White Sox

Kap: Hoyer, Cubs may have struck gold with Almora


Kap: Hoyer, Cubs may have struck gold with Almora

A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with one step or one pick if youre a Cubs fan. Theo Epstein, along with the rest of the Cubs front office, took that step on Monday by selecting 18-year-old outfielder Albert Almora with the sixth-overall pick in the MLB draft.

Almora, a senior out of Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy in Hialeah, Fla. was the first pick on a long road to recovery for Theo and company. Almora proved to Cubs management that he was worthy of their confidence in a number of ways. In his senior season he hit .603 with six home runs, 34 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and only struck out three times in 87 plate appearances. Almora has been a starter on the varsity team since eighth grade and has always been mature beyond his years.

But Almoras accolades do not stop at the high school level. He has been a member of Team USAs 18 and under squad for a number of years where he won five gold medals. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are not the only ones who saw potential in Almora. Baseball America ranked him the No. 2 outfielder, No. 3 high school player and No. 1 defensive high school player in this years draft.

Almora is a slender 6-foot-2, 172-pound teenager who has yet to fill out his frame. This is exactly the high-ceiling type player the Cubs were in search of coming into the draft. Almora has shown average speed and an above average arm and he makes superb reads in the outfield. His precise routes to the ball and ability to react on contact help make up for his average speed and allow him to cover good ground in center field. His throwing mechanics are well polished giving him above average accuracy. Scouts say that Almora has a professional approach at the plate which is rare for a high school player. That approach and above average bat speed give the slender teen surprising power.

Obviously, Almora is only 18 so he has a good amount of time and growth before we can even think of him as an everyday possibility at Wrigley Field but he is the type of athlete and personality Theo wants to build the future around. Almora is widely known for his work ethic which is something Epstein and Hoyer have been known to look for in addition to raw talent. They have a proven track record when it comes to drafting this type of athlete with past successes in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jonathan Papelbon.

Almora also possess the type of intelligence Cubs management is looking for. He is a heady player on the field and has a 4.1 GPA in the classroom. The dynamic duo has a tendency of spending their first-round picks on college players, so for them to pull the trigger on this high schooler is a credit to both his maturity of character and ability.

When asked about Almora Hoyer said, in terms of the morals that he carries with himself every day, the work ethic, whats important to Albert Almora, certainly those are things that appeal to us. We felt this kid was going to get the absolute best out of his ability. Competing was important to him. Winning was important to him. Being a great teammate was important to him. Combine that with the history that we have and the knowledge that our scouts have of him and he really checked all the boxes.

There are few drawbacks to this pick other than a big leg kick and some moving parts to his swing, but he makes them work to his advantage. Although projected first overall pick Mark Appel fell down the board all the way to eight and became an option, this was exactly the type of move the Cubs organization needed to make in the early stages of rebuilding.
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Joe Musso contributed to this article.

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view


As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson has in his mind an ideal number of times he’d strike out in a season.

“If I had it my way I’d probably strike out 20 times a year but I don’t know how you do that, really,” Davidson said before the Sox defeated the Royals 9-3 on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It’s not realistic for an everyday player to go through the season with that few strikeouts, especially on a Sox team that entered Friday’s game with 1,163 of them, the second-highest total in the major-leagues behind the Rangers’ 1,168. The Sox were on pace to strike out 1,570 times, which would break the franchise record of 1,397 set last season.

Against the Royals, the Sox struck out seven times, but made more than enough contact—including three-run home runs from Jose Abreu and Nicky Delmonico—to win for the eighth time in their last 14 games.

With the Sox going through the trials and tribulations that come along with a radical rebuild, perhaps it’s not a surprise the team strikes out as much as it has the past two seasons. They are young, aggressive at the plate and still learning at the major-league level.

“It’s just some of the experience and learning your swing and trying to improve on it every single year,” said Davidson, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts Friday night. “I don’t think coming up (in the minors) everybody was striking out as much as we do here so that just shows that the competition is better and we’re just also trying to learn.

“The MLB (web site) has a section just showing how nasty pitches are,” Davidson added. “Guys are really good here. It’s just a part of learning. It’s about seeing the ball, learning the zone, learning counts and understanding when they’re going to throw stirkes and when they’re going to throw balls and also just putting the bat on the ball.”

The Sox were particularly susceptible to the strikeout when they fanned 10-plus times during an eight-game stretch from Aug. 5-13, a franchise record. They fell one game short of matching the dubious major-league record of nine consecutive games with 10-plus Ks set by the Brewers in 2017.

Sox manager Rick Renteria said the cause of all the strikeouts “depends on who you want to look at. You could look at it collectively (or) you can look at it individually. We have one of the young men (Yoan Moncada) who has quite a few under his belt, both looking and swinging (for a major-league leading 172 this season). Two-strike approach obviously is something we talk about a lot and still has to be implemented in practical terms so that it's useful. We don't want our guys swinging out of the zone. We do want them to be able to defend themselves and keep a ball in play possibly when need be.

“But I'm not thinking in regards of how (strikeouts) continue to mount and what that indicates or doesn't indicate,” Renteria added. “We look at all of our guys individually and figure out what it is we can help them with in terms of attacking that strike zone and being ready to hit.”

Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury


Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury

Rick Renteria proved once again that he won’t let his boys quit.

The White Sox manager pulled Avisail Garcia from Friday night’s 9-3 victory over the Royals after the outfielder failed to run hard out of the box during a first-inning flyout. It wasn’t the first time Renteria has made a point by pulling a player during a game. Garcia was yanked from a spring training contest for not running hard out of the box and Tim Anderson got the same treatment in July.

“I didn’t think (Garcia) had given me an effort on the Texas Leaguer,” Renteria said after Friday’s victory. “If the ball falls in, you have to possibly advance.”

Renteria was quick to point out that Garcia is playing with a right knee injury that the right fielder said would have to be addressed—likely with surgery—during the offseason.

“He does have a knee that’s bothering him a little bit,” Renteria said. “I told him, ‘you certainly looked like something was bothering you.’ He said, ‘I felt it click when I came out of the box.’ ‘I said you understand you can still give me a better effort out of the box (and) he said, ‘yes, I understand that. I’m feeling this.’ We addressed it a little bit. He’ll be back in there (Saturday night). He realizes he still feels he can give us a little better effort.”

Garcia, who has been on the disabled list twice this season due to hamstring injuries, said he understood Renteria’s decision. 

“I felt a click (in the knee) and I didn’t run,” Garcia said. “Even if I felt a click I can do a better effort if I want to play and I want to play. That’s why they take me out. I felt a click and I was a little bit scared about it but I’m OK.”

Renteria said it is important down the stretch to communicate with Garcia when it comes to managing his knee.

“That’s why we had the conversation,” Renteria said. “He doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. He says he can play every day, he says, ‘I can manage this, I can play through this, I’ll be fine.’ I said then give me a little more effort on some of those plays. I get it that you may feel it but if you feel it, just explain to me what’s going on and we can manage it that way. He really doesn’t want to come out. He wants to play.

“We’ve never had a problem with (Garcia),” Renteria added. “Despite a couple times here or there where we’ve taken him out, if you watch him he busts his rear end pretty much all the time. That was a rarity. At that particular point in time it was my decision to pull him out.”

Garcia said he will continue to play through the knee issue.

“I just have to keep going,” Garcia said. “But I was scared a little bit because I felt like a click. But at the same time, I didn’t run hard enough so I’m OK with it. I’m good to play.”

When asked if Garcia will get the knee taken care of following the season, he responded, “yeah, for sure. One-hundred percent.”