Bears

White Sox minor league report

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White Sox minor league report

The White Sox are looking forward to adding some young talent in the draft this June. Big league potential is spread pretty thin in the Sox farm system, but a number of minor league prospects are starting to raise some eyebrows. Here is your White Sox minor league update for the first week of May.

AAA Charlotte Knights

Sox prospect Nestor Molina was called up to Charlotte from Double A Birmingham this past week. While with the Barons, Molina accumulated an impressive 3-1 record in six starts. He helped his cause with 25 strikeouts and only five base-on-balls in 36 13 pitched. His solid performances warranted a call from Triple A Charlotte. Molina saw his first action with the new club on Monday, but things did not exactly go as planned. He surrendered six runs (all earned) on nine hits in only four innings pitched. Molina was having trouble locating his pitches and this was evident in the box score. He was credited with the loss but I dont think there is any need for panic. Molina has shown that he is capable of some great things in the first weeks of the season, he now needs to translate them to the next level.

Top 20 prospect Josh Phegley has accounted for a large portion of the runs scored by the Knights this season. The 24-year-old catcher got off to a blisteringly hot start early this summer, but has since cooled off. In the first week of May, Phegley is 4-for-23 (.173) with just 3 RBIs. One positive that can be taken away from a generally poor week is that Phegley only Ked 3 times, which means he is still making contact with the ball. Despite his recent slide, Phegley still leads the Knights in batting average (.333). Another small issue is he has only walked four times in 99 at bats this season. If Phegley wants to have consistent success at the dish, he must be more patient.

AA Birmingham Barons

As we already know, the 2009 first round pick Jared Mitchells early career has been a roller coaster of athleticism, potential, and injury. Mitchell has shown some reassuring signs for Sox fans early in the 2012 season. This past week Mitchell was 3-for-22 (.136), but still had 8 RBIs. Back-to-back 0-4 nights on Monday and Tuesday did not help his average, but timely hitting has kept Mitchell afloat. He is currently batting .394 with runners in scoring position.

Hard-throwing right-hander Simon Castro only saw one start this past week, but it was by far his most productive of the season. He hurled seven quality innings, surrendering only two runs on six hits, and struck out five. Despite a slow start to the season, Castros last outing was a confidence booster for himself and scouts alike.

A Winston-Salem Dash

Dash shortstop Marcus Semien has been one of the pleasant surprises early for the White Sox organization. During the first week of May he went 8-for-24 (.333) with two home runs, two doubles, four RBIs and a 1.016 OPS. The UC Berkley product will only continue to climb the ranks if he continues to produce runs at a high level.

Starting pitcher Andre Rienzo has been by far the most dominant hurler for the Dash thus far. Manager Tommy Thompson gave Rienzo some well-deserved rest this week, but his four April performances were outstanding to say the least. He is 3-0 with 31 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. His impressive 1.08 ERA is currently the lowest on the team and he has only surrendered 3 runs all season.

Joe Musso contributed to this article.

J.P. Holtz provides spark Bears have been missing at tight end

J.P. Holtz provides spark Bears have been missing at tight end

Trey Burton's nagging injuries and Adam Shaheen's lack of development created a tight end crisis for the Bears through the first half of the 2019 season, but with Burton on injured reserve and Shaheen seemingly no longer in the team's plans, someone had to rise from the ashes and take over the starting job.

Enter J.P. Holtz, the 26-year-old unknown commodity whose under-the-radar signing with the Bears was hardly noticed by the fanbase. GM Ryan Pace claimed Holtz off waivers on Sept. 11 after a brief stint with the Washington Redskins, where he spent 2018 and the start of 2019 bouncing between the practice squad and active roster.

Holtz initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh. He signed with the Browns in May 2016 and spent the end of that season on Cleveland's practice squad. 

Needless to say, Holtz's journey to the Bears' starting lineup has been anything but traditional. But in Week 14's game against the Dallas Cowboys, he provided the Bears' offense with its first legitimately productive game at tight end. Holtz finished Thursday's game with three catches for 56 yards and had the longest catch of any Bears receiver (30 yards). He was the highest-graded player on Chicago's offense, per Pro Football Focus. His 79.2 grade was better than Burton's top mark in 2019 (67.6) and would've qualified as Burton's third-best game of 2018, too. 

Holtz out-snapped fellow tight end Jesper Horsted, 37-31, and appears to have taken a slight lead over Horsted for reps moving forward. That said, both players have surprisingly looked like better fits for what Matt Nagy wants to do in his offense than either Burton or Shaheen. Horsted had four catches for 36 yards on Thursday.

Holtz and Horsted combined for seven catches and 92 yards. That's more yards in one game than Burton managed in the eight games he played, total.

It would be unfair to expect similar production from Holtz from here on out considering he was never a pass-catcher at any point in his career. In college, Holtz never topped more than 24 catches in a season and recorded a career-high 350 yards his senior year. But we've seen players' roles change once they get to the NFL before. Take 49ers superstar George Kittle, for example. His career-high in receiving yards at Iowa was just 314. We know what kind of weapon he's turned into as a pro.

No, Holtz isn't the next Kittle. But he doesn't have to be. He just has to be the guy we saw Thursday night who made plays for an offense desperate for a playmaking tight end.

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Blackhawks place Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw on injured reserve

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USA Today

Blackhawks place Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw on injured reserve

The Blackhawks placed defenseman Duncan Keith and forward Andrew Shaw on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to Nov. 29 and 30, respectively. The move opens up two spots on the 23-man roster, although the team did not make any corresponding transactions due to cap reasons.

Keith, who has missed the last three games with a groin injury, and Shaw, who is in the league's concussion protocol, will not play in Friday's game against the New Jersey Devils but they will both be eligible to return after that, whenever they're cleared to do so. Injured reserve requires a player to miss a minimum of seven days from their retroactive date.

The Blackhawks do not receive any cap relief by putting Keith and Shaw on regular injured reserve, but if their injuries continue to linger, the team could transfer one or both to long-term injured reserve (LTIR) for financial reasons, which would force them to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days from the time of their injury.

The Blackhawks do not have the cap space to make a call-up and with Drake Caggiula, who's on LTIR, inching closer to a return, that complicates things from a financial standpoint. They're currently sitting at 21 players and have $240,030 in projected cap space, according to Cap Friendly.

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