White Sox

White Sox seeing the real Jared Mitchell

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White Sox seeing the real Jared Mitchell

In the southern towns of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Chattanooga, a young White Sox prospect is suddenly raising eyebrows and expectations.

Hes batting .310 with an on-base percentage of .434. He leads the Southern League with 22 runs and 6 triples. Hes 6 for 7 in stolen bases. His strikeouts are way down. His walks are way up.

And now, so is the ceiling for Jared Mitchell, the left-handed outfielder who once was lost, but now is found.

Because of the health issues, we have never really seen the real Mitch, said Buddy Bell, White Sox VP of Player Development. I believe we are just now getting a glimpse of seeing the player we drafted a couple years ago.

As the White Sox first round pick in 2009, Mitchell was in the same draft class as young phenoms Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Drew Storen, Mike Trout and Brett Jackson. A college star at LSU, he seemed to be on the fast track to join the White Sox, until that fateful day the following spring.

March 12, 2010.

Brought into a split-squad game in Tempe as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, Mitchell went after a deep fly ball off the bat of the Angels Juan Rivera. Jared made a sensational catch against the wall, but when he came down, something was wrong. He couldnt feel anything in his left leg.

Mitchell tore a tendon in his ankle.

He would need surgery, months of rehab, plus something most 21-year-olds never think about.

Time.

You learn a lot about patience through an injury like that, Mitchell said by phone on Monday. Its a lot of mental perseverance, and things you have to go through, and things you learn about yourself through a situation like that.

The Most Outstanding Player of the 2009 College World Series was forced to miss all of the 2010 season. Then last year while at Winston-Salem, he struggled mightily at the plate, batting .222 with 183 strikeouts in 129 games.

Going into last year, in my mind, I thought I was pretty healthy and pretty back to regular.

He wasnt. Mitchell says he was at about 85 percent. Thats physically. Throw the mental part into it, and that number was probably lower.

I wasnt all the way back, didnt have all the spring back, Mitchell said. I think that helps a lot, to be able to know that youre healthy and not have to worry about anything else.

Ask Jake Peavy.

As a former number-one pick, did Mitchell put too much pressure on himself?

I think subconsciously I probably was, yeah, Mitchell said. For me, I guess I wanted everything to come back so quick. It wasnt so much trying to show this person this or that person that. I wanted to be back in top shape so much, so quick. And it just doesnt happen that way. This game is not that easy. You realize that once you go through it. I think being able to just come into this year and being able to let things happen and not put so much pressure on every at-bat, and not worry about everything.

So far, when it comes to hitting in the clutch, Mitchell doesnt seem to be worried about anything. With the bases empty, hes batting .245. With runners on, his average climbs to .374. With runners in scoring position, its even higher at .394.

He has made such great strides and because of his talent and makeup will continue to get better daily, Bell said about the young centerfielder. There are a few things we knew very early on. He can't get much more athletic, hes a great kid, and he is one of the most competitive kids we've ever had here.

He is so tough on himself. That gets in his way sometimes, but I think that kind of mentality will help him become the player that he hopes to be.

If he continues to hit like this, the White Sox believe hell be ready for the big leagues sometime in 2013. But in the meantime, Jared isnt thinking about next season. Hes focused on today.

My time will come, he said. If you start to think about getting promoted to the majors, its just added pressure on yourself. What I try to do I just enjoy the game every day, have fun, and let the chips fall where they may.

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Ozzie Guillen had a famous saying about A.J. Pierzynski that you’ve probably heard before.

"If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

It would be hard for any player to match Pierzynski’s reputation, who was (and continues to be) beloved in Chicago but was booed and despised in almost every other MLB city.

And yet, here comes Tim Anderson.

“When you play against him, you kind of want to fight him all the time,” White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday.

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Keuchel has experience playing against Anderson and now he is teammates with him, seeing a different side of the White Sox shortshop that won the American League batting title last year.

“He’s definitely misunderstood,” Keuchel said.

Comparing Anderson to Pierzynski isn’t exactly apples to apples. Pierzynski’s reputation was a little more convoluted, while Anderson just likes to have fun with general disregard for baseball’s outdated “unwritten” rules. His bat flips catch the attention of much needed younger sports fans, yet also seem to trigger just as many old-school players around the league. Just ask Royals pitcher Brad Keller.

RELATED: Why Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Keuchel now has the perspective of being on the same team as Anderson and he means well when he says the opposition wants to fight his new teammate.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you see the passion he plays with, you see how much he loves the game,” Keuchel said. “It definitely gets under your skin, which can help him.”

The former Astros and Braves pitcher even had examples.

“I remember a few times where we'd be going over the scouting report and (the report said) you can go in this area if you're ahead of the count, or if you're behind in the count, you can go in this area,” Keuchel said. “And then all the sudden I'm going in those areas and he's pulling a groundball double down the line and I'm just dumbfounded. But now I see where he's at. His mindset, the way he's trying to be more knowledgeable about the game about his at-bats.”

The White Sox hope Anderson picks up where he left off last season, and he’s showing early signs of that, even delivering a signature bat flip – er, throw – in an intrasquad game. But at this point, Anderson has earned the right to flip, even if opposing pitchers hate it.

“That's where you get the true professional,” Keuchel said. “You put the talent with the mindset and the knowledge to get better and you're sitting pretty, you're sitting with a batting title, you're sitting with respect around the league. I think he's going to be a force to reckon with and someone who some of the younger guys can even learn from.”

 

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Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Will the White Sox youth be a help or a hindrance in this unprecedented 60-game Major League Baseball season?

The team's newly added veterans see the youth around them as a double-edged sword.

"I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start," starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday, almost eerily echoing his new batterymate, Yasmani Grandal, who said almost the exact same thing a day earlier.

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Asked about how he expected the White Sox mostly young pitching staff to fare this season, Grandal said: "There isn't going to be a gray area. Sixty games is a very small window that we have to put everything together, so it's going to be either really good or it's going to be really bad."

"Either really good or really bad" would not fly as a 2020 slogan in a meeting with the White Sox marketing team. But it's suddenly become a theme.

Granted, these guys are predicting the unpredictable, and that's the point behind their words. An abrupt halt to spring training in March, a months-long layoff while baseball watched the COVID-19 pandemic and saw fruitless negotiations between the league and players' union, and now just a three-week ramp-up period before a two-month sprint of a regular season. It's never happened before. For all their confidence in their own personal readiness, no one seems to know what kind of game shape their competition will be in. All 30 teams were built for 162 games, making it impossible to guess how they'll perform in 60.

So excuse the White Sox newcomers for providing a couple different possibilities for how things could play out on the South Side when the season gets going in a week.

"It’s that sprint. It’s no longer that marathon where you can kind of get off to a shaky start or even kind of an indifferent start," Keuchel said. "I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start. I would like to think we are going to go really good to start. We have the youth, we have the talent.

"It’s just really who gets out to that hot start and kind of continues it. Nobody knows what that’s going to be like until we step on that field (July 24)."

RELATED: Yasmani Grandal getting younger White Sox ready for 'playoff mode' all season

OK, so that covers the unknown (some of it, anyway). How about what we do know?

The White Sox added some veteran help this winter, Keuchel and Grandal the two biggest names in a group that also includes Edwin Encarnación and Steve Cishek. And of course, José Abreu is back on a new three-year deal.

But the bulk of this roster — and the bulk of why the White Sox rebuilding effort looks ready to launch into contention mode — is made of youngsters who either broke out in a big way last season or have their breaking out still to come: Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Carlos Rodón, Nick Madrigal. The list makes for an exciting future.

But what does it do for the present? For that, we're going back to the unknown.

According to Keuchel, the youth provides a lot of positives, which White Sox fans can probably rattle off quite easily at this point. But if the 60-game sprint to the postseason is going to feel like a pennant chase from Day 1, well, the vast majority of these guys — Abreu included — haven't experienced that kind of thing before.

As important as Keuchel's World Series experience is, or Grandal's experience playing in the last five postseasons, or Encarnación's experience winning in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians, that can only go so far. The rest of the team has to play well enough to make it the rest of the way.

And so the guys who know what it takes aren't quite sure whether this White Sox team will be able to expertly handle such a thing under such weird circumstances. They're hopeful, sure, but they'd be lying if they said they were certain.

"I think in this situation that nobody really has ever been in, I think youth might help out with how we are going to be doing things," Keuchel said. "We've got speed. We’ve got everything we need to compete with every other team."

RELATED: Why the White Sox are ready to take the next step: Free-agent additions

But the youth also makes the other extreme possible, a pitfall a more experienced team might not need to worry about, so says the 2017 world champ.

"The more veteran presence, the more veteran team, I feel like is going to be really, really good or middle of the road to start," Keuchel said. "I think the young team, you are going to get really, really good or really, really bad. If we can detour from really, really bad to start, we have a really good shot of staying in it and making a run at the Central (or) a wild card spot.

"That’s the one area where youth does help is (you could have) potentially a really, really hot start because of the athleticism there. They are always fresh because they are so young."

Again, don't get Keuchel or Grandal wrong. They've been as positive about the outlook for these White Sox as anyone. Heck, they signed up in the offseason because they wanted to be a part of things moving forward.

But as good as Anderson and Robert and Giolito look in "Summer Camp" right now — not to mention Keuchel, who's been pretty great himself in the White Sox intrasquad games — there's nothing at all certain about the 2020 baseball season.

"Either really good or really bad." It's not a winning marketing slogan. But it might be as accurate a prediction as you're going to get right now.


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