Jimmy Lambert

White Sox move seven prospects to 40-man roster, protecting them from Rule 5 draft


White Sox move seven prospects to 40-man roster, protecting them from Rule 5 draft

The White Sox made some important decisions Wednesday, protecting seven players from selection in next month’s Rule 5 draft by moving them to the 40-man roster.

Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Zack Burdi, Bernardo Flores, Yermin Mercedes and Matt Foster were moved to the 40-man roster, making them unable to be plucked away by other teams in the Rule 5 draft Dec. 12 during the Winter Meetings.

That’s obviously good news for the White Sox, who will hang onto those prized prospects regardless of what happens next month. But the team opted to leave plenty of other players open to selection, including Alec Hansen, Zach Thompson, Spencer Adams and Kyle Kubat.

The 40-man roster is now full at the maximum 40 players, meaning any offseason additions made from here on out will require a player being removed from the 40-man roster.

Dunning is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the organization and despite undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this season still has a bright future as a potential member of the White Sox rotation. In fact, he was moving along so positively in 2018 that general manager Rick Hahn said if not for the injury Dunning could have been part of the team’s Opening Day rotation in 2019. He last pitched in 2018, turning in a stellar 2.71 ERA and striking out 100 batters in 15 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham.

Rutherford remains ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the organization but finds himself one of many outfield prospects who had disappointing 2019 campaigns. He saw significant statistical dips playing at Birmingham from the numbers he put up in 2018 at Winston-Salem. In 2019, he slashed .265/.319/.365 in 118 games. He failed to do much of anything in the Arizona Fall League, either, slashing .179/.281/.385 in 21 games.

Lambert is ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the organization and, like Dunning, underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. If not for the injury, he might have factored into the big league starting staff by the end of the 2019 campaign. He followed up a strong 2018 season (3.67 ERA in 18 starts between Winston-Salem and Birmingham) with a 4.55 ERA in 11 starts at Birmingham in 2019.

Burdi is still ranked as the No. 23 prospect in the organization despite an injury-plagued last couple of seasons. A knee injury ended his 2019 season early, this after missing almost the entirety of the 2018 season (just a few appearances in Rookie ball) while recovering from Tommy John surgery. A first-round pick in 2016, Burdi struggled before the knee injury, with a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings between Birmingham and Class A Kannapolis.

Flores is ranked as the No. 28 prospect in the organization. He had a mighty promising 2018 season at Winston-Salem and Birmingham, with a 2.65 ERA in 25 starts. Those numbers jumped up in 2019, with Flores finishing with a 3.33 ERA in 15 starts at Birmingham.

Mercedes was one of the bright spots of the White Sox farm system in 2019, slashing .317/.388/.581 with 23 homers splitting time between Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Many fans hoped he would have gotten a September call-up. He didn’t, but Hahn mentioned him as a potential part of the catching mix when the team heads to spring training in February.

Foster had a solid 2019 season, finishing with a 3.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances at Birmingham and Charlotte.

As for those who are exposed to selection in the Rule 5 draft, Hansen was once one of the highest ranked pitching prospects in the organization, thanks to a phenomenal 2017 campaign, when he had a 2.80 ERA and 191 strikeouts pitching at three different levels. But a 2018 forearm injury derailed everything. That year, he didn’t even make his first appearance until mid June and finished with a 6.31 ERA and an outrageous 59 walks compared to just 55 strikeouts. In 2019, he didn’t fare much better, with a 4.64 ERA and 44 more walks (compared with 66 strikeouts). He’s still ranked as the organization’s No. 27 prospect.

Thompson was excellent in 2018, with a 1.55 ERA in 43 relief appearances at Winston-Salem and Birmingham. A year later, he was pummeled to the tune of a 5.23 ERA in 45 relief appearances, most coming at Charlotte.

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Tommy John surgeries keep piling up for White Sox as two more pitchers go under the knife

Tommy John surgeries keep piling up for White Sox as two more pitchers go under the knife

The White Sox cannot seem to shake the Tommy John curse that's dogged them during their ongoing rebuilding process.

The list got even longer Friday, with general manager Rick Hahn announcing two more Tommy John surgeries, for pitchers Ryan Burr and Jimmy Lambert. Those two joined the likes of Zack Burdi, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Carlos Rodon as pitchers who have had the procedure in recent years.

Burr was a part of the major league bullpen, with a 4.58 ERA in his 16 appearances this season. After a shaky first taste of the bigs in 2018 (eight runs allowed in 9.2 innings), Burr made the Opening Day relief corps and was relied upon often at the outset of the 2019 campaign. He struck out 20 batters in 19.2 innings of work. At just 25, he was a conceivable part of the team's bullpen of the future. But now he won't be back on a big league mound for more than a year.

Lambert, meanwhile, was a rising star in the White Sox loaded farm system, currently ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the organization. He got high praise from teammates and coaches this spring, and Friday, after announcing the surgery that will send Lambert into recovery mode for the next year-plus, Hahn said he could've reached the major leagues, potentially, this season. Lambert had a 4.55 ERA in 11 starts with Double-A Birmingham.

"You feel terrible for Jimmy Lambert, a guy who could have conceivably pushed his way here this year," Hahn said. "Dane Dunning, Rodon, obviously guys who we had pretty squarely in the '19 picture, that hurts and you feel it.

"At the same time, you try to look at overall where we're headed and how we go about getting there and realize the future still remains very bright. And that's the most important element, the big picture."

Eyes will likely gravitate to the phrases "White Sox" and "Tommy John surgery" sharing a sentence once again, sparking more queries as to why this keeps happening to South Side hurlers, a valid question.

Hahn's fielded it before and he had to answer it again Friday.

"I think it's a trend in the game, yes," he said. "I actually saw something about a week ago about another club that did a test program on like 10 of their guys to try to protect them from the likelihood of Tommy John surgery, and they wound up with six of them winding up with Tommy John surgery. I do think it's a little bit of the trend of the game.

"As I referenced before, someone told me recently that something around 33 percent of big league pitchers had Tommy John surgery already. Again, I don't have a great answer for what is the root cause of this, whether it's the added velocity or youth programs or any of the things fans have heard as possible causes of this.

"I do know on the one hand, there's a great deal of confidence in our individual Chicago White Sox training programs and methods and usage patterns, as well as our track record of performance in this area. At the same time, none of us are stubborn enough to just rest on those laurels. We're going to continue to look at ways to try to get better in those training methods to hopefully stem the tide that we've been going through here for the last few months."

The good news for the White Sox and their fans is that Tommy John is not a death sentence, nothing that is considered a career-ending injury anymore. And fans do seem to understand that, as evidenced by their excitement for the return of Kopech for the 2020 season. And so Burr and Lambert can still remain pieces of this franchise's bright future, just like Kopech and Dunning and Rodon can be.

Unfortunately, they won't be able to continue showing their stuff for another year or more.

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Two pitchers' excellent adventure from high school rivals to highly ranked White Sox prospects


Two pitchers' excellent adventure from high school rivals to highly ranked White Sox prospects

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As two of the top pitching prospects in the White Sox farm system, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores already have quite a history. So much so, that if you go back to 2013, it’s a surprise they're even talking.

On March 28 of that year, Lambert’s San Dimas Saints squared off against Flores’ Baldwin Park Braves. What began with the two rival high schools meeting in a pivotal game in the Valle Vista League ended with Flores yelling, “I feel like Bobby Thomson!” and their coaches almost coming to blows.

“We definitely didn’t like him. I’ll tell you that much,” Lambert said about Flores.

More on that in a moment.

Even though they grew up miles from each other, Lambert and Flores now can’t get away from each other. They were both drafted by the White Sox in 2016 (Lambert in the fifth round, Flores in the seventh), they’re both currently ranked as two of the White Sox top 30 prospects list by MLB Pipeline (Lambert is 21st, Flores is 25th), and their lockers are side by side in the White Sox spring training clubhouse.

If there's a Frick and Frack in the organization, it's Lambert and Flores, even though they've had zero say in the matter. Is it luck? Coincidence? Fate? Who knows? Something just keeps bringing the two of them together.

Their baseball lives started to converge with that high school showdown in 2013. It was a big two-game series. Want to guess the pitching matchup for the first game? Lambert against Flores.

“I ended up losing. Jimmy ended up getting the win,” Flores recalled. Then he turned to Lambert and said with a big smile, “We came back the next game and won that one.”

Did they ever.

Flores was the DH that day. He came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 2-2 game with two men on base.

“At the time, I was just like, ‘Please just hit the ball somewhere,” Flores recalled. “Luckily, I just got the right pitch at the right spot and I didn’t hold back. I let it all go. I got it in the air, that was the first thing. That ball kept going and going. I’m like, 'That ball has a chance.'”

The left-handed Flores turned on a fastball and crushed it. The San Dimas right fielder, who was playing shallow, raced back towards the fence, but there was nothing he could do. The ball landed in somebody’s backyard. Game over.

For Flores, it was the first and only home run he ever hit in high school, and he made the best of it, leaping high in the air like a jackrabbit three times as he rounded the bases before getting mobbed by his Baldwin Park teammates at home plate.

“He celebrated going around the bases,” Lambert said about Flores’ home-run trot. “Our team didn’t like it, but he deserved it.”

The San Dimas players didn’t like it. Their coaches hated it. A couple of them had to be separated right there on the field. They were ready to rumble with the coaches from Baldwin Park.

“That’s definitely true. Our coaches, they did not get along,” Lambert said. “After the game, you shake hands. I don’t think the handshake went very well. A couple of the coaches were holding back a couple of their coaches. It was good. Just fun competition.”

Or something like that.

After the game, Flores was quoted in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune saying, “I feel like Bobby Thomson,” making reference to Thomson’s famous game-winning home run that sent the New York Giants to the 1951 World Series. Props to Flores for knowing his baseball history.

From that game forward, the lives of Lambert and Flores kept intersecting. They both played baseball at California colleges: Lambert at Fresno State, Flores at USC. After the White Sox drafted them in 2016, they roomed together while training in Arizona. In 2017, they started the season as teammates at Class A Kannapolis. After Lambert got promoted to Class A Winston-Salem, Flores got promoted one week later. Then in 2018, Flores moved up to Double-A Birmingham. One week after that, Lambert got the call to join him.

It should come as no surprise that in 2018, Lambert came into his own and so did Flores.

Lambert was good at Winston-Salem but really flourished after getting promoted to Birmingham, going 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks in five starts. Flores combined at both levels to go 8-9 with a 2.65 ERA.

“The guy can definitely pitch,” the righty Lambert said about the lefty Flores. “He works hard, he’s focused, a confident pitcher. Obviously, he’s got the stuff. There’s definitely a lot to like.”

What does Flores think about Lambert?

“To me, Jimmy is one of the smartest guys I know, smartest guy on the mound,” Flores said. “He’s a bulldog out there. He gets me fired up each time he starts because he doesn’t like to lose. I love that mentality of Jimmy. He never quits, he never backs down from anybody. He just goes after it and gets it.”

Just like Flores did that one day in high school.

From rivals to teammates, Flores and Lambert have grown to become close friends. Soon they hope to be knocking on the door to the big leagues.

If one of them gets promoted to Chicago, I think we know what will be coming next: the other, right behind him.

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