If a major league clubs farm system is any forecast of the future of a franchise, the Chicago White Sox should plan for a little bit of rain. Much like its crosstown rival, the Sox are in desperate need of a number of successful drafts to add depth to their now sparse lower level talent.In an attempt to beef up their minor league pitching this winter, the Sox elected to trade inconsistent closer Sergio Santos in return for right handed prospect Nestor Molina. Molina is an above average pitcher with a mid-range fastball complimented by a slider, a changeup, and a pretty active splitter. The only problem is some scouts do not think that Molina has a very high ceiling -- in other words, he is already peaking and shows little room for improvement. With some fine tuning, Molina could end up a back-of-the-rotation starter at best, but probably has a better chance of being a late-inning reliever.South Side farm system poster boy Addison Reed is one of the bright spots for a farm system lacking depth in the worst way. The large-framed Reed tops out in the 95 mph range, but his biting slider has catapulted him to the next level and his active arm and electric stuff will eventually land him in the closers role. The Sox are a team still searching for someone to call their everyday closer and while Chis Sale appears to be the next to get his shot in that role Reed will probably get his audition this summer.Another pitcher walking the line between starter and bullpen is former Padre Simon Castro. Castro was acquired in the Carlos Quentin trade and is the high-potential type player you love to have in your farm system. On the contrary, there are some question marks that come along with Castro. The 6-foot-5 righty has a mid-90s fastball and a changeup with good movement, both of which he has trouble locating. Castros command problems stem from a number of mechanical issues that have plagued him in the past, but the hope is that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can fix his flaws like he has done with so many others in the past.One of the White Sox top outfield prospects is Jared Mitchell. Mitchell, a two-sport standout at LSU, was the White Sox first-round selection in the 2009 draft. General manager Kenny Williams and the rest of the Sox organization had high hopes for the extremely athletic outfielder, and in 2009 Mitchell hit .327 with 25 extra base hits, 36 steals and showed great power to the opposite field. Mitchell was also named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. It seemed as if the sky was the limit for him until he ruptured his Achilles' tendon making a circus catch in a 2010 spring training game. The unfortunate incident surrounded Mitchell with a great deal of uncertainty because such a large part of his game relies on speed. At times his outstanding acceleration made up for his lack of experience and instinct in the field.Mitchell returned to the lineup and played a full 2011 schedule but he struggled significantly, hitting only.222 and fanning 183 times -- 38 percent of his trips to the plate. He has shown signs of improvement early this season with Double-A Birmingham and is currently hitting .341 with a .471 OBP in 24 appearances. Perhaps more importantly, he is showing significant speed which means he is close to 100 percent recovered from the Achilles' injury. That is giving Williams and Co. hope that he is not far from playing in the big leagues on an everyday basis.The White Sox system is not considered strong by most talent evaluators, but after changing scouting directors and putting a renewed emphasis on developing pitching the Sox are hopeful that brighter days are ahead for an organization that trying to retool from within. Right now the major league club is led by a solid core of veterans, but as they continue to age it will be imperative that the team's drafts start producing at a solid rate of return.Joe Musso contributed to this article.
For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.
The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Philip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“He was dominant,” shortstop Tim Anderson said, providing an accurate if brief summation of the day’s proceedings.
Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.
Of course, whenever a performance nears no-hitter territory, players know it and stay away from the pitcher in the dugout, afraid of jinxing things. And the White Sox weren’t immune to that baseball tradition on Sunday.
“It was getting quiet,” Gonzalez said. “I was just trying to do my thing. Just go out there and make pitches, let them make the plays and that’s how things went.”
The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.
Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.
Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.
“I started off really good. I was struggling for a couple outings, and all you can do is keep working hard and things are going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you work hard in between your starts you have a pretty good chance of getting back on track and that’s how I felt today.”
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That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.
Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.
Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.
“As an offense, we’re trying to give that (big cushion) every night. That’d be nice,” Davidson said. “And it really relaxes them. And you can see what happens when they’ve got a lead and you let them do their thing.”
The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.
“I'm very happy with it, but again I'm not surprised by it, simply because I think they come out every single day to try to play good baseball and do what they need to help each other out and win ballgames,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It's just their character, the way they're put together. They keep battling.”
Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.
When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.
But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.
In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.
“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.
“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”
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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”
Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.
While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.
Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.
“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”
Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.