1. The White Sox have now traded away their best starting pitchers, all of their best relievers who weren’t injured, and have yet to start calling up any of their significant arms from the minor leagues. Pair that with a series against a solid Cubs lineup and you can get some ugly results, like the eight runs surrendered on Wednesday night following the seven spot on Tuesday. James Shields didn’t allow any home runs, but he left the game after recording only twelve outs regardless. Somehow his 7.26 DRA is worse than the one he posted in 2016 with the White Sox, and moving forward the only real contribution the organization can hope for is that Shields assists any September call-ups with his much-lauded pitching coach attributes.
2. Following Shields’ departure, Rick Renteria had to cover five innings with a bullpen that has now lost its five best arms heading into the season to injury or trade. The cavalcade of fringe non-prospects and reclamation projects limped through admirably, but this area of the roster is where the impact of the rebuild is most palpable, particularly from the beginning of the season. As you may recall, the White Sox went 13-10 to start the year largely on the strength of their absurd bullpen, where any lead could be locked in and held. Dan Jennings was probably sixth in the pecking order to start the year and he is now comfortably their best reliever, although fortunately he has picked up his performance considerably since the arrival of June. His ERA doesn’t show it, but Jennings’ DRA has improved from 5.01 to 4.38 from ’16 to ’17.
UPDATE: Immediately following drafting of this piece, Jennings was traded to Tampa Bay, analysis can be found here.
3. With that unpleasantness out of the way — Yoan Moncada crushed his first major league home run to dead center on an 0-2 pitch from Jake Arrieta, a hanging breaking ball on a night where his stuff was otherwise quite lively. Moncada also walked and struck out twice, continuing to show a willingness to take close pitches and work deep counts, which is a stark change from his debut last year wherein he was completely overmatched at the plate. His batting average is still quite low over a small sample, but his strikeout to walk ratio sits at a very comfortable 8:4, which includes two at bats where he was asked to bunt and fell behind 0-2, and at least one very close take on a two strike pitch. There is plenty of reason for optimism here.
4. Speaking of optimism, Wednesday was a banner day for White Sox pitching prospects. A day after Lucas Giolito pitched seven strong innings, a trio of White Sox arms vaporized the opposition. Reynaldo Lopez continued his run of dominance in Triple-A, with a line of 10K 2BB 2R 4H across 5 innings, although one can infer that he wasn’t incredibly efficient. Rick Hahn acknowledged that Lopez was “Getting close” and “forcing the issue” with regard to a spot in the major league rotation before this outing, so there’s good reason to believe there will be another exciting piece of the future arriving in Chicago sooner rather than later.
Between injury and suspension, heading into this year Michael Kopech‘s single season high for innings pitched came in 2015 when he threw 65 frames in Low-A. So it wasn’t surprising when Kopech looked to be tiring as he approached the 70 inning mark in early July, posting back-to-back short and ineffective outings for Birmingham.
Then Kopech flipped the script and after his 12K outing on Wednesday, over his last three starts he has thrown 20 innings with 25K, 4BB, 10H, and only 3 ER. Generally, scouting the stat line is an easy trap to fall into, but with a guy like Kopech whose build and stuff are unquestionably top flight, his walks allowed and innings pitched serve as about as good a shorthand proxy for development as you’re likely to find in the minors. Given that he is now in uncharted territory in terms of workload, the White Sox will undoubtedly watch him closely for fatigue and handle him carefully, as there’s no reason to rush his development in 2017. Still, for a guy who once looked like he might limp to the 90-100 inning mark, he has a good chance to finish the minor league season through the month of August and throw around 140, positioning him comfortably to continue ramping up through Triple-A next year. That would position him to get a cup of coffee in September 2018 and compete for the rotation in 2019.
Oh, and Dane Dunning bounced back from a rare bad outing to strike out six against only one walk over seven shut out innings in High-A. The true test for Dunning is likely to come at the upper levels as his stuff is more solid than the wipeout offerings of say a Lopez or Kopech, and his best offspeed pitch is a change up. But, for a “third piece” in a deal, the White Sox look like they have yet another Top 101 prospect on their hands, and Dunning is positioning himself to start 2018 in Birmingham.
5. Avisail Garcia has landed on the 10-day DL with a strained ligament in his thumb, for which he will undergo an MRI. A corresponding roster move has yet to be announced, and although the pitching staff is already at 13*, given the issues both the rotation and bullpen have had of late, and the extreme positional flexibility afforded by a bench of Tyler Saladino and Alen Hanson (and a DH who can play 3B and 1B), it may make sense to call up a pitcher for a little while.
*12 with the departure of Jennings.
Lead Image Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
2 comments on “South Side Morning 5: What Game? Moncada & Minor League Arms Thrive”
Here’s hoping Rick Hahn sticks to his patient game plan and ignores the impatience of fans and analysts. Rule 5 will introduce enough impatience as it is.