Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show and WARR where he follows the White Sox
Major League Baseball’s first ever Players Weekend last week was fun around the majors and for the Chicago White Sox, it turned out.
The Sox were able to take 2 out of 3 against the Tigers, highlighted by a walk off win in Game 1 from Yolmer Sanchez and the stellar performance of Lucas Giolito in Game 3 (more on him later).
The Sox’s next series didn’t provide as many highs as the team tried playing spoiler against the playoff hopeful Twins.
Unfortunately the Twins got revenge from a losing series in Chicago the week prior and won the series via sweep back in Minnesota. It wasn’t the best way to close out August, but September is starting off on a positive note.
Sox fans looked for more chances for the team to play spoiler as the South Siders took a 3-game series against the Rays and welcomed back Reynaldo Lopez off of the 10 day DL. Elsewhere, the minor league seasons wrapped up for the rest of the Sox top prospects who are still awaiting their call-up.
The Return Of Lopez
Sox fans received some good news on Friday before their series with the Rays — Reynaldo Lopez was taken off of the disabled list. Lopez took the mound for the series opener and he was good overall, registering a quality start. Lopez’s bottom line included 6 innings pitched with 3 earned runs allowed off 5 hits but with just 1 walk and 7 strikeouts.
Lopez didn’t get off to a great start and in the first, he threw a hanging changeup to Logan Morrison that plated 2 runs on a 2-out HR. Regardless, the offense did not do much in support of Lopez, only going 2 for 7 with RISP and leaving six men on base.
The Sox lost the game 3-1 but overall the start was positive for Lopez as he was not slowed by injury and he did his job effectively.
Aces Are Wild
Sox fans got another nice viewing when Carlos Rodón started against the Rays in Game 2. Rodón started the game off strong before a lengthy rain delay cut his day short. Rodón went 4 IP giving up 1 ER off of just 2 H with 3 BB and 4 SO, then the rains came and lasted for an hour and eighteen minutes.
Rodón’s day was done but he has continued a recent trend of good stuff. On top of the good start to September, his August was good with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. These are great flashes to see since Rodón has the potential to be a frontline starter. If he can stay healthy in 2018, that might be the year where everything clicks start to finish.
After the rain delay another young pitcher was given the task of taking over –Carson Fulmer.
Fulmer really struggled against the Twins in his first start of 2017. After the game Fulmer was sent down to the minors only to be called up again when rosters expanded. Fulmer came into the game Saturday and started off by striking out the first batter he saw and completing a scoreless 5th.
In the 6th, Fulmer gave up a leadoff HR to Logan Morrison but that was all Fulmer allowed, his final stat line was 2 IP allowing 1 ER off of 2 H with 1 BB and 2 SO for his first major league victory.
Even though this wasn’t the flashiest of stats, its good to see Fulmer have a productive outing after his previous struggles. The Sox were able to win the game 5-4 as the bullpen held onto what Rodón had started.
Reynaldo Lopez might have to start sharing some of the spotlight with his fellow Class of ’17 call up Lucas Giolito after his increasingly standout performances over the last two Sundays.
Giolito went 7 IP not allowing a run, giving up 3 H with 3 BB and 4 SO against the Tigers in the final game of Players Weekend. Giolito struggled with command on his breaking pitches in his first start against but that was not an issue this time around as he was able to establish all his pitches and those Tiger bats never woke up. Giolito had command issues at times in the minors but so far so good against the big boys.
And the so good continued coming as Giolito followed up his second start with an equally effective and impressive third start on Sunday against the Rays in this past series’ rubber match.
Giolito dominated the game going 7 IP, giving up only 1 ER off of 3 H and 1 HR with 1 BB and 10 SO.
The Rays have a good offense but they couldn’t do anything as the Sox rolled 6-2 and played spoiler to the hopeful Rays by taking 2 out of 3 in the series. Giolito threw 51 fastballs in his 103 pitches, averaging 92.6 mph and topping out at 94.2 per Statcast™; as well as 17 swings and misses, in route to dropping his ERA to 2.25. Good things for the Sox to build on for the rest of this year and into 2018.
Front Office Dealings
Many wondered if the Sox would be able to trade away Miguel Gonzalez before the August 31 waiver deadline. Teams seemingly were not very interested in the right hander who has been up and down this season, his second worst ERA year and his second best WAR year (go figure).
Fortunately, the Sox were able to make a deal as they traded Gonzalez to the Rangers for 3B/SS Ti’Quan Forbes. Forbes is a raw player at 21 that is still in A ball, he has flashed with the glove but the bat hasn’t quite caught up yet. Not a monster prospect but not a bad return for Gonzalez.
This finally brings a close to the busy trade deadline season the Sox had this year, which may be a prelude for more to come as not only sellers, but maybe buyers, next year.
On The Farm
Michael Kopech was named the most outstanding pitcher of 2017 in the Southern League for Double A Birmingham, making himself the first Baron to win that award since the great Mark Buehrle.
Kopech was terrific in the 2017 Southern League, tieing for eighth in the league with 8 wins, an ERA of 2.87, which was fourth best, and he was first amongst qualified starters in hits allowed at just 77 while allowing opponents a batting average of .184 and striking out 155.
Kopech started for the Charlotte Knights in AAA on Friday in his last start of the season, going 5 IP giving up 2 ER off of 7 hits with 0 BB and 7 SO.
The #8 overall prospect in the Sox system, Alec Hansen, made his debut with the Barons on Monday, pitching 5 inning and giving up 3 ER (all in the 6th) on 7 H with 3 BB (also all in the 6th) and 8 SO (all before the 6th). A really good 5 innings of work before an unstable 6th ran him out.
Hansen followed up his performance with another brilliant 5 IP on Saturday but that 6th inning was trouble once again. Hanson completed 5 1/3 IP, surrendering 2 ER off 8 H with 0 BB and 9 SO in his last start of 2017, he has progressed well this year and it’ll be fun to see how he improves next year.
The Sox #23 overall prospect, Ian Clarkin, returned off the disabled list this past week and got in action on Sunday, going 3 IP and giving up only 1 H with 1 SO.
Only one Sox affiliate will be playing in the playoffs, the Sox low A team, Kannapolis Intimidators. Among the standouts in Kannapolis are RHP Dylan Cease, 3B Jake Burger and CF Blake Rutherford. Beyond Kannapolis, the season ends Monday for the higher level affiliates.
Charlotte AAA (Eliminated)
Birmingham AA (Eliminated)
Winston-Salem High A (Eliminated)
Kannapolis Low A (Playoff bound)
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