White Sox

Amid otherwise joyous SoxFest, one fan wanted to know how White Sox could have traded away Fernando Tatis Jr.

0128_fernando_tatis.jpg
MLB

Amid otherwise joyous SoxFest, one fan wanted to know how White Sox could have traded away Fernando Tatis Jr.

"How could you whiff on him?"

That was the somewhat harsh question lobbed during the final panel of this year's otherwise joyous SoxFest, members of the organization's front office and player-development staff getting quizzed over why Fernando Tatis Jr. wasn't among the fleet of prospects who were omnipresent this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

Tatis was dealt to the San Diego Padres along with pitcher Erik Johnson in the 2016 in-season trade that brought James Shields to the South Side. It's important to note, of course, that trade occurred prior to the announcement of the now-beloved rebuild, back when the White Sox were trying to best position themselves for a run at an American League Central championship in the final year of the Robin Ventura Era.

Oh, and Tatis was just 17 years old at the time.

Since, Tatis has rocketed up prospect lists, and just Saturday night he was named by MLB Pipeline as the No. 8 prospect in the game. The next morning, at least one fan was wondering why — particularly in the wake of a year and a half of substandard pitching from Shields — the White Sox let Tatis slip away.

"Any time you trade a 17-year-old — obviously we were high on him when we signed him — there’s risk," Jeremy Haber, the White Sox assistant general manager, said in response to perhaps the weekend's only negative query — other than when someone complained to Rick Renteria that he bunts too much. "At the time, we were … competing for a playoff spot. This organization has never been shy about being aggressive when we’re trying to win. And that’s going to come with the potential of trading someone who’s good. We expect when teams call and ask for our players, just like with our major league players, there’s a reason they like them.

"The track record in this business is not 100 percent."

Of course, it would be nice to have Tatis starring alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and the five other White Sox prospects who landed on MLB Pipeline's top-100 list Saturday night. But the sheer volume of highly touted prospects that general manager Rick Hahn and his front office have injected into this organization in the past year plus remains staggering, and you could still make a case that the White Sox — even after Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez graduated from prospect status — have the most impressive farm system in baseball.

Haber's line about a less-than-perfect track record, though, is an important thing to remember as the rebuild moves along. While the White Sox have a seemingly endless amount of exciting young players right now, the odds nearly guarantee that not all of them will pan out.

"As we sit here today, you look at not just what you hear from us or what you’re seeing with your eyes, but what’s being reported by people outside the organization, we objectively have options at every position, guys who could, if they max out and hit their ceiling, provide us with championship-caliber players at every position on the field and on the pitching staff," Hahn said during his pre-SoxFest press conference Friday. "Unfortunately, player development isn’t always linear and cruel things happen and the baseball gods likely have some hiccups in store for us along the way. So ultimately not everyone is going to hit those ceilings, in all probability."

Given his high ranking, Tatis looks at the moment like one that got away. But there are an awful lot of highly ranked players — Jimenez ranked fourth and Kopech ranked 10th on the same list — under the White Sox control to make sure Tatis' absence doesn't put any damper on this rebuilding process.

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

0421-danny-farquhar.jpg
AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.