MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox

Giolito Shines & Minor Leaguers Flourish

In the majors…

If your first look at Lucas Giolito was in his White Sox debut, you might have concluded he profiles differently than he has all year in Triple-A.  Despite a total inability to locate or utilize his offspeed pitches, Giolito scrapped through six innings anyway relying entirely on his low-to-mid-90s heat.  And while some evaluators have praised Giolito for his cerebral approach and pitchability, the story of post-hype Giolito has largely been one of a pitcher whose curveball remains ahead of his fastball.

On Sunday, in his second White Sox outing, Giolito threw seven shutout innings, with four strikeouts against three walks. Giolito was able to throw his curveball and slider–a relatively new offering–for strikes in the zone.  It helped him get ahead more often and meant that hitters couldn’t simply hold off any time they identified that a pitch was offspeed.  In addition, it meant hitters could not simply sit on his fastball, either, yielding more awkward swings on that pitch as well.

As the strikeout to walk ratio indicates, it was hardly a perfect outing, although he was getting a lot of weak pop-outs on the infield, which–like strikeouts–are automatic outs but for the most unusual of circumstances.  Giolito’s fastball command is still a work in progress, even taking into account that it looked like he was getting squeezed on a lot of close pitches.  He loaded the bases in his seventh inning of work with two outs, and, after a conversation, Rick Renteria left him out there to see if he could get the final out.  It nearly ended in disaster, as Jose Iglesias ripped a potential grand slam just barely foul.  But, it only went for a long strike and Giolito would eventually finish the inning without allowing a run on the day.

As has been the case since before the White Sox acquired him, Giolito no longer profiles as an ace.  The fastball sits around 93 now, rather than the 97-100 range he boasted once upon a time.  Even so, the curveball still looks like a good offering, and he shows confidence in the slider as well.  There’s still the the material for a good, mid-rotation starter here and it may not be far away, which is a tremendously valuable thing.

Matt Davidson has returned off the DL, and after falling behind 0-2, he smashed a 3-run home run to right-center, pushing the White Sox to a 5-0 lead over the Tigers.  His strikeout to walk ratio is rather unnerving, his OBP is still .286, and he doesn’t have a ton of defensive utility, but the power is very real, and while he doesn’t have much margin for error, even a modest improvement in his bat-to-ball skills and/or patience in his second full season could solidify his role as an extremely useful complementary piece.

In the minors…

Even with Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito in the majors (and two of them on the DL for what appear to be minor injuries), there is still too much going on in the suddenly booming White Sox farm system to cover here.  Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez continue to produce, even as they adjust to their promotions to Triple-A and Double-A respectively, and Dylan Cease struck out ten in six innings of one-run ball in his most recent outing.  While it’s important not to rush a prospect’s development, elite talent will find a way to push the timetable forward.  If guys with elite stuff like Kopech and Cease can throw it for strikes, they’re going to move quickly, and a bat as special as Eloy’s might be ready sooner than you’d think.  Our prospect team also got eyes on both Jimenez and 2017 second round pick, Gavin Sheets, and you can read about them both here in deeper dives.

Over the last week, 2017 first-rounder Jake Burger has hit .480/.519/.720, including a 5-for-5 game wherein he hit for the cycle and drew a walk.  And, although our prospect team’s Jarrett Seidler warns against the potential arbitrariness of hot streaks coinciding with promotions and yielding deceptively clean, pretty stat lines, it is still worth pointing out that Zack Collins has .304/.500/.609 in his first look at Double-A pitching.

Oh, and Luis Robert has returned from an ankle injury and continues to brutalize outmatched teenagers in the DSL.  The White Sox system is truly a delight, and the minor league updates on the main site are required, daily reading given just how littered they are with Sox prospects these days.

Lead Image Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

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