First dose of unbridled Spring Training optimism

First dose of unbridled Spring Training optimism
Why is everyone else having an easier time with this, Jake??! // Scott Strazzante, Tribune Photo

Taking even a day off the first burst of Spring Training is a good way to fall hopelessly behind all the positivism.

It's only fitting; it's the beginning of the professional baseball season, professional baseball is a massive and onerous endeavor, so you're either entering it with unbridled enthusiasm and energy or you're not doing it all.

Still, goodness gracious,  Ozzie Martinez already has his own personal puff piece.  This battle to be the little-used utility infielder is getting plenty of ink.  It's fair for Martinez, though.  If you get shot in the head, you're bound to have articles written about you when you're still able to function at a high level.

Kenny Williams is at peace with the world

Williams pondered the finite amount of time he might have as the White Sox GM, as the franchise prepares to enter an uncertain and probably harrowing period of their existence.

""If there comes a time where he (chairman Jerry Reinsdorf) believes that there’s somebody that can do this job in a better way and provide him with a better chance to win and build an organization and do the things that it takes to build an organization, I’ll be the first one to step up and say, ‘you need to make this move,’

I can accept it if ultimately that’s the call. And we can go out the next day, he can call me up and we’ll go out for a steak and a cigar. It will be all good."

This is all very zen of Kenny, but if we're to buy into his claim that he offered to resign and was denied, was then tied to a strict budget that inherently required a salary dump, along with being permitted to make one of the most out-of-left-field managerial hires in the history of the sport, he either has blackmail-level job security, or was fired 6 months ago and is just a figurehead for the simulation engine that really is the GM now.  The simulation engine overrates Nestor Molina's minor league numbers.

Everyone's throwing 200 innings

First, Jake Peavy wanted to throw 200 innings.  That's natural.  For one, Jake Peavy always wants to throw 200 innings, all the time, even when playing basketball.  He's also likely aware that the White Sox lucking out and competing probably requires a huge effort from him.  It's also essentially a contract year for Jake.  Whether players are better when their contract is on the line is another argument, but it's indisputable that Peavy is aware of this, and thus wants to do well.

Now, Chris Sale--the skinny youngster adjusting from the working out of the bullpen with the delivery that some people freak out about--isn't backing down.  He wants to throw 200 innings too.  No Strasburg-like innings limit, no skipped starts.  The way it sounds though, Sale feels some pressure to do so.

“It’s not a matter of whether I think I can. I want to,” said Sale. “That’s something that I want to push for because that’s what this team needs. I don’t really like to set goals or live up to expectations and stuff because I tried doing that last year and I failed miserably.”

For the source of all this 200-inning mania, look no farther than John Danks for the culprit.

Q: "Now with Buehrle gone, there's a void with this pitching staff.  Are you ready to be the ace of this pitching staff from now on."

Danks: "I think so.  I think there's five of us that on any given day can give us a chance to win."

Maybe he's just making a boilerplate statement about believing in the entire staff, or maybe he's saying that everyone needs to throw 200 innings.

Honestly, if the White Sox really want to fulfill a crazy copy of the Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 season , they probably need to hit the high-end of most of the inning projections for their rotation.  For goodness sake, the D'backs got 212 innings from Joe Saunders last season.

They need to go for it!  Caution be damned!  That's the stuff reserved for rebuilding years, and, uh....well....maybe they should just play it by ear.

Robin Ventura is bullish on everyone, obviously

 The new manager is optimistic about his new team.  It's important to remember this is his first team, and he has nothing to compare it to as a manager.  They just had the best first day a team managed by him has ever had, they also had the worst first day a team managed by him has ever had.  But hey, optimism is optimism, and Robin's is so powerful it extends to the White Sox farm system.

Ventura was particularly impressed with pitchers Nestor Molina and Simon Castro.

"It's nice to be able to see them throw and really see what your scouting department sees," Ventura said after Friday's workout. "And going on the backfield watching the catchers hit, to see young kids you haven't necessarily seen a whole lot of.

Ventura cited Michael Blanke, Josh Phegley and Tyler Flowers for their hitting potential.

It would be nice to see what the White Sox scouting department sees, especially if doing so revealed that they had uncovered two massively unappreciated talents in Castro and Molina.  That would set the franchise recovery clock at a much faster pace.  Molina did just clock in at #72 on John Sickels' top 120 prospects list, which raised the number of prominent prospects lists he has appeared on to 1.

It stands to reason that Blanke, Phegley, and Flowers can look impressive in practice, as they all emerged as offense-first catchers early in their careers.  They've also all--Flowers included--since savaged their prospect statuses with in-game performance.  Phegley at least, has the optimism that stems from being fully recovered from a wrist injury that kept him out of the Arizona Fall League...which also just further reminds us of Phegley's chronic injury troubles.  Also his defense is bad.  Deep sigh.

Hitters?

This isn't even the full glut of optimism, as the hitters are only starting to trickle into camp.  All the favorites--Beckham, Dunn, Rios--showed up on Saturday.

Rios on playing left field.

""I like center and right because those are the ones I’ve played. I think I played left last year. It’s different. Center and right is different than left. We’ll see what happens."

True enough, Alex!  It's going to be a fine line to walk for Ventura between the attitude of "Who the hell cares what you want, Alex?" and avoiding complete alienation of a guy who's on contract for another three years.

As for Dunn:

David Schuster‏ @Schumouse

Adam Dunn pretty much refused to talk about last season

He's sticking to it!  Dunn would only really ruin the positivism by discussing last season, and that needs to be maintained.

@ESPNChiSox

Adam Dunn said he doesn't put any stock into spring training numbers, saying if he hits .500 w/ 20 HR it prob won't translate to reg season.

Even better!  No emotions allowed about Dunn at all until Opening Day.  Except regret.  Always the regret.

Brent Lillibridge seems the most focused of all.

"It’s a big year for me personally, just to get into arbitration and really hopefully get a big payday for myself but also hopefully get a lot of at-bats  and really help this team."

Like many things in life, we laugh because it's funny and we laugh because it's true.

 

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  • For the record, Molina is #86 on fangraphs top 100 (Castro #93!): http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/top-100-fantasy-prospects-for-2012-100-81/

    FG prospect list doesn't have the pedigree of some others but they do seem to have guys that know what they're talking about over there, people who use a lot of stats I don't understand.

    So get on board alright? Get excited! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddammit.

    Sorry. Just started channeling my inner-Crash Davis for some reason.

  • In reply to Chris Lamberti:

    Yeah, it's highly skewed toward who will actually get playing time.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Right. I didn't notice that it was supposed to be for fantasy baseball, which would have involved reading the intro. Drat!

  • In reply to Chris Lamberti:

    One wonders whether there's a difference between a list for Fantasy prospects and a list for actual prospects

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    "Fantasy" prospect lists will indubitably include more White Sox.

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