White Sox

Part of Yoan Moncada's development: Hitting better — and simply getting more experience — against left-handed pitching

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USA TODAY

Part of Yoan Moncada's development: Hitting better — and simply getting more experience — against left-handed pitching

Yoan Moncada’s development is one of the most important things at the major league level during this rebuilding, developmental season.

Fortunately for the White Sox, he’s having a fine season at the plate overall. He came into Wednesday’s game against the visiting Baltimore Orioles with a .262/.345/.469 slash line to go along with six homers, 10 doubles and 16 RBIs.

But as good as that might be, Moncada is not a finished product. Remember, this is a guy who was baseball’s top-ranked prospect a year ago, and there are expectations that he will be one of the best players — if not the best player — on the next championship-contending White Sox team.

And so there are obvious things that he needs to keep working on. Most noticeable to fans and observers is that high number of strikeouts. He’s got 55 in 166 plate appearances (one of the 10 highest totals in the American League) and will almost surely shoot past his 74 strikeouts in 231 plate appearances in 2017.

Another area of interest in Moncada’s development is what he’s doing against left-handed pitching, which quite frankly isn’t much.

Rick Renteria moved Moncada out of the leadoff spot against lefty starters some time ago, and the numbers don’t look good overall. As a right-handed batter against left-handed pitching, the switch-hitting Moncada is slashing .154/.244/.231 with three extra-base hits and two RBIs. That’s opposed to a great .302/.383/.557 line as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers.

But Renteria is seeing some growth from Moncada, who batted right handed against a lefty reliever during Tuesday’s eighth-inning rally. He didn’t get a hit, but he drove in the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly, progress in Renteria’s eyes.

“I’ll tell you this, the right-handed at-bat yesterday against the lefty was, for me, a real impressive at-bat because that’s the side he’s been trying to work on a little bit more against the lefties,” Renteria said. “To be able to drive the ball and create the sacrifice fly to drive in that run was really big.”

What’s the key, then, to getting at-bats like that against left-handed pitchers on a consistent basis from Moncada? According to Renteria, it’s just a matter of Moncada seeing more left-handed pitching. And when that happens, the skipper added, we could see more pop from Moncada from that side of the plate than we do from the left side, where he’s hit 12 of his 14 career homers.

“He doesn’t have as many at-bats (from the right side) just because he doesn’t face that many lefties,” the manager said. “You need a larger amount of at-bats against lefties to get a sense of where you’re going to ultimately be.

“I still think that he probably has the ability of having more power, even though he has power from the left side, I think he has the ability to have more power from the right side. It’s just a matter of him trying to manage that side of the box without trying to be the same as he is on the left-handed side.

“Very few switch hitters are the same from both sides of the plate. Some show more power from one side, and some show manageability of the barrel. He happens to have manageability of the barrel left handed and power. And I think he can have more power, maybe not as much manageability of the barrel from the right-hand side, but more power and more contact.

“But that’s going to continue with more at-bats against lefties, as many opportunities as we can give him.”

As with most things during this rebuilding season, Moncada remains a work in progress. Strikeouts, hitting from the right side, these are some of the things that he’s working on in a season that because of its disappointing win-loss record affords him the time and opportunity to develop.

White Sox fans are pretty happy with Moncada right now. But they could see a much different — and potential much better — player by the time the rebuilds hits its apex and that contention window opens up.

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.