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What have you done for me lately? How the White Sox top starting-pitching prospects have fared of late

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AP

What have you done for me lately? How the White Sox top starting-pitching prospects have fared of late

With the exception of the outfield, no position in the White Sox loaded farm system seems to have more depth than starting pitching — and potentially big-time starting pitching, at that.

Michael Kopech is still one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, and Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning are not far behind in the top 100. Recent shuffling in MLB Pipeline’s rankings dropped Alec Hansen out of the top 100, but it hasn’t been long since he was in that group, too.

A look at all those names along with the young guys currently pitching at the major league level — Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez — sets up a pretty appealing rotation of the future, a crowded one where competition will be needed to find the five best guys. So how are these candidates for those future spots on the starting staff faring of late?

Kopech’s up-and-down season is most definitely in an upswing at the moment. His last four starts have been pretty fantastic from a results perspective. He’s got a 2.25 ERA and 32 strikeouts in that span, which has lasted 24 innings. He’s also walked only four hitters in those four games, an important note for someone who struggled with his command at points during this season. In fact, in the seven starts prior to this four-game stretch, he walked 31 batters in 31 innings. Four in 24 innings is, obviously, much better.

Kopech is the lone pitcher mentioned to this point pitching at the Triple-A level, which means the White Sox could opt to promote him to the big leagues at some point before this season is over. Consistency has been a bit of an issue during much of the season for Kopech, though if this recent success can keep going, he could answer questions about that inconsistency. It’s important to note, too, that as general manager Rick Hahn has mentioned repeatedly throughout the season, there are things that the player-development folks in the organization are looking for that aren’t easily found in a box score. So good results and big league readiness don’t always line up.

While outfielder Eloy Jimenez has been tearing it up at the plate at multiple levels and has created his own conversation about when a promotion to the bigs will happen, Cease — who was acquired in the same trade as Jimenez last summer — has arguably been the best news to come out of the White Sox system this season.

Cease earned a spot in the Futures Game as part of All-Star festivities last month, and boy did he deserve it. He’s got a 2.71 ERA in 19 starts this season between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, and he’s actually put up better numbers since his promotion to the Double-A level, with a 2.34 ERA in six starts. He’s got a 1.20 ERA in his last five starts, he’s struck out at least seven batters in each of his six starts at Birmingham, and he’s turned in back-to-back scoreless outings, with no runs allowed in his last 17.2 innings.

Dunning is hard to place in this conversation because of an elbow injury that’s had him on the shelf for weeks. His last start came in late June, and he was in the midst of a strong campaign, with a 2.71 ERA in 15 starts between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. But this long layoff has provided only one answer to the oft-asked question, “what have you done for me lately?”

Hansen is the only one of the highest rated of the starting-pitching prospects to not provide something worth getting excited about this season. After a forearm injury delayed his season debut until mid June, the numbers have not been good: He’s got a 6.56 ERA in nine starts and has walked 42 batters compared to 35 strikeouts.

Hansen just made his shortest start of the year, a 1.1-inning outing over the weekend that featured four runs and seven walks. That after he walked a season-high nine hitters in his previous start.

All this is, of course, without mentioning the successes of prospects who aren’t ranked quite as highly. Jordan Stephens gave up six runs in a brief outing last week, but prior to that he posted a 3.44 ERA over his previous six starts. Jimmy Lambert and Blake Battenfield have put up some good numbers at the lower levels of the system. And recently drafted Konor Pilkington and recently acquired Kodi Medeiros are highly though of enough to slide into the organization’s top 20 prospects.

With Rodon pitching very well at the major league level and Giolito and Lopez continuing to go through their own developments and showing sporadic flashes of brilliance, the rotation of the future looks promising. Of course, there’s still plenty of time before it completely falls into place. But what’s happened lately with the highest-rated pitchers in the system has been a very positive development.

Ozzie Guillen rips Nick Swisher again while telling story from 2008

Ozzie Guillen rips Nick Swisher again while telling story from 2008

Ozzie Guillen isn’t done ragging on Nick Swisher. Guillen took another shot at the former White Sox outfielder while telling a story on White Sox Postgame Live Tuesday night.

When giving an example of why he loves Juan Uribe so much, Guillen decided to tell a story of an interaction between Swisher and Uribe on “Nick Swisher bobblehead night” at U.S. Cellular Field.

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“(Swisher) comes to Uribe and says, ‘Hey Juan, look at what I got!’” Guillen said while pretending to hold a bobblehead. “And Juan said, ‘Ya, you seen outside? I’ve got a statue. I’ve got it hitting, catching the ball when we won the World Series. You don’t.’ How about that one?”

Uribe was critical in the White Sox World Series championship, including recording the final two outs of Game 4. One of those outs-- his grab made while falling into the stands-- is the catch that has been enshrined outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

Nick Swisher only played one season in Chicago, and slashed .219/.332/.410 with a -1.4 dWAR.

Apparently that one season made quite the impression on Guillen, as he declared last week, “I hate Nick Swisher with my heart.”


RELATED: White Sox hitters rough up Carson Fulmer in first game against former team

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Day after Keuchel calls out team, White Sox offense erupts in win over Tigers

Day after Keuchel calls out team, White Sox offense erupts in win over Tigers

Whatever Dallas Keuchel said after Monday night’s uninspiring loss to the Tigers really worked. Or maybe the return of Tim Anderson and Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup gave the Sox the spark they needed? Or maybe it was a little bit of both?

Whatever the reason, the White Sox offense finally broke out of its collective slump in Tuesday’s 8-4 win against Detroit.

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Leading the charge was Eloy Jiménez, who busted out of a slump of his own by going 2-4 with a homer and four RBI. He had previously been 1-23 dating back to Aug. 5, and used a simple approach to break through.

“I was in a slump, and I feel like I was seeing the ball good, but I wasn’t hitting it to the right spot,” Jiménez said through interpreter Billy Russo. “(I was) swinging at some balls a little bit out of the zone. Now I’m just trying to see the ball and hit it where there’s no people.”

That’s always a good idea.

But when asked for his thoughts on Jiménez’s day, Rick Renteria provided a bit more of a nuanced assessment.

“Consistency, there’s no secret to it,” Renteria said. “Solid approaches working both lefties and righties… faced some righties today and was able to stay in on them. The two-strike ball down the right field line to tack on another run, I mean he had some really good at-bats today.”

Zooming back out, this is the type of offensive output the White Sox envisioned when they built this team last winter. Tim Anderson setting the table, Jiménez and Encarnacion hitting bombs, and Abreu and Moncada driving in more runs with timely hitting.

“The entire lineup looked great,” said starter Gio Gonzalez. “Everyone looked aggressive going out there. Plays were being made around the horn, guys were doing their job hitting the ball, moving runners over. It just looked like a White Sox win today.”

“Today we felt really good,” Jiménez said. “We took care of business and you see what happened.”

RELATED: White Sox hitters rough up Carson Fulmer in first game against former team

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