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South Side Morning 5: Flashing the Goods

The White Sox wrapped up a bad first half with a win against the bad Royals. That’s all fine and well, but more importantly, their final day of action heading into the All-Star break was ripe with positive moments from some of their young building blocks.

1. It would be apt to describe Yoan Moncada’s first half as a roller coaster — albeit probably one with more drops than climbs — but he enters the All-Star break on one of those stretches of play that make it easy to see why he was and continues to be so highly regarded. As Nick addressed Sunday, his most significant funk can be traced back to a hamstring injury that kept him out for 11 days in mid-May, and his OPS dropped from .868 to a low-water mark of .683 at the beginning of July during that stretch. Sunday’s 3-for-4 effort, which included his 12th homer of the season, lifted that OPS up to .737, and he’s now reached base at least once in 12 straight games. Of his 16 hits during that span, seven have gone for extra bases.

I feel like every week in this space we’re writing some variation of “Moncada is struggling” or “Moncada is showing the goods,” but during an otherwise tumultuous first half, it’s certainly nice to end things on the latter.

2. Discussing Lucas Giolito of late has felt like defending your little brother who you just know has good intentions despite always putting himself in a position to make bad decisions. You’re grasping at any sign of optimism that maybe, this time, he’s turning over a new leaf. Giolito’s results have certainly been better of late, including 6 1/3 shutout innings in Sunday’s win over the Royals, but there’s still plenty of evidence that you should err on the side of caution in terms of hope for him putting it all together.

The six strikeouts, tied for his third most in a start this season, are nice, but he also induced just five swinging strikes against a very bad Kansas City lineup. And while he’s seen his ERA drop from 7.53 down to 6.18 over his last eight starts, Sunday’s start was only the third such occasion where he struck out more batters than he walked.

Finding the good and reaching for optimism during a half-season of mostly moribund results is certainly understandable, particularly when it comes to a player who came into the season with as high of hopes as Giolito. But while things are certainly looking better than they were the first two months of the season, consider me skeptical that he’s fully turned things around just yet.

3. During a first half where very few White Sox prospects made it out unscathed, Dylan Cease and Luis Alexander Basabe were two of the obvious bright spots. Cease, the second piece in the trade that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, and Basabe, the third piece in the deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston, elevated their prospect stock over mostly successful first halves, both jumping levels in the process, and both earning spots in Sunday’s Futures Game in Washington.

Basabe started in center field and hit lead off for the World team, putting him smack dab in the spotlight. After fighting off multiple high-90s fastballs from top Pirates prospect Mitch Keller in his first at-bat, he struck out on a curveball. In his second at-bat, against young Reds’ flamethrower Hunter Greene, he saw a slew of 100+ mph fastballs and , well …

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Basabe also recorded an outfield assist in the first inning, gunning down Nate Lowe with a dart to second base after the Rays prospect tried to take advantage with a brief bobble on a single to center.

As for Cease, we didn’t see all that much but what we did see was good. He threw only eight pitches in recording two outs in his ninth inning appearance, striking out Rangers prospect Leodys Tavares before inducing a fly out against a Padres prospect you may have heard of.

It wasn’t much, but BP minor league editor Craig Goldstein was in attendance and liked what he saw.

4. BP’s lead prospect writer Jeff Paternostro was on the latest episode of The Catbird Speaks with Nick this weekend to talk White Sox minor leaguers on the heels of the release of our Midseason Top 50 Prospects list. The two discuss a lot of prospects including the command issues of Michael Kopech. Give it a listen!

Kopech has had an up-and-down season at Charlotte, as he’s battled control issues and struggled to go deep into the game more often that one would hope. On Saturday, though, he had perhaps his best start of the season, striking out 11, walking just one, and giving up just one run in six innings of work. Given how undeniably advanced his stuff is, at this point for Kopech the focus should be on him proving he can consistently command his pitches. That’s proven difficult for a good portion of the season, but Saturday’s performance showed exactly what he can do when everything is working.

5. It’s starting to become difficult to ignore another much less heralded White Sox minor leaguer. 2016 fifth rounder Jimmy Lambert earned a promotion to Double-A late last month after a strong first two months in Winston-Salem and has continued his solid level of play in Birmingham, the latest being a seven inning one-hitter on Saturday in which he walked two and struck out 10.

Lambert entered the season as essentially a non-prospect and kind of still is. The only national site that goes deep enough into the system to mention him is MLB Pipeline, and they currently have him at No. 28 in the White Sox system behind guys like Evan Skoug and Thyago Viera. He’s a low-ceiling kind of guy who, if everything clicks right, can probably carve out a career as a back-end starter. But right now he certainly seems on that trajectory, and finding major league contributors outside of the top few rounds of the draft or major J2 signings is a good and important way to supplement a roster when trying to build a contender.

Lead Photo Credit:  Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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