Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

739794.png

Healthy Morel could be White Sox solution at third

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Several thresholds must be crossed but Brent Morel appears to have another chance with the White Sox in his future -- if hes healthy.

Morel was limited to 76 games last season --- 35 in the majors --- because of a troublesome back. His injury not only limited Morels appearances but also wiped out what the White Sox hoped would be a breakout season for the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product.

After a September 2011 surge, Morel was limited to a .177.225.195 slash line and no home runs in 113 at-bats last season. But Morel is on the mend and the White Sox consider him among their best internal options at the hot corner next season should they not sign a free agent or acquire a replacement for Kevin Youkilis.

Thats the No. 1 thing for us, to get him in there and see him again, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. Hes not out of the equation for me at all. Him being healthy and getting back in, hes a good third baseman when hes healthy.

The White Sox believed they had a star in the making in Morel. Not only did he post a .224.340.553 slash line with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 103 appearances in the final month of the 2011 regular season, but he also is considered a solid defender.

We thought he was an everyday guy, general manager Rick Hahn said.

He might once again be, but only if he gets his back on track, Hahn said.

Thus far, reports on Morels health have been good, though Hahn knows how tricky the situation can be. Last season, Morel thought he made progress in rehabbing the injury over summer only to have a setback.

They feel with his diligence on the program that this thing is hopefully behind him, Hahn said. Its tough with backs. Its tricky. Well have to see through his ramping up, training regimen, baseball activity and spring training games and regular season games and react accordingly to how he feels.

With few viable internal options -- the White Sox prefer to keep Gordon Beckham at second base, Dayan Viciedo in left field and Carlos Sanchez at Triple-A -- Morel could be the answer should the White Sox not sign Youkilis or another free agent or make a deal.

But Hahn wants proof of health before he makes a commitment.

Its conceivable, but with Brent, lets see him healthy, Hahn said. Lets get him 100 percent. He feels good now, lets have him go through the offseason do the work to prepare, then get to Glendale and get through spring healthy. Then well set our expectations for him going forward.

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."