Director of player development Chris Getz took a call with South Side Sox, FutureSox and Sports Mockery on Tuesday. Here’s a lightly-edited transcript of our conversation:
Ken Sawilchik, FutureSox: Is there a difference between developing a pitcher with a dominant pitch, like Michael Kopech or Dylan Cease, vs. one with a well-rounded repertoire, like Jordan Stephens?
Chris Getz: You mean, like a pitchability guy vs. maybe a front-line player? You brought up two guys [Kopech and Stephens] in Triple-A, two guys we feel comfortable with in terms of what we feel their ceiling is based on the body of work they’ve had in our system and elsewhere.
[First we identify] that this guy has a chance to be a front-line starter vs. mid-rotation or back-rotation, reliever, things like that. [Then] for Michael, for example, you look at his delivery, pitches, arsenal and ask, OK what does he need to do to become who we think he can be? There are the fundamentals of pitching, commanding all your pitches, [for Kopech] when you have more velocity, more carry, you’ve got a little more room for error, so maybe you don’t need to be as fine with your command. We’re going to try to maximize the command of our pitchers as much as we can, we just know [with more velocity] there’s going to be more room for error. We start with the delivery, and if they’re able to repeat their mechanics, they’re going to be able to throw more pitches, and more pitches for strikes.
We know that if a [“pitchability” guy] is going to have a fastball that may play a little light, then we may focus on developing some secondary pitches, getting ahead with those other weapons, and then using the fastball differently. There’s a lot that goes into it, but I will say that you focus on the delivery, and it really comes down to executing pitches, and you’re able to get away with more things when you have more weapons.
Brett Ballantini, South Side Sox: What did Seby Zavala do to distinguish himself and get that call up to Charlotte, and what are you going to need to see from Zack Collins before he can join Seby with the Knights?
CG: With Seby, we’re very comfortable with where he’s at from a game-calling and receiving standpoint — the defensive side. Put that on top of what he was accomplishing offensively, hitting for power but also getting on base. He’s controlling the zone fairly well, and there’s some things we’re going to continue to work on there. But really what drove his promotion is where he was defensively. You’ve got to remember Seby is a year older, so we just felt it was the right time to challenge him at Triple-A.
And then you break down Zack, and Zack has had a really, really nice year. He obviously got off to that slow start in April, but once he got through that, you’re looking at one of the most productive hitters in the [Southern] League and possibly in all of minor league baseball. Defensively, he has improved. I was talking to the staff this morning to see where he’s at and what they’ve felt about him, and I’m getting a lot of positive remarks in what he’s been able to do now that we’re going into the second half. I’m actually traveling down there this weekend to check in and see some things in person. Both guys, we’re happy in their development so far in where they’re at. We know that there’s more work to be done, but these guys have shown a lot of positive signs.
Matt Enuco, Sports Mockery: Is there any need for more lefthander depth in the White Sox system?
CG: If you stack up all of our pitchers, you’re not going to find many lefties, but that’s true across the game. Finding left-handed pitching is not an easy thing. Bernardo Flores has had a nice year and taken a step forward with all his pitches. Would I welcome in more lefties? Sure!
We’re looking at what these guys are going to be in the big leagues, regardless of what hand they throw with. It’s my job to continue their progression and get them there, and maximize what we can out of them.
We drafted Konnor Pilkington, he’ll be coming into the system fairly soon. But to say we’re light, no, it’s not something I’ve really focused on too much. I’m just excited with the guys that we have. My job to focus is more on getting them from A to B than the holes in our system. But I don’t see left-handed depth as an issue.
KS: Can you name some players who have stood out defensively across the organization?
CG: Yeah, sure, Laz Rivera has played a really nice shortstop for us. We’ve got him moving around a little bit, he played second last night and has the ability to move all over the diamond. He’s got great instincts, and a good feel for the game on that side of things. He has stood out.
In the outfield, Joel Booker, everyone talks about his speed, it’s very helpful in the outfield. Luis Basabe not only has speed but arm strength, and his instincts are strong as well. Luis Robert’s raw skills are going to stand above all of them, the more reps he gets in center field. He’s got a chance to be a game-changer defensively.
Looking through our system right now, we’ve got guys who are balanced in the work they’ve done this year. I’m happy about where a handful of these guys are.
ME: Is there an update on Dane Dunning’s elbow injury?
CG: I don’t have an update, but we’ll get the results fairly soon. We’re optimistic, cautiously. We have not got the results of the tests [but] should know something in the near future.
BB: Jordan Guerrero relieved Alec Hansen over the weekend, and Lincoln Henzman worked out of the bullpen as well. Is this just a fluke, or are we beginning to see the starter glut getting addressed by moving some guys who had been starting into the pen?
CG: The reasons for them going into the pen had nothing to do with stockpiling issues, or there being a bottleneck. Henzman, for one, we put in the bullpen to get him [acclimated] to a new level because he’d done such a great job in Kannapolis. He also doesn’t have too many innings under his belt. He was relieving at Louisville [but in Kannapolis he] was going so deep into games, and just eating up innings. We reached a point with 70 innings this year; he pitched 34 in college last year, plus some innings last year after he signed. So it’s more for the long-term view. He’s going to continue to start. We think he can be a starter in the big leagues, and next year he’ll begin the year as a starter.
Guerrero, we’re comfortable with him starting, but also want to get a look at him out of the bullpen. Guys moving forward, we have to make a decision on who goes into the bullpen. We chose to put Jordan in there to see what he looks like. He had a good outing the other night. He’s got a strong changeup that will be useful there, with good breaking pitches, [and we’ll] try to stabilieze his velocity. You’ ll probably see him relieving a little bit, but also see him get some starts here and there, too.
KS: Is there an emphasis on 17- and 18-year-olds being brought in to the Arizona League and your complex, or does it just seem to have worked out that way?
CG: I don’t think it was necessarily emphasized. I guess you could point back to a certain signing class and who we brought in, but you know, that Arizona team is a very fun team to watch on a nightly basis, and those guys who came over from the DSL or international side have played a huge part of it, those outfielders. But they’re guys you can dream on a little bit: They’ve got good-looking kids, nice swings, a chance for power, they can run and really love the game. It really is just more timing than anything, I wouldn’t say there was a push or something overemphasized organizationally, it was really just the guys we thought were ready to take the next step.
ME: When a player reaches Triple-A and the organization is trying to figure out whether to push him up, how to handle that, how quickly to do it ... is a September call-up mostly just to get your feet wet, sit in the dugout a little bit and see what it’s like, or more a desire to bring them up to actually play?
CG: There are instances where we want to try to find a way to get this guy comfortable at the major league level because he’s going to be there the following year, and maybe that means we bring him up in September even if he might not see the field too often. There’s something nice about learning what the best route is to the field, where his locker is going to be, getting with the media and the fans, engaging him with new teammates. Those are things that are discussed.
That’s probably more of a rarity. Mainly when we send guys up there, we want them to play. In September, with the expanded rosters, it gives us a little bit more flexibility and allows us to get some at-bats or innings to some guys late in the year, to see if they’re going to be in the mix come spring training.
BB: I’d like to address the one outfielder who got left in Winston-Salem, Blake Rutherford. it seems he’s hitting fewer fly balls but more of them are getting into the outfield, his line drive rate is up, and his pull percentage is up. One of the challenges he was given now in his first full season with the White Sox was to increase power and drive balls into gaps. How pleased are you with what he’s been doing, and what are the plans for him going forward?
CG: Blake’s definitely been a bright spot for us. We’ve had a lot of outfielders in that Low-A/ High-A/now AA area, and finding them at-bats was the most important thing going into the season. Fortunately, we were able to use the DH at Winston-Salem and keep guys active in the outfield, so we wouldn’t hinder any development there.
But Blake’s really answered the bell this year. Going back to last year when we got him in the trade, it’s his first full season, he comes over to a new organization trying to get comfortable here, [he struggled] but there were still a lot of things to like.
One of the things that have always stood about about Blake, and why I’m really intrigued with him, is he hits the ball hard. In terms of average exit velocity, he’s one of our top guys, he’s definitely above average for the league. His launch angle is increasing; it’s not something we’re necessarily focusing on, we’re just watching it progress. He’s got a real good feel for hitting in the box, and uses the whole field.
What you’re seeing with him now, he’s just playing with his point of contact. I saw him hit his first home run: There was a man on second base, and he was trying to drive the ball to the pull side, but really just trying to get the guy from second to third with the intent of driving the the ball — and he hit his first home run. When you have moments like that, it clicks for guys, and you see it show up a little bit more now as the season’s gone on. He’s started to hit more doubles, starting to hit to the pull side, home runs here and there. A guy who hits the ball that hard and a feel for hitting, you can be optimistic with some power that’s going to come in the future.
Blake is still there in Winston-Salem, and we’re, certainly not doing [so to make him feel] passed by. The goal going into the year was to get him comfortable in our organization. I want him to look back on his 2018 season, look at the body of work and feel really good about it, so he can go into next year with a lot of confidence.
KS: Luis Curbelo has bulked up a bit and was playing some third base. Do you see that as a future position for him?
CG: It’s hard to determine, because he’s just starting to mature. He’s getting stronger, with broad shoulders, The goal was to get him to Kannapolis because they were in the hunt there down the stretch, although unfortunately we didn’t win that first half. But I wanted him to experience it, and a way to get him the lineup there was at third base, and got a little bit of shortstop, too. But now this second half, he’ll get more reps at short, and get him some at third.
Where he ends up profiling is tough to say. I like guys staying in the middle as long as they can, to see if they can play at shortstop, but [even if he moves] it will also only make him a better third baseman.
ME: What do you think of Lency Delgado?
CG: Very, very impressed. My early impressions are very positive. I was able to watch him for a couple of days in minicamp, and I’ll be heading out to Arizona very soon [for games], but physically he’s very gifted, moves very well, has good hands, a strong arm, very mature for his age, a nice polished swing, power potential. There are certainly a lot of things to dream on and look forward to in the future with him.