Luis Gonzalez

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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Aaron Rowand heaps praise on special group of White Sox outfield prospects

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USA TODAY

Aaron Rowand heaps praise on special group of White Sox outfield prospects

They're coming.

We don't know when, but we do know this: They're coming.

They are a special group of White Sox minor league outfielders who are making their way to the big leagues. It's a train of prospects from Charlotte to Kannapolis chugging down the tracks dreaming about a one-way ticket to Chicago.

As the White Sox minor league outfield instructor, Aaron Rowand is a conductor on this train, doing whatever he can to make sure all of them reach the ultimate destination.

Unfortunately, there are only three starting spots in the White Sox major league outfield. That's a problem for another day.

In the meantime, Rowand's job is to get them ready for the bright lights of the big leagues. He's been up close and personal with all of these players, a group that includes seven of the White Sox top 14 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

It's a dam that at some point might burst.

We might see select games, various video clips and statistics in a box score. What does Rowand see?

"As far as outfielders go, I challenge you to find another organization with as much talent in the outfield in their minor league system," Rowand said on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

In a 35-minute interview with myself and Ryan McGuffey, Rowand went in depth about many of the White Sox top outfielders, giving us keen insight into who they are as players and competitors. White Sox fans, you're going to like what you hear. But first, some of the highlights.

On Eloy Jimenez: "I asked him point blank, 'You're already a great hitter and I know you want to be better, but do you think you can elevate your outfield game?' And he said, 'I want to be a great outfielder.'

"And I said, 'That's what I wanted to hear.' He's got the talent level and the mental makeup and the maturity in his approach to be a superstar. He's got that in him. I'm not going to label him as anything or compare him to anybody because he still has to go and do it, but the talent level and the maturity of his at-bats and his makeup mentally is off the charts."

On Luis Robert: "I don't think people even know where his ceiling is yet. He has off-the-chart tools in every aspect: throwing, hitting, defense, hitting for power, speed. When people talk about a five-tool player, he's the epitome of that. He's another one like Eloy. They were really good for each other playing together this spring. They hung out together, talked a lot together. He's got that chip on that shoulder, that drive. He comes to work everyday and takes it seriously. He takes learning English very seriously. He comes out every day trying to prove that he's the best one out on that field. When he's healthy, it's pretty impressive to see what he can do."

On Steele Walker: "I think Chicago is going to fall in love with him when he gets there. His intensity on the field is second to none compared to anybody else that you would try to compare him with. He kind of has that flair to him.

"All of his teammates love him, all the instructors love him. I'm lucky enough to get to work with him every day. He's always got a smile on his face. He's out there to work, but he knows how to have a good time when the time is right. He brings a lot of laughter and excitement to all the drills and all the games that he's a part of."

On Luis Gonzalez: "He's come a long way (defensively). He communicates more out there. He runs the outfield defense from center field a lot better. He's in tune with the game more. He's reading swings and bat angles. His routes have gotten a ton better. He puts his head down and goes. Defensively, he's one of the top guys that we have in the organization, and that doesn't even speak to his offense. He's got something working right now. He's down here at Instructional League. Every time he goes to the plate, you feel like he's going to hit a rocket somewhere. He's an even-keeled kind of guy. He doesn't ride the emotional wave of making an 0-for or getting too high when he gets two hits one day. He's very level-headed and another guy who's very consistent."

Rowand also spoke about Blake Rutherford, Luis Basabe, Micker Adolfo, Alex Call and many others. We asked him what outfielder other than Jimenez could make it to the majors in 2019. Rowand's answer might surprise you.

Listen to the podcast here:

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.