Spare Parts: Good White Sox prospect news (with a catch)

Micker Adolfo returns, but Luis Robert Departs, plus an update on juiced baseballs, Lucas Giolito's next step, Adam Engel's next stride and more

Because this spring has been rather cruel to the White Sox, a positive report on a prospect has to come with strings attached.

Micker Adolfo returned to action in a ‘B’ game on Thursday morning, taking swings for the first time since being examined for a season-threatening UCL sprain.

He went 0-for-2 with a walk, but more importantly, it sounds like it can be a workable arrangement:

“I felt great being able to play in a real game in two weeks, much more adrenaline going because it’s not the same doing sim games as it is playing in an actual game,” Adolfo said. “I was seeing the ball well. Just gotta get my rhythm and timing again, and I’ll be fine. My elbow felt great, didn’t feel pain, and I’m just happy to be playing again!”

In the same game, though, Luis Robert was conked on the head by Fernando Tatis Jr. while diving into second base. He was lifted from the game for precautionary measures:

“He rung his bell a little bit,’’ said [Rick] Renteria, who said his level of concern was minimal.

“As soon as I said, ‘I’m going to take you out,’ he stood up, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to take you out, make sure you’re OK.’ ’’

Both Renteria and Robert downplayed any concern about the impact, and hopefully they’re right, because Robert has acquainted himself well to stateside play during the first week of the Cactus League. He went 1-for-3 with a double during the ‘B’ game, and he’s 1-for-4 with a well-earned walk so far.

Spare Parts

As Rob Manfred continues to dance around the question about whether baseballs became materially different objects over the past two years, researchers continue to find reasons why they’re flying farther. This time, they’re scanning the ball and seeing differences with the core. It doesn’t explain the jump in homers by itself, but it jibes with all the others:

On top of the fact that the balls became bouncier as the core itself changed, previous research at FiveThirtyEight showed that they also became less air resistant. The decrease in drag is probably a result of a smaller, slicker baseball with lower seams. The change in air resistance could add an additional 5 feet to the travel distance of a fly ball. Combine all these factors together — a lighter, more compact baseball with tighter seams and more bounce — and the ball could fly as much as 8.6 feet farther. According to Nathan’s calculations, this would lead to a more than 25 percent increase in the number of home runs. Asked whether these changes in combination could have significantly affected the home run rate, MLB declined to comment.

And some pitchers are getting tired of MLB’s evasion. Justin Verlander came armed to the discussion with graphs.

Lucas Giolito showed up hitting 95 in his first start, which he hopes will be more of the norm as he tries to regain the power that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospect, rather than somebody who can merely fill a rotation spot.

If Leury Garcia’s early assignments (a lot of infield) were any indication, the White Sox sound committed to finding a way for Adam Engel to hit enough. That desire has resulted in more swing tweaks than MLB hits, but the quest has always been to reduce the stiffness in his swing that results in so many whiffs. He’s got a leg kick this time around.

While we know more about outfield defense when it comes to the kinds of balls outfielders can track down, nobody has quite quantified how good outfielders are at minimizing damage when the ball drops.

This is all admittedly some very back-of-the-envelope math, and with a little more time and effort (and StatCast data) we could have a little more clarity on the matter, but we’re on the right order of magnitude here. It’s possible that good defense is worth 15-20 percent more than we had originally given it credit for in the outfield (and bad defense is worth 15-20 percent less). That’s a non-trivial amount of value that we’re ignoring and it’s because we stopped paying attention after the ball hit the ground.

If this were a “U Talkin’ U2 To Me?” subpodcast, it’d be “What’s Your Ejectionstyle?”

And Renteria’s would be “Won’t You Please Fight Me?/Okay, FINE!”

There’s a moment in the middle of this squabble when it looks like they have been sped up, but they haven’t been. They’re really gabbing and sticking their necks and faces out that much and that quickly. And for what? All they are racing toward is their inevitable deaths and the feeling of shame that will come over them at 3 am some night, after they’ve spent time teaching their grandchildren about sharing and what we owe to each other, when they realize they omitted the events of this inning. They didn’t mention what happens when we fail to hold out a little longer. So in addition to teaching lessons to the people they love, they also engaged in a bit of small but meaningful lying.

This is a late addition, but this lengthy transcript with Justin Upton is worth the time. Most notably, he makes free agency sound like an arbitration hearing.

The way I look at it is, you’re going into free agency and instead of teams telling you, ‘We love what you do. We want you to be part of our team. Can we work something out?’ I know from experience: Teams are calling and telling you what you don’t do well and why they don’t want you. ‘But, hey, will you sign for this?’ No! We just had a conversation about how bad I am and you want me on your team? No! I don’t want to sign with you. That’s the way the process is going right now, which is the opposite of what free agency’s supposed to be about. Don’t call if you don’t want me on your team. It’s not a good way to do business.

When I was a free agent, I was told by multiple teams, ‘Oh, you don’t play good defense.’ I was told how bad of a defender I was and how they weren’t going to pay me. Well, don’t call. 

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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PauliePaulie

I believe the Sox are missing out on some potential future trade value by shifting Leury out of CF and an every day role. But if they’re married to this Engel is our CF thing, I guess this is the year (or 1/4 year) to do it.

sausalito pale hose

Totally agree. It should be obvious to managment

Otter

He’s nearly 27, never hit in the majors outside of the first half of last year, with three years of control left. There’s not much value there.

Engel’s only 9 months younger, I get that, but has a lot more team control.

gibby32

Justin Upton sounds like a moron, which is how I always imagined him.

ParisSox

I agree with Jim here.  It’s like when you try to squeeze a raise from your company- you busted your ass and did amazing things.  But rather than it being a positive and you getting rewarded, they say, “ah, but here’s (some bogus assignment) an opportunity for you to do more and really show us.  This will address your area of improvement.”

Lurker Laura

It would be like saying to an actor, “We think you’re ugly and untalented, so will you take a discount to be in our film?”

Patrick Nolan

The most insane part about this is that these are professional businesspeople who can’t find a more tactful way to convey these things.

Example: (note, the below has nothing to do with Justin Upton, his value, or his skills, I’m just using his name as an example)

GM: “Justin, we’d like to offer you a 3-year, $36M contract to play for our team. We think you can really help us and we’d love to have you” (let’s pretend this is a lowball offer, but not completely insulting)

Upton: “I’m going to have to pass. I think I can find better offers. Would you be willing to go 4 years, $56 million instead?”

GM: “We don’t think we can offer you that at this time.”

Upton: “Why not? Do you not think I’m worth that much?”

GM: “That’s more than we’re comfortable with at this time given our budget and multi-year plan.”

That’s simple, respectful, and easy to say to a player. Then, if the market really does determine that Upton isn’t worth more than 3/$36, there’s at least a team he can go back to that hasn’t blatantly insulted some aspect of his game.

katiesphil

You’d think, but no. I write business “soft skills” courses for a living. 90% of it ultimately boils down to “don’t be an asshole.” And a big market for these exists.

zerobs

I seriously doubt it ever goes down like that, the GM almost never talks to the player directly until the sides are close to a deal.

Most likely the GM called his agent, expressed interest at a certain price, agent countered with a higher price, and GM explained why they didn’t want to meet that price. Agent then calls Justin and summarizes it: “Yeah, they balked at our price because of your defense.”

Patrick Nolan

You completely missed the point. Obviously the GM talks to the agent in many cases…the agent is just a stand-in for Upton; that’s the definition of agency.

The point is that the GM doesn’t have to explain specifically why they don’t want to meet the higher price in the context of a particular flaw in the player’s game. A team explaining Upton’s perceived defensive flaws to Upton’s agent is fully aware the message will get relayed to Upton; it’s basically equivalent to talking to Upton directly in that case.

gibby32

You win if one is counting recs. And I admit that I may be reading it incorrectly; the quote is not completely flushed out. But to me, it sounds as if Upton, and his agent, want to tell the club how great he is and how much he wants, and he wants the club to HEAR him, but he does not want to hear why the club does not want to pay it. I acknowledge, however, pnoles has identified a respectful way to convey a team’s position, which makes sense. But it sounds to me as if Upton is, to coin a phrase, a snowflake.

karkovice squad

fleshed out

gibby32

Ahh! Thanks.

steely3000

Could Leury not playing the OF also indicate there may be a desire for Tilson to make the team going north?

Steinscribe

They had Tilson on the field as soon as they traded him for Duke two years ago. Frankly, I would try Tilson over any of the other options in center right now. Other than the poor kid being snake bitten by injuries, why should their outlook on him change?

PauliePaulie

The change of outlook would be that a nearly complete 1 1/2 year layoff would make him less ML ready. So AAA makes more sense.

PauliePaulie

MLB.com has posted updated Sox top 30 prospects list. Newly drafted arms take the place of many of the previously drafted position players.

Trooper Galactus

I’m liking that Spencer Adams/Jon Garland comp. I’d take that in a heartbeat.

Greens

I’m just happy to hear we won the World Series in 2004

Holland23

We need a ‘2004 happened!’ shirt.

MonicaMG

Thanks for the tidbits. Also thumbs up for the “U Talkin’ U2 To Me?” reference

PauliePaulie

The “Sox maybe like Moose” rumors have returned. This time it’s Nightengale.

dsbatt

If they wait until after the season starts to sign Moustakas , do the Sox still lose their 2nd round pick and international bonus money?

PauliePaulie

They’d have to wait until after the June draft.

dsbatt

Thanks. I don’t know how you can justify signing Moustakas before then. Hopefully Hahn is smarter than that and this is a baseless rumor. 

tommytwonines

Lots of errors for Sox outfielders, yes?