White Sox

Report: White Sox felt best way to pitch future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper was with current Hall of Famer Jim Thome

Report: White Sox felt best way to pitch future Hall of Famer Bryce Harper was with current Hall of Famer Jim Thome

The race for Bryce Harper is on. And while information regarding the running order is hard to come by, the White Sox reportedly have a bib.

It's been just about a month since the initial report of their interest in signing Harper, the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond who's expected to receive the richest contract in baseball history. Flurries of other reports have painted the White Sox offseason as an aggressive one as they are perhaps looking to infuse their rebuilding effort with one of the game's best players.

Well, we have at least a couple more details on the White Sox pursuit of Harper from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan and Tim Brown. Apparently the White Sox are one of about 12 teams who have already met with or plan to meet with Harper in Las Vegas, his hometown and the site of this month's Winter Meetings. The South Siders must be in the former category because Passan and Brown added that they used Jim Thome as part of their pitch.

What better way to try to lure a future Hall of Famer to your team than with a current Hall of Famer?

Of course, the biggest news in Passan and Brown's report is that the Los Angeles Dodgers used a similar strategy, sending owner and sports icon Magic Johnson to pitch Harper on the wonders of Southern California. Thome didn't have the surf to sell, obviously, but he's as much of an expert as you'll find on the benefits of putting on a White Sox uniform. He spent four seasons on the South Side, witnessed firsthand the aftermath, if not the actual event, of a World Series winning team and can speak to getting the royal treatment in his post-playing career. The team put him in the front office upon his retirement and showered him with deserved praise in celebrating his Hall of Fame induction this past summer.

Thome can also speak to playing for the team considered by some the favorite to land Harper, the Philadelphia Phillies. The White Sox acquired him in a trade with the Phillies after his third year in the City of Brotherly Love. You'd have to imagine, as a representative of the White Sox, he had more good things to say about Chicago.

It's hard to get a sense of the timing of Harper's decision or the specific frontrunners from the details in this report. You'd have to imagine Harper's decision won't come before the Winter Meetings, giving him a chance to meet with however many of baseball's 30 clubs want to pitch him when they all descend on Sin City. As for which of those teams already have or have plans to? The White Sox were mentioned alongside the Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees in that roughly 12-team group. The Cubs, San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals were name dropped in the report, as well.

Regardless of who they're from, the White Sox will surely be competing against extremely lucrative offers, though with all the reports about their aggressiveness, it makes sense their's would be, too. After all, it'd be hard to be in on Harper if you weren't willing to hand out one of the biggest contracts ever, and the White Sox have been touting their financial flexibility, general manager Rick Hahn's preferred phrase to explain the fact that the team has hardly any long-term financial commitments to speak of.

The biggest hurdle seems to be their pitch of planned future success as opposed to pitches of immediate, championship-caliber rosters that Harper could join. The White Sox rebuild still has big league success as coming a year or two down the road, and even with a talent as immense as Harper's, would they even be a playoff team in 2019? Compare that to, say, the Yankees, who won 100 games last year and have an All-Star type player at most of the positions on the field. Joining that, if the money were equal, would seem difficult to pass up.

But Hahn, for one, believes the White Sox loaded farm system and the bright future it's planned to yield is a darn good selling point, too.

And having a Hall of Famer like Thome as the pitchman can't hurt, either.

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White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

It appears Eloy Jimenez is heating up.

The White Sox rookie outfielder didn’t get off to a great start this season, but he showed flashes of his potential. Then, he went down with injury and missed more than three weeks.

After going 0-for-7 in his first two games back from injury, Jimenez broke out with two home runs on Wednesday. He followed that up with another bomb on Thursday in a 4-0 win in Houston.


The fact that Jimenez stringing home runs together wasn't the big story of the game is a testament to Lucas Giolito's impressive outing on the mound.

Jimenez now has as many home runs in the four games since coming back from injury (3) as he had in his first 21 games before going down. That’s far too small of a sample size to say the time off did anything productive for Jimenez, but the 22-year-old is showing the power he was known for in the minors.

Overall, Jimenez is hitting .234/.280/.447. The average and on-base percentage are lower than expected considering he was a career .311 hitter in the minors. However, eight of his 22 hits in the majors have gone for extra bases, with six of those being home runs.

Thursday’s home run went 414 feet after he blasted shots of 419 and 417 feet the night before.

He also had some fun with the camera in the dugout and then had some fun in the field by celebrating a diving catch with a laugh.


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