Director of player development Chris Getz took a call with several Chicago White Sox blogs on Tuesday. Here’s a glimpse of what he had to say regarding a number of team prospects:
There’s going to be a little delay with the start of Alec’s season. We’re going to hold him back [with] a throwing program, and essentially we need to do a spring training progression with him in terms of getting his innings where they need to be so he can get out there and join Birmingham. We’re just getting into his throwing program [in Arizona] soon, so it’s a little premature to put a date on his return, but that’s just where we’re at right now.
Luis Robert is seeing the doctor [Tuesday] to reassess some things. There’s a pin that needs to be removed before we start moving forward. The checkup today will let us know where he’s at, and [then] he can begin his ramp-up in terms of his legs, his arms, working toward getting in baseball shape. He will be in Winston-Salem to be around the team for a couple of weeks and do his rehab there. Then we plan on getting him back to Arizona to begin his return to play and introduce more baseball activity, and hopefully get him back to Winston-Salem when we get the go-ahead from our medical team.
[As for starting Robert at Winston-Salem] there are a lot of different factors. We were around him a little bit last year ... and understand the competition that he has played [against]. He had a layoff, and the Dominican Summer League [DSL] last year. Obviously, the DSL is a level below any of the affiliated levels, but he’s a very toolsy player and has a lot of skill.
Now getting him [to the White Sox], we wanted him comfortable with a new culture, and he’s done that really well. We’ve been fortunate to surround him with [José] Abreu and [Yoan] Moncada and our support staff, and he’s really beginning to blossom. On the field, he definitely was impressive. Everyone was curious to see Robert against competition in a major league spring training, and he handled himself very, very well. He controlled the strike zone and put together some quality, professional at-bats, along with good defense, showing some speed and having some pretty good production within his at-bats as well. With all those different factors, we felt he’s best suited for Winston-Salem when he’s ready to go.
[Regarding Robert’s injuries and whether he has a specific sliding issue] there are some things there we’ll focus on in terms of feet-first sliding, and certain techniques doing that. We like out players to go feet-first in most occasions. Obviously, you’ve got to be creative at times. And ultra-aggressive players, which a lot of major league players are, they push the limits and you see a lot of headfirst sliding. Obviously from an organizational standpoint, you cringe [at headfirst slides]. It’s our job to find a way to pull back the reins at times.
He’s such a young player, he goes out there and tries to change the game in so many different ways. There’s so many positives to that approach, but we also know there’s a danger when he runs into injuries, like we’ve seen. It’s not a long-term concern with sliding, it’s really just the layout he’s had, getting into when you’re on the field and making good decisions, and that comes with more experience.
Blake is going to be starting at Winston-Salem, we’re looking for him to continue his natural growth. Last year, he had a lot going on. His first full season is with the New York Yankees, which is an eye-opening experience for any young player. You’re trying to get to know teammates and philosophy and coaching staff, and then he was traded [to the White Sox] and had to kind of start over, beginning the same process in a new place.
It’s our job to earn trust with Blake, and we’re doing very well there. We were able to do that with the half-season he was with us, instructional league, some events in the wintertime, then spring training. We’re expecting to see a young kid go out there and get some A-ball at-bats, continue to improve, bring some discipline, learn how to become a professional hitter. He’s certainly got the skill set to do just that, adding a little bit more rhythm to his swing. Blake hits the ball very hard from an exit velocity standpoint, and with a little bit more looseness in his swing he’s going to be able to drive the baseball. That’s certainly not a point of emphasis, just over time, that’s going to begin to happen.
Our plan going in is really to make sure Luis is fully healthy — he’s shown that during spring training — and just begin to get some at-bats. He’s not going to be breaking with the club, and truly that’s to hold him back so we can play him every day [in Arizona], and make sure his legs are under him, just really to gather more at-bats before we move him forward. He has a very bright future, he’s a smart kid, and he handles failure very well, which is a key to being successful in this game. He’s got leadership qualities, so a lot of people should be excited about Curbelo growing within our system. He’s shown a a lot of positives.
[Regarding a crowded center field in Winston-Salem] I look it as a definite positive, in that every guy can play center field there. While Luis Robert won’t be starting with Winston-Salem, when he is there, he will be the priority center fielder, with still the ability to mix in the Rutherfords, Basabes, Calls, Bookers. Robert will be the main center fielder, with the other guys getting plenty of reps. It’s beneficial for all outfield guys to play all outfield positions in the minor leagues, certainly with the understanding and hope they develop into everyday center fielders, but it’s [also] helpful from a roster flexibility standpoint for these guys to be able to play on the wings as well.
[Regarding a crowded starting staff at Birmingham] Dane Dunning will begin at Winston-Salem, so the Birmingham rotation is Jordan Stephens, Ian Clarkin, A.J. Puckett, Jordan Guerrero and Spencer Adams.
[Regarding the importance of having Zack Collins at Birmingham catching the staff] we’ve got a good group of pitchers at both High-A and Double-A, which is going to be important for anyone catching those guys, for a lot of different reasons. To have Zack at AA getting familiar with that pitching staff, and certainly who knows when Dunning may move forward and join that crew, certainly you want to start building that relationship and know those pitchers. As we hopefully move those guys up together to break into the big leagues, it’s definitely part of their development.
Last year, going into the year we wanted to get full season’s worth of games under his belt, coming off Arizona Fall League as well. He was able to get to the 130 innings mark, and we want to build upon that. The majority of [Kopech’s] innings will be at Charlotte.
If he improves and takes a step forward, we have that conversation where we focus for each of these guys and what’s in front of them. When you’ve got the big fastball, very good slider, we have to remember the changeup as well. [Being] a power pitcher with the ability to equalize with the changeup is going to be a key for him. So when we see he’s more or less mastered what he needs to do, then we’ll have that conversation of whether he’s ready to take the next challenge. The focus is really [more] on the changeup and refining those other skills than what level he’s pitching at, to be honest.
If Eloy continues to hit the way he’s been hitting, who knows, the sky is limit with this guy, He’s done nothing but hit since he’s become a White Sox. [But] we’re looking at [only] 60 at-bats [so far for Jimenez] in Birmingham. Birmingham is a key level we want all our players to feel they’ve accomplished before we start thinking about anywhere else.
I expect Eloy continues to do what he’s been doing, and who knows where he ends up. He’s still a young kid, obviously very mature in a lot of different ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes steps forward to another level at some point.