White Sox

Why the White Sox are willing to gamble on prospects like Ti'Quan Forbes and Casey Gillaspie

Why the White Sox are willing to gamble on prospects like Ti'Quan Forbes and Casey Gillaspie

The record Powerball prize may have been given away last month, but Rick Hahn and the White Sox are still buying lottery tickets.

While the prized prospects have received the bulk of the headlines during the rebuild, the White Sox have recently quietly collected many low-risk, high-reward players.

Ti’quan Forbes is the latest lottery ticket-type prospect to be acquired by the White Sox. A 2014 second-round draft pick turned struggling minor leaguer, Forbes was obtained from the Texas Rangers on Thursday night in exchange for starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez. During the 2017 season, the White Sox also traded for first-rounder Casey Gillaspie and claimed first-rounder D.J. Peterson and former touted prospect Alen Hanson off waivers. Given their success with similar moves in the past and the opportunity for playing time they have readily available, the White Sox aren’t afraid to gamble again.

“You’re not always going to be able to acquire the guy who’s got the fantastic, loud tools as well as the outstanding track record of performance,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That’s the ideal. You want to be able to check all the boxes. There are going to be times where we’re betting on a performance that out-straps the tools to continue, and there’s going to be times where you need to bet on the tools that haven’t quite translated in the performance that ultimately, through repetition and improvement, translate into a good performance.”

[MORE: White Sox trade Miguel Gonzalez for minor league infielder] 

A free agent after this season, Gonzalez wasn’t going to bring back a heavy return. Not only does Gonzalez not have the shiny qualities of some of the higher-end assets moved ahead of him, but he’s a rental player to boot. While Gonzalez still possesses value, the White Sox could either take a less-talented player who has performed in the minors or a more toolsy prospect who just hasn’t panned out.

Forbes, who turned 21 on Saturday, is the latter. He was ranked as the No. 50 overall prospect in the 2014 draft by MLB.com but has struggled to perform since he turned pro. Forbes has a .634 OPS in his minor league career, a figure that dropped to .588 at Advanced-A this season. But that won’t prevent the White Sox from taking the shot.

The White Sox did the same when they took Gillaspie back for Dan Jennings from the Tampa Bay Rays in July. Coming off a 2016 campaign in which he was the organization’s minor league player of the year, Gillaspie struggled at Triple-A Durham with a .671 OPS entering Friday, down from .869 last season.

“(Forbes) was the one of the youngest kids in the 2014 draft,” Hahn said. “We knew he was extremely raw and was going to take some time. He has second-round pedigree.

“Peterson and Gillaspie were first-round guys, but it’s the same kind of element. There’s a reason these guys had that draft stock that they did at the time, and that’s because of their tools. The reason they’re available now perhaps is because they haven’t lived up quite yet from a performance standpoint, and we’ve got an opportunity here for our player development staff and a change of scene to perhaps hopefully unlock a little bit of that potential.”

The White Sox have had some success with similar moves in the past.

Most recently Tommy Kahnle developed from a hard-throwing pitcher who couldn’t find the plate into an unstoppable force and was the key to the deal that brought Blake Rutherford back from the New York Yankees.

Hahn also cited previous success with Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton. It’s not as if the White Sox are the only team willing to take these risks -- they’re quite commonplace. But one advantage they do have is an abundance of opportunity.

“It’s not a unique play necessarily that we’re doing,” Hahn said. “But certainly in some of the major deals that we did, the goal was to get that well-rounded player, the well-rounded prospect, the one where the tools and the subjective analysis matched with performance and the objective side of evaluating a player. As we’ve moved toward some of these later deals, we knew you weren’t going to get that perfect mix coming back, you were going to have to take some bets either on the tools or the performance translating to the big-league level.”

Edwin Encarnación thrills White Sox with homer celebration: 'Do the parrot!'

Edwin Encarnación thrills White Sox with homer celebration: 'Do the parrot!'

To be honest, it wasn't terribly surprising to see Edwin Encarnación blast a home run out to center field during Thursday's intrasquad game at Guaranteed Rate Field.

After all, that's the reason the 37-year-old slugger is here. He's smashed at least 30 homers in each of the last eight seasons, including two spent as a member of the division-rival Cleveland Indians. Rick Hahn inked Encarnación to provide some big-time pop to the middle of a White Sox lineup looking to swing its way out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode in 2020.

But for all the homers he's hit, Encarnación is still drumming up plenty of excitement every time he sends one out. Mostly because of the parrot.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

Encarnación's signature home run celebration involves miming that he has a parrot on his arm while he rounds the bases. It's hilarious and a great deal of baseball fun.

So when he teed off on an Aaron Bummer pitch Thursday, there's just one thing his teammates wanted to see. They started screaming at him from the dugout, "Parrot! Parrot! Do the parrot!"

He obliged, sticking that arm out as he rounded second base, even moving it up and down on the way to third, much to the delight of everyone in that third-base dugout. There wasn't a crowd in the stands, but the crowd in the dugout went wild.

"The parrot made an appearance on the South Side!" White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said joyously after the intrasquad showdown wrapped.

Coincidentally, Encarnación chatted with the media just one day earlier and was asked about the health of his imaginary feathered friend.

"I think the parrot is still alive, it's still on my elbow," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "Hopefully when the season starts, you're going to see it very often."

Well, the season hasn't even started yet, and we've already got a parrot sighting.

Bird or no bird, Encarnación's presence in the middle of the White Sox lineup is extremely important. While the roster around him and fellow veteran slugger Jose Abreu is full of youthful potential and thrilling promise, Encarnacion, one of a slew of veteran additions made by Hahn's front office during the winter, brings reliability to the proceedings. There are plenty of reasons to anticipate big things from Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson and the rest of the team's young hitters. The White Sox know what they're getting from Encarnación.

After ranking 25th out of 30 teams in both home runs and slugging percentage last season, the White Sox needed some heft. In Encarnación, they've got it.

"It gives us depth. It lengthens an extremely good lineup. It was a good lineup before. It makes it extremely longer," McEwing said. "And the professionalism, Eddie, you can’t put a number on it. You can’t put a measure on it, what he means to this ballclub, not just in the clubhouse but on the field.

"When he steps in the box, it’s a presence, that model of consistency in what he has done throughout his career and what he’s capable of doing. It means so much to every individual in that locker room, and every time we step on the field, it’s a different presence."

RELATED: White Sox pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

As for the pitcher who gave the home run up Thursday, don't fret about any damaging effects for Bummer. He's equally thrilled by what this lineup looks like with Encarnación in it.

"I'm just glad he's on our side now," he said of the former division rival. "I'm glad he's on our side, and I'm glad that he got one (off me) when it didn't count.

"It's just kind of fun to watch. ... You see the lineup we're putting out there. I walked in, it was Abreu, Encarnación, Eloy. It's not going to stop. I think the depth of that lineup has gotten a whole lot longer, and I'm glad that they're all on our side."

It's a stark contrast inside the stadium, the difference between the mostly silent moments without fans in the stands and the incredibly entertaining moments when the players start talking and you can hear everything they say. It seems the latter could make for some added fun for TV viewers when the regular-season games are broadcast.

Thursday, there was no missing those screams: "Do the parrot!"

It's a good bet we haven't seen the last of Encarnación's avian acquaintance this year.


SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

White Sox 2021 schedule is out, with more NL Central matchups

White Sox 2021 schedule is out, with more NL Central matchups

Get used to the NL Central, White Sox fans.

Just days after Major League Baseball finalized the schedule for the upcoming 60-game 2020 season, the schedule for next season was released Thursday, outlining plans for a 2021 season when the league hopes it can return to normalcy.

The geographic scheduling of the 2020 season, shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, pits the White Sox against teams from the NL Central, and that will again be the case in a 2021 season hopefully unbound by travel restrictions.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

The White Sox will obviously face their AL Central foes and return to regular-season matchups against the AL East and AL West after missing out on such games this season. But the Interleague opponents will once more hail from the NL Central, with the White Sox playing two series apiece against the Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. They will play hosts to the St. Louis Cardinals in May and visit the Milwaukee Brewers in July. Both Crosstown series, the first on the North Side and the second on the South Side, will be played on weekends in August.

The White Sox will start the 2021 campaign on a West Coast road trip, with Opening Day set for Thursday, April 1, the start of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. That's followed by three games against the Seattle Mariners in Washington before the White Sox return to Guaranteed Rate Field for the home opener against the Kansas City Royals on April 8.

The regular season will dip into October next year, with the White Sox closing the regular season on a five-game homestand against the Reds and Detroit Tigers, the regular-season finale coming Sunday, October 3.

Check out the White Sox entire 2021 schedule below:


SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.