What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

681968.png

What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

Heading into this weekend's installment of the BP Crosstown Cup at Wrigley Field, Cubs Talk blogger Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk blogger JJ Stankevitz break down what to watch for in the next three games:

JJ: Well, the White Sox haven't won a series since sweeping Seattle from April 20-21. Since then, they're 0-5-3. In the last few years, pitching has carried the White Sox against the Cubs, but this year, that doesn't seem to be the case, right?

Tony: Yeah, thats true, but part of the reason the Sox pitched so well against the Cubs was because they were led by Mark Buehrle, whose dominance of the NL included the Cubs. He is no longer a part of this serious, however. Pitching definitely a key for the Cubs, though. The starting pitching on the North side of town has been unbelievable this year, while the bullpen has leftquite a bit to be desired. There are so many guys in the White Sox offense struggling to hit their weight, so the Cubs starting trio of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija could dominate. But then again, if the Sox are able to get into the Cubs bullpen

JJ: That's the key here. Dempster and Samardzija have been outstanding, and the Sox have really struggled against lefties before beating up on a wild CJ Wilson Thursday. The good news for the Sox is that Dayan Viciedo looks like he's starting to come around, but he may sit the first two games in favor of Adam Dunn -- who absolutely has to be in the lineup -- in left field. Also, don't sleep on Gordon Beckham having a big series -- while the numbers don't show it, he's shown more signs of life at the plate in May than you may think. Who's someone on the Cubs who could be primed for a big series who we may not expect?

Tony: Ian Stewart and Alfonso Soriano. Everybody will be focusing on the Cubs' 1-2 punch of Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. But Stewart has shown signs of life lately and has looked rather comfortable at the plate for the most part over the past week or so. Part of his problem is just how unlucky he's been. He just keeps hitting balls hard, just right at defenders. As for Soriano, he may be in one of those stretches he gets into from time to time. He is no longer at the point where he can single-handedly carry a club, but he can still be a driving force behind guys like Castro and LaHair. The advantage the Cubs hold in this series at Wrigley is the White Sox will have to play Dunn in the field and lose out on one of their everyday bats. Is that a good or bad thing for the South Siders?

JJ: Dayan Viciedo has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with three home runs and only one strikeout, so I suppose parking him on the bench for Friday and Saturday's games isn't a good thing. But it's far more important to keep Dunn in the lineup against Dempster and Samardzija, and I imagine Viciedo will get to pinch-hit at some point in both games he doesn't start. The problem here is that the White Sox lineup may have to generate quite a bit of support for the starting rotation, namely John Danks, who has really struggled this year. Philip Humber finally put together his first good start since throwing his perfect game and Gavin Floyd was torched by the Angels on Tuesday, so maybe those two guys are toss-ups, too. For a lineup that's struggled to score at times this season, a bad start by any of those guys could be big trouble for the Sox. But then again, the Sox have historically been outstanding in interleague play, so maybe this is all overblown. Got a prediction for the series?

Tony: Yeah, I see the Cubs taking two of three games in this series. I think they'll win both the Samardzija and Dempster starts, but lose the game Maholm starts. Dempster is finally going to get his first win of 2012, at the hands of the crosstown rivals. I think all three games will be close, though. As you said the White Sox offense has been struggling of late so a bad start could doom the team, but the same can be said for the Cubs all year. This Cubs team will fight tooth and nail, but their offense just isn't a powerhouse, even if they have been swinging the bats better of late. What are you thinking for this series?

JJ: I like the pitching matchups for the Cubs, plus as I said earlier the White Sox haven't won any of their last eight series. I'll say they win the opener behind a good outing from Philip Humber, but won't be able to get to Samardzija or Maholm in the next two games. That being said, I'm looking forward to a few new chapters in this series being written. Everyone remembers the Pierzynski-Barrett brawl, but how about Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin walking off against Courtney Duncan and El Pulpo? Or Pierzynski belting a grand slam into the teeth of a stiff wind five years ago at Wrigley? Or Ray Durham hitting a 14th-inning walk-off single? Those are just a few from a South Side perspective -- what are some of your favorite moments?
Tony: June 20, 2008. That's what stands out the most. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez went back-to-back in the seventh off Octavio Dotel and then A-Ram hit a walk-off shot in the ninth. Cubs won 4-3. I was at the game with my mom and sisters wearing homemade shirts that said "Friends don't let friends be Sox fans" haha. Seriously. I remember going nuts during the seventh, and then jumping out of my seat the very second A-Ram made contact. I knew it was gone right away. I'll also always remember the Zambrano freak-out on Lee as well as the Milton Bradley incident in which he lost it on Lou Piniella. And of course, The Fight. That's one of those infamous "Where were you when..." type of moments in Chicago history.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."