White Sox

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.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

There were plenty of people who thought Michael Kopech was the White Sox best pitcher when the team left Glendale, Arizona, to start the 2018 season.

Whether or not the team shared that opinion, Kopech spent the next four and a half months as a minor leaguer.

The prevailing preseason thought was that it wouldn’t take the flame-throwing Kopech, who struck out 172 minor league hitters in 2017, long to breeze through Triple-A and arrive on the South Side. But it did.

A dominant beginning to the season was followed by a bumpy stretch in which his ERA and walk total consistently grew. But the last seven starts were terrific, and so Kopech’s call to the majors has finally come. He’ll make his big league debut Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

It’s news that will please many White Sox fans because it’s something they’ve been waiting all season to see happen. Ever since Sox Fest back in the winter, the No. 1 question has been: When will Kopech and Eloy Jimenez reach the bigs? Jimenez, the team’s top-ranked prospect, is still a minor leaguer for now, but Kopech is about to hit the South Side with a heck of a lot of fanfare. It’s a pretty tangible example of this rebuilding effort moving in the right direction.

The recent conversation among fans and media members, though, has centered around service time and whether the White Sox handling of Kopech and Jimenez would mirror how the Cubs handled Kris Bryant back in 2015, keeping a star prospect from the majors until a couple weeks into the following season to start the clock a year later and essentially add a year of team control to the end of his contract. A lot of Twitter-using White Sox fans have whole-heartedly bought in to such a strategy.

But general manager Rick Hahn has insisted all along that the only determination of when these guys would come up was that they hit all the developmental milestones the team wanted them to hit in the minor leagues. For what it’s worth, Hahn answered a question about service time earlier this summer, saying that it had nothing to do with keeping Kopech at Triple-A. That question was specifically in reference to when Kopech could become arbitration eligible, not a free agent even further down the road. But the response is an interesting one as a similar conversation keeps happening surrounding this team and these specific decisions.

“It was all baseball. It’s never been the arbitration three years from now. It’s been about baseball,” he said back in mid June. “Again, not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future, but he’s not there yet.”

Several tremendous outings later, and Kopech is there now. The numbers have been unreal in his last seven starts: a 1.84 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only four walks in 44 innings.

Hahn also talked about how the team’s handling of pitching prospects Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito a season ago could be a kind of template for how it would handle Kopech this season. Both those guys were called up in August, just like Kopech will be in a couple days.

Just like Hahn’s season-long declaration that the fortunes of the major league team and of the players on the major league team had no bearing on when top prospects would be promoted, at the very least in Kopech’s case, the same seems to have been true about the issue of service time. Some might lament the fact that the White Sox didn’t wait on Kopech, and it’s not a point without merit, as a large number of injuries to top prospects this season robbed them of developmental time and perhaps shifted the timeline of the entire rebuild. Maybe. In the event that is a concern shared by the White Sox, the extra year might have made a difference down the road.

But as White Sox fans have seen first hand this season, there is development that needs to happen at the major league level, too. Giolito and Lopez gained valuable experience pitching at the end of last season. Those two, plus Yoan Moncada and other young players, have gone through growing pains throughout this year’s campaign. Kopech will face the challenges of the big leagues, as well, and the sooner he does, the sooner he can learn how to overcome them.

Hahn has said all along that the organization’s focus remains on the long term, and though there might be arguments out there that not waiting could potentially shorten the team’s window of contention many years down the line, Kopech’s promotion does an awful lot to open it in the first place.