Chris Getz, the newly minted assistant general manager/player development, spoke to reporters following the announcement of the 2021 White Sox player development staff on Wednesday.
The biggest news up top: the endorsements of Garrett Crochet and Andrew Vaughn as immediate contributors to the club.
For Crochet, Getz said the plan is to build on Crochet’s deployment during the 2020 season with a return to the White Sox bullpen. There’s the matter of his immediate effectiveness, but the bullpen provides a path to build up innings for a guy who hadn’t thrown more than 65 innings at Tennessee, and only threw 10 innings between the Volunteers and White Sox last season.
“He’s a guy that, coming off of a 2020 with a lighter starting workload, for 2022, we have to be very creative, we have to be very cautious of how many innings we put under his belt. And the bullpen role is probably the safest landing spot to accomplish that. Hopefully we look up at the end of the year and he’s got an ample amount of innings, therefore we’re comfortable with him starting the following year.”
Getz left open the possibility of Crochet joining the rotation in 2022 — perhaps with no minor-league seasoning needed — but having seen the Chris Sale Memorial Fast Track fail subsequent White Sox draft picks, it seems prudent to take this a year at a time, with the hope that the Sox have enough starting depth to where Crochet isn’t needed there. If he’s a really cool weapon out of the pen that can serve as a one-man bridge to Liam Hendriks, well, that rare kind of pitcher has helped teams get a long, long way.
As for Vaughn, with the White Sox keeping the 26-man roster clear of those pesky proven bats for the DH spot, Getz provided fuel for the idea that Vaughn could break camp with the club despite no traditional experience above A-ball.
“Based on what we’ve seen with Andrew Vaughn since he’s been part of the organization — and I anticipate he’s going to carry that same approach that has made him successful not only as an amateur but throughout his time here — I would imagine with the amount of success that he’s had and he probably will in spring training, that he’ll be in position to be that DH or be on the major league club,” White Sox assistant general manager Chris Getz said Wednesday. “He’s ready to help this team.
“He was a very advanced hitter coming out of Cal. That was quite obvious right out of the gate. What separates Andrew is his mentality, his makeup, how under control he is in the box, his discipline to sticking with an approach that works for his swing. … He’s got a very sound approach at the plate, and we feel that that’s going to translate very well in the big leagues when he’s asked to perform at that level.”
Josh and I talked about this on the podcast, but to sum up my stance — Vaughn’s plate discipline is evident, as is his ability to battle. I wouldn’t see him getting ruined by the White Sox throwing him in the deep end. My concern is that he’ll have to rely on his defensive hitting abilities a little too much against advanced pitching early on. Whether it’s because he’s still learning how to turn around upper-level stuff, or his discipline being used against him by pitchers with better execution, I see a lot of 0-2 counts for him early. That’s suboptimal for a guy who would only be contributing with his bat.
Perhaps he’ll prove me wrong, but I wouldn’t say my position can really be debunked, since it boils down to “it’d be cool to have an exciting bat hanging just outside the 26- and 40-man rosters in case of emergency.” Of course, that necessitates having a better idea. I’ve often wondered if Yermín Mercedes is that better idea over the last eight baseball months or so, but if the Sox let the likes of Welington Castillo and Edwin Encarnación block his paths to playing time the last two years, then I don’t understand what would have inspired them to clear an avenue now.
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As somebody who is preparing Prospect Week material without a great idea of how most White Sox prospects might be handled over the next few months, I was more interested in hearing about any plans Getz could lay out, macro or micro. He said the plans for the minor-league season are still tentative, but his outline matches the last update the public received through Baseball America — a major-league spring training that runs through February and March, followed by a minor-league spring training that runs through April. That puts Double-A and the A-ball leagues on track for an Opening Day at some point in May.
Even if Major League Baseball sees that plan through without a hitch, we’ll still have to prepared to adjust and recalibrate our expectations over the course of 2021. Getz rattled off a number of low-minors prospects who will receive assignments that would be considered aggressive in ordinary seasons.
The high-profile prep arms like Jared Kelley, Andrew Dalquist and Matthew Thompson got a leg up by seeing action at the Schaumburg, so it wouldn’t be out of line to see them start 2021 in Kannapolis. It was more of a jolt to hear Jose Rodriguez, Bryan Ramos or Benyamin Bailey starting with a full-season affiliate out of the gate, when they would normally be extended spring training candidates given their experience.
In 2021, their normal spring training will occupy the month that extended spring training usually covers, and there’s no Great Falls to report to this time around. That makes Kannapolis the only logical outlet. And if they’re in Kannapolis, that pushes the players who are one year ahead one level ahead.
“You’ll see that the most important decisions that are made are for these guys to get ample opportunity to go out there and play baseball. So you may see a guy at High-A that in years past you would see at Low-A, because the focus this year is getting these guys out there and competing,” Getz said.
“The Bryce Bushes of the world, Cabera Weaver, guys that we were likely going to put in Kannapolis last year, those are guys that maybe might see Winston-Salem a little bit quicker than if we rewound, and going into 2020 where the assignment would’ve been Kannapolis. We’ve got a group of guys that just need to go out there and play, and I”m not going to get too caught up in whether it’d be Winston-Salem or Kannapolis this year.”
Initially, that seems disruptive and dangerous to somebody like Bush, who has flashed bursts of impact among issues with raw plate discipline, finding a defensive home and hard-luck injuries. But then you realize that this same scenario is going to be playing across the entirety of baseball, especially the teams that have enough teen talent to run out multiple complex teams in the AZL or DSL. Thinking about the Bushes, the Weavers and the Lencies Delgado of the White Sox system trying to hang in High-A seems irresponsible until you realize they’d be facing counterparts who might be equally overmatched. Reduce the equation, and they’re just plain ol “matched.”
Besides that, we’ll also have to wait for the league structures and schedules to be announced in order to better understand what assignments acually mean. For instance, the 10-team Carolina League was always tougher than the 14-team South Atlantic League because the players were more experienced and less numerous, and the frequency of opponents made it easier for players and coaches to pick up obvious deficiencies on the other side. How much does a larger High-A league affect the jump? That remains to be seen, and might not be understood for a couple of years if the absence of a 2020 season tangles the talent.
For the time being, it’s just nice to think about about White Sox prospects being able to report to the usual locations to play teams wearing different uniforms and representing other organizations.
Crochet in a long relief role could be a real competitive advantage. Hopefully that elbow is up to it.
Our inside Crochet man is back!
Oh, how I hope this is Crochet himself.
I’ve been a member of Sox Machine since 2009, so highly doubtful.
The name suggests you’ve been around for a while.
Jim – just a heads up, you’ve got a “2020” in your 4th graph after the break. Believe that’s supposed to be 2021.
Great write-up as always!
I support putting Crochet in the MLB bullpen to start the year, but that’s because I think his comp is less Sale than a lefty Zack Burdi. Phenomenal velocity, and what makes his game playable in the majors is also what is very likely to explode his elbow. I’ll be shocked if Crochet pitches at all in 2022, and I figure the Sox might as well reap some benefit from his abilities before he’s injured.
Regarding Vaughn and the purposeful lack of depth in the offense, my over/under for Nick Williams 2021 Plate Appearances is 125. He seems to be the Plan B for when some combination of Eloy/Abreu/Eaton hit the IL at the same time.
Bring back JB Shuck!
But with an “f”
Obviously the smallest of samples, but his injured performance in the playoff game is interesting. Struck out both batters while only throwing ~96. He may not need to throw 101 to be successful. I wonder if dialing it back would work as a compromise to save his arm.
The question is whether he can successfully dial it back, or if diminished velocity only happens as he’s hurting his arm (as was the case last October).
He’s a huge spin rate guy, so yeah velocity is only part of the equation for him. Would be interesting to see what he would look like in a starting role, but, like asinwreck said, it might just be best to plop him in the pen and see what they can get from him before his arm explodes.
Jim, does your wife have any sense of what the public health situation might be in May? The idea of a full-ish minor league season makes me happy, but I imagine it would also be much easier to delay than the MLB season, considering the lack of a players’ union and little financial incentive to play games without fans.
I too have a wife working in public health. The only truthful answer to “do you have any sense of what the public health situation might be in May” is simply – “No”.
There are just far too many variables right now. The main one being Vaccine distribution. There is going to be high variance between counties and states across the nation for what % of the population is vaccinated, which makes in incredibly difficult to put any sort of general answer to what the public health situation for the entire country will be in May.
The best guess is that the situation will be better, but there should still be reasons for pretty high restrictions. The hope is that by May, most everyone who is older (generally 65+) or who is an “essential worker” will be vaccinated.
Its likely we wont be rolling out wide scale “no restrictions” vaccinations until Some time in April.
To basically, the big TLDR is that we cant know for sure on anything – but realistically, we wont be in a notably different place for the general public until late summer at the earliest. Its possible thats wrong, but thats the best guess right now.
At our current rate of vaccination it will be around a year before we’ve attained even close to any level of herd immunity, and that’s with demand as high as it’s ever gonna be.
In Denmark, b117 is estimated to be 55% more contagious and the spread of b117 is growing exponentially here and that is with a fairly expansive lockdown in effect for several weeks. We are opening grades 0-4 next week and we are waiting to see what happens in March when b117 is expected to be the dominant strain.
If b117 is the dominant strain in the US by April, I wager we will see many more positive test disruptions than we did last year. Trust that players/staff will maintain social distance, mask up and wash hands – like we did last year – is not going to cut it assuming that the strain exhibits similar degree of contagiousness.
I am playing couch epidemiologist, but that is my take, and feel free to trash it.
I asked my wife, and she largely agrees in that it’s hard to predict what May will look like. She is optimistic that the vaccine will be more widely available by then. Distribution will still vary geographically, but the bottleneck will be widened and shifted to distribution by April/May.
Getz needs to be optimistic about everyone as a part of his job.
That being said, he seems to be very competent. Not too surprised to see agents peg him as a “future GM” in that recent Athletic survey.
If the White Sox want to maximize their chances to win this year, then Crochet needs to be a part of the bullpen. He can’t help them win this year from the minors. Of course, if the White Sox wanted to maximize their chances to winthis year, they would have added another big bat and another quality starter.
Where would be a logical place to hit Vaughn if he breaks camp with the sox? I almost feel like he is destined for 7th… but I would almost like to see a situation where he gets more protection and maybe vs lefties hits 2nd and then vs righties more like 5 or 6 even if it means moving a more accomplished hitter like Jiminez or Robert behind him.
Id assume on most days vs a righty the main part of the order will go something like
I just dont love Eaton protecting Vaughn.
I think I would switch Grandal and Eloy, with Eloy hitting cleanup. Otherwise, I think that lineup looks right.
Yea that could definitely be the play, get a little more L/R balance.
I like the idea of having Grandal’s OBP near the top and moving Moncada a little further down (at least until we have a better idea of what his offense looks like this year). I’d be curious if some of his passivity (which was a problem again last year) is driven by hitting 1st of 2nd. Also not wedded to batting Madrigal 9th. If he keeps it up and others above him struggle, he needs to move up. I don’t care if he has no power, he needs to get more ABs than others if he’s a better hitter.
It depends on if Moncada is back to his normal self this year. If he is back to 2019 Moncada, then he needs to be near the top of the order. But starting him out a little lower to get a better idea of his offense would certainly not be bad.
Hitting left handed Moncada and Grandal almost have identical obps for their careers… so if yo yo is healthy I like his wheels, pitch taking, obp in the 2 hole vs right handers
Like roke said, if Moncada’s back to his old self, I’m fine with flipping him and Grandal.
I would hit Vaughn 6th and Robert 7th to keep all of the speed guys together.
I know there is a 0% chance that Eaton will be healthy and/or productive for more than 3 days this season, but if one of the reasons they signed him was to add a lefty bat to the lineup, I think they might want to have him higher up in the order to maximize his at-bats against RHP starters. Maybe something like this, which alternates R/L at the top of the order (with the downside of leaving 4 consecutive righties from Robert thru Anderson):
And in the worst-case scenario for many folks here, on days when Grandal gets a day off, and if the miracle of all miracles occurs and Eaton is healthy and productive, and Vaughn is in AAA, I could see a line-up like this (against a RHP starter), with the same basic construct of alternating R/L at the top of the order:
Wow. Great article, Jim. A lot to unpack here.
I guess the high level takeaway is that the FO may actually be looking at this holistically as an organization. Not signing a one year DH or long term RF allows for some flexibility roster wise and doesn’t block Vaughn/Mercedes from getting some much needed at bats. Down the trough, they don’t block Burger, Sheets, Adolfo, Cespedes, etc from AAA. And on and on. Same with pitching. We have a good amount of prospects that are under a lot of pressure to show they are MLB capable, or else they’re at the end of the line.
I can remember the KC bullpen from a few seasons ago and the dominance they had from the 6th inning on. Hawk was a huge fan and pointed it out almost every time we played them. Our bullpen is shaping up to be similar if not better, especially if Crochet can deliver 80-100 innings of stellar relief. Just need the starter to get it to the sixth and our hitters to give a lead and then it’s lights out. It will be awesome!!
Ah it’s so obvious now why they didn’t sign a DH or RF – “Your offense is only as good as your bullpen”. Of course!
That’s not what I was saying. I said them not signing a RF and DH allows for flexibility for their higher level prospects to get at bats and a chance to show they are MLB caliber. Signing a Cruz or Springer would have blocked the guys I mentioned.
That’s great for a rebuilding team.
This team spent the last two seasons not giving PAs to Collins and Mercedes and NOW we’re gonna cry about getting fringe prospects playing time?
I know Mercedes has gotten a modicum of hype in the prospect community (Longenhagen for example had a nice write-up on him the other year), but I think people are forgetting he’s a 28 year-old former minor league FA. There’s a really good chance this is just an org guy beating up on much younger competition.
I was joking. 🙂
You know what else allows for roster flexibility? Having a surplus of good, proven players.
How does the talk about moving prospects up levels in the minors affect the potential sigining of veteran players to minor league contracts in the lead up to Spring Training? I keep hearing about minor league depth signings by other teams, but almost none by the Sox, other than Tim Beckham 4 months ago and Nick Williams more recently.
I’ve been expecting minor league signings/non-roster invites for at least one catcher and a pitcher or two, maybe another outfielder and an infielder, too. Are the Sox content with their minor league propect depth as-is, or will there be some minor leagues in the coming weeks?
I spoke just a little too soon. My expectations of at least one catcher on a minor league signing have been met.
Given how much dead weight they were carrying in Charlotte last year, I’d expect there to be a lot of roster space to take on both promotions and free agents. For every guy like Lucroy they’ve signed, they’ve jettisoned two from the 2019 squad, so the roster will be able to absorb some at-a-glance aggressive promotions.
Take the outfield as a prime example. Yes, we could be looking at Joel Booker, Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, and Luis Gonzalez filling up the Charlotte outfield, but the 2019 Knights leaders in games in the outfield were Daniel Palka (gone), Paulo Orlando (gone), Adam Engel (MLB roster), Charlie Tilson (gone), and Luis Robert (MLB roster). They could probably grab a free agent outfielder on a minor league deal and still make space for him.
The bullpen has the potential to be loaded this year, not to mention guys like Tyler Johnson lurking in AAA. I’m all for starting Crochet in the MLB bullpen, but if the bullpen ends up being strong top to bottom to start the season, I wouldn’t mind sending Crochet down once the minor league seasons pick up.
Obviously the Sox staff will have a better read on his long-term role than I do, but if they see him as an eventual SP, I’d prefer they get that route started sooner rather than later.
The bullpen is the one area where I’d say they have a level of depth commensurate with a championship team. Of course, pitching is fickle as three years ago I thought they’d have a surplus of starters and here we are hoping and praying that two out of a half dozen guys can somehow find a way to break through.
Is Lucroy toast? Yes.
Am I far more confident in Lucroy’s ability to be the backup catcher than any of the alternatives currently under contract? Also yes.
Jerry can’t find a couple million to sign Flowers?
I wonder if Tyler Flowers ran over Rick Hahn’s dog.
In related news, old friend Josh Phegley announced his retirement today.
Am really glad to see the Sox sign someone for that backup role. At the same time, it feels like Hahn delivering a message that this is the end of the offseason.
Could be now that several of the mid-tier free agents are finding homes that NRIs become more plentiful. I could see one more sub-Nick Williams outfielder and a pitcher or two get invites to spring training in the next few days.
I could see that, too.
Sure, there are always a couple more warm bodies to dredge up. But is looking more like the org has the 26 guys it hopes to start with.
Not my first choice, but I’m glad they signed someone who can actually catch instead of a DH with a chest protector.
Minor league deal. Though he’s been basically replacement level the last four seasons, I have to wonder if that would nonetheless be an improvement over Collins. His career vs L/R splits are basically even, but in 2019 he had reverse splits and was better against righties by a decent margin (though still decidedly below average).
It wasn’t long ago we were told kids would no longer be rushed thru the system in order to fill holes in the major league roster. that didn’t last long, last two 1st rounders will both be rushed to MLB this year without a full minor league season if you added both together. I’d rather see Crochet start in minors as a starter and be a late season addition to staff.
Off topic question: I seem to recall that
teams can tender an offer to a player like Rodon, and then cut the player by mid-March and only owe a portion (1/6?) of salary. If so, wouldn’t it have been better to tender Rodon a contract at $4m to $5m and then see if he came to spring training healthy? It seems to me that giving him a guaranteed $3m might have been actually worse than tendering a contract in November and then waiting to see whether he showed up in Arizona looking ready to contribute. Am I off-base here?