- The White Sox aren’t giving much consideration to sending Lucas Giolito to the minors despite his substantial struggles to this point in the year, manager Rick Renteria told reporters after today’s loss (link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times). “He’s just a young man who’s gotta continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed, and hammer the zone with strikes,” Renteria said of the struggling Giolito, who was rocked for seven runs in 1 1/3 innings earlier today and now has a 7.53 ERA with more walks (34) than strikeouts (27) in 47 2/3 innings. Renteria said he doesn’t consider the struggles of Giolito and recently optioned teammate Carson Fulmer to be similar, noting that Giolito has been able to pitch into the sixth and seventh innings with greater frequency.
White Sox Rumors
Garneau had just been designated for assignment. Now, he’ll head to Chicago to help bolster a catching unit that just lost starter Welington Castillo for much of the rest of the season.
The 30-year-old Garneau hasn’t played in the majors this year, but has appeared in 87 games over the past three seasons. He hasn’t hit much in his limited opportunities at the game’s highest level, and is carrying a paltry .208/.263/.333 batting line in 80 plate appearances this season at Triple-A, but at times he has posted quality offensive numbers in the upper minors.
The White Sox have announced a trio of roster moves following the official suspension of Welington Castillo. To account for the opening behind the plate, the club has selected the contract of backstop Alfredo Gonzalez.
The 25-year-old Gonzalez will get his first shot at the majors after nine seasons of minor-league action. Presumably, he’s viewed as a trusted option behind the dish, as he has not really distinguished himself with the bat. Gonzalez posted a .607 OPS last year at Double-A and is off to a .169/.279/.191 slash with 33 strikeouts in his 105 plate appearances this season for Triple-A Charlotte.
Meanwhile, this’ll represent a notable return to the majors for Tilson, who suffered a significant injury during his debut game in 2016. A series of health problems ended up keeping him out for all of the ensuing season. Tilson has been back in action thus far in 2018, though he has managed only a .248/.288/.298 slash in his 173 Triple-A plate appearances on the year.
TODAY: Castillo has officially been suspended after testing positive for banned performance-enhancer Erythopoieton, per a league announcement.
YESTERDAY: White Sox catcher Welington Castillo has been slapped with an 80-game suspension following a failed PED test, per Dominican journalist Americo Celado. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets the same, and it seems that an announcement from the league could come tomorrow.
Castillo, 31, signed a two-year, $15MM contract with the White Sox in the offseason and will forfeit nearly half of his $7.25MM salary on the 2018 season as a result of the 80-game ban. For the time being, it seems likely that Omar Narvaez will step up as the team’s primary catcher, though the Sox will need to make another move to add a backup to the equation.
Kevan Smith could conceivably be an option eventually, though The Athletic’s James Fegan tweets that he was just placed on the disabled list yesterday. Chicago doesn’t have another catcher on its 40-man roster, so it could have to select either Alfredo Gonzalez or Brett Austin from Triple-A Charlotte.
Blake Swihart figures to draw his fair share of speculation in connection with the ChiSox, as the agent for the seldom-used Boston backstop recently requested that the Red Sox trade his client. Looking to the waiver wire, the A’s designated Dustin Garneau for assignment yesterday, and he could be a quick fix to at least give the White Sox another option behind the plate while Smith mends.
Though the Sox are just 14-31 on the season, it’s a tough loss for the team all the same. Castillo got off to a fine start this season, hitting .270/.314/.477 with six homers through his first 32 games and 118 trips to the plate. He’s done a good job of controlling the running game (32 percent caught-stealing rate), as well.
Castillo, of course, becomes the second prominent player in the past week to be hit with an 80-game ban for a failed PED test. Robinson Cano tested positive for a banned diuretic that acts as a masking agent to performance-enhancing substances last week. Rosenthal notes that Castillo tested positive for a banned substance but not directly for a steroid, so it seems possible that he had a similar substance to that of Cano in his bloodstream at the time of the test.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a regular feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
In this rebuilding season, the Marlins are taking the opportunity to evaluate several young starting pitchers at the Major League level. Dillon Peters and Trevor Richards are back in Triple-A after getting an extended look. Jarlin Garcia made six starts before being moved to the bullpen. He was replaced in the rotation by Rule 5 pick Elieser Hernandez. Triple-A starters Zac Gallen and Ben Meyer have both been good enough to warrant a promotion, and 22-year-old Pablo Lopez (1 ER in 31 2/3 IP) has been one of the best pitchers at the Double-A level. Next in line, though, should be Alcantara, the prized prospect acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason trade of Marcell Ozuna.
After tossing eight shutout innings in his latest start, the 22-year-old right-hander’s debut with the Marlins has to be on the horizon. Alcantara doesn’t have the high strikeout rate that you’d expect from a top prospect, but he throws in the mid-to-high 90s—he averaged 98 MPH in eight relief appearances last season—and has been a strike-throwing machine as of late. Since walking 16 batters over his first six starts, Alcantara has been in control over his last three outings with only one walk in 20 innings, including back-to-back starts without issuing a free pass. As a comparison, he walked a batter in all but one of his 22 Double-A starts last season.
If the Marlins hold off and give Alcantara two more Triple-A starts, he could make his ’18 debut when they face his former team in St. Louis between June 5th-June 7th.
The Phillies’ rotation is on a roll—they have the sixth-lowest ERA in the Majors and the third most quality starts—and currently have no weak link in their five-man rotation. But despite lacking a clear path to the Majors, De Los Santos is making it obvious that he’s ready when needed.
After allowing a run in each of his first three Triple-A starts, the 6’3″ right-hander stepped it up a notch with three consecutive scoreless outings, a quality start on May 16th (6 IP, 3 ER) and another gem yesterday (7 IP, ER, BB, 5 K). At just 22 years of age, De Los Santos is dominating at the Triple-A level (1.39 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 9.7 K/9) and also has a 150-inning season under his belt at the Double-A level. With the Phillies primed for a playoff run, it’s almost certain that the young workhorse will figure into their plans at some point.
Replacing an accomplished 12-year veteran who is struggling mightily at the plate with an unproven prospect who is putting up huge numbers in Triple-A is not an easy decision. While the 35-year-old Ian Kinsler is no longer the hitter who slashed .288/.348/.484 with 28 homers back in 2016, he’s probably not as bad as he’s looked through his first 149 plate appearances of 2018, either (.197/.275/.288). Regardless, the Angels have to at least be considering whether it’s time to give the 23-year-old Fletcher a chance.
After a subpar performance during his first full season in the upper minors in 2017 (.655 OPS in 111 games between Triple-A and Double-A), the former sixth-round draft pick has taken a huge step forward in 2018. He already has 20 multi-hit games and 28 extra-base hits—he had 24 total extra-base hits in 2017—while striking out just 13 times in 193 trips to the plate. A rare 0-fer on Tuesday has his slash line down to .356/.401/.599 in 192 plate appearances. Capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop, Fletcher could be used in a utility role while taking at-bats away from Kinsler, who is currently in a 5-for-34 rut.
It’s not surprising that 19-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been the most impressive and most talked-about prospect in Double-A since the start of the season. But Jimenez, who began the season on the disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle, is quickly making up for lost time. The 21-year-old debuted on April 19th and, after going hitless in his first 11 at-bats, is now hitting .328/.360/.608 with eight homers and 11 doubles.
While he doesn’t have the plate discipline of Guerrero or Juan Soto, another impressive 19-year-old who made his MLB debut with the Nationals this past weekend, Jimenez doesn’t strike out a ton. He has 21 total strikeouts (a 15.9 percent clip) and has gone without a strikeout in 15 of his 31 games. When he does put the ball in play, it’s often very loud. There’s also a clear path to the Majors on a rebuilding White Sox team with one of the least-productive group of outfielders in baseball.
Digging deep into their starting pitching depth is nothing new for the Dodgers. They’ve been doing it for years and, for the most part, their second wave of starting pitching has done an excellent job. This year has been no exception with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the disabled list and Walker Buehler (2.38 ERA in six starts), Ross Stripling (3.26 ERA in four starts) and Brock Stewart (one run in four innings in his lone spot start) doing their part to hold down the fort. Next in line could be the 22-year-old Santana, who threw six shutout innings with only three singles allowed and 11 strikeouts in his Triple-A debut over the weekend.
After he struggled badly in seven Double-A starts last season (5.51 ERA, 6.3 BB/9), an MLB debut in 2018 did not appear to be in the cards despite being added to the 40-man roster over the offseason. But that’s changed after eight impressive Double-A starts (2.56 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 11.9 K/9) and, probably even more so, after whiffing 11 hitters without issuing a walk over six shutout innings in his Triple-A debut. Like Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez, Santana started his professional career as a position player—he was a shortstop for one season after signing in 2013—so he should feel at home in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Outfielder Todd Cunningham has been cut loose by the White Sox, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports. The 29-year-old has not seen the majors since 2016 and has only accumulated 130 plate appearances there in total. He has bounced between multiple organizations over the past two seasons. After a useful showing at the plate in Triple-A in 2017 (.284/.404/.414), Cunningham has struggled to a .163/.246/.204 slash in his first sixty plate appearances of the current season.
The White Sox have agreed to a minors deal with outfielder Alex Presley, with a club announcement confirming the report of MLBTR’s Steve Adams (on Twitter). The Sports Pro Services client will report to the organization’s top affiliate in Charlotte.
Presley had recently opted out of his deal with the Orioles, taking his release when the team decided not to add him to its MLB roster. The 32-year-old had turned in a productive opening to his time at Triple-A Norfolk, slashing .288/.362/.385 on the year.
Of course, it’s not surprising to see Presley reaching base in the highest level of the minors, as he owns a .361 on-base mark (along with a .296 batting average and .425 slugging percentage) in over two thousand total trips to the plate at Triple-A. That skillset has earned him quite a few chances (1,502 plate appearances) in the majors over the years, though Presley has yet to sustain success there, with a cumulative .263/.306/.388 batting line.
The Chicago organization represents a fairly appealing landing spot at the moment, as the team has dealt with some outfield injuries and promises to have quite a few opportunities over the course of a rebuilding season. Presley will join recent Orioles minor-league teammate Michael Saunders in trying to earn a shot at the major-league level with the South Siders after failing to do so in Baltimore.
Veteran outfielder Michael Saunders has signed a minor league contract with the White Sox, according to an announcement from the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte. He’s on the active roster for today’s game. Saunders, who recently opted out of a minor league pact with the Orioles, is represented by Meister Sports Management.
Saunders, 31, had a tough time with Baltimore’s top affiliate, logging a paltry .161/.291/.253 batting line with a homer, three doubles, a triple and two steals in 103 plate appearances. He struck out 23 times while playing with Norfolk though did still show a decent recognition of the strike zone, drawing 16 walks as well.
It’s been a steep decline for Saunders, a 2016 All-Star with the Blue Jays. The Canadian-born outfielder wore down in the second half of that season and endured similar struggles with the 2017 Phillies after signing a one-year deal as a free agent.
Saunders was a top prospect with the Mariners and, in addition to his terrific first half in 2016 showed strong potential in Seattle on multiple occasions. Injuries, however, have been an ongoing issue throughout his career. Most recently, he missed the majority of the 2015 season after suffering a torn meniscus in Spring Training that required surgery. Saunders has also dealt with shoulder injuries and missed time due to an oblique issue in the Majors as well. He’ll look to get back on track with a White Sox club that recently saw Nicky Delmonico land on the disabled list and is also without right fielder Avisail Garcia, which could eventually lead to some opportunities at the MLB level if he performs well with the Knights.
- The Reds have been playing better under Jim Riggleman, but if the team does still want to make a long-term change in the dugout, Heyman hears that the team isn’t going to be spending big on a managerial salary. A new skipper will almost certainly make less than Dusty Baker’s $3.5MM annual salary when he was running the team. This could rule out a star hire like Joe Girardi, who impressed Reds ownership when he interviewed for the job prior to Baker’s hiring. Interestingly, Heyman believes that Girardi — an Illinois native — could be a candidate if the White Sox decided to make a managerial change, though there isn’t any indication that the Sox are considering moving on from Rick Renteria. That scenario would have a strong echo of Renteria’s last managerial job, when he stewarded the Cubs through some rebuilding years before being replaced by another star manager in Joe Maddon.
- First baseman Jose Abreu is “likely” to be the next player the White Sox trade, Cafardo writes. Even though the White Sox are rebuilding, they’ve continued to hold on to the 31-year-old Abreu, in part because he has emerged as a key mentor to their young players. Abreu would figure to garner interest from contenders, though, considering he’s having another big offensive season (.294/.366/.518 with eight HRs in 183 plate appearances) and under wraps through 2019.