White Sox

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana is glad for distraction from rumor mill

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana is glad for distraction from rumor mill

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and David Robertson appear to share a mutual disdain for hot stove rumors.

A day after the White Sox closer spoke about the difficulty of seeing his name involved in persistent trade talks this winter, Quintana echoed those same sentiments on Wednesday morning. Preferring only to address the constant trade talks once this spring, Quintana, a first-time All-Star last season, said he’s glad to have his focus returned to baseball after a long winter. Quintana — who produced 4.8 f-WAR in 2016 and received a fifth-place vote for the American League Cy Young Award — said he couldn’t avoid the trade chatter over the winter, where he was quite possibly the most rumored player in baseball.

“I feel really good, excited for a new year, a new camp, spring training again,” Quintana said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but during the offseason I heard a lot of rumors. But I said the same thing every time: ‘You don’t have control over that.’ Keep doing my preparation for the new year, new season and that’s about it.”

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Only a few weeks ago Quintana said he wants to remain with the White Sox, the franchise where he has blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball. He may not have the same pizzazz as Chris Sale, but Quintana has just as much consistency, producing 18.1 f-WAR over the past four seasons.

Throw in a 3.35 ERA, four consecutive seasons with 200 or more innings and his outstanding contract (he’s owed $36.85 million through 2020 if his team options are exercised) and it’s no wonder that Quintana’s name popped up across sports tickers everywhere throughout the winter. Whether it was Atlanta, Colorado, Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh or the New York Yankees, it seems like just about every team entertained a deal for Quintana this winter and none escaped the rumor mill.

Even though the season is officially underway — Quintana threw his first bullpen on Tuesday — the chatter isn’t likely to slow down. General manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday that he expects teams to continue making inquiries and he plans to keep answering the phone. But Quintana said he won’t allow lingering trade talk to distract him from his many goals, including pitching for Colombia next month in the World Baseball Classic and returning to the All-Star Game again in July.

“Absolutely not (it won’t be a distraction),” Quintana said. “I just try to keep my mind on the game and do my job every five days and help my team and that’s all I can do. I spend my time with my teammates and we all work hard.

“Yeah it’s a little bit hard when you hear too many things about rumors every time. But I don’t pay attention to that. I just put my focus on all the things I need to do, every bullpen, workouts and everything to be ready for Day 1.”

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

The White Sox catching depth will soon be put to the test.

Saturday, the White Sox placed catcher Welington Castillo on seven-day concussion list. In a corresponding move, the team promoted catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte, 

In 26 games this season, Castillo holds a .176/.286/.318 slashline with three home runs in 85 at-bats. He exited Friday's game against the Twins in the eighth inning after taking two foul tips off of his catcher's mask. 

While White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Castillo didn't go into concussion protocol, the team is likely being precautious due to the nature of the injury. 

Zavala, 25, has yet to appear in the big leagues, though he's played in 360 minor league games since the White Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He holds a career slashline of .267/.335/.457 across all minor league levels, reaching Triple-A for the first time last season. 

Zavala's slashline this season is currently below his career averages (.218/.253/.506 in 21 games), but he's hit six home runs in 87 at-bats. Last season, he hit 13 in a combined 380 at-bats between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Although the circumstances of his promotion are not ideal, Zavala is leaving Charlotte on a high-note. In last night's game against the Durham Bulls, he went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run.

With Castillo out, the White Sox will likely lean on James McCann more. In 31 games this season, McCann holds a stellar .333/.373/.523 slashline

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White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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