White Sox

Thibodeau's Bulls won't take young Kings lightly

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Thibodeau's Bulls won't take young Kings lightly

SACRAMENTO -- Coming off a disappointing loss Monday to Golden State, with three days in between to prepare, Tom Thibodeau was subdued when talking to reporters after the Bulls Thursday-morning shootaround at the Power Balance Pavilion (nee Arco Arena) prior to the evenings contest against the Kings.

Dont expect his team to be as docile when they take the court. Thibodeau, who is as intense as they come, even in the context of NBA head coaches, was extremely chagrined at the Bulls effort against the Warriors, coached by first-year head coach Mark Jackson and not expected to be among the leagues elite this season, despite an even more definitive win Wednesday over the Knicks.

Thus, the young and deep Kings are poised to bear the brunt of the Bulls revenge, especially if the well-rested visitors return to last seasons philosophy of treating every team the same way, not to mention Derrick Roses pledge to be more aggressive from the outset of games.

"The thing is, every team in this league is talented and this team has a lot of firepower, said Thibodeau. Theyve added some weapons and they can really shoot the ball, so you have to establish your defense early in the game. Theyve always been tough to play here and theyre young, and theyve gotten better.

Its early. People are still ironing things out. The schedule is different. The Lakers already went through their three in a row. Bostons had a tough early schedule with travel, road games, he went on to explain. So those things do factor into it, particularly when you dont have your eight preseason games. But that being said, your urgency has to be great because all these games are important. They all carry equal importance. So this game tonight is just as important as the game two months from now. Thats the way everyone has to approach it.

Since falling out of the NBAs spotlight after being one of the leagues upper-echelon franchises the previous decade, casual observers might not be aware of whom Sacramento actually features on its roster. Well, while they dont have a true established superstar-type player, the Kings are a dangerous bunch with lots of depth.

Marcus Thornton is a very explosive scorer. Tyreke Evans is a tremendous player, said Thibodeau. DeMarcus Cousins is a very talented guy. J.J. Hickson is explosive off the bench. Isaiah Thomas is another guy who can score quickly.

The shooting is a big concern. Travis Outlaw, they picked up, has the versatility to play multiple positions. So, to me, its a very talented team.

Thornton, who was acquired in a midseason trade last year, was re-signed as a free agent after the lockout and pairs up with Evans -- like Rose, a former Rookie of the Year, as well as a John Calipari protg at the University of Memphis -- for a scoring-oriented backcourt, which also features the diminutive rookie Thomas, the last pick in the draft, first-round draft pick Jimmer Fredette, the nations leading scorer in college basketball last season and already a cult hero.

You cant give him any daylight, Thibodeau said of Fredette.

In the frontcourt, the explosive (as a player and person) Cousins is one of the more skilled young big men in the league and is complemented by the likes of the athletic but raw Hickson, a draft-day acquisition from Cleveland and Northern California native Chuck Hayes, a Thibodeau favorite from his days as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets.

Chuck Hayes is like one of those guys that get overlooked by everybody and all he does is help you win. Hes underrated, plays great defense, can really pass the ball, very good offensive rebounder, praised Thibodeau, who acknowledged that the veteran undersized power forward -- who had his free-agent contract briefly voided due to a health scare -- has similar attributes to departed Bull Kurt Thomas. Chuck is maybe a little bit different, in terms of offensively. He can pass and put it on the floor, and Kurt is the better shooter. But all the intangibles that they bring -- the physical toughness, the mental toughness, just knowing how to win -- thats what they bring.

But even the thorough Thibodeau, who often gives a mini-scouting report to the media (just imagine what his players have to endure) when asked about an opponent, left out some Kings players who could contribute. Former Bulls swingman John Salmons is back for a second stint in Sacramento -- leaving the longest-tenured King, fellow veteran wing Francisco Garcia, seemingly the odd man out -- and young forwards Donte Greene and Jason Thompson also factor into Paul Westphals rotation.

No, the list of players isnt the most accomplished or experienced, but as witnessed in Oakland, that doesnt always matter when it comes to the NBA. Thibodeau clearly understands that and its likely (through positive reinforcement, of course) that his players do, too.

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

SoxFest brings the opportunity for fans to question team brass. And sometimes things can get a bit fiery.

This year, however, it was more of a victory lap for Rick Hahn after he loaded up the roster with an incredible amount of offseason acquisitions. Rick Renteria, too, got plenty of adulation after he came out and said the White Sox have their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

But there were still questions. Fans stepped up to the microphone and got some answers out of Hahn and Renteria during a pair of panels Friday and Saturday.

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent questions and answers from the two sessions.

Extensions for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito?

The White Sox have made headlines in each of the last two offseasons by handing out big-money extensions to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before they played a game in the major leagues. But Saturday brought a fan question about whether the team was planning more extensions, specifically ones for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two guys who broke out in a big way in 2019 and established themselves as the team's best all-around hitter and the ace of the starting staff, respectively.

These are not terribly pressing matters, obviously, as both guys are under team control for another four seasons. But the longer they go on their current deals and the longer they're allowed to keep improving, the more expensive they'll become to retain.

Hahn said that it's a White Sox priority to keep all of their talented young players together for as long as possible. He also mentioned that it has long been a part of the plan during the rebuilding process to be aggressive on extensions, as the team has shown with the deals for Jimenez and Robert. Players earn the right to reach free agency and explore the open market, but the White Sox do have a pretty good track record of retaining their own players, often on deals that have allowed them to keep some financial flexibility.

Tim Anderson in right field?

Whether it was a legitimate strategy proposal or a makeshift way to get Yolmer Sanchez back to the South Side, one fan suggested moving Tim Anderson to right field, pointing out Anderson's large number of errors at shortstop and that moving Anderson off the position would open room for Sanchez to work his defensive wonders on a daily basis.

Well, that suggestion didn't get much consideration from Renteria, who said rather definitively he will not be playing Anderson in right field.

The question might not have been the most realistic suggestion, but it allowed Renteria to express his belief in Anderson's defense. Though Anderson has made a ton of errors at shortstop — 88 of them in his four big league seasons — he continues to receive rave reviews from White Sox brass. Renteria said Saturday he believes Anderson will be "an elite shortstop in the big leagues," and Hahn said this weekend he believes Anderson will be a Gold Glove finalist one day.

As for Sanchez, he's still on the free-agent market despite winning a Gold Glove in 2019. And while the White Sox have shortstop spoken for with Anderson and second base spoken for with Nick Madrigal, eventually, Hahn was asked about the likelihood of a Sanchez return Friday night and basically reminded everyone to never say never.

More starting pitching?

Hahn said Thursday that while there likely won't be any more big-ticket additions, the White Sox busy winter might not be completely over just yet, with minor moves still being discussed by the front office. More starting pitching would seem to make plenty of sense considering there's not a ton of depth behind the five guys slated to make up the Opening Day rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez. Considering the plan for Michael Kopech has yet to be finalized and Dylan Covey is no longer with the organization, some small additions like the Ervin Santana deal last spring would be logical.

One fan asked why not add a slightly bigger ticket item, specifically bringing up free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, to further bolster the starting staff. Hahn wouldn't close the door on adding more starting pitchers but pointed out that because of the depth the White Sox have on the way — with Kopech factoring into things somehow and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all working their way back from Tommy John surgery — the White Sox might not be the most attractive destination for a mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, who could see his opportunity to pitch vanish once all those arms return to full strength.

A return for Dane Dunning?

Speaking of starting-pitching depth on the way, Hahn did offer up some sort of timeline for one of those guys, saying that Dunning could be pitching for a minor league affiliate come "June-ish." That's a made-up month on the same level as "Smarch," but it's also a good sign for the White Sox, who saw Dunning flying through the system before his injury.

Hahn said at last year's SoxFest that if not for the arm injury he suffered in 2018, Dunning could have factored into the Opening Day rotation for the 2019 season. Considering that level of potential readiness — a level most likely altered in some fashion by the surgery and long layoff — Dunning might be someone who could play a role in the 2020 season.

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4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

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MiLB

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

MLB Pipeline unveiled its annual top 100 prospects list on Saturday, and four Cubs minor leaguers made the cut.

Nico Hoerner (SS; No. 51), Brailyn Marquez (LHP; 68), Brennen Davis (OF; 78) and Miguel Amaya (C; 95) cracked the list for the North Siders. It’s the first time the Cubs have had four players on the list since 2016: Ian Happ (No. 21), Eloy Jimenez (23), Albert Almora Jr. (82) and Dylan Cease (98).

So yeah, it’s been a minute.

Cubs fans are most familiar with Hoerner; the 22-year-old made his big-league debut last September in an emergency spot after Javy Báez and Addison Russell got hurt. Hoerner hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games and held his own defensively.

Hoerner is ranked as the No. 9 overall shortstop prospect, and he’ll get an opportunity to make the 2020 Opening Day roster. With Báez entrenched at shortstop, Hoerner will shift to second base and potentially play some center field, though he's still learning the latter.

Marquez, 20, is Pipeline’s No. 9 left-handed pitching prospect. The Cubs have struggled to develop homegrown starting pitching under Theo Epstein. In fact, Marquez is the first Cubs pitcher (LHP or RHP) to crack MLB Pipeline’s top 10 pitchers list during Epstein’s tenure on the North Side.

Marquez sported a 3.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 22 starts between Single-A South Bend and advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2019. The 20-year-old struck out 128 batters in 103 2/3 innings, walking 50.

Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey said the club has “really high expectations” for Marquez this season.

“Brailyn, his last half of last year in Myrtle was an epic run, just in terms of the raw stuff, the strikes, the breaking ball development,” Dorey said Sunday at Cubs Convention. “I think it’s a little early to decide where he’s going to start [the season], but I would guess Double-A.

“But I wanna see how he comes into camp — especially with our new pitching infrastructure — that we’re not missing anything with his delivery or anything from a pitch data perspective. We want to make sure that’s really tied before we send him out [for] a long, full season. It’s such a big year for him. But I think it would be foolish to put any cap on what he can do this year.”

Marquez allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 starts (he allowed three earned runs on Aug. 26 — the lone exception). The Cubs promoted him to Myrtle Beach on Aug. 6, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in five starts (26 1/3 innings).

The Cubs drafted Davis out of high school in 2018 (second round, No. 62 overall). The 20-year-old was more of a basketball player and had some Division I offers, but he ultimately signed with the Cubs and received a $1.1 million bonus.

Davis is considered to be a raw, athletic talent. He hit .305/.381/.525 with eight homers and a 160 wRC+ in 50 games with South Bend last season. He missed time after getting hit on the hand on two separate occasions.

Although Davis is listed as a center fielder (199 innings in 2019) he played left almost as frequently (193 2/3) in 2019. Pipeline projects him to make his big-league debut in 2022.

Amaya spent all of 2019 with Myrtle Beach, slashing .235/.351/.402 with a 122 wRC+ in 99 games. His defense has always been ahead of his bat, and he’s known to be an advanced catcher for his age.

The Cubs added Amaya to the 40-man roster in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, he won’t make his big-league debut until 2021, at the earliest.

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