White Sox

White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech has eyes on possible promotion

White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech has eyes on possible promotion

MIAMI — Though temporarily distracted on Sunday by possibly facing Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech said he can’t help but to think about his next promotion.

The pitching prospect said before the All-Star Futures Game that he hoped to face the only farmhand ranked higher than him in the White Sox system (Moncada) and wanted to strike him out. Kopech is the No. 11 rated prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, while Moncada is No. 1 overall. But Kopech also wonders when he’ll be on the move again; he hopes for a promotion to at least Triple-A Charlotte if not the big leagues.

“I'd be lying if I said it was easy to just not think about being promoted,” Kopech said. “But for the most part, you've got to take it day-by-day. If I can win the day, then I can win the week. And if I can win the week, I can win the month. And if I can win the month, I'll get promoted eventually. Right now, I'm trying not to think about that too much. I'm just trying to take it day-by-day.”

Kopech won the day at the Futures Game with a perfect inning in relief. He also earned some serious bragging rights when he struck out Moncada — the top prospect in baseball — on four pitches. Kopech’s fastball touched 101 mph on the radar gun and sat between 98-100 mph.

Though he’s struggled recently, the performance is indicative of the type of season Kopech has had at Birmingham. Kopech has 101 strikeouts and a 4.02 ERA in 78 1/3 innings pitched. He has walked 53 batters.  

His performance has earned him honors as the franchise’s minor league pitcher of the month in April. He also earned an All-Star at Double-A Birmingham as well as the Futures Game appearance.

“I've had some ups and downs,” Kopech said. “Luckily for me, more ups than downs. But, I'm comfortable with what I've been doing, the way I've been pitching and the pitches I've been throwing. If I can just continue and pick up back where I left off in the first half, then I'll be satisfied with the year.”

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Depending on which report you choose to believe, the White Sox could be on the verge of filling the void in their outfield with one of the bigger names on this winter’s free-agent market.

Dominican reporter Frank Castillo tweeted Saturday that the White Sox will sign Marcell Ozuna, planning to announce the free-agent deal Monday.

Well, that was followed up by a report from The Score’s Bruce Levine, who said the White Sox are not about to sign Ozuna.

So there’s that.

The White Sox were connected to Ozuna earlier this offseason, as well as more recently, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writing last week that the team had interest in Japanese import Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but were waiting to hear on the decisions of Ozuna and fellow free agent Nicholas Castellanos first.

Ozuna turned heads with his fantastic 2017 season for the Miami Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Since being dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, Ozuna hit .263/.327/.452 with 52 homers and 177 RBIs in two seasons.

The White Sox have a pressing need in right field, making it little surprise that they’ve been tied to numerous options, including Ozuna, Castellanos and Joc Pederson. Ozuna, though, exclusively played left field in St. Louis. Were the White Sox to add him, would they insist he play right field? They’ve expressed little to no interest in moving Eloy Jimenez out of left field.

It’s rumor season, and there should be plenty more of them with the Winter Meetings starting Monday in San Diego. The White Sox are expected to continue the aggressive approach they’ve displayed already this winter with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and their reported high bid to Zack Wheeler, who took less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.

What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

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