White Sox

Michael Kopech has some eye-popping praise for Eloy Jimenez: 'I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation'

Michael Kopech has some eye-popping praise for Eloy Jimenez: 'I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As if expectations weren’t high enough for Eloy Jimenez.

White Sox fans are eagerly awaiting Jimenez’s ascension to the major leagues, which is anticipated to happen within the first few weeks of the 2019 season. He’s the top-ranked prospect in the organization and the No. 3 prospect in the game. His statistical output, light-tower power, ever-present confidence and scouting reports from every corner of the baseball world have previewed Jimenez as a superstar in the making.

Even general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged this offseason that the White Sox expect Jimenez to become the caliber of player that puts him the same category as the “premium talent” the team has pursued on this winter’s free-agent market: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two of the best players in baseball.

And now you can add a comparison to arguably the greatest hitter in history.

“I look at him as the Babe Ruth of our generation,” Michael Kopech said Saturday at Camelback Ranch. “He’s going to be OK.”

Oh?

So apparently White Sox fans can expect to cheer on one of the best players of all-time, watch him belt more than 700 home runs and turn his name into an adjective — once he finally gets his first major league at-bat, that is.

That sounds pretty hyperbolic, but as illustrated, Kopech’s eye-popping praise is only the latest for a guy who’s expected to entrench himself in the middle of the South Side batting order for the better part of the next decade.

“Very smart hitter, very well rounded when gets to the plate,” Kopech said. “He’s very calm, doesn’t seem like he’s out of place at any point, no matter who’s on the mound. Very impressive to watch.

“I’ve seen that guy hit about everything as far as anyone can hit it, so I don’t know if there’s a pitch you could get by him.”

Jimenez had an opportunity to respond to Kopech's compliment and dolled out one of his own.

"Yeah, he told me that in Triple-A," Jimenez said. I feel proud and blessed. And I think he is the Nolan Ryan."

Jimenez didn’t make it to Chicago last year, but he was the No. 1 topic of discussion at Guaranteed Rate Field, with Hahn consistently peppered with questions about when Jimenez would be promoted to the big leagues. If it seemed a little premature, considering Jimenez had played in only 18 games above Class A when the 2018 season started, just look at what he did: a .337/.384/.577 slash line with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

While the White Sox dealt with the financial realities of the game, Jimenez’s continued stay in the minor leagues prompted angry statements from his agents. And the player himself penned a piece for The Players’ Tribune about how ready he was for the majors. The latter wasn’t much of a controversy, though, as Jimenez has been talking about his big league readiness since he was acquired in the 2017 trade that brought him over from the Cubs.

Mix in that confidence with all the talent, and you get a guy who’s expected to hit the ground running when he finally gets called up, most likely sometime in mid April.

The transition from the minors to the majors can be tough for some. Kopech doesn’t think it will be a problem for Jimenez — even though he has to deal with Ruthian expectations.

“If there’s any struggles at all, it won’t be physically, it will be mentally. But I don’t see him struggling,” Kopech said. “He’s been a big leaguer in his own mind for a long time, and with good reason.”

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Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease is entering the 2020 season with plenty to prove. Considering how important he is to the future of the White Sox, it is perhaps fitting he was the first White Sox pitcher to take a mound in a spring training game.

On Saturday, Cease pitched two innings against the Cincinnati Reds as he ramps up to full strength. The most notable thing wasn’t how long he pitched or what his stat line was. It was his fastball.

Cease's fastball sat mostly at 96-98 mph and topped at 99. Cease quipped there could be a bit more in terms of his velocity.


Cease averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in the majors in 2019. In 73 innings, he threw nine pitches that were at least 99 mph, topping out at 100.1 mph, according to Baseball Savant. He was capable of throwing that hard, but didn't do it often. For Cease to be on the higher end of his average and feature a 99 mph fastball in his first pitches of Cactus League baseball might be a sign that he could have added a touch more velocity.

It’s also just a two-inning spring training start, meaning Cease knew he could let fly a bit more in a shorter outing. Cease told reporters after his start he was focusing on his fastball command. He struck out three with no walks and three hits allowed.

In his rookie season, Cease struggled with command and consistency. He had a 5.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks over 14 starts.

February baseball doesn't carry any meaning, but this is a small encouraging sign for Cease.

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Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

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USA TODAY

Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

You can put to bed the rumors about free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly signing with the White Sox. It’s not happening.

The two sides did get together during the MLB Winter Meetings in December. Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria met with Puig for about 90 minutes to discuss the possibility of the 29-year-old joining the White Sox as their everyday right fielder.

But instead, the White Sox chose to take a different route. That same week, they acquired Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for minor league outfielder Steele Walker, ending any chance of Puig coming to the South Side.

“After our meeting we came away big Yasiel Puig fans, but he wasn’t the right fit for us then and he isn’t right now,” Williams said.

With spring training games starting this weekend and the regular season a little over a month away, fellow Cuban Jose Abreu says he’s surprised the flashy 29-year-old outfielder remains a free agent.

“Yes, I am (surprised). That’s one of those things that happen that you don’t understand. A guy with his talent. He’s still so young,” Abreu said through a translator. “He doesn’t have a team yet. It’s a surprise. I’m confident he’s going to find something this year.”

Even with Puig’s talent, Abreu looks around the White Sox clubhouse and agrees with the decision by the White Sox not to sign the former All-Star who hit .267/.327/.458 with the Reds and Indians last season.

“I don’t think he would be a good fit here. Don’t get me wrong. He has a lot of talent but we’re full," Abreu said. "Our outfield is looking great with Nomar (Mazara), Eloy (Jimenez) and (Luis) Robert. There’s no reason for us to make more moves in that area of our team. He’s someone who would fit in with any major league ball club because he has the talent to help any of those teams.”

What about possibly platooning Puig with Mazara in right field? On paper, that might sound like a good plan, although Puig has traditionally hit better against righties than lefties in his career. But a larger issue could be the timeshare. The idea of Puig, nicknamed “Wild Horse,” being forced to the stable for half the season could spell problems not only for him, but the chemistry inside the clubhouse.

“It would be difficult, especially for him being an everyday player,” Abreu said about Puig being a platoon player.  “When you have to make that decision, it’s not easy.”

So, where will Puig end up?  No one knows for sure but it won’t be with the White Sox.  

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