Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada among five White Sox prospects sent to minor league camp

Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada among five White Sox prospects sent to minor league camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The future is on hold — for now.

As expected, the White Sox sent their top five prospects to minor league camp on Tuesday afternoon after a productive first month of the 2017 season.

Shipped to Triple-A Charlotte were second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer, while pitcher Michael Kopech has been re-assigned to minor league camp. Kopech, the No. 16 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, could start the season at Single-A Winston-Salem. Though all five have more development ahead, the White Sox front office is beyond pleased with what they've observed.

"I have not been this excited about the White Sox future in a long, long time," executive vice president Kenny Williams said. "It's been personally invigorating to see these guys in this clubhouse and on the back fields to see the second wave of guys that will be coming after this first wave of prospects. And to sit down and talk to Rick (Hahn) about the possibilities trade-wise we may have out there in the future, free agency, international signing-wise, we're in full go mode and it's exciting."

Four members of the group were acquired during the winter meetings in trades involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Each earned high marks after getting out to a slow start.

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Lopez, the team's fourth-ranked prospect, is easily the most polished of the bunch, especially after he moved to the middle of the rubber and began to throw the cut-fastball more often. Over his final four starts of spring, Lopez posted a 1.50 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 18 innings.

Kopech had everyone across the Cactus League oohing and ahhing as he put his dazzling arsenal on display. The tall, lean right-hander struck out 11 and walked two hitters in six innings with his fastball touching 102 mph on the radar gun.

While Giolito struggled in his final outing of the spring, he hit his stride in the previous two innings, allowing a run and four hits over seven innings.

Moncada, the No. 2 prospect in baseball, saved his best run of the spring for the final week of camp. He went 10-for-22 with three doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs over seven games.

In discussing the group for five minutes, Hahn noted how Fulmer, who finished his first season with three consecutive strong starts, continued to work on the adjustments he made late in 2016.

"All the five of them impressed in different ways," Hahn said.

The White Sox brought their top seven prospects, according to MLB.com, with them to camp last month. Of that group, only reliever Zack Burdi remains in camp. Pitcher Spencer Adams and catcher Zack Collins were sent down in previous rounds of cuts.

"Really positive," manager Rick Renteria said of the group. "All of them actually. They all have certain things to work on. They were all very impressive, and we are really, really happy to have them."

The White Sox have 41 players left in camp after Tuesday's moves.

Yoan Moncada belts pair of dingers in White Sox win over Kansas City

Yoan Moncada belts pair of dingers in White Sox win over Kansas City

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Yoan Moncada's offensive work yielded its biggest benefits to date on Wednesday as he hit his first and second homers of the spring.

Avisail Garcia and Cody Asche also homered for the White Sox, who downed the Kansas City Royals 7-3 at Camelback Ranch. Moncada's two-homer performance raised his spring OPS by more than 200 points as he belted a pair of dingers off Kansas City veterans Jason Hammel and Kelvin Herrera. 

"You know (Herrera's) one of the best in his role," Moncada said through an interpreter. "I'm very happy because I hit two homers today and it was a very good game for me.

"This is a process and you know that you have to keep on working in this process. You're going to have ups and downs, but you have to keep doing your job and you have to keep working hard. I'm very happy with the process. The results are going to be there when I need it."

Moncada's bat-flipping, two-year-old son, Robinson, attended his first game of the spring. 

The second baseman's afternoon got off to a slow start, including a pair of misplays in the field, one that led to his fifth error of the spring. Despite those struggles, the White Sox like what they have seen from Moncada in the field and believe he has the tools to stay at second base in the long run if he cleans up his mistakes. And they love the offensive potential, which has produced extra bases on five of his eight hits so far. 

Moncada's first homer came off Hammel on a 3-2 pitch and resulted in a long drive to right field. He later drove a first-pitch fastball from Herrera the opposite way for another round-tripper. Both homers came with Moncada hitting from the left side. 

Moncada raised his spring OPS from .648 to .888, including a .545 slugging percentage.

"I've been putting a lot of effort in my defense because that's an area I know I can improve," Moncada said. "But I'm also been putting a lot of effort into my offense because you can't just worry about one aspect of the game. You have to worry on all aspects of the game and both are very important. I'm just trying to get better in both of them."

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White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez, another prospect acquired in December, allowed two earned runs and three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Lopez settled down after he surrendered a leadoff homer to Raul Mondesi in the first inning and retired the final seven batters he faced.

"I kept my plan," Lopez said through an interpreter. "You can't change your plan just because the first batter hits a homer.

"I worked hard. I could finish strong. That's important. I gave the team a chance to win the game."

Prior to Wednesday's game, the White Sox, who are off on Thursday, optioned or reassigned eight players to the minors, including pitchers Tyler Danish, Chris Beck, Giovanni Soto and outfielder Willy Garcia. The moves reduce the number of players in camp to 46.

White Sox taking a big picture approach to evaluating Yoan Moncada

White Sox taking a big picture approach to evaluating Yoan Moncada

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yoan Moncada may be a top five prospect in baseball with a gargantuan amount of hype surrounding him, but the White Sox aren't going to rush in developing the 21-year-old second baseman. 

There probably was never a path for Moncada to hit his way to the major leagues out of spring training at Camelback Ranch, given the patience-is-a-virtue mantra put forth by general manager Rick Hahn over the last few months. Little Moncada could do at the plate during spring training would change the team's plan for him or how they view one of the guys for whom they were willing to trade ace left-hander Chris Sale. 

So with that in mind, what does Moncada's .209 batting average, .648 OPS and 13 strikeouts in 30 Cactus League at-bats mean? Not much. 

"The information from Moncada for me right now isn't really a whole lot because I can't evaluate him on eight, nine, 10 at-bats," hitting coach Todd Steverson said. "That's not fair of me. I'd like for him to come out and be comfortable with what he does and throw some tidbits in here and there. We've talked, obviously, no real changes or anything like that. Just some kind of absolutes of hitting that are there. 

"There's nothing that's going to deter him from being a good hitter. But I'd like to see him go out and show what he can show, and it's a little tough in a spring training setting where you don't play every day and you don't get that direct timing or you don't get to see pitches every day. So it's unfair of me to do that. But I work over with him in the cage and talk to him and he's a bright kid." 

The White Sox are more focusing on Moncada's defense during their first extended look at him at Camelback Ranch. While he's committed four errors, manager Rick Renteria has been pleased with Moncada's work with bench coach Joe McEwing on honing his skills at second base.

Moncada mostly played second base for Cienfuegos in Cuba and in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, but played six games at third base in the majors last September with former MVP Dustin Pedroia blocking him at second. 

"We like where it's going, he's improving and he's a young man just scratching at the surface of what he can potentially can be," Renteria said. "Time and experience will ultimately (tell) what he is."

The White Sox have liked how Moncada has conducted himself this spring, too. HIs locker is next to Jose Abreu's in the Camelback Ranch clubhouse, and he hasn't overstepped things as a rookie with only a little over 200 plate appearances above the Single-A level. 

"He's a quiet guy, he goes about himself, and as a younger guy I think that's the way he needs to be," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "And when he gets the chance, watch out."

While the overall results haven't been there at the plate, Steverson did point out that Moncada hasn't stopped talking walks this spring. The Abreus, Cuba native came to the United States with refined plate discipline -- he has a 13 percent walk rate since debuting stateside -- and has five walks in Cactus League play. 

The White Sox expect Moncada will eventually make it to and stick at 35th and Shields. Overall, they've been pleased with how he's worked in Glendale -- so don't pay attention to his stats, which are far less important than everything else during spring training. 

"You work with a purpose and my purpose is to play in the big leagues and to play in the big leagues with this team," Moncada said through a translator. "To make the team out of spring training -- that's something that I can't control. I'm just doing what I can control, to work hard and do my preparation and do what the coaches ask me to do. That's the only thing I can do."