Chicago scribes descended upon Schaumburg Monday night to take in an alternate site workout and simulated game to occupy the time on an off-day for the White Sox.
The veterans and prospects alike scurry around constantly to get the latest data reading from an Edgertronic camera or to find out the exit velocity of a batted projectile. There is technology equipment set up beyond second base, and coaches and staff members in chairs sit ready to deduct readings from computer screens behind home plate. It's a brave new world for the organization, but players old and new are scooping up the information and utilizing it to the best of their abilities.
It's been interesting to see how the franchise charts a path and effectively serves two masters at the alternate site. The last time Getz spoke of this situation, he emphatically clarified that helping the big-league club was the priority. With a 17-12 record so far in this 60-game jaunt, some of that methodology has changed. To wit, journeyman hurlers Adalberto Mejía and Bryan Mitchell were released by the organization on Monday.
Added in their place were relievers Kodi Medeiros and Danny Dopico, in addition to infielder Zach Remillard. Remillard was a 10th-rounder out of Coastal Carolina back in 2016, and he's played multiple positions across numerous minor league affiliates. The right-handed Dopico was an 11th round selection in 2015 who's performed solidly throughout his minor league career. Medeiros is a southpaw who was selected by the Brewers in the first round in 2014, and he adds to the stable of lefties currently in Schaumburg.
Nick Madrigal is on the mend from the injury he suffered earlier this month. The No. 4 prospect in the White Sox system separated his left shoulder, but could be back in time to play the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The second sacker looked pristine in the infield and produced some hard contact at the plate.
Madrigal's batting practice sessions went as expected, as he sprayed line drives to all quadrants. During the intrasquad contest, the former fourth overall pick got some elevation to his swing and smashed a homer off the scoreboard in left field. It was a sight to be seen, and the players in attendance applauded after he greeted lefty Bennett Sousa rudely with the drive and thud that soon followed.
Another player on the comeback trail is third baseman Jake Burger. The organization's first-rounder from 2017 looks as good as he has since spring training 2018, when he tore his Achilles for the first time. Burger was smooth in the field, and displayed the bat speed that made him a highly-regarded hitter in the first place.
Burger recently joined the fellas in Schaumburg after participating in the CarShield Collegiate League near St. Louis. The Missouri State product elaborated in his team in his league during a Zoom call with the local media. Burger stated that he had more success facing major conference performers throwing in the mid-nineties than he did against some of the DII and DIII guys in the league.
Burger has cleared some mental hurdles in his return to game action, and he's physically fit as well. The former 11th overall pick has lost nearly 25 pounds, and he's attributed some of that to playing tennis and riding his bike in Arizona. None of it would be possible without the support of the White Sox organization however. "I feel like I can talk to Chris Getz about anything," Burger said.
Hard, loud contact
Balls were really jumping off bats, as the data-collection devices were getting a workout on Monday evening. Andrew Vaughn continues to impress with the bat, and while there are no official data points for the public to consume, consistently exit velocities well faster than 100 mph wouldn't be a surprise.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Yermín Mercedes and Seby Zavala made continual loud and proud contact all night long. The newly arrival Remillard contributed to the fun as well. The most promising of this group, however, was 22-year-old outfielder Blake Rutherford. The former first-rounder from 2016 deposited a ball over the right-field fence early on, and made hard contact all evening. Putting the ball in the air more consistently is a developmental threshold that the outfielder is striving to meet.
Stiever and the young arms
Jonathan Stiever was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft out of Indiana. The 6´2´´ 215-pound righty burst onto the prospect scene in 2019 after posting a 2.15 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 71 innings at Winston-Salem. He's one of the 10 best prospects in the White Sox system currently, and he likely would have been firmly in the Top 100 mix in baseball by now — if there were a minor league games going on.
Stiever was expected to report to Double-A Birmingham to play with the Barons in the Southern League, but he was shut down during spring training with a dreaded forearm strain. In Schaumburg, the former Hoosier gave up some hard contact, showed nasty stuff at times and got up and down six times — the most important part of the righthander's night.
Draft picks of 2019, Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist, threw on the side during the workouts, and 2020 draftees Jared Kelley and Garrett Crochet got some chucks in as well.
James Fegan of The Athletic was clutch with the video for the evening.
Crochet has smoothed out his delivery, and Kelley is working on riding his fastball. Nothing beats the experience of pitching in actual minor league games, but Getz and his staff have found a way to develop their plethora of young pitching without minor league games to fall back on.