White Sox

How close are injured prospects Luis Robert and Alec Hansen to making their 2018 debuts?


How close are injured prospects Luis Robert and Alec Hansen to making their 2018 debuts?

White Sox fans have been thrilled by the big numbers put up by top prospects like Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez this season. But two other stars of the rebuild have yet to even play a minor league game in 2018.

Luis Robert (the No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 26 prospect in baseball) and Alec Hansen (No. 4 in the White Sox system, No. 50 in baseball) are still working their way back from spring injuries, and as of Thursday neither had played in extended spring training games — though they soon might.

General manager Rick Hahn gave a lengthy list of medical updates on injured players throughout the farm system, and Robert and Hansen were at the top of the list.

Robert, who has yet to play a game of minor league baseball in the United States, tore a ligament in his thumb sliding into second base during a Cactus League game — a Cactus League game, by the way, in which he later hit a home run — and has been sidelined ever since. He’s expected to join Class A Winston-Salem eventually, with Hahn pointing to the beginning of June.

“Luis is ramping up baseball activity in extended (spring training),” Hahn said. “We expect him to participate in extended spring training games by the end of the month and soon thereafter join an affiliate. It likely will be early June before he actually joins the affiliate, once extended is over. Though we expected he will spend the bulk of the season at Winston-Salem — once he’s officially ready to go, he’ll be at Winston-Salem — it depends how many extended games he gets in before the end of extended in determining where he goes first once he leaves Phoenix.

“But he’s progressing. He’s hitting in cages, he’s doing defensive drills, and hopefully he’ll be playing in games down there by the end of the month.”

Hansen, however, might not be quite as close as Robert. Last year’s minor league strikeout leader, Hansen, who's expected to join Double-A Birmingham when healthy, has been dealing with a forearm injury since spring training, and while he’s been talked about as progressing toward game action, there was no real update from Hahn on Thursday.

“He continues to progress, he’s throwing bullpens. I believe he had one today, might be tomorrow. On a throwing program,” Hahn said. “On a guy like that, similar to (recovering starting pitcher Carlos) Rodon, we’ll let you know when he starts making starts in extended and when he goes on a rehab assignment. Right now, it’s just building.”

The injuries to Robert and Hansen — as well as the season-ending Achilles tear suffered by last year’s first-round pick, Jake Burger — show that this rebuilding process, which has seen a fleet of highly ranked prospects join the White Sox system in recent years, won’t be without its speed bumps. While penciling all these guys into the 2020 lineup was and remains a fun pastime for South Side baseball fans, there’s a reason those names are written in pencil and not pen. Whether it be because of performance, injuries or other developmental reasons, not all of these prospects will hit the bigs in a rapid amount of time, nor is it likely will they all pan out.

It’s not to suggest in the slightest that these specific prospects won’t pan out, but it’s worth questioning how their developments will be affected by missing significant time.

“It depends on the player,” Hahn said when asked that very question. “Not beating around the bush, but Jake Burger missing more than a year is a shame, it’s a real shame. You look at Jake, he’s got a short enough swing and an easy enough swing that he’s able to just pick up with it and not really lose much offensively in terms of his development.

“But there is an element of playing everyday and being used to playing ball and working your way up the chain and getting more challenges that he’s going to miss a year on. That’s a negative.

“Luis Robert missing a couple months, none of it’s ideal ever but he’s going to be back out there this season, there’s still going to be plenty of chances for him to get ABs over the course of the summer and even opportunities for him to play in the fall, as well. The injury that he had certainly didn’t seem to have any long-term implications for him, and it’s a matter of making up for development time over the course of 2018, which he’ll be able to do.”

Time will tell whether or not months on the shelf will negatively impact the developments of Robert or Hansen. The good news for the White Sox is that they’re advancing toward their respective returns, good news because those are two guys who figure to have very large roles to play in the rebuild.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Live from Opening Night of SoxFest 2020

NBC Sports Chicago

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Live from Opening Night of SoxFest 2020

David Kaplan is joined by Chuck Garfien as they speak with the newest White Sox winter acquisitions from this offseason as well as the current White Sox core from Opening Night of SoxFest 2020 in McCormick Place.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast


Dallas Keuchel apologizes in wake of Astros' sign-stealing scandal: 'I personally am sorry'

Dallas Keuchel apologizes in wake of Astros' sign-stealing scandal: 'I personally am sorry'

Dallas Keuchel started his White Sox tenure with an apology.

Keuchel said he was sorry Friday, the first player to do so in the aftermath of baseball busting Keuchel’s former club, the Houston Astros, for using technology to steal signs during their run to a world championship in 2017.

Keuchel didn’t get into too many specifics, nor did he reveal whether he played any kind of role in the Astros’ process of relaying the signs of opposing catchers via a center field camera and a monitor near the dugout, then alerting teammates to what sort of pitch was coming by banging on a trashcan in the dugout.

But he did apologize, doing so, perhaps, in an effort to speak for that group of players who have been the subject of much discussion since Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired earlier this month.

“I think, first and foremost, I think apologies should be in order,” Keuchel said before the opening ceremonies of SoxFest at McCormick Place. “When the stuff was going on, it was never intended to be what it’s made to be right now. I think when stuff comes out about some things that happen during the course of a big league ball season, it’s always blown up to the point of, ‘Oh my gosh, this has never happened before.’

“I’m not going to go into specific detail, but during the course of the playoffs in ‘17, everybody was using multiple signs. For factual purposes, when there’s nobody on base, when in the history of Major League Baseball has there been multiple signs? You can go back and watch film of every team in the playoffs, there were probably six out of eight teams with multiple signs. It’s just what the state of baseball was at that point in time.

“Was (what the Astros did) against the rules? Yes, it was, and I personally am sorry for what’s come about, the whole situation. But it is what it is, and we’ve got to move past that. I never thought anything would’ve come like it did, and I, myself, feel sorry. But you’ve got to move on.”

While no players have been punished for their roles in what happened in 2017, it remains somewhat head-scratching as to why the uber-talented Astros thought they even needed to do this sort of thing to reach the top of the baseball mountain.

Keuchel said Friday that sometimes the sign-stealing did give the Astros an edge and sometimes it didn't.

"To the extent of the whole situation back then, I can tell you that not every game there was signs being stolen," he said. "Some guys did a really good job. And sometimes we did as a group have signs, but we still couldn't hit the pitcher. So it wasn't like every game we had everything going on so at that point that's when the whole system, it really works a little bit, but at the same time there was a human element where some guys were better than our hitters."

In addition to offering up his own apology, Keuchel ever so briefly weighed in on the still-hot-button topic of whether former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers was right to act as a whistleblower and reveal details of the sign-stealing to the commissioner.

"That's a tough subject because it's such a tight-knit community in the clubhouse and in baseball, especially," Keuchel said. "You're playing 162 games, at least, in the regular season, plus spring training and then maybe in the playoffs, if you're lucky. So you're pushing 185 to 200 games (with each other), and it sucks to the extent of that the clubhouse rule was broken. And that's where I'll go with that. I don't have much else to say about Mike."

As for where things go from here, that remains to be seen. The Boston Red Sox remain under investigation for allegations of similar behavior during their run to a World Series title a year later. Alex Cora was the bench coach with the 2017 Astros and the manager of the 2018 Red Sox, and though baseball has not levied any specific punishment toward him yet, the Red Sox fired him. Carlos Beltran, the only player from the 2017 Astros mentioned in commissioner Rob Manfred's summary of the investigation, was fired from his briefly held post as the manager of the New York Mets.

"There are a lot of people who are sorry in that organization, including myself, for what happened," he said. "Do pitchers benefit from any of that? I mean, not really. But at the same time, we might've had a few runs more per game.

"In my instance, I did not. I was actually pretty mad about that, I didn't really enjoy that sometimes, but it is what it is and it just happened to come out that Mike said something and who knows.

"I don't think anybody else is going to come out and say anything from other teams. They see what happens now."

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