Following up: White Sox catching help includes coaching help

Jonathan Lucroy wasn’t a standalone acquisition.

It turns out a coach is coming with him.

James Fegan reports that the White Sox are adding catching guru Jerry Narron as a major league instructor to Tony La Russa’s staff.

If you’re unfamiliar with Narron, he’s a presence through the White Sox’s turnaround at the position. James McCann sought Narron’s counsel over the offseason after his ugly receiving numbers prompted the White Sox to sign Yasmani Grandal. The result was dramatic improvement that brought his defense on par with his offense, and the Mets rewarded him for his work with a four-year, $40 million contract.

McCann’s gone, but here comes Lucroy with his own Narron narrative, as the two overlapped in Milwaukee during Lucroy’s ascendance at the position over the first half of the 2010s.

Narron won’t necessarily be a cure for what’s been ailing Lucroy, as they both spent last year in Boston. Narron was the bench coach for manager Ron Roenicke, but Lucroy only got one plate appearance before spending the bulk of the season at the alternate training site. There’s perhaps some hope that the titanium plate in his neck could boost him to “adequate backup” status, but the hope is probably more that Narron can coach up Zack Collins into such a role. There’s also the idea that Lucroy could provide some veteran assistance, but Lucroy might focus on breaking his own bad habits.

* * * * * * * * *

Ethan Katz season is arriving early this year. The “New Pitch He’s Working On” story is an underappreciated offshoot of the “Best Shape Of His Life” genre that usually is thrust into the spotlight during the weeks between pitchers and catchers reporting and the first spring training game. This week, we’re already getting one of each.

Scott Merkin tells us that Lucas Giolito is working with Katz on a modified curveball he’s calling “the downer.”

“It’s like a 12-6 curveball, but it just goes down,” Giolito said. “It comes out of my hand almost like a slider variant. It’s hard to give it a real true name like curveball or slider. But the whole idea of it is it comes out on my fastball plane and then just goes down kind of later, whereas my slider is a little more right to left with that downward action. This one is more like out of the hand fastball plane, straight down late.”

Meanwhile, Cease is a year or two behind Giolito on his plan with Katz, as he told Fegan that he’s spent the winter establishing a habit with the core velocity belt in an attempt to stop his fastball from cutting in ways he doesn’t want.

Off-speed stuff wasn’t specifically the issue for Cease last season, but he believes everything will play better if his fastball is riding straight through the zone, and is a swing-and-miss offering to be accounted for on its own. Going off Rapsodo readings and scale, a fastball needs 17 inches of ride to have the desired effect up in the zone. Cease recalls being around the 18-inch territory when he was the MLB Pipeline pitcher of the year in 2018, dragged down to 14-15-inches by his cutting issues the last two seasons. His “best I’ve felt” optimism entering February is that he’s sitting in the 20-inch range during his preseason throwing.

(Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire)

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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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Drdoctor

At least in Cease’s case there are potentially measurements to back something up, rather just “Feeling good, Louis!”

Holland23

Problem with Collins is that his defense is already on par with his offense.

joewho112

Tyler Flowers redux: prospect known for his bat and iffy glove who secured his career on the back of his defense

theSKOT

Can someone explain what is meant by “ride” in relation to Cease’s fastball? I can’t find anything on the subject with a quick google search?

Elena

As I understand it, “ride” is how far a fastball will travel in a straight line without being pulled down by gravity. This makes the ball appear to the batter to “rise,” though it is just going straight.

Trooper Galactus

Yup. This is what was supposed to be the pitch that Stiever developed to become a top prospect, but it disappeared in 2020.

John SF

Stiever was throwing multiple versions of his curveball in Winston Salem and they were just obliterating the opposition.

I’m really interested why we didn’t see him throwing any versions of it at the big league level. Curves obviously are “feel” pitches, and nerves can really wipe out your ability to command the break on them.

I wonder if it was just prospect jitters, and if so, I wonder how good the real Stiever will be when he makes it back up. Some scouts were saying Stiever could be an MLB quality reliever as recently as last off season.

Obviously his cup of coffee wasn’t great, but I’m still quite excited by him as a prospect.

Eloytes

Apparently Tony La Russa is on Cameo and does in fact know more players’ names than TA: https://www.cameo.com/v/600f8c63c980f4001e97efe8

Right Size Wrong Shape

Word up.

Amar

Did we just sign Jake Taylor circa Major League II?

Trooper Galactus

“Wish we had him two years ago.”

“…………we did.”

“Four years ago, then.”

Greg Nix

Cease’s stuff has the potential to be devastating. Hope he can put it together, because he would be fun to watch be good, especially because he seems like an idiosyncratic guy.

knoxfire30

Bauer to dodgers lol. We are begging for a competent backup c and a mlb level dh and the best team in baseball gives the reigning Cy young winner 102 mil .

roke1960

$40M in 2021, $45M in 2022. Hey but Jerry is paying Lynn and Rodon $11M!!

Foulkelore

I’m so glad those plucky Dodgers are finally spending money.

HallofFrank

Shew, good – I just want to make sure no one blocks Rodón or Lopez.

HouseOfTheRisingSox

You beat me to it, HoF. I was going to point out how stupid the Dodgers must feel blocking a prospect.

joewho112

I am sure their fans are distraught by all the pitching prospects he is blocking.

As Cirensica

40 million per year…I guess we can start saying goodbye to Giolito. I wonder when will Hahn trade him.

itaita

Scott Merkin tells us that Rick Hahn is working with Reinsdorf on a modified free agency plan he’s calling “the downer.”

asinwreck

That pitch has been in their arsenal for decades. They first started fooling around with it by introducing Chris Sabo. Once they unleashed Jaime Navarro, it’s never graded below 55 at attacking fans.

Amar

Navarro gave us the Mustache, so all is forgiven.

Holland23

They have perfected the pitch this offseason. This one is more like out of the hand contender plane, straight down late.

Holland23

Upvote for “the downer” comment.

Trooper Galactus

I may not like their offseason plan of relying on young players to morph into major league contributors sooner rather than later, but if they’re sticking to that, then hiring guys like Katz and Narron seems like the best way to max out that plan.

Elena

Per Mark Feinsand, the White Sox are a very strong contender to sign Marcell Ozuna. What a shock this would be, but a good one!

dwjm3

Jerry could buy some goodwill by pulling this off.

Last edited 1 year ago by dwjm3
Trooper Galactus

That would make me do a complete 180 in my opinion of the White Sox offseason. And it looks like his price has gone down from his nine figure demand into the area Renisdorf has historically been willing to go (I think 4 years, $70-75 million).

Foulkelore

Is there anything more than Feinsand’s article where he lists them as a contender, saying, “adding Ozuna would make sense” and that, “with Tony La Russa at the helm, the White Sox are clearly in win-now mode”? All that article seems to indicate is that they should be strong contenders, which is a correct opinion, but not that they are currently strong contenders (i.e. indication that they are trying to sign him).

metasox

All I get from it is reinforcement that the Sox should be doing more. Nothing else

ThisReallySox

Ozuna gone at a reasonable 4/65 with an option for a 5th. I hate the White Sox. Go Sox

Qubort

I can’t grasp why bother to trade for Lynn if not going all in this year. Eaton/Rondon contracts and a little extra chump change and you could have landed a guy that nearly won a triple crown. The deal would have made too much sense. Even if Ozuna wasn’t working out or you created a log jam in a year or two, you flip one of them for random no name prospects. Collecting lottery tickets helps rebuild a farm system. Instead you have to hope Vaughn has zero learning curve as a rookie in the one year you have Lynn.

Trooper Galactus

Because they’re going all-in on another second place finish.

HallofFrank

This sentiment about the Lynn trade continues to confound me. You really can’t grasp why one of the best teams in the AL would add one of the best starters in baseball over the last two seasons for a prospect whose pitched 7 games above AA and whose ceiling is basically a #3 starter?

I wish the Sox had gone further, too, but I’m glad they at least went as far as they did. I sure don’t wish they did less. Fact is: this is a legit WS contender and they are a lot better with Lynn than without him.