CHICAGO – At this late juncture of the offseason, the White Sox are holding out hope they can land free-agent Manny Machado in time for the start of spring training.
There is little doubt Machado’s potent bat and golden glove instantly would make the Sox a better team, but the real promise of the future remains in all of the prospects that have joined the organization over the past two years.
Prospects such as Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning. Nick Madrigal and Zack Collins. Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and Luis Alexander Basabe.
And don’t forget about Dylan Cease.
“His time is coming,” pitching coach Don Cooper said Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field after calling Sox season-ticket holders. “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”
One of four minor leaguers acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade in July 2017, Cease and Jimenez threaten to make it a lopsided deal in the Sox’s favor.
One of the top hitting prospects in the game, Jimenez batted a combined .337/.384/.577 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte last season.
The 22-year-old outfielder won’t open the upcoming season on the Sox’s 25-man roster because of the service time issue, but he will be in uniform at some point in April.
One of the top pitching prospects in the game, Cease was a combined 12-2 with a 2.40 ERA for high-A Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2018. The 23-year-old righty also had 160 strikeouts in 124 innings.
“A couple things came together where I had pretty good fastball command, had a good feel for my off-speed, was able to throw it in any count,” Cease said. “All I did was focus on executing pitches and let everything else play out.
“So far, [the Quintana trade] has been about as ideal as it can be. [Jimenez] has had killer seasons. I had a good season last year. It’s been exciting to see it progress the way it has progressed.”
In addition to his overpowering fastball, a new curveball grip helped Cease shoot up the ladder last season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder throws it with a “spiked” style, similar to Indians ace Corey Kluber.
“It’s a little bit harder, and it spins better,” Cease said. “According to TrackMan, it has like 3 more inches of depth to it, so hopefully it bites a little harder. I was happy with it after I made that change.”
In 10 starts at Double-A, the Milton, Ga., native was 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA. Cease could open the upcoming season with Birmingham again, but he is moving fast toward Charlotte and then the Sox.
“He’s got more stuff to do,” Cooper said. “He’s going to continue to work on the command of his fastball, to continue to work on command of his breaking balls, both curveball and slider. He did a lot of work on his change-up and improved it a lot.”
“It was actually amazing because he went from a guy throwing none, to some games he threw 20. He put some serious work into all of that stuff, and he had a great year. We loved him before the year started. Obviously, when we acquired him, we loved him. He’s got a big future.”