White Sox

The Winston-Salem Dash just gave the White Sox their best week of baseball since the rebuild began

The Winston-Salem Dash just gave the White Sox their best week of baseball since the rebuild began

“Astonishing.”

That’s how White Sox Director of Scouting Nick Hostetler described the events coming from Winston-Salem, N.C., this past week.

They might be 700 miles away from Chicago, one-to-three years from making it to the big leagues, but what transpired on the field for the Winston-Salem Dash, the White Sox Class-A squad in the Carolina League should give White Sox fans a jolt of excitement — and plenty of hope, too.

Under new manager Omar Vizquel, the Dash won six games in a row with dominant pitching, clutch hitting and dramatic endings so off the charts you’d think their season was scripted by Disney.

“Omars in the Outfield,” joked Hostetler.

The Dash might not be ready for Hollywood just yet, but they did accomplish something else:

They gave the White Sox franchise its best week of baseball since Rick Hahn and company started their rebuild.

True, this all happened on minor league fields nowhere near the bright lights of the majors, but in every game several important pieces of the rebuild took the field and together showed all the promise and potential the White Sox have been talking about.

Kopech, Giolito, Lopez, Moncada, Jimenez and Hansen have all had their individual moments.

But this was different.

This was all that talk coming through in action night after night after night.

“It’s been a special week in Winston-Salem that we hope continues to grow this group together,” said Director of Player Development Chris Getz. “It’s a collection of some of our top players, and winning in the fashion that they have makes the development process more enjoyable for everyone. We’ve had very good pitching performances, clutch hitting, successful situational hitting and good defense. Needless to say, things have been clicking this past week.”

The top prospects playing on the Dash are Dylan Cease (from the Jose Quintana trade), Luis Basabe (Chris Sale trade), Dane Dunning (Adam Eaton trade), Blake Rutherford (Todd Frazier/David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle trade), plus international signee Micker Adolfo and 2017 second round pick Gavin Sheets.

The White Sox like it when their minor league teams win, but what they really want to see is development.

Here’s what is developing with the Dash through 11 games:

Adolfo: .395/.435/.651

Basabe: .372/.426/.605

Booker: .400/.471/.633

Rutherford: .333/.378/.424

Sheets: .324/.419/.432

Cease: 1-1, 1.69 ERA, 4 BB, 12 K

Dunning: 1-0, 0.79 ERA, 2 BB, 16 K

And still waiting to play his first game with the Dash is Luis Robert, the White Sox third-ranked prospect, who’s out with a sprained thumb. He’ll probably make his debut sometime in May.  

Pray for the Carolina League.

So, what did the Dash exactly do this past week that has everyone all excited?

Monday

Tied at 4 in the top of the ninth inning against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (the Cubs Class-A affilliate), Basabe drove in the go-ahead run on a single. He advanced to second on the throw, stole third base and scored on a sac fly by Rutherford. The Dash won 6-4.

Merely scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth inning was by far the least exciting day of the week for the Dash. Read on.

Tuesday

When the news came across, it didn’t seem real. The Dash announced that nine-time NBA All-Star and Winston-Salem native Chris Paul bought a minority ownership of the Dash.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to become involved with a successful organization that has a positive impact on the community,” Paul said. “What could be more fun than being part owner of a Minor League baseball team in your hometown?”

That night, Basabe, Sheets and Joel Booker all had three hits, while starter Jimmy Lambert only gave up one unearned run on one hit in five innings. The Dash beat Myrtle Beach again 6-4. But wait. There’s more. A whole lot more.

Wednesday

Dunning set White Sox Twitter ablaze when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Myrtle Beach. The sixth-ranked White Sox prospect ended up going 6 1/3 innings, gave up only two hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He said afterwards that James Shields showed him a different grip to use for his curveball during spring training. “That’s been a big plus for me so far,” Dunning said. The Dash swept the Pelicans 9-0. Take that, Cubs. Basabe had 3 more hits. Of course, he did. “Basabe has been showing off everything he can do to help a team win a game,” Getz said.

Thursday

In their home opener against Carolina, the Dash provided the kind of late-game fireworks you rarely see, or never do. Tied at 2 with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Joel Booker was on third base. Rather than rely on someone else to drive him in, he took matters into his own hands, shocking everybody in the stadium, by safely stealing home. A walk-off steal to win a baseball game. That was the kind of week it was for the Dash. However, this was merely a dress rehearsal for what would come over the weekend.


Friday

Fifth-ranked prospect Dylan Cease got the start vs. Carolina and was basically unhittable. He retired the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a two-out single in the fourth. Cease finished with six scoreless innings on only two hits while striking out five. The Dash won easily 8-1. Guess who had three more hits? Basabe.

Saturday

Now to the craziest game of the week. It will probably be the wildest game of the season.

Not sure how you top this. The Dash trailed the Mudcats 5-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The game was seemingly over. Carolina went to the bullpen and the Dash made them pay. Did they ever. Winston-Salem hit FOUR HOME RUNS. Booker, Basabe (2-run shot), Adolfo and Yermin Mercedes did the damage.  They scored five runs to tie the game.


They went to the 10th inning where the Dash won again. Not on another home run. That’s too easy. This is a dynamic bunch that finds creative ways to beat you. How about a suicide squeeze bunt? Booker laid it down successfully, scoring Yeyson Yrizarri. The Dash won their sixth game in a row.

Oh yeah, Basabe went 2-for-4. His other hit was a bunt single. The dude has wheels. Did I mention he might be the best defensive outfielder in their minor league system?

Sunday

The Dash came back down to Earth. They finally lost a game, 6-2 to the Mudcats. But Adolfo homered, Rutherford stole 2 bags. Basabe went 0-for-4. He’s human.

So, that’s the week it was for the Winston-Salem Dash, a team loaded with talent. Who knows for how long? Double-A Birmingham will be calling soon for some of these guys. When will they reach Chicago? After weeks like this, maybe sooner than anyone thought.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

white_sox_prospects_update.jpeg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

0522-james-shields.jpg
USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.