White Sox

White Sox top prospects: A first half review

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White Sox top prospects: A first half review

The Sox have surprised many people with their play this season. The team predicted to be middle of the pack and far from a playoff contender at the beginning of the season finds itself three games up in their division and playing with great confidence at the All-Star break. Lets take a look at how the rest of the organization performed during the first half.

Charlotte Knights

The Good: Triple-A catcher prospect Josh Phegley has been good but not great this season. I have him labeled as the top Charlotte performer because he has shown flashes of brilliance and, in all honesty, this roster is not exactly what you would call loaded. Phegley is hitting .266 with 30 RBIs thus far. What I really like about this kid is the fact that he is not afraid to battle at the plate. The 24-year-old is a tough customer at the dish who refuses to strike out, a la A.J. Pierzynski. In fact, both catchers have 37 Ks in 70-plus games played. I am strongly in Phegleys corner because Tyler Flowers does not appear to be the backup catcher Sox fans want to see on A.J.s off days. We have watched pitchers burn fastballs past Flowers like hes an innocent bystander all season. If Phegley can find a way to put together a couple productive weeks, he might just get his shot on the South Side.
The Bad: Much like their major-league counterparts, the Charlotte Knights are three games up in the division at the All-Star break, but the difference lies within their goals. In my opinion, minor league baseball is much less about winning championships and more about building a solid farm system teeming with young, capable prospects whose skills will later translate to big-league success. The Knights are finding a way to win games but the prospect talent is spread paper thin. There is no star on this team who is a shoe-in at the next level. Someone needs to emerge as such during the second half because each day is a day closer to the future of White Sox baseball.

The Watch List: Charles Shirek has been a silent assassin this year, quietly and systematically mowing down opposing offenses each start. The 6-foot-3 righty has been by far the most outstanding pitcher for Charlotte this season. He is 7-4 with a 3.61 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Over the span of his 18 appearances, Shirek has amassed 109.2 innings of work. This is the most of any pitcher in the entire International League. My only concern is can he keep up this blistering pace for the rest of the season? Shirek is a 26-year-old journeyman who has been in the system since 2007. If he has any shot at all, its going to have to be sooner rather than later.

Birmingham Barons

The Good: Minorleagueball.com ranked shortstop Tyler Saladino as the No. 3 prospect in the Sox system before the season and the 2010 seventh-round sleeper has done a decent job of justifying his rank. While is numbers are not exactly Triple Crown caliber (.2524 HR31 RBI) Saladino has found a way to get on base and manufacture runs. His above average athleticism is evident in his 30 stolen bases, the most in the Southern League. I would like to see Saladino have an All-Star second half to cement his position at the top of the Sox prospect list.

The Bad: This was supposed to be the year. Back to 100 percent, a healthy Jared Mitchell was finally going to show us what his freaky athleticism could do for the White Sox organization, and he has. Jared Mitchell is capable of striking out in mass quantities. The total has reached the astronomical number of 106, one short of worst in the league. However, Mitchell has shown signs of life with his 18 stolen bases, 31 extra base hits and .815 OPS. There is no doubting this kids athletic ability but I fully doubt his plate approach. He strikes out 1.26 times a game with a K-rate of 35.8 percent and numbers like that are not going to get you to The Show. I like Jared Mitchell and I am a fan of what he can do on the base paths and in the field but being an athlete can only take you so far. Tick-tock Jaredtick-tock.

The Watch List: Nestor Molina appears to have a bright future ahead of him. Despite his 4-7 record, he has shown the ability to dominate opposing lineups. He simply needs to find a way to be overpowering all the time. Unfortunately, Molina is still on the seven-day disabled list due to what is being called minor tendinitis in his right elbow. This is the exact reason I have him on my watch list. It will be interesting to see how and when Molina bounces back from injury.
Winston-Salem Dash

The Good: White Sox No. 7 prospect Jake Petricka has been solid for his club thus far. The lanky righty is 5-foot-5 with an impressive 78 strikeouts, good enough to put him in the Top 10 of the Carolina League. Petricka, 24, is getting to the age where it is vital to take the next step forward in his career. If he can keep decent bite on his sinker, he will get another opportunity in Birmingham soon.

The Bad and the Watch List: My player to watch at the High-A level is Trayce Thompson. The California product has made it clear that he can flat out swing the bat. He is Top 10 in doubles (22), Top 5 in triples (5), second in home runs (16) and third in RBIs (64) and total bases (157). Contrarily, Thompson does carry a downside -- in Mitchell-like fashion, he leads the league in strikeouts (114), hence his less-than-stellar .231 average. I believe with a refined plate approach and some fine tuning, Thompson could be a good one.
Kannapolis Intimidators
The Watch List: Rangel Ravelo has done everything asked of him to this point in the season. He has grinded to boost his average to a respectable .291 after a few rough patches, showing he is more than capable to work through adversity. Sox fans, keep a close eye on this youngster because he is talented and has the demeanor of a true ball player.

Joe Musso contributed to this report

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.