Takeaways from Thursday's alternate site workout
As the White Sox travel to Kansas City to begin a three-game series with the Royals over the weekend, baseball activities are continuing at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. Director of Player Development Chris Getz met the media and executive vice president Ken Williams was in the house to observe the festivities as well.
Getz spoke glowingly of the facilities in Schaumburg and noted that it's been an ideal site to host their alternate squad workouts. The White Sox have added a tunnel for hitters, and the changes will remain in place for the club to use in the future. Players were filtering in and out of upstairs training rooms and they seemed to be getting used to the dimensions provided.
Chris Getz emphasized that, "the priority right now is making sure these guys are ready to help the major-league club." While the most important aspect of Getz's job right now is to prepare players for Chicago in a pinch, he's trying to "simulate an affiliate experience" as much as possible as well.
Nomar Mazara is on the rehab trail and Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn have continued to impress the development staff. The highlight early on Thursday was the lanky southpaw down in the bullpen, though. Garrett Crochet threw about 30 pitches under direction from multiple staffers, as data was collected from a plethora of devices.
Garrett Crochet Side Session
The 2020 first-rounder Garrett Crochet is settling into the organization and absorbing all of the information he can get to perfect his craft. The 6´6´´ southpaw threw an approximately 30-pitch side session and all eyes were on the former University of Tennessee standout.
The Rapsodo was out and ready, and staff members were scurrying around with data readings from iPads and laptops. Meanwhile, Crochet was just worried about pitching. The No. 11 overall pick in this year's draft deployed his high leg kick in his motion, but it appeared to be more simplified than the one he used in college.
Crochet wasn't throwing full-force, but his stuff was crisp and it looked great coming out of his hand. It was pretty apparent that there was an objective given prior to the session: Crochet said later in his Zoom call that he was working with coaches to develop a different look for his four-seam fastball while continually trying to sharpen his changeup.
"I've never really been coached into a specific grip," Crochet says. "It's been very easy to make adjustments."
Coaches were always within earshot and providing tips on arm slot adjustments as well as instant access to data. Getz told the media that Crochet might have advanced to Double-A Birmingham in a normal season. The director of player development also said that "Crochet is a guy that's shown an ability to make adjustments and respond to instruction."
While it's unlikely that we'll see Crochet in the Chicago bullpen this year, the 21-year-old is preparing as if it's a legitimate option. "If it wasn't in the back of my mind, I wouldn't consider myself a competitor," he says.
The White Sox want to develop the lanky lefty as a starting pitcher, and that's where his future lies. When looking at the alternate site roster though, it's apparent that left-handed pitching is an area of focus for the organization.
Madrigal and service time
When I arrived in Schaumburg on Thursday morning, Nick Madrigal was one of the first guys I noticed getting his pre-practice work in. Fans and observers provided plenty of moans and groans on Twitter after learning about Madrigal's presence in the northwest suburbs. Many were anticipating that he'd be on his way to Kansas City to join the Chicago White Sox in their three game series against the Royals this weekend; and that anticipation turned out to be accurate, as Madrigal was called up to the majors on Friday.
Service-time manipulation day across baseball was Wednesday, and many prospects are suddenly ready for their first major league experiences. Players entering the majors for the first time need to be on active rosters for 61 of 66 days on the 2020 calendar. That date has passed, so it was all-clear for the 2018 first-rounder could join the big league club at any time.
After all, Chris Getz had indicated that Madrigal would be joining the White Sox "vey soon." The former No. 4 overall pick continued to show his defensive range and aptitude. He sucked up everything that came his way on the infield, and displayed stellar mechanics on turns and throws.
Madrigal's batting practice session provided a glimpse into the future. The eagle-eyed infielder took the pitches that weren't in his preferred zone, fought off pitches that he couldn't put in play and sprayed line drives to all quadrants. He really put a drive in one in a live hitting session off of reliever Brady Lail, closing out the media session as well.
Thursday was Madrigal's last taste of Boomers Stadium, as the rest of his development will take place in Chicago. His baseball and personal character is high, and skeptical fans should know that Madrigal is very likely to get everything he can out of his skillset due to that work ethic and character.
Mazara on the mend
It's an interesting mix of players presently performing daily at the alternate site. There are some relievers hoping for one more big league shot, as well as prospects who are just trying to not fall behind developmentally. Hitters with big-league experience are trying to hang on for as long as possible, while recent No. 1 picks continue to impress.
Nomar Mazara is in a different category. He's trying to work his way back from the injured list, and the White Sox haven't commented on the specific affliction that had him sidelined. He appeared to be a primary focus of the workout in Schaumburg, though, and Getz confirmed that he was "trying to get his legs under him and work out his throwing arm" while at the separate site.
The 6´4´´, 215-pound outfielder really stood out while hitting in the cage on Thursday. It was apparent that he was a major leaguer when lacing balls all over the field and depositing many deep drives over the fence. The 25-year-old was acquired from Texas this offseason and the career underachiever is expected to provide a big boost to the White Sox.
While his struggles against lefthanders have been apparent, Mazara posted a 110 wRC+ against righties last year and it's a figure that would fit nicely into the offense in Chicago. Despite not living up to the lofty expectation of being a Top 100 prospect on an annual basis, Mazara hit 79 homers in the big leagues before his 25th birthday. Hitting coach Frank Menechino will be tasked with getting Mazara up to speed in short order in addition to administering swing and approach changes that allow the slugger to hit more fly balls more consistently.
In Mazara's parlance, as he explained it to media via Zoom during Summer Camp, was "doing more damage." He's not focused on beating the shift for base hits, he's looking for doubles off of the wall and homers out of the park.
Executive vice president Ken Williams was on hand for the end of the workouts, and he watched the live batting practice session intently as it featured the likes of Madrigal, Mazara, Micker Adolfo and Andrew Vaughn. Williams' presence should be considered promising if you're anticipating the return of Mazara.
Odds and ends
Vaughn continues to impress and will be one of the highlights of camp throughout the summer. It would be a benefit to the organization if Major League Baseball were able to conjure up some sort of extended prospect league, so the likes of Vaughn can compete against his peers. He hit multiple baseballs out of the stadium, sprayed line drives all over the field and took some grounders at third base.
Blake Rutherford. Luis Basabe, Luis González and Adolfo are featured prominently at the alternate site. Basabe is probably the next man up as far as the big leagues are concerned, but González does lots of things right. Rutherford and Adolfo are both on the 40-man roster, and all of these guys could have benefitted from another year in the minor leagues.
Crochet was the focus on Thursday but other young starters are on the way in Schaumburg. Getz confirmed that 2020 second-rounder Jared Kelley and 2019 second round pick Matthew Thompson would be in camp soon. In addition to those righties, Jonathan Stiever was throwing on Thursday and his health was something to monitor after being shut down in spring training. Stiever, Kelley and Thompson will all be considered Top 10 prospects in the White Sox's system at every major publication.