White Sox

White Sox part ways with hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks

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AP

White Sox part ways with hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks

The White Sox will have a new hitting coach in 2020.

The team announced Wednesday that it parted ways with Todd Steverson, who was the team's hitting coach for the past six seasons, adding that assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks will not have his contract renewed for the 2020 season, either. The rest of the coaching staff will return.

Steverson's departure comes after a 2019 season that saw several of the team's young, core players break out offensively. Tim Anderson went from a .240 hitter in 2018 to the big league batting champ, with a .335 average by season's end. Yoan Moncada went from 217 strikeouts as part of a disappointing 2018 season to the team's best all-around hitter. Eloy Jimenez hit 31 home runs as a rookie. And the always consistent Jose Abreu led the American League with 123 RBIs.

But those individual performances didn't stop the White Sox from struggling offensively as a team. Among AL teams, only the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals scored fewer runs. The Tigers, Royals and Baltimore Orioles were the only AL teams with a lower OPS than the White Sox. The Tigers, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners were the only AL teams who struck out more than the White Sox. The team ranked 25th in the major leagues in home runs and dead last in the bigs in walks.

"One the one hand, you expect talented players to perform well on the big league level. On the other hand, you can't take things for granted and guys need instruction and adjustments and occasionally some good luck to help get them to fulfill their potential," general manager Rick Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last week, asked about the disparity between some of the individual accomplishments and the team's combined hitting numbers. "Overall, we've struggled in a few categories that we want to get better in, and we know we have to get better in. But when you look at some of the individual top performers, you have to be pleased with their progress and feel really good about where TA and Yoan are right now and where Eloy is, even."

In complimenting the staff — all but two of which will be back next season — Hahn might have hinted at a potential change in focus. He applauded their efforts from a player-development standpoint, but with the White Sox looking ready to shift from rebuilding mode to contending mode in 2020, perhaps the player-development skill isn't as much of a priority as it has been in recent seasons, or perhaps the White Sox will look for someone with a different skill set altogether.

"Certainly when we assembled this staff, we wanted it to be filled with guys with roots in player development so that they were able to teach our young players and hold them accountable and set standards," Hahn said. "And we're certainly very pleased with how that's unfolded."

Well, now we know that the White Sox will have a new hitting coach moving forward.

A potential candidate to fill Steverson's shoes might be Frank Menechino, who was hired away from the Miami Marlins organization last season and served as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Menechino joined the White Sox at the big league level once Charlotte's season was over. He was present at Charlotte for the excellent Triple-A performances of top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, two players who figure to reach the major leagues in the early portion of the 2020 campaign.

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White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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