White Sox

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild: You can be patient and have fun at the same time, right?

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild: You can be patient and have fun at the same time, right?

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild.

SoxFest is sold out this weekend, the fleet of highly rated prospects is on parade, and the questions are already coming about when all these young guns will turn the team into a perennial contender.

That’s the plan, anyway, and the fact that everyone expects it to come true and come true any day now shows how good a job Rick Hahn’s front office has done in assembling such an incredible amount of young talent in such an incredibly brief amount of time.

But the waiting game is easier discussed than played, and this weekend’s festivities will surely feature frequent queries about when Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez will crack the major league roster and when free-agent superstars like Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado can be expected to be introduced at Guaranteed Rate Field.

And so Hahn will likely spend a lot more time talking about patience.

“The fan support has been stunning. It has been overwhelming in terms of the amount of enthusiasm and energy that they’ve shown," Hahn said Friday ahead of the festivities at the Hilton Chicago. "Obviously, this weekend is sold out. Virtually every fan that interacts with me directly or calls or emails or writes a letter has expressed their support, and actually a few last night as I was out at a sponsor event expressed, ‘Why was their any doubt that we would support that? You articulate a clear plan that makes sense and follow through on it, you’ll have our support through thick and thin.’ Which, as an organization, we very much appreciate.

“I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we’re saying it to ourselves. There’s going to be a temptation. All of you that are gonna be in Glendale for the first few weeks of spring training are going to see players that are going to get you excited, and people are gonna want to see them at the big league level, just like a year ago when they wanted to see (Yoan) Moncada start at the big league level, and (Lucas) Giolito and (Reynaldo) Lopez. But we have to be patient with their development, there’s still some finishing elements that have to happen at the minor league level and then we’ll bring them on when the time is right to the big league level. That’s what it is in terms of asking for patience, and preaching too, to ourselves in the coaching staff and in the front office.”

As Hahn mentioned, White Sox fans are all aboard the rebuild train. They’ve completely bought in and know it will take time for all these guys to deliver consistent contention. But there’s a reason the SoxFest lineup includes as many minor league players as major league ones. Kopech, Jimenez, Alec Hansen, Zack Burdi, Zack Collins, Blake Rutherford, Dylan Cease. None of these guys has spent a day in the major leagues. Only a few have spent a day in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Is expecting them to reach the majors so soon perhaps a tad unrealistic? Well, it depends. They are all pretty darn good.

“As we sit here right now I want to say Eloy has roughly about 70-odd plate appearances above A-Ball,” Hahn said. “If at age 21 he spends the entire year in Double-A in the Southern League and is even close to the level that he performed at for the three weeks he was there already, that’s a really, really good developmental year. Now, the good ones have a way of sort of changing your timeline on that, and it’s not going to shock me if at some point over the course of the summer Eloy forces our hand a little bit and we’re going to have to wind up being a little more aggressive than what would be a very fine developmental plan for a 21-year-old who is hardly above A-Ball.”

The thing is, however, that the performances of guys like Kopech and Jimenez — not to mention the fact that Moncada, Giolito and Lopez are already at the major league level — has created a bit of an expectation that this thing could come together ahead of schedule. Kopech said recently he’s ready for his major league moment. Jimenez said he’ll be ready when the call comes.

But when those promotions do occur — be it during the 2018 campaign or after it — the presence of these young guys alone doesn’t mean the rebuilt White Sox will be a finished product. Far from it, in fact, as Hahn continued to discuss the development that will need to occur at the major league level, as well.

“It’s the rare, rare player that gets to the major league level and doesn’t need any further refinement or adjustment,” Hahn said. “Even if it’s just getting comfortable with the speed of the game or the amount of the scrutiny that comes with being a big league ballplayer on a daily basis. So we know that’s going to continue.

“And it’s going to happen with Moncada. He’s not a finished product, Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, Carlos Rodon’s not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky (Renteria) and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process. They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development, they all have a history in setting organizational goals and holding players accountable for it, and that continues not just through our system, but once players get to Chicago.”

And so, more patience.

The rebuild is generating the kind of excitement not seen from South Side baseball fans since new Hall of Famer Jim Thome sent that ball out of Guaranteed Rate Field to score the only run in the Blackout Game. Renteria, for one, said he can’t control his excitement. White Sox fans know the feeling. But he said that he can control his patience.

“There are two things that I’ve been asked: Can I contain my excitement? No, I can’t,” Renteria said. “I’m very excited about the men we’ve been watching at the camp and last September, the guys that we’ve seen here, the kids we’ve seen at instructional league in the Dominican. But I can contain control my patience.

“I don’t want to contain my excitement. I want everybody to see my excitement because it is real. The players’ talents, not everybody is going to make it, not everybody is going to be The Guy. But there is a lot here. I can contain my patience knowing that if we do it the right way, at the end of the day we’re going to have a chance for some successful seasons and have a lot of fun.”

Homer Simpson once said the waiting game sucks. He might have been onto something — anyone want to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos instead? — but it’s a necessity right now on the South Side, one fans seem willing to accept.

Though no one ever said you can’t be patient and have a little fun at the same time, right?

Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future


Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

The White Sox once more dropped to 30 games below .500 on Sunday, providing another reminder that this isn't the season where the team will be competing for a playoff spot or any kind of championship.

But all fans have to do is check the box scores rolling in from Triple-A Charlotte to get another kind of reminder: that a season where the White Sox will be competing for a playoff spot and a championship could be right around the corner.

Eloy Jimenez, the team's top-rated prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is killing it lately. Since returning from the disabled list in the middle of the month, Jimenez has a .424 batting average and is slugging a jaw-dropping .818 — thanks to three homers and four doubles — in eight games.

These are just the latest superb numbers from Jimenez, who has torn it up all season long, first at Double-A Birmingham and then in Charlotte since his promotion on July 1. Heading into Sunday's game, he was slashing .324/.375/.572 between the two levels. Then he upped those numbers with a base hit in his lone plate appearance as a pinch hitter in Sunday's game.

The only thing that can be seen as a negative for Jimenez this season — and this really isn't too much of one — has been health. While he's avoided the significant injuries that have stolen months of development time away from the likes of Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo, Jimenez did start the season late with a pec injury and then missed a couple weeks earlier this month with a strained adductor muscle. Judging by the results, neither injury has done much (if anything) to negatively impact his offensive capabilities.

And so with the statistics remaining ridiculously good and getting better, the question that's dogged the White Sox dating back to the end of last season remains: When will Jimenez join the big league roster?

Only the White Sox have the answer to that question at the moment, but it would figure to be some time relatively soon and almost certainly before this season is over. That might not be specific enough for the fans clamoring to watch Jimenez play on the South Side. But take some cues from what general manager Rick Hahn has been saying all season:

First off, the White Sox performance and place in the standings will have no bearing on when Jimenez is promoted. The team will not bring Jimenez up just to inject some life into the final 60 games of the 2018 campaign. Jimenez's development has nothing to do with this team's win-loss record and is completely tied to the team's future, not its present.

Second, Hahn has talked about the benefits of Jimenez receiving at-bats at the Triple-A level and gaining experience facing the kinds of pitchers he didn't face in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He obviously didn't put a number on it, so the argument that Jimenez's 80 plate appearances in 20 games are enough to determine he's big league ready is potentially valid or potentially invalid, depending on what the White Sox have determined they want to see behind the scenes.

Third, Hahn has often said that not everything shows up in box scores. While Jimenez is putting up big numbers, the team is looking for other things that aren't as easy to recognize for those of us who aren't in the player-development business, not to mention those of us who don't even have an MiLB.TV subscription. Hahn said the same thing when Michael Kopech started the season in dominating fashion, and Kopech remains at Triple-A as the White Sox continue to wait for him to reach certain developmental benchmarks.

Fourth, Hahn has pointed to last year's treatment of Yoan Moncada as somewhat of a template for how the White Sox will treat their highest-rated prospects who are close to reaching the majors. Moncada, unlike Jimenez, had a small amount of big league experience before joining the organization in the Chris Sale trade, making his case slightly different. But he, too, was putting up good numbers at Triple-A, with a .282/.377/.447 slash line before his promotion on July 19. Moncada debuted about this time last season after doing well at the Triple-A level, but remember that he played 80 games there after starting the season with Charlotte. Jimenez joined that club in the middle of the season and has played in a quarter of the games that Moncada did before getting the call to make his White Sox debut. Though it's true that Jimenez is putting up significantly more impressive offensive numbers.

So "relatively soon" is perhaps the best we can do right now when trying to predict when Jimenez will reach the South Side. The White Sox have their own checklist when it comes to Jimenez's development, just like they do with every player, and only they will know when he's completed that list.

What is no mystery is how Jimenez is faring at Triple-A. He's swinging a red-hot bat, and few would argue that the numbers don't look major league ready. There's more to it than just the numbers, of course, but it would figure to be a safe bet that White Sox fans will be able to start purchasing Jimenez shirseys before the clock runs out on the 2018 season.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.