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South Side Morning 5: I cannot pretend that there is anything happening

By all means, the White Sox should have a firm price they stick by for all of their insanely valuable trade assets, and maybe even some of their only moderately valuable trade assets. By all means, they are not running late on the market that is slow-developing and was stalled by the holidays, and still seems robust with the Pirates, Astros and Yankees calling on Jose Quintana, among many other possibilities.

What are we doing in the meantime, though? Am I supposed to pretend this is not a deadened wasteland of information and relevant topics to discuss? What is there left to strip mine for content? Yoan Moncada should be good someday or he’ll strike out a little too much. The 2017 team will have a lot of prospect debut days, will give chances to some fun project players, but will probably lose a bunch. There’s not a ton to explore on these topics until men start picking up bats and gloves again, but then again I don’t want to rule out writing topics for later this week, either.

1. Alex Avila went back to the Detroit Tigers over the weekend on nearly the exact same deal he signed with the White Sox for. This is neither surprising nor an outrage, since the Sox are not contending at all, and figure to give Omar Narvaez, also a lefty hitter himself, plenty of playing time. Avila still got on base plenty in 2016 (.359 OBP) and is smart as a whip, but he tweaked his hamstring multiple times and barely cracked 200 plate appearances while his framing numbers remained sour. Such a bag of positives and negatives from a soon-to-be 30-year-old sounds like an ideal major league backup. Surely the holidays are stalling the deluge of apology comments for all those “Even his own dad wouldn’t sign him!” jokes from last year.

Avila aside, the prospect of leaving the catching workload to a pair of rookies–Narvaez and Kevan Smith, currently topping the depth chart–is a little disconcerting for pitching development. The other side of this is that it’s hard to find a realistic free agent catcher target without warts even worse than Avila’s. There are light-hitting catchers, and catchers who cannot even maintain the pretense of trying to hit like Josh Thole and Ryan Hanigan. Hank Conger has nice framing numbers but also hit horribly in 2016 and has thrown out under 20 percent of basestealers for his career. Nick Hundley is fine but someone better should want him. I am either going to be surprised by who the Sox are able to land or surprised that who they add is still playing.

2. I am one of two humans concerned about where Chris Volstad‘s innings are coming from in the Charlotte Knights rotation. The recently re-signed, massive 30-year-old righty logged a shade under 180 innings (in a Triple-A season!), but the days of filling the Knights rotation with journeymen warriors are temporarily over. The Knights could start the year with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer in their rotation, while Tyler Danish, Jordan GuerreroBrandon Brennan and Spencer Adams all reached Double-A (and beyond) last season. And what about David Holmberg??!

Volstad will lead the Knights in innings again in 2017, is what I’m saying.

3. The esteemed Scott Merkin wrote up Alec Hansen and the organizational enthusiasm behind him after his merciless decimation of Rookie Ball in 2016. He struck out 81 and walked 20 for a 1.32 ERA in 54.2 innings across three levels (Rookie Ball through Low-A), just as a reminder.

Pretty much any prospect who is publicly seen vivisecting his opposition–even low level opposition–is going to generate enthusiasm, but a plus-armed giant (six-feet, seven inches) who played major conference college ball ripping through that level is not particularly notable aside from how lost we perceived Hansen to be when he joined the organization. Reports of his progress with Sox coaching is very encouraging, but if there’s anyone who should benefit from a slowed-down timetable brought on by the Sox rebuild, it’s Hansen. If he is still being groomed to start, he should be given all the time in a world to develop a changeup and reduce the effort of his delivery..

4. The White Sox signed 28-year-old Jorge Rondon to a minor league deal over the weekend. He throws very, very hard and has allowed 48 of the 105 major league hitters he’s faced to reach base. He’s throwing more strikes recently than he was during his seven-year run in the Cardinals minor league system, and had a 2.67 ERA in 57.1 innings as a reliever for the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate last season, but has never been particularly overwhelming. Searching through old BP writeups on him was the first time I’ve ever seen “fifth-inning guy” as a description for a relief prospect.

5. A lot of the attention for this Carlos Rodon Instagram video of him playing catch with his fiancee will be directed toward him missing so badly with a two-seamer that he has to apologize, but Jake Peavy always said Spring Training was about finding fastball command, so Rodon is ahead of the game. The real star of this video are the crisp throws of Rodon’s fiancee. The Sox have been shuffling through personal catcher options for Rodon since non-tendering Tyler Flowers, and in a rebuild, certainly should consider someone he’s comfortable with that has a carrying tool like that throwing arm. It’s truly the offseason if I’m writing this much about this video.


Lead Image Credit: Caylor Arnold // USA Today Sports Images

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