White Sox

Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button

We made it above 60 degrees in Chicago today: A cause for celebration and another edition of the Sox Drawer. Questions from White Sox fans range from Joe Girardi to Enoy Jimenez (yes, Enoy) to Chris Sale’s “infected” belly button. Here we go.

Q: Jon Heyman tweeted out earlier that Joe Girardi pulled out of the Reds managerial search because he wants to wait a year for the Chicago job. Do you think he’s talking about the Sox? — @piratedwight

CG: I don’t know if the report is true or not, but what I do know is that Girardi grew up a Cubs fan and he later played for the Cubs. Put those two together and I’d assume he would love to manage them in the future. Something to consider: The main reason Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave for firing Girardi in 2017 was that he felt he had trouble communicating and connecting with the young players. For a young, rebuilding team like the White Sox, that might be a red flag. Granted, that’s the Yankees' side of the story. Personally, I don’t think he’s interested in managing the White Sox.

Q: Who do you want the Sox to draft with the 3rd pick? Do some research. — @Frankie_OConnor

CG: If you look at most mock drafts right now, you’ll see high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. going first, followed by Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (Nick Madrigal’s teammate) and Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers. Rutschman’s stock went way up because of his play in the College World Series, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player. Langeliers won a Gold Glove in 2018, named the best defensive catcher in Division I. He nailed 70 percent of would-be base stealers. Umm, I’ll take that.

The White Sox took Zack Collins with the 10th overall pick in 2016. White Sox scouting director Nick Hostelter always says “take the best player available.” Would they draft another catcher with their top pick again? Possibly.

You know what, why don’t we hear from Hostetler himself? I asked him to describe the talent level at the top of next year’s draft.

“Overall the ‘19 draft has a little bit of everything up top,” Hostetler said. “There are some interesting high school bats and arms, as well as some college bats and a few college arms that are intriguing. I’m not sure there’s a clear top five at this point, but as we’ve seen in past years, the guys sitting at the top of all the lists and mock drafts today usually change come the first Monday in June.”

In other words, let’s talk again in June. The best part about this? The White Sox will be in position to grab a very talented player for their future.

Q: After the most recent international signing of Eloy Jimenez’s brother, Enoy, do you think he could get close to the level of Eloy? Eloy wasn’t a known prospect until a few years ago, keep in mind. — @Dehhmac_

CG: In case you missed it, the White Sox signed Eloy’s 17-year-old brother to a baseball contract Sunday. Eloy posted a photo of him and his smiling brother wearing a White Sox hat and jersey.


By the way, if you do a Google search for “Enoy Jimenez,” Google will ask: “Did you mean Eloy Jimenez?” Even Google can’t believe it.

We don’t know too much about little Enoy. I say little because he’s tiny compared to his big brother. See the video we found on YouTube which was posted a couple of weeks ago. Enoy is wearing a White Sox retro tank top and a Charlotte Knights hat. If anything, he’ll fit right in at SoxFest. Seriously, he has some great baseball DNA, so he’s got that going for him. He’s an infielder. That’s about all we know. As MLB Trade Rumors put it, “scouting information on the younger Jimenez brother is virtually non-existent.”


Q: We know that Rick Hahn plays things close to the vest. In your opinion, do the White Sox view Matt Davidson as a viable two-way option? Personally, I'd like to see how he does in close games. — @emm528

CG: I know Davidson is quite serious about it. I’m not sure about the White Sox side of things. When I asked Don Cooper during the season about the possibility of Davidson having a more permanent role in the bullpen, he seemed skeptical about the idea. That said, if Davidson comes to spring training and impresses the coaching staff, they might be open to it. Davidson told me in September that he needs to train his body during the offseason so he could handle the workload as a pitcher. He just basically winged it in emergency duty last season. At one point after one of his appearances, he needed around two weeks for his body to get back to normal. It’ll be interesting to see if he can pull it off.

Q: You got to be by the dugout for most home games this year. What’s something that goes on in the dugout during a game that fans at home wouldn’t know? — @PeteCha56613119

CG: Davidson likes to throw gum at me.

Q: Chris Sale. Discuss. — @sccerlaw

CG: If you’re asking about Sale getting an infection from a belly-button ring, he was joking. Sale likes to have fun with the media. Remember in 2014, when he tried to work in a specific word during his postgame media scrums? He said things like juxtapose, acquiesce, capitulated, ruminate, amalgamation. Waiting to hear what his next Harvard vocabulary word was one of the highlights of a rough fourth-place season. Sale did miss his start in Game 5 of the ALCS because of an unspecified stomach illness. Keep in mind, he’s probably taking medication for an inflamed shoulder. But he says he’s 100-percent ready now for Game 1 of the World Series.

Q: If the White Sox win the World Series next year will you get a belly button ring? — @vlamas05​​​​​​​

CG: Sure.

Q: Why don't the White Sox have a museum in the park? About 1/3 of the league does and most of those teams have half the history the Sox do. — @Gnome89​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. For this one, I went right to the source and asked Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“We used to have a small museum that fans could walk through which was attached to our team store," Boyer said. "Years ago, we converted that space as demand for a wider selection of retail products grew. We do have a museum-like historical display in the Magellan Scout Seats and have put many of the significant moments in our history on the columns leading to the sections on the 100 level. This past season we had a Negro League Museum traveling display in the Chicago Sports Depot.

"We continue to look for ways to display our history, and the Depot may very well be the best place, but, at this point, there are no plans for a permanent museum location.”

Q: Who do you see the White Sox going after in free agency this year? — @Grank2410​​​​​​​

CG: I wrote about my top five free agents last week. I don’t know for sure who the White Sox will sign, but I’d like to see them add a veteran hitter or two who have playoff experience, who know what it takes to win and can impart that on the young hitters.

Q: When will the Sox change their uniforms? — @ckottlarock​​​​​​​

CG: Personally, I’d wear the 1983 throwbacks for every game, home and away. But that’s just me.

Q: Can we please not get Machado? Can we get Nolan Arenado instead? — @drobaseball555​​​​​​​

CG: Rick Hahn, if you’re reading this, @drobaseball555 wants Arenado. Got it?

Thanks everyone for all of your questions. We’ll do it again next week.

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

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USA TODAY

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

The White Sox bullpen did a splendid job Wednesday night.

A “bullpen day” against the Minnesota Twins’ high-powered offense had potential disaster written all over it. Instead, Ivan Nova and a parade of relievers held those Twins hitless through five innings and to just one run in a sweep-avoiding win.

It’s actually the second time a “bullpen day” went better than expected against one of the best teams in baseball, Wednesday’s effort joining the one back in May against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost that night but gave up just three runs to the kings of the AL West.

While nearly every pitcher that trotted out from the visitors’ bullpen Wednesday night in Minnesota pitched well, it doesn’t mean that the White Sox will carry this exact unit into a 2020 season that could be one in which they make the long awaited transition from rebuilding to contending.

Certainly Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been among the many bright spots for the White Sox this season, and the retention of both at the trade deadline provides confidence in what the back end of the bullpen can be in a potentially contending season. But while the eighth- and ninth-inning jobs are easily projected, what does the rest of the White Sox bullpen look like heading into 2020?

While starting pitcher is definitely on the winter wish list for Rick Hahn’s front office, it would be no shock to see relief pitching get addressed, too. It’s hard to predict which of the tons of relievers could wind up in a White Sox uniform before the team heads to Arizona for spring training. But we can try to guess at the fortunes of the relief arms currently on the roster, many of whom appeared in Wednesday night’s game.

Late-inning arms for 2020

Even if the White Sox make no additions to their bullpen this winter, the back end is pretty easy to project.

Colome has one more year of team control after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last winter. He’s been allowing more base runners as the season has wound down — including a walk-off homer to Omar Narvaez, the guy he was traded for, last weekend in Seattle — but he’ll finish the campaign with excellent numbers, still having blown only one save. That’s the best save percentage in baseball. He’s got 124 saves over the last four seasons.

Bummer, meanwhile, has emerged from a host of internal candidates to grab a pretty tight hold on the eighth-inning job. He has a 2.31 ERA on the season with a week and a half to play, and he’s a guy who could be a back-end reliever and a potential closer for years to come.

As for other late-inning guys, Jimmy Cordero seems to be a diamond in the rough uncovered in season. He’s got a 3.34 ERA since joining the White Sox and has been an oft-used arm by Rick Renteria. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox put even more high-leverage situations on his plate next season.

Evan Marshall, too, figures to be back next season. He was another quality addition to the ‘pen, and he’s actually been better in the second half, with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break compared to the still-very-good 2.86 ERA before it.

Is that a fearsome foursome at the back end of a contending bullpen? Certainly all four of those guys have been good to very good this season. The White Sox would probably express a great deal of confidence in that quartet, but adding another late-inning arm to that mix in free agency would make that confidence level even higher.

What do you do with these guys?

If those four are very likely to be in key spots in the 2020 bullpen, what about some of the guys’ whose futures aren’t so obvious?

Jace Fry threw 1.2 innings without giving up a run Wednesday, dropping his season ERA to 4.96. That’s not a very pretty number, and there have been stretches this season that haven’t been very pretty, either. In a five-outing span in late May and early June, he walked six of the 19 batters he faced and gave up four earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Over a 13-outing span in August and September, Fry gave up 12 runs in 10.2 innings, walking nine and giving up 13 hits to the 53 batters he faced. But the White Sox love Fry’s potential. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him a part of the Opening Day relief corps. But if the White Sox are in contention mode, how long could they afford his inconsistencies?

Kelvin Herrera is almost certain to be back in 2020, considering the White Sox inked him to a two-year deal last offseason. But he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he did in his first campaign on the South Side. He’s got a 6.51 ERA right now in 53 appearances. That’s obviously not good enough, and the White Sox will be hoping for something close to the kind of guy who mowed them down when he was a key piece on those back-to-back World Series teams for the Kansas City Royals. Another season removed from the foot injury that ended his 2018 season early ought to help.

Have the White Sox seen enough of Jose Ruiz and Carson Fulmer? Again, these guys have upside the team is excited about. Ruiz can throw the ball pretty hard, and Fulmer is a former top-10 draft pick. But the results have not been good, to say the least. Ruiz has a 5.87 ERA in 39 games. Fulmer, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings Wednesday, has a 5.33 ERA in 18 big league appearances. If there are free-agent additions to be had, these two could be squeezed out of the picture. But for right now, the White Sox aren’t done with them just yet.

Where art thou, minor leaguers?

If you cast your mind back to last season, you’ll remember a bunch of young arms that looked like candidates for the bullpen of the future. For various reasons, those guys didn’t do much impressing in 2019.

Injuries are to blame in certain cases. Ryan Burr was one of the many White Sox pitchers to have Tommy John surgery this season, wiping out an audition of a 2019 season for him. Ian Hamilton was similarly knocked out for the year with a pair of freak injuries. He was hurt in a car accident during spring training and then suffered a number of grisly facial injuries when he was struck with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout at Triple-A Charlotte.

Under-performance struck, too. Caleb Frare only made 31 combined appearances between the majors and Charlotte, but he posted a 10.13 ERA at the big league level and a 7.66 ERA with the Knights. Thyago Vieira had a 10.29 ERA in six major league games and a 6.27 ERA in 39 games at Triple-A.

But all four remain on the 40-man roster, for now.

Then there are three other guys who were highly thought of a year ago who didn’t help their cases for a major league promotion. Zack Burdi, the former first-round pick, was routinely rocked pitching in only 20 games at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, with a 6.75 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had good numbers but only pitched 31.1 innings in 22 games. Zach Thompson had a 5.23 ERA in his 45 appearances with Brimingham and Charlotte.

None of that screams must-include pieces of the 2020 major league bullpen. A lot can change between now and Opening Day, as well as now and any later point in the season when reinforcements to the relief corps could still make a big difference. But as we stand here right now, it’s hard to say any of these guys will be in the Opening Day ‘pen.

Unlikely bullpen arms?

The other internal options for relief arms in 2020 might come from an unlikely spot: the starting rotation.

There are only five spots on the 2020 starting staff, and Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease figure to have three of them spoken for. The White Sox will make at least one offseason addition, speaking for a fourth spot. And despite a bumpy 2019 season, it would not be surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez in that rotation, too, come Opening Day.

That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season, though. A contending White Sox team might not be able to put up with the kind of inconsistent results Lopez has delivered in 2019. Similarly, there’s a possibility Kopech could have to start the season in the minor leagues if the White Sox think he needs more time to work himself into game shape following a long layoff while recovering from his Tommy John surgery. Whether it’s multiple offseason acquisitions or simply Kopech returning and claiming a spot, Lopez might be squeezed out, in which case the bullpen would be a possible destination for him. The White Sox see him as a starter now, but there’s no reason that a squeezed-out Lopez, should it happen, couldn’t still help the team from the ‘pen.

Also, what becomes of other Tommy John recoverers when they return to full health? What happens if Carlos Rodon or Dane Dunning or Jimmy Lambert is available late in the year? Could they help in the bullpen even if they’re destined to be long-term starters? Maybe. It’s just speculation, but time will tell.

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Was Lucas Giolito's 2019 a fluke? One stat-based projection system says not at all

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USA TODAY

Was Lucas Giolito's 2019 a fluke? One stat-based projection system says not at all

The White Sox had a number of key players in the team’s young core show positive growth in 2019.

Despite heading toward what looks like another 90-plus loss season, the strides Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito made this season revitalized hope for the future of the White Sox.

In an early review of the White Sox season, FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski compared preseason projections to the nearly-finished product.

Giolito’s season, which ended two weeks early due to a lat strain, featured an All-Star Game appearance and improvement across the board. Giolito finished with a 3.41 ERA with 228 strikeouts and 57 walks in 176 2/3 innings. 

That level of performance wasn’t considered in the realm of possibility by Szymborski’s own ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), which predicts future production based on stats. Szymborski calls Giolito’s 2019 projection among the worst in the system’s history.

“ZiPS was a ginormous digital fan of Giolito as a prospect, but fell completely out of love in 2018, turned off as you would be if your dining companion on a first date mostly wanting to describe the details of their colonoscopy,” he wrote. “A Cy Young-level season from Giolito was past the 99th percentile; it was closer to the 99.9th percentile.”

A deeper dive into his numbers show no reason for regression either. Updated ZiPS projections for the next four years show the system has bought back into Giolito.

As the White Sox hope to take a next step forward in the team’s rebuild in 2020, most of the talk is about the team’s young players adding quality to the team and continuing to improve. For example, Eloy Jimenez is on track for a 30-home run rookie season, but still hasn’t consistently shown the all-around hitter most expect him to be. However, one big thing that can’t be taken for granted is players like Giolito, Anderson and Moncada at least maintaining their impressive 2019 seasons. At least there is reason for optimism that Giolito’s 2019 is no fluke.

 

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