White Sox

Just how good is Ryan Cordell? Rick Hahn says three teams have called about the White Sox outfield prospect

Just how good is Ryan Cordell? Rick Hahn says three teams have called about the White Sox outfield prospect

While South Side baseball fans are having endless fun projecting and debating the White Sox lineup of the future, here's someone you might not have been thinking about.

Ryan Cordell, the outfielder acquired in last summer's trade that sent Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, is not a frequent part of those projections. Avisail Garcia, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and even guys like Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo are generally the names discussed when trying to map out the outfield in a few years' time.

But general manager Rick Hahn shared an interesting tidbit during a Friday-night SoxFest seminar at the Hilton Chicago when asked about how his team's outfield will shake out this season, saying that three teams have called about Cordell since the White Sox acquired him last summer.

Now, that sparks one big question to go along with several smaller ones: Just how good is Cordell?

Again, he's not one of the more talked-about young players in this rebuilding effort, and the trade that brought him to the White Sox was an under-the-radar one, especially considering Cordell was injured when he was acquired last season, recovering from a fractured vertebra. Cordell played 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs before the injury, slashing .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, 18 doubles and 45 RBIs.

The long-term question is whether Cordell is good enough to challenge all those guys mentioned above for a spot in the White Sox crowded outfield of the future. The short-term question, as it seems Hahn raised the possibility, is whether Cordell is good enough to make an impact at the big league level in 2018 — and could he do that right away?

The outfield would figure to look something like this when the season begins: Avisail Garcia in right, Leury Garcia in center and Nicky Delmonico in left. But when asked by a fan what the outfield will look like, Hahn mentioned Cordell as well as Charlie Tilson as guys who could be in the mix. That broad inclusion was likely intentional to show no decisions have been made before spring training begins next month in Arizona, and with the team not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, why not give plenty of guys an opportunity?

But Hahn said that both Cordell and Tilson are without restrictions — Tilson has had more than his fair share of injury woes since joining the White Sox in the 2016 trade that sent Zack Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals — perhaps indicating that they should be considered worthy challengers for those starting spots in left and center field.

And center field is a position of offensive need for the 2018 edition of the White Sox. Adam Engel, who will also surely be in the mix this spring, was terrific defensively but struggled at the plate. Leury Garcia was OK when healthy, though that was only for about half the season — not to mention that his versatility could be used to spell infielders, as well. All in all, White Sox center fielders were offensively the worst in the American League, slashing .221/.284/.351 on the 2017 season. They ranked last in batting average and on-base percentage and second to last in slugging percentage.

The note on Cordell drawing trade interest certainly raised eyebrows, both in the room and on social media, with fans and observers perhaps sensing a dark horse candidate to provide some offense to that center-field position.

So just how good is this guy? Will he be in the starting outfield in 2018? Will he be in the starting outfield after the likes of Jimenez and Robert crack the big leagues?

That all remains to be seen, though answers will start to come when spring training gets going.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season


It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future


Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.