciego de Ávila in the Cuban Serie Nacional and had a .315/.402/.467 slash line with 20 home runs, 92 RBI and 29 stolen bases.

Robert slides into the No. 2 spot on the White Sox Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

Lucas Giolito faces Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn: 'They're a pain in my ass'

Lucas Giolito faces Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn: 'They're a pain in my ass'

The White Sox are hoping Lucas Giolito's assessment of pitching against two of the organization's top prospects is shared by opposing hurlers for years to come.

"They're a pain in my ass."

The White Sox would be thrilled if Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are the same kinds of irritants to the rest of the American League that they were to Giolito during Monday's intrasquad game on the South Side. It wasn't so much the results — though both were involved in a busy first inning for Giolito, with Madrigal making things happen on the base paths and scoring on a Yasmani Grandal throwing error — but the at-bats themselves that challenged the All Star.

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Opening Day might come with neither of the two first-round picks on the active roster. But they're both big parts of the White Sox long-term plans. And if Giolito's reviews are any indication, they might be ready to tangle with major league pitchers right now.

"You've got Nick spitting on some fastballs just out of the zone (that's taking tough pitches, in baseball lingo, for those afraid Madrigal was violating MLB's spitting ban), shooting one to right field. Andrew Vaughn, when I was throwing to him in quarantine — back when we were in California, I was throwing live bullpens, and he faced me — he's one of the few guys, I've noticed, that can really see my changeup well, and he'll spit on my changeup just out of the zone," Giolito said. "That makes me excited that they're on our team and I don't have to face them in the future because they're tough outs."

Indeed, both Madrigal and Vaughn are promising young players, and that has plenty of fans clamoring they be thrust into the majors as soon as possible, hopeful their presence will help fuel the White Sox quest for a postseason berth in 2020. Madrigal can very easily be described as the organization's best second baseman, at any level, and Vaughn sure looks capable of handling a bat at any level, especially after he took one of the White Sox veteran free-agent additions, Gio González, deep in Sunday's intrasquad tilt.

But the White Sox have been consistent during this rebuilding process in taking their time with their highest rated prospects. Fans stewed while the team waited for the right moment to bring Michael Kopech, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to the majors. It wouldn't be surprising, even as they move out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode, for the White Sox to treat Madrigal and Vaughn the same way.

Madrigal's case is the most interesting, as he was set to be the team's second baseman for the bulk of the season but still had things he needed to show team brass in the minor leagues. Now, there's no minor league season and the major league season has been squeezed down to 60 games. Service-time rules are still in effect, too. So what do the White Sox do with Madrigal? It depends how far along they believe he is and whether he helps them more in this short, weird season or in a hopefully normal season in 2021. Seemingly the most likely outcome: He arrives about a week or so into the 2020 season.

Vaughn's situation is less complicated. He doesn't have what Madrigal has on his resume: a full season of success at various levels of the minor league system. And even though he's been playing a little bit of third base during "Summer Camp," he's probably not being groomed as an emergency replacement for Yoán Moncada, currently on the injured list. Instead, the White Sox are keeping him versatile. After all, Vaughn's regular position, first base, figures to be occupied for a while after José Abreu signed a new three-year contract over the winter. Edwin Encarnación is expected to soak up the majority of at-bats at designated hitter this season, and the White Sox have an option for his services in 2021, too. Keeping Vaughn as versatile as possible while those two proven vets are still on the roster makes all the sense in the world.

RELATED: White Sox staff leader Lucas Giolito ready to rock, hopeful for multiple aces

This might just be "Summer Camp," but the White Sox future is on display.

"It’s been phenomenal," Vaughn said Monday. "Our lineup this year is pretty stacked. Just watching those guys hit, Abreu, Encarnación, (Tim Anderson), I mean it’s pretty phenomenal being around those guys. Just trying to see how I fit in.

"The goal, always, since I was drafted was to play in the big leagues, doesn’t matter when, as soon as possible is kind of the goal. I’m just going day by day, especially in these times, put one foot ahead of the other and continue to play baseball."

The White Sox seem ready to take the next step this year, with an exciting core of Giolito, Moncada, Anderson and Jiménez teamed with the offseason additions of Grandal, Encarnación and Dallas Keuchel, not to mention the Day 1 arrival of Robert, the organization's top-ranked prospect. But the plan has always been chasing championships on an annual basis over the duration of a lengthy contention window. Madrigal and Vaughn are part of keeping that window propped open for a long time, their team-control clocks not even started yet.

"There’s a lot of excitement here, there’s a lot of excitement within this clubhouse right now and within this organization and rightfully so," White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said Monday. "Done an outstanding job to put pieces in place so that we’re able, not just to be able to sustain it for the next couple of years, but for years to come.

"We’re excited for years to come. It’s going to be pretty special."

So while its still unknown what kind of an impact Madrigal and Vaughn will make in 2020, it won't be long before they're persistent pains in the asses of pitchers all over the Junior Circuit.


White Sox staff leader Lucas Giolito ready to rock, hopeful for multiple aces

White Sox staff leader Lucas Giolito ready to rock, hopeful for multiple aces

When Lucas Giolito arrived for his Zoom media session Monday afternoon, he threw up the ol’ double sign of the horns.

And though Giolito’s musical preferences are well known to skew toward hip hop, it was as fitting a sign as any for a pitcher who’s ready to rock n roll.

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Even if manager Rick Renteria isn’t ready to reveal Giolito as his pick for the Opening Day starter, it would be absolutely shocking if it’s anyone but the right-hander who turned his career around last season taking the ball in the July 24 opener against the Minnesota Twins.

That's what happens when you're the ace.

Thanks to a transformation that saw him go from the pitcher with the worst statistics in baseball in 2018 to an All Star last year, Giolito enters this campaign in an entirely different world. He’s now leading a rotation on a team with postseason aspirations, a far cry from Opening Day a year ago, when he and the White Sox were coming off 100 losses and there were legitimate questions about how he fit into the team’s long-term pitching picture.

Now he’s anchoring that long-term pitching plan and counts as one of the main reasons the White Sox look capable of finally leaping out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode, capable of competing alongside the Twins and Cleveland Indians in a fight for AL Central supremacy.

Though he bristles at the idea of being called a veteran — he’s just 25 years old, with only two full major league seasons under his belt — he’s eager to be a leader. He’s been talking about it since last year, and now that he’s got a season’s worth of All-Star performance to back it up, he’s ready to take charge, to be the stopper, to set the tone for what’s expected to be a big season from Day 1.

“I absolutely want that,” he said last week. “The way I look at it, being the ace of the staff, you are setting an example not just with what you are doing on the field but also taking a more vocal role, which I feel like I’m trying to continue to get the feel for that. And yeah, that’s pretty much what I want. I want to be that leader of the pitching staff, taking the ball in the first game, kind of setting the tone.

“But at the same time, I want to maintain that thought that I’m not the only ace on the team. I’ve got four more right behind me.”

RELATED: Michael Kopech's 2020 absence won't sink deep White Sox pitching staff

The White Sox sure are hoping that the rotation is more than just him this year. Last year, the team could count on sterling performances once every five days, but the four starts in between were marked by anything but consistency. The import of veterans Dallas Keuchel and Gio González gives the rotation a heck of a lot more dependability. And if Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López and Carlos Rodón can provide positive answers to the questions about what they’ll be able to give the White Sox this season, then Giolito’s hopes for a hand of aces could come to fruition.

But he’s still the man at the top, brimming with confidence after his transformative 2019.

Keuchel recognizes what he’s seeing in his new teammate. It hasn’t been too long since he had a career year and sat atop the Houston Astros’ rotation as they grew into a perennial contender.

“What I see from him is an ability to be an ace,” Keuchel said of Giolito. “He’s every bit of a horse that you’d want at the top of the rotation. … He’s got all the intangibles you want in a quality major league pitcher that can do it for years to come.

“What I see in him is what I had in myself. … Until you get over that mental edge and push through and have that first good year, you can’t really say too many things out loud. But it’s the inside that really counts, because you’re pushing yourself every day.”

Monday, Giolito looked as ace-like as a pitcher can look during an intrasquad game. After working through a trafficky first inning, he set down the rest of the batters he faced in order over the course of his four innings.

We, of course, talkin’ ‘bout practice. But the White Sox pitchers have, for the most part, looked good in these outings against their teammates. Giolito’s positive performance Monday was preceded by solid work by Rodón, Keuchel and even youngsters like Dane Dunning.

RELATED: Luis Robert's legend grows, suggesting White Sox should ready for superstardom

It might only be practice, but it’s the only practice these guys are going to get — save the three exhibition games coming up against the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers — before the games start counting in a little more than a week.

“I’m trying to go out there and, to the best of my ability, treat it like a big league start during the regular season,” Giolito said. “You have to prepare for that if you want to be successful in those situations. Even though I’m facing a bunch of teammates, I’m going out there and trying to make pitches like I would in a regular-season game.

“I’ve been liking what I’ve been seeing from all of our starters. Filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s what we are going to have to do to get deep into games and give our team the best chance to win each time out.

“I love it. We are right where we need to be.”