Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

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Who likes the White Sox? Jim Leyland does

Before the season began, most baseball experts had two distinct predictions when it came to the Tigers and White Sox. One was slated to seek and destroy, the other was expected to run away and hide.

I think you can guess whos who.

But after winning five of their first eight games, and taking two of three from the Tigers, the White Sox have raised a few eyebrows -- but not Jim Leylands. They remain firmly planted in a horizontal line at the bottom of his forehead.

Why?

Mainly because Leyland thinks the prognosticators who are calling for the White Sox to lose 90-95 games are working with a shortage of baseball brain cells. And leave it to the outspoken Tigers manager to use his post-game press conference on Sunday as an opportunity to harpoon the pundits who are predicting gloom and doom for, of all teams, his AL Central rivals.

The people who made those picks dont know anything about baseball. Trust me, said the Tigers manager in a classic rant following his teams 5-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. If they think the Chicago White Sox arent going to be in the thick of this, theyre crazy.

But Leyland wasnt finished. Far from it.

They dont know anything about baseball, people making picks like that. They know nothing about baseball. Nothing. Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year, and theyll be right there.

Well, thats probably an exaggeration. The White Sox have clearly not been one of the top teams in the league every year since 06. However, theyve at least been in the conversation at the start of every season as a team that has a chance to contend. But not this year. Most people have been writing them off since November.

Leyland has been down that road before.

They picked us fourth last year. We won 95 games, so dont pay attention to those people. They just make a pick and they talk, but they dont know what theyre talking about, Leyland said.

If youre looking for an expert to talk about the White Sox, Leyland might be the guy. Hes seen his share of games between both clubs over the years, and the results have been all over the map. In his first three seasons in Detroit, the White Sox owned the Tigers, going a combined 35-20. Things were even the next two years until 2011, when the Tigers put a spanking on the White Sox, winning 13 of 18 games.

Leyland is not expecting a repeat of that in 2012, and now after seeing the Sox up close and personal for three days, hes come away impressed, basically giving a scouting report for his fellow American League managers.

Look at that pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there. Look at the arms they bring out of the bullpen, Leyland said. Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He had a couple hits today. This is a good team. Alexei Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers and gets a lot of big hits.

Now before you pencil in the White Sox as contenders in the division, realize that there might be a method to Leylands madness. He could have used these comments to light a fire under his own team. Hes crafty like that.

But he also knows baseball, more than just about anybody in the game. Ill take his opinion over that of John Q. Baseball Expert.

Where is this season going for the White Sox? I have no clue. Nobody does. But here on April 15, theyre a half-game behind the Tigers and they look better than they did last year. Its only eight games, but thats the current reality. We cant predict the future. The experts tried, and Sunday, so did Leyland.

I dont know why anybody would not pick the White Sox as a solid, solid contender, he said. Weve got a good team. So do they. Theyre proving that.

Now just 154 games to go.

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. 

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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."

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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."