Bears

Sox Drawer: Infield Gets New Look

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Sox Drawer: Infield Gets New Look

Friday, November 6

When Kenny Williams hopped on a conference call Friday morning with the media, he didnt just break news, he smashed it into many pieces. And yes, there were some surprises.

Lets begin with Gordon Beckham. With Chris Getz going to Kansas City, Kenny said that his prized rookie from 2009 is now the White Sox new second baseman. Beckhams experience there is limited. He played second in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, but compared to his previous time at third base before the Sox put him there last season (zero), hes already got a head start. Williams said that moving Beckham to second was a priority. Interesting.

The move is a surprise since there are some who believe that Beckham should go back to his natural position (shortstop), and move Alexei Ramirez back to second base. But apparently, the White Sox are willing to give Ramirez another shot.

Mark Teahen becomes the Sox starting third baseman, a move which along with Beckham going to second, makes us better defensively across the board, said Williams. Teahen started at three different positions last year with the Royals, but made the most starts at third (99).

Its huge, Teahen said. The past three years I havent known what position Id play, and over the past 24 hours I havent known what city I was going to play in, so its huge. I came through the minors as a third baseman, and its my No. 1 position.

You might look at Teahens stats from last year (.271, 12 HR. 50 RBIs, 123 Ks), and not be impressed. But Williams said you cant evaluate the deal on raw numbers. Teahen played last season with two jammed thumbs, a sore elbow, and in our ballpark, he wont be pitched around as much. Williams added that hes a tough-nosed ballplayer who the Sox kept their eye on for the last couple years. In fact, they inquired about Teahen last season. When you consider his numbers against the Sox (12 of his 59 career home runs have come vs. the Sox), its no surprise.

Using that logic, maybe Kenny should trade for Placido Polanco, Miguel Olivo, Nick Punto, Jason Kubel, and every single Minnesota Twin who has crushed the Sox over the years. At least they dont have to worry about Carlos Gomez anymore. He was traded today to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy. Wait until I tell Bill Melton. Itll make his day.

Moving to the outfield, it seems like the Scott Podsednik sequel is over. When asked about Pods, who is a free agent, Williams said weve already had talks. Some back-and-forth dialogue. I think re-signing him is not likely based on what he wants. Well have to keep getting after it in other areas.

That means the White Sox need a leadoff hitter. Who might that be? Can you say the name Jordan Danks?

Thats right. John Danks younger brother has leaped into the conversation. Hes been tearing up the Arizona Fall League, batting close to .400, leading Williams to say on the conference call, Jordan Danks is certainly making things interesting, and giving reason for us to pause as to whether we aggressively pursue a veteran-type guy or not in the outfield.

Danks is 6-foot-4, hes considered the best athlete in the Sox farm system, as well as their top defensive outfielder. The lefty prefers to play center field, but has played all three outfield positions. He mainly batted second in the Fall League, but led off last season at Double-A Birmingham.

As for Jermaine Dye, the White Sox bought out the mutual option for 2010 for just under 1 million, making him a free agent. Williams said, I spoke to Jermaine this morning. I played around with some deals to possibly create some space to fit J.D. at this point. Obviously, that didnt happen, or couldnt happen at this juncture. But Kenny left open the possibility of re-signing Dye, saying, I dont think you can rule it out because its a long offseason.

And finally, the other big surprise: Jim Thome. Many figured that he was not in the White Sox plans for 2010, but Williams said, I have the ultimate respect for Jimmy, so we might have to revisit that at some point in time.

Some might interpret that comment as a token nod from Williams to the future Hall of Famer, but I actually believe the feeling is genuine. Thome made 15 million last season, and saw his numbers drop in all categories. Not playing much with the Dodgers had a lot to do with it. Still, if the Sox can get him at a hometown discount, which could be in the cards, its a distinct possibility.

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

The Bears will begin training camp next week without many significant position battles — outside of kicker, of course — which stands as an indicator of how strong a roster Ryan Pace has built. But that doesn’t mean there won't be some intriguing decisions to be made in a month and a half, especially involving depth at some critical positions. 

So here’s a pre-training camp stab at projecting what the Bear’s 53-man roster will look like on the night of Sept. 5:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Missing the cut: Tyler Bray

These two guys are locked in, leaving Tyler Bray to likely return to the practice squad for another season. 

RUNNING BACKS (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. 
Missing the cut: Ryan Nall

Cohen, Davis and Montgomery are roster locks, leaving Whyte and Nall to compete for, likely, just one spot on the roster. Matt Nagy praised Nall during OTAs, and he could become a versatile option with the ability to play some fullback, but we’ll give the last spot to Whyte given his speed and the Bears’ focus on that trait in the offseason. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Marvin Hall
Missing the cut: Javon Wims, Emanuel Hall, Taquan Mizzell, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Thomas Ives

Robinson, Gabriel and Miller are locks, while Patterson’s contract structure ($5 million guaranteed, all in 2019) and Ridley’s draft slot (fourth round) easily get them on the team, too. That leaves Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and a handful of others to compete for what probably is only one more spot on the 53-man roster. There’s not much separating those three heading into training camp, though Emanuel Hall’s sports hernia surgery sidelined him during OTAs, putting him a little behind the curve. Wims is the incumbent here but didn’t get on the field much in 2018, while Marvin Hall played a little with the Atlanta Falcons over the last two years. We’ll give the edge to Marvin Hall for now based on his speed and meager experience, but also with the knowledge that the Bears’ sixth receiver likely won’t be active on game days unless of an injury. 

TIGHT ENDS (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Missing the cut: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

If Burton has to begin training camp on the PUP list, will he be ready for Week 1? Can Shaheen stay healthy for a full season? Those are perhaps the two biggest questions needing answers not only for this unit, but for the Bears’ offense as a whole. Burton’s 11th-hour injury prior to the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles limited how dynamic Nagy’s offense could be, while Shaheen’s preseason injury meant the Bears were ineffective when using 12 personnel during the regular season. The Bears need better depth behind Burton and Shaheen — Braunecker is a reliable special teamer with flexibility to play both the “U” and the “Y” spots, but can more much-needed depth emerge from a converted offensive lineman (Sowell) and a handful of undrafted free agents (Raymond, Bunting, Horsted, Richardson)? We’ll give Sowell (at the “Y” behind Shaheen) and Raymond (at the “U” behind Burton) the spots for now, but both will have to earn their way onto the roster during training camp. 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Missing the cut: Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery, T.J. Clemmings, Blake Blackmar, Marquez Tucker, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher

The Bears moved Sowell to tight end thanks, in part, to their confidence in the development of Coward — a converted defensive lineman — to take over as their swing tackle in 2019. He’s still under construction as an NFL offensive lineman and will have to beat out a handful of challengers, including a five-year NFL reserve in Lucas, but Coward has the edge for a roster spot. The interior reserves are less clear, though: Larsen was brought back in free agency but only has $90,000 guaranteed on his one-year deal, while Bars played for O-line coach Harry Hiestand in college but is coming off an ACL/MCL injury that led to him going undrafted in April. Any of the other reserves could make a push, or the Bears could look to add interior depth on cut-down weekend. For now, though, Larsen, Bars and Coward make the most sense to slide behind the same starting five the Bears had to end 2018. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Missing the cut: Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

This is the Bears’ deepest unit, with the only battle to see who will make the roster and wind up inactive on game days, as Williams was for all but two games in 2018. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

Irving flashed during 2017’s and 2018’s preseasons, and might need to do so again to secure his spot on the Bears’ 2019 roster. But consider this an open battle for reserve roles behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch: Irving has the inside track to one spot but will have to earn it; while whoever flashes the most from the Harris/Fitts/Betts/Vaughters group should get another. We’ll go with Harris here — maybe Mack can take his fellow Buffalo alum under his wing during training camp. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman, Kevin Pierre-Louis

Woods might be as close to the bubble as anyone on defense, and could force his way on to the roster with a strong preseason and a commitment to special teams. But with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and he and Iyiegbuniwe being core special teamers, it’s hard to see Woods beating out any of those four for a spot right now. 

CORNERBACK (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Josh Simmons, Clifton Duck, Jonathon Mincy

There should be a strong competition among the reserve outside corners on this roster, with Toliver having the best shot but needing to fend off the raw athleticism of Denmark and Franklin as well as the talent of Joseph, who stuck on the practice squad last year after going undrafted out of Division III Dubuque. Shelley flashed during OTAs and minicamp during the spring and looks likely to wind up on the 53-man roster. While McManis worked at safety some during the spring, we’ll include him among the cornerbacks for now. 

SAFETY (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Doyin Jibowu

Barring injury and a more permanent move to safety for McManis, there’s little that’ll change in this unit between now and Week 1.

SPECIALISTS (3): Greg Joseph (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: Elliott Fry, Eddy Pineiro, John Wirtel

Surprise! While the battle between Fry and Pineiro will dominate the headlines in Bourbonnais, the “winner” isn’t guaranteed to be the Bears’ Week 1 kicker. So not only are those two competing against each other, they’re competing against the field, too. In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns keep fifth-round pick Austin Seibert and cut Joseph, who made 17 of 20 field goals (with a long of 51 yards) for them in 2018. The Bears could try to swing a trade for Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik here, too. The larger point, though, is this: Pace may have to look outside the organization for his Week 1 kicker, and there will be some talent — like Joseph — available if he does. 

45 Days to Kickoff: Joliet West

45 Days to Kickoff: Joliet West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Joliet West

Head coach: Bill Lech

Assistant coaches: Harry Hessling, Seandell Davis, Patrick Lauer, Terry Clarke, Diondrey Hood, Kevin Kusnik, Jeff Peterson, Nick Davis, Peter Nackovic, Dan Tito and Brett Gould

How they fared in 2018: 3-6 (3-6 Southwest Prairie Conference). Joliet West failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoff field.

2019 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Minooka

Sept. 6 vs Oswego

Sept. 13 @ Oswego East

Sept. 20 vs Yorkville

Sept. 27 @ Romeoville

Oct. 4 @ Plainfield East

Oct. 11 vs Joliet Central

Oct. 18 vs Plainfield South

Oct. 25 @ Plainfield Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Tigers make more positive steps as a program as they embark on the newly-realigned Southwest Prairie conference?

Names to watch this season: OL Hunter Brooks (Sr.) and FB/LB Tom Luedke (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers graduated nearly their entire starting offensive skills group from a season ago. Junior RB Trent Howland is the lone returning starter back this fall. 

EDGY's Early Take: Joliet West posted just a 3-6 record in 2018 but that record was a bit misleading on several levels. The Tigers, under then-first year head coach Bill Lech, turned the program around on a lot of levels. Joliet West came within a few plays of potentially winning four of those six losses. If the Tigers can get their offense on track early this season (against a front-loaded schedule against four Southwest Prairie West crossover opponents) they will again challenge for an IHSA state football playoff spot.