Blake Rutherford

White Sox send Nick Madrigal and four other prospects to minor league camp

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USA TODAY

White Sox send Nick Madrigal and four other prospects to minor league camp

The cuts have started out in Glendale.

The White Sox announced Tuesday that a quintet of prospects have been reassigned from big league camp to minor league camp. Headlining the bunch is second baseman Nick Madrigal, the No. 5 prospect in the White Sox system. Last year's first-round draft pick had 13 at-bats in eight Cactus League games, picking up four hits and walking twice.

Joining Madrigal on the trip to minor league camp is outfielder Blake Rutherford (No. 9 White Sox prospect), outfielder Luis Gonzalez (No. 10), pitcher Bernardo Flores and pitcher Jordan Guerrero. Rutherford also appeared in eight Cactus League games, picking up four hits in 15 at-bats. Gonzalez played in nine games, with four hits and a pair of runs scored in 15 at-bats.

Flores made three pitching appearances and surprisingly got a decision in all three, with one win and two losses. He struck out five batters and gave up a pair of home runs in 6.1 innings. Guerrero also made three appearances, giving up seven runs in four innings of work.

None of these early cuts are surprising, with all five players expected to begin the 2019 season in the minor leagues. Madrigal is the most noteworthy of the group, especially when it comes to his estimated arrival date in the majors. The White Sox called him "the best all-around player in college baseball" when they made him the No. 4 pick in last summer's draft, and he played at three different levels in his short time as a pro last season. So perhaps he could move quickly, though it would not be at all surprising to see him spend the entirety of the 2019 season in the minors.

Rutherford is highly ranked but still has yet to play above Class A. After spending the entire 2018 season at Class A Winston-Salem, he could be one of many players who reteam with manager Omar Vizquel at Double-A Birmingham in 2019. Luis Gonzalez could be one of those guys, as well.

Flores made 13 starts at Birmingham last year and could start there again in 2019 or head to Triple-A Charlotte. Guerrero will likely head back to Charlotte after making a dozen starts there last year. He could potentially serve as starting-pitching depth should the White Sox need it in season.

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Blake Rutherford went to baseball school this offseason with some of the game's best

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USA TODAY

Blake Rutherford went to baseball school this offseason with some of the game's best

It’s been a while since Blake Rutherford was in a classroom. Four years ago at Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, Cali. But this offseason, the White Sox prospect was essentially back in school, getting an advanced degree in baseball from some of the best hitters in the major leagues.

Rutherford hit and worked out in Southern California with Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Tyler Saladino and Trevor Plouffe. Together, they’ve combined for two MVPs, nine All-Star appearances and so much knowledge about the game, it was like going to baseball college.

“I was very fortunate,” Rutherford said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “Not only working out with them, but going to the cage with them and throwing with them, doing drills, just watching how they go about their business. I feel like it made me a better baseball player just seeing the work ethic and what it takes to get to where they’re at and to maintain the success they do at their level.”

The 21-year-old outfielder who hit .293/.345/.436 with 25 doubles and 15 steals in 115 games last season for Class-A Winston Salem hooked up with the group of four Milwaukee Brewers and one Philadelphia Phillie (Plouffe) thanks to his friendship with Yelich, the reigning NL MVP. Both of their brothers used to play baseball when they were teenagers. Their families are close. Rutherford thinks of Yelich as an additional big brother who frequently checks up on him.

“He’s always looking out for me. He calls me during the season. Always checks in to see how I’m doing,”  Rutherford said about Yelich. “He makes sure I’m not being too hard on myself. Just talking through the game. He’s always been there for me, even in the offseason, but more so during the season just to make sure things are going good. He’s obviously been through the minor league grind, so he knows it gets hard at times. He’s been a mentor and someone I’ve been really thankful to be able to know and be able to work with.”

Before playing in his first spring training game, Rutherford looked at his phone and saw a text. Who was it from? Yelich.

“He just asked how I was doing,” Rutherford explained. “I was a little anxious with it being my first big league camp. I was a little nervous just going in, but he said just take it all in and learn from all these great players that I’m surrounded by and all these great coaches. That’s what I’ve been really doing. Just learning and sitting back, not really talking that much and just listening to what goes on and what it takes to be a professional baseball player.”

That was also the lesson plan during Rutherford’s workouts with this special group of veterans.

“I absorbed a lot of information,” he said. “I don’t know anywhere close to the amount of information those guys know. They’ve been in the game way longer and they’ve had way more success at the highest level, so I just sit back and watch and take in everything that they say, and if there’s something that I feel that I can implement into my game, then I try to do that, but when I do have a question, they’re more than open to answering. So I just bounce ideas off them. I’m just very fortunate to be surrounded by that caliber of players at such a young time in my career.”

Saladino, the former White Sox infielder, was impressed by what he saw from the young Rutherford.

“Blake is a good kid whose work ethic stood out this offseason," Saladino said. "He doesn’t brag. He just puts in the work and it shows. He made tough workouts look pretty easy. I’m really excited for him this year."

Rutherford also spoke about adding muscle this offseason, where he fits in the logjam of White Sox top outfield prospects, what he orders at In-N-Out Burger and much more on the White Sox Talk Podcast. Give it a listen!

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Good news and not-as-good news for White Sox minor leaguers as MLB Pipeline unveils year-end prospect rankings

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USA TODAY

Good news and not-as-good news for White Sox minor leaguers as MLB Pipeline unveils year-end prospect rankings

With the end of the major league season, MLB Pipeline updated its list of the top 100 prospects in the game.

And while the White Sox loaded farm system is well represented, there's both good news and not-as-good news concerning a few of those highly rated prospects slated to be such a big part of the team's bright future.

The good news starts with Dylan Cease, unsurprisingly. It's well known that MLB Pipeline is wild about him after they named him their minor league pitcher of the year not too long ago. Cease's sensational season pitching at both Class A and Double-A shot him up from baseball's No. 44 prospect back in July to the No. 25 prospect right now. He also jumped over Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the White Sox list, making him the organization's No. 3 prospect, trailing only Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech.

Jimenez is part of the good news, too, and he's still the No. 3 prospect in baseball. Kopech, who won't pitch again until the 2020 season after having Tommy John surgery, is ranked at No. 19.

Three prospects in the top 25 in the game? That's obviously good news. But the aforementioned Robert and Madrigal were listed among the "biggest fallers" on MLB Pipeline's list, which could be seen as not-as-good news.

Robert, who missed a big chunk of time while dealing with an injured thumb, switched spots with Cease, dropping from No. 25 to No. 44 on the top 100 list. MLB Pipeline noted his lack of big offensive numbers, exemplified by a .694 OPS. Robert's lack of power numbers stands out, something general manager Rick Hahn explained away as a typically late-to-return aspect for guys with similar injuries. Robert put on a powerful show in spring batting practice before injuring his thumb during spring training — and actually homered after he injured his thumb in the same Cactus League game — but finished with zero homers and just 14 extra-base hits in his 208 plate appearances this season.

Madrigal, who played at three levels after joining the organization as their first-round draft pick, got dinged by MLB Pipeline for his lack of power. He banged out 47 hits in his 173 minor league plate appearances, all but seven of which were singles. But the White Sox are pumped about the fact that he doesn't strike out — he did it only five times — and his defensive ability at multiple positions on the infield. Regardless, he fell from No. 32 to No. 49 on MLB Pipeline's list.

Still, those drops aside, the White Sox still boast seven of the top 100 prospects in baseball: Jimenez (No. 3), Kopech (No. 19), Cease (No. 25), Robert (No. 44), Madrigal (No. 49), Dane Dunning (No. 59) and Blake Rutherford (No. 77). That's very good news.