Spring training storylines: Morel, Viciedo and walks


Spring training storylines: Morel, Viciedo and walks

Through the end of July last season, Brent Morel had walked three times in 241 trips to the plate. His offense continued to lag as he tried to swing his way out of his season-long struggles.

But in August, Morel finally began to exercise more patience. He took four walks in the month, and while the results weren't there -- he posted a .273 OBP -- the pieces began to fall into place for success. When September rolled around, that success came with Morel taking 15 walks and hitting eight home runs.

A walk rate of 14.5 percent probably isn't sustainable for someone who wasn't big on free passes in the minor leagues. But Morel needs to carry that mindset he had in September over to 2012: It's far more important to make good contact than it is harmful not to make contact.

On the flip side, Dayan Viciedo showed a drastic improvement in his plate discipline across the entire 2011 season. His walk rate with Triple-A Charlotte was 8.9 percent (45 in 505 PA), almost three times higher than his 2010 Triple-A walk rate of three percent. And perhaps more encouragingly, Viciedo had an 8 percent walk rate in the majors last year, signaling his pitch recognition improvements did carry over to the majors.

Both players will have a new hitting coach in their respective ears, though, although Jeff Manto has spent time working with both in the minor leagues. For Morel and Viciedo to reach their full offensive ceilings, their pitch recognition and selection abilities can't take a step backward.

And while the small sample size of spring training isn't the best area to make these determinations, it's important for these two free-swingers to start 2012 off right with good plate discipline.

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia will both return to the White Sox in 2017.

The team announced it reached deals with both players shortly before Friday’s 7 p.m. CST nontender deadline. Lawrie will earn $3.5 million next season and Garcia received a one-year deal for $3 million.

The club didn’t tender a contract to right-handed pitcher Blake Smith, which leaves its 40-man roster at 38.

Acquired last December for a pair of minor leaguers, Lawrie hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 36 RBIs in 94 games before he suffered a season-ending injury.

Lawrie produced 0.9 f-WAR when he suffered what then-manager Robin Ventura described a “tricky” injury on July 21. Despite numerous tests and a lengthy rehab, Lawrie never returned to the field and was frustrated by the experience. Last month, Lawrie tweeted that he believes the cause of his injury was wearing orthotics for the first time in his career.

He was projected to earn $5.1 million, according to MLBTraderumors.com and earned $4.125 million in 2016.

Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 453 plate appearances over 120 games. The projected salary for Garcia, arb-eligible for the first time, was $3.4 million.

The team also offered contracts to Miguel Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, who are eligible for free agency in 2018, first baseman Jose Abreu and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, among others.

The White Sox have until mid-January to reach an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players. If they haven’t, both sides submit figures for arbitration cases, which are then heard throughout February.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti cracks Crain's 40 under 40

Crain's Chicago Business released its latest 40 under 40 project and White Sox announcer Jason Benetti made this year's list.

The 33-year-old just finished his first season with the White Sox as play-by-play announcer, working the home games at U.S. Cellular Field (before it was renamed Guaranteed Rate Field last month) alongside Steve Stone as longtime broadcaster Hawk Harrelson saw his workload reduced to mostly road games.

Benetti quickly became a fan favorite among Chicagoans on CSN and other networks in 2016 and his cerebral palsy became more of a backstory, with his work alongside Stone and his affable sense of humor taking center stage instead.

Among other topics, Benetti discussed how he approaches his job of broadcasting for the team he grew up rooting for:

Law school taught me that there are always two sides of the argument. I see it from the Sox prism, but I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that, if the Sox lose, the world’s over anymore. That first game, I was like, “All right, it’s just a game.” And then Avi Garcia hits a homer late in the game against the Indians and I call it like I would call it with a little more. And as the ball cleared the fence, when it was rolling around, I got a slight tear in my eye. And I was like, “What’s that?”

Check out the entire interview with Benetti and the full list at ChicagoBusiness.com.