White Sox

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Dylan Cease wins MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Dylan Cease wins MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Dylan Cease is named MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year, Sept. 6

Cease had a dominant 2018 between two levels, Single-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. MLB Pipeline gave him the honor as the top pitcher in the minors this year, capping off his standout season with an award against tough competition.

Cease's season: The fact that Cease was (and still is) the other prospect the White Sox received in the Jose Quintana trade shows just how good Eloy Jimenez has been. That said, Cease is building quite a resume.

The Cubs drafted him in the sixth round in 2014 knowing he would need Tommy John surgery. He showed strikeout stuff right away, but struggled with his control. Cease has shown improvement in his command with the White Sox.

Cease piled up 82 strikeouts against 28 walks in 71 2/3 innings with Winston-Salem this year. That marked the best walk rate of his minor-league career and helped earn him a promotion to Birmingham.

Once there, Cease gave up five runs in his Double-A debut and then gave up five earned runs combined in his final nine starts of 2018. Cease only allowed more than one run once the rest of the way (when he gave up three runs in five innings). His overall numbers with the Barons were impressive enough, but he had a 0.94 ERA over his final nine starts.

Cease struck out 78 against 22 walks in 52 1/3 innings while allowing a paltry .168 batting average in Double-A. The walks creeped up a bit again so there's still some work to do on that front, but Cease's swing-and-miss stuff makes him a high-profile pitching prospect.

The fact that Cease has done all this after going through TJS should give White Sox fans confidence that Michael Kopech could do the same after his surgery, even if it will require time and patience. The White Sox remained conservative with Cease, shutting him down a week before the end of the season to manage his workload. Cease has gone from 24 innings to 44 2/3 to 93 1/3 to 124 innings in his four years in the minors.

He could start 2019 in Triple-A Charlotte and be in the majors sometime in the second half of the season if all goes well. Entering 2018, there had been some talk of Cease moving to the bullpen in the majors, but his dominant 2018 has penciled him into any future White Sox rotations.

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

1031_frank_thomas.jpg
USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.