White Sox

White Sox Talk Podcast: Our free agent predictions!

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Our free agent predictions!

With the MLB Winter Meetings starting next week, it's time to make our free agent predictions! Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka tell you where they believe the top 15 free agents will sign and what kind of contracts they will get.

Everyone from Adam Jones (5:45) and Michael Brantley (15:35) to Manny Machado (26:05) and Bryce Harper (31:00).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

 

It's an all-important year for Luis Robert

It's an all-important year for Luis Robert

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It's an all-important year for Luis Robert.

It seems like Robert's been around for a decently long time after signing as an international free agent in 2017. But he's played a grand total of 50 minor league games in the United States.

He's just 21 years old, but he fell behind a few of his fellow White Sox prospects, from a timing perspective, thanks to a season-long battle with injuries in 2018. Two thumb injuries did the most damage to his developmental timeline, keeping him from debuting until June and limiting his power once he did return.

"It was a season with a few bumps," Robert said through a team translator Sunday at Camelback Ranch. "I started playing good here in spring training and then had the injury. I came back, but I didn't perform the way that I like because of the injury, and then I re-injured my thumb. I came back stronger but I got injured again. But at the end, I think I finished the season strong. It was a learning experience and I think right now, I'm in a better position to have success this year."

Of course, this isn't to say that Robert is in any danger of falling out of the White Sox future plans. He's as much a part of those as he ever was, and his skills continue to earn rave reviews from anyone you ask. He's ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 4 prospect in the White Sox organization and the No. 40 prospect in the game.

But the White Sox will admit it's rather important that Robert stay healthy this season, continue his development and move through the minor league system toward the South Side so he can be a part of the much-anticipated transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode.

"Hopefully this year he gets a complete year under his belt healthy, which will, to be honest, tell us a lot about where he’s at," manager Rick Renteria said Sunday. "I think he’s made strides. We all love what he’s capable of doing, we all love the physical skill. He had a nice (Arizona) Fall League. He’s progressing, even though he’s had limited time due to the hand injury. But I think this year will be a big year for him in terms of his progression.

"Guys with talent like that seem to progress pretty quickly. So hopefully he’s one of those guys that’s able to do that, and see how it impacts us moving down the road at the major league level."

The Arizona Fall League performance was a mighty positive sign for those waiting to see what a healthy year for Robert might look like. He slashed .324/.367/.432 with a couple homers and 10 RBIs in 18 games. He wowed just about everyone with his talent. He scored from second base on a sacrifice fly.

"He’s got that type of talent," Renteria said. "I think he’s one of those guys that you want to see his overall game come into play. I think the experience that he’s going to gain this summer will play a big part. ... Guys like that, that skill set, hopefully they jump exponentially in terms of their growth and their maturation. We’re hopeful that he’s one of those guys. And looking at some of the video we did see and conversing with everybody, everybody sees where he’s going and we’re looking forward to seeing him continue to develop."

"It was very important for me because I just played (50) games in the regular season and I had an opportunity to get some at-bats there and perform at the level that I think I can do," Robert said. "It was very, very important for me and for my confidence."

Robert shares his fellow prospects' ever-present confidence, and he once again relayed how often they all talk about playing together in the major leagues and turning the White Sox into a championship team.

The White Sox, though, are working, as they have throughout the ongoing rebuilding effort, to make Robert's development as comfortable as possible. His locker at Camelback Ranch sits right between big leaguers and fellow Cubans Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.

"For me, it's very important to have them by my side," Robert said. "Abreu is a veteran, he knows the league and he knows the things you need to do in order to get better. Moncada is a young guy, but he has experience, too. Because he's younger, I can relate more with him. We're always trying to have fun, but they're always giving me advice on how to think, how to get a better routine and how to get better in order to take advantage of my abilities."

Of course, Abreu and Moncada won't be with Robert down in the minors this season. But the most important thing is that injuries are nowhere to be found, either.

If they stay away, Robert could finally show what he's capable of, and that could end with him rocketing toward Chicago.

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Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera look like home-run additions for White Sox: 'Our bullpen could be nasty'

Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera look like home-run additions for White Sox: 'Our bullpen could be nasty'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Alex Colome was making some noise Saturday. Literally. His pitches were not just fast. They were loud.

Lined up next to Kelvin Herrera during a weekend bullpen session, Colome gave onlookers a preview of the most significant (to this point) additions of the White Sox offseason. Colome was the major league saves leader in 2017. Herrera was a key piece of a fearsome Kansas City Royals bullpen during that team’s back-to-back World Series runs in 2014 and 2015.

Talk about improving the South Side relief corps, which posted a 4.49 ERA last season, ranking 23rd out of 30 big league bullpens.

“When they added both of them, that’s one thing I was thinking. My thoughts were, ‘Our bullpen could be nasty,’” fellow reliever Nate Jones said Sunday at Camelback Ranch. “With the young guys, you’ve seen all the talent we’ve accumulated, and you got a glimpse of it in September with the guys in the bullpen. With what they can do, hopefully they can take what they learned last year and apply it to this year. We could be pretty dang good.”

It’s certainly not outlandish to suggest that Colome and Herrera could give the White Sox the best bullpen in the American League Central. Three of the White Sox four division rivals had worse relief ERAs in 2018, including the division-champion Cleveland Indians, who struggled out of the bullpen all season despite their former dominance in that department. The only Central team better was the Minnesota Twins, one spot ahead in 22nd with a nearly identical 4.45 ERA.

And those numbers are obviously without Colome and Herrera in the mix for the White Sox.

While the division is weak enough for the White Sox to potentially surprise this season, this is a team completely focused on the future. Thankfully, Colome and Herrera have big roles to play in that aspect, too. Colome, under team control for two more seasons, and Herrera, under team control for as many as three more seasons, figure to be around as the South Siders make the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode. But even if they aren’t under contract for the next decade, they’ll have a big impact on the organization’s crop of young relievers.

Just ask Jones, the elder statesman of the group at this point, a 33-year-old entering his eighth big league season with the White Sox.

When the two newcomers were acquired, they figured to have a positive effect on the development of young pitchers like Jace Fry, Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Caleb Frare and others, including guys who haven’t even reached the majors yet like Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson and Zach Thompson. If Colome and Herrera and Jones have the back end of games covered, it would figure to allow those young guys to pitch in lower-leverage situations.

Jones said that is absolutely the case.

“With some of the younger guys in the bullpen, they can look up to these guys and see what their work ethic is and how they attack hitters and go about their day and go about the game and learn from that,” he said.

“I know when I was one of the young guys, that definitely helped to get my feet wet in the big leagues, to not be thrown into those high-leverage situations right out of the chute, so you can kind of get your feet wet, build that confidence up and then have the trial and error of going into those high-leverage situations.

“Being a young guy and having the back end of the game taken care of a little bit takes the pressure off, let’s them focus on the game and throwing strikes and getting guys out first. I think it helps our bullpen tremendously.”

And so it’s a multi-faceted pair of acquisitions for the White Sox, who greatly improved their bullpen in the short term and hope to continue to reap benefits far into the future.

As everyone continues to focus on the acquisition the White Sox have not yet made (some guy whose name rhymes with Shmanny Shmachado), it’s important to realize they might have already made a couple of home-run adds.

“When they were brought on board, I was like, ‘All right!’” Jones said. “Especially Kelvin, we faced him so many times with the Royals. So I told him, first thing I said was, ‘It’s nice you’re on our team now.’ But both are huge. They bring that veteran experience. One’s a World Series champion, and one’s been the single-season saves leader one year. Can’t do nothing but help us.”

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