White Sox

Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

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Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

The class of 2013 is being touted as perhaps the most talented group of football players produced in Illinois since 1986, according to longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

Seven Illinois products are ranked among the top 100 senior prospects in the nation with two or three other players capable of earning a spot by the end of the 2012 season. And Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac is the top-rated running back of all.

In fact, it's the most Illinois players to earn top 100 recognition in more than a decade. And Isaac is only one of three Illinois products to be ranked among the top 100 since St. Rita linebacker John Foley was No. 1 in 1985. Isaac joins Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall and Proviso West's Kyle Prater on the elite list.

"It looks like a better year than last year," Lemming said. "Most positions are solid. Last year was weak at linebacker and tight end, average at defensive back. But all positions are stocked this year. You can find talent if you are looking for it."

Specifically, Lemming said talent in the Midwest is average except for the Chicago area and Ohio. "It's a very good year in Illinois, not only in the Chicago area but also the East St. Louis and Peoria areas. And there are as many good offensive linemen as anywhere in the country."

Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Loganville, Georgia, is universally regarded as the No. 1 player in the nation. He has 15 scholarship offers and is expected to choose Alabama over USC, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Auburn.

Interestingly, four of the top six prospects are already committed.

Quarterback Max Browne of Sammamish, Wash., is headed for USC, linebacker Rueben Foster of La Grange, Georgia, has chosen Alabama, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright, Texas, is committed to Texas and wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones of Sealy, Texas, will also attend Texas.

Linebacker Su'a Cravens of Vista Murrieta, California, has 30 offers, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Florida, has 20 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, USC, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois and Michigan.

In fact, 14 of the top 20 players in the nation have made oral commitments, altering a past trend in which the most elite prospects usually waited until a week or two prior to the national signing day in February before announcing a decision.

What it says is the rich continue to get richer, the elite programs continue to dominate the recruiting sweepstakes and the most talented high school players want to play for winners or traditional powers rather than opt for a program that is rebuilding or struggling.

"As in basketball, the best football players want to play for the best programs, the most successful programs, the ones that will give them a chance to play for a national championship and best prepare them for a career in the NFL," Lemming said.

Texas got Browne, Swoopes, Seals-Jones and offensive lineman Darius James of Harker Heights, Texas. Florida got wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood of Jacksonville, Fla., and running back Kelvin Taylor of Belle Glade, Fla. Alabama got Foster and wide receiver O.J. Howard of Prattville, Ala.

USC got defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow of Elkton, Maryland. Oregon got running back Thomas Tyner of Beaverton, Oregon. Georgia got running back Derrick Henry of Yulee, Fla. Auburn got defensive tackle Dee Liner of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Penn State got tight end Adam Breneman of Camp Hill, Pa. And South Carolina got offensive lineman D.J. Park of Dillon, S.C.

Isaac, who is ranked No. 8 in the nation, has 21 offers, including Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Other Illinois products on Lemming's elite list are wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell (30) of Crete-Monee, offensive tackle Ethan Pocic (48) of Lemont, offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman (50) of Peoria Manual, quarterback Aaron Bailey (72) of Bolingbrook, offensive tackle Colin McGovern (75) of Lincoln-Way West and offensive tackle Kyle Bosch (89) of Wheaton St. Francis.

Treadwell has 18 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.

Pocic, whose brother plays at Illinois, has 10 offers, including Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, Auburn, Illinois and Michigan.

Tuley-Tillman and Bosch have committed to Michigan while McGovern has committed to Notre Dame.

Bailey, who led Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, has 13 offers, including Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Three players who could crash the top 100 are Northwestern-bound quarterback Matt Alviti of Maine South, defensive end Josh Augusta of Peoria Central and Illinois-bound running back Kendrick Foster of Peoria Richwoods.

TOM LEMMING'S TOP 100 FOR 2012

No. Player, Hometown Pos. Ht. Wt.
1. Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga. DE 6-4 270
2. Max Browne, Sammamish, Wash. QB 6-5 205
3. Reuben Foster, La Grange, Ga. LB 6-2 242
4. Tyrone Swoopes, Whitewright, Texas QB 6-5 220
5. Su'a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Calif. LB 6-1 205
6. Ricky Seals-Jones, Sealy, Texas WR 6-6 215
7. Laremy Tunsil, Lake City, Fla. OL 6-6 278
8. Ty Isaac, Joliet (Catholic), Ill. RB 6-2 220
9. Ahmad Fulwood,, Jacksonville, Fla. WR 6-4 200
10. Thomas Tyner, Beaverton, Oregon RB 6-0 205
11. Derrick Henry, Yulee, Fla. RB 6-3 240
12. O.J. Howard, Prattville, Ala. WR 6-5 225
13. Adam Breneman, Camp Hill, Pa. TE 6-5 225
14. Kelvin Taylor, Belle Glade, Fla. RB 5-11 210
15. Robert Foster, Monaca, Pa. WR 6-2 180
16. D.J. Park, Dillon, S.C. OL 6-6 315
17. Kenny Bigelow, Elkton, Maryland DL 6-3 275
18. Marquez North, Charlotte, N.C. WR 6-3 210
19. Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals, Ala. DT 6-4 258
20. Darius James, Harker Heights, Texas OL 6-6 320
21. Tim Williams, Baton Rouge, La. LB 6-4 228
22. E.J. Levenberry, Woodbridge, Va. LB 6-3 220
23. Shane Morris, Warren, Mich. QB 6-3 190
24. Antonio Conner, Batesville, Miss. DB 6-0 190
25. Henry Poggi, Baltimore, Maryland DL 6-4 255
26. Tray Matthews, Newnan, Ga. DB 6-2 200
27. Tramel Terry, Goose Creek, S.C. WR 6-0 190
28. Leon McQuay, Seffner, Fla. DB 6-1 180
29. Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa, Fla. DB 5-11 186
30. LaQuon Treadwell, Crete-Monee, Ill. WR 6-3 190
31. Greg Bryant, Del Ray Beach, Fla. RB 5-10 200
32. Cody Thomas, Colleyville, Texas QB 6-5 215
33. Pegter Kalambayi, Matthews, N.C. LB 6-3 230
34. Jalin Marshall, Middletown, Ohio QB 6-0 198
35. Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne, Ind. LB 6-3 217
36. Jonathan Allen, Ashburn, Va. DL 6-3 230
37. Kevin Olsen, Wayne Hills, N.J. QB 6-3 200
38. Montravius Adams, Vienna, Ga. DT 6-4 285
39. James Hearns, Tallahassee, Fla. LB 6-3 235
40. Cam Burrows, Trotwood, Ohio DB 6-1 196
41. Matt Thomas, Miami, Fla. LB 6-4 197
42. Kendall Fuller, Olney, Maryland DB 6-0 175
43. Derrick Green, Richmond, Va. RB 6-0 215
44. James Quick, Louisville, Ky. WR 6-0 180
45. Marcell Harris, Orlando, Fla. DB 6-2 200
46. Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock, Ark. RB 5-11 200
47. Trey Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga. LB 6-1 218
48. Ethan Pocic, Lemont, Ill. OL 6-6 295
49. Larenz Bryant, Charlotte, N.C. LB 6-1 213
50. Logan Tuley-Tillman, Peoria (Manual), Ill. OL 6-7 304
51. Chans Cox, Pinetop, Arizona LB 6-3 225
52. Hunter Henry, Little Rock, Ark. TE 6-6 235
53. D.J. Ward, Lawton, Okla. DE 6-4 238
54. Jake Raulerson, Celina, Texas OL 6-5 250
55. Bryce Ramsey, Kingsland, Ga. QB 6-4 205
56. Jon McCrary, Ellenwood, Ga. QB 6-4 195
57. Elijah Daniels, Avon, Ind. DL 6-3 253
58. Antwuan Davis, Bastrop, Texas CB 6-3 180
59. ArDarius Stewart, Fultondale, Ala. RB 6-3 190
60. Demarcus Robinson, Fort Valley, Ga. WR 6-2 200
61. Isaac Rochell, McDonough, Ga. DE 6-5 255
62. Torrodney Prevot, Alief, Texas LB 6-4 217
63. Michael McCray, Trotwood, Ohio LB 6-3 235
64. Christian Hackenberg, Fork Union, Va. QB 6-4 215
65. Isaac Savaiineaea, Honolulu, Hawaii LB 6-3 235
66. Ryan Burns, Ashburn, Va. QB 6-5 225
67. Joey Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DE 6-4 255
68. Desean Smith, Lake Charles, La. TE 6-5 230
69. Priest Willis, Tempe, Arizona DB 6-2 208
70. A'Shawn Robinson, Arlington Heights, Texas DL 6-5 285
71. Joe Fennell, South Fort Myers, Fla. OL 6-4 312
72. Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook, Ill. QB 6-2 215
73. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Beach, Va. QB 6-6 235
74. Steve Elmer, Midland, Mich. OL 6-5 300
75. Colin McGovern, New Lenox, Ill. OL 6-7 285
76. Derrick Griffin, Rosenberg, Texas WR 6-6 210
77. Kent Perkins, Dallas, Texas OL 6-6 287
78. David Dawson, Detroit, Mich. OL 6-5 290
79. Tyren Jones Marietta, Ga. RB 5-9 195
80. Carlis Parker, Statesville, N.C. QB 6-4 185
81. Ezekiel Elliott, St. Louis, Mo. DB 6-0 205
82. Taj Williams, Tallahassee, Fla. DB 6-4 187
83. Rod Crayton, Dadeville, Ala. DL 6-1 295
84. Grant Hill, Huntsville, Ala. OL 6-5 315
85. Cooper Bateman, Salt Lake City, Utah QB 6-3 195
86. J.T. Barnett, Wichita Falls, Texas QB 6-2 205
87. Chris Fox, Parker, Colorado OL 6-5 295
88. Ryan Green, St. Petersburg, Fla. RB 5-10 190
89. Kyle Bosch, Wheaton (St. Francis), Ill. OL 6-4 275
90. Greg Gilmore, Hope Mills, N.C. DT 6-4 272
91. Marcus Farria, Peoria, Arizona DL 6-5 245
92. Rashad Kinlaw, Galloway, N.J. DB 6-0 175
93. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia Beach, Va. RB 5-10 180
94. Reeve Koehler, Honolulu, Hawaii OL 6-3 300
95. Uriah LeMay, Matthews, N.C. WR 6-2 195
96. Courtney Love, Youngstown, Ohio LB 6-2 228
97. Cord Sandberg, Bradenton, Fla. QB 6-2 205
98. Keenon Johnson, Kannapolis, N.C. WR 6-3 200
99. Troy Williams, Harbor City, Calif. QB 6-1 185
100. Kenneth Santa Marina, New Orleans, La. OL 6-6 328

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

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USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.