Tuesday, March 14, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will start the season on the DL

Peter Bourjos
I've been saying it all spring: I get the feeling that Peter Bourjos is going to be the Opening Day center fielder for the White Sox. And I get the feeling that position is going to be the biggest problem for the Sox in 2017.

The player Sox brass wanted to win the job, Charlie Tilson, has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with a stress reaction in his right foot. The injury wasn't initially thought to be serious, but a follow-up MRI on Monday revealed swelling. Tilson will miss at least the next three weeks, and that means he will be on the 15-day disabled list when the season starts April 3.

That makes the veteran Bourjos the top candidate for center field, even though he is in camp as a nonroster invitee. The Sox have two spots open on their 40-man roster, and it appears that one of them is his to lose at this point.

Bourjos, 29, hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 plate appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies last year. He can handle center field defensively, but there's a reason he's on a minor-league deal: He's not a good hitter; his career on-base percentage is .300, and his OBP has hovered in the .290s for each of the past three seasons.

To his credit, Bourjos has had a good spring; he's 10-for 27, which pencils out to a .370 batting average. It should come as no surprise, however, that he has yet to draw a walk. But right now, he looks as if he's the best option for the position as a veteran stopgap.

Other options in camp include a pair of 25-year-olds -- Jacob May and Adam Engel. Both are good enough defensively to play center field, but both have uneven offensive track records.

May has had the better spring, posting a .333/.375/.433 slash line in 32 plate appearances. Engel has struggled to .130/.310/.130 in 30 plate appearances.

Engel hit .242/.298/.369 in 161 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte last year, while May hit .266/.309/.352 in 321 trips to the plate.

Based upon last season and what we've seen so far in camp, May seems the better bet to win a roster spot than Engel. But, there still are three weeks until Opening Day, and things can change.


  1. May has hit major league starting pitchers in his spring at bats. That is a good sign because even more than CF the Sox also need someone capable of batting leadoff. Bourjos is clearly not capable of that, and I don't want to see Tim Anderson in that spot until he earns it. May hasn't really shown that he has earned it in the past, but at least he understands that he needs to get on base by hook or by crook.

    The most sensible lineup at this point is May leading off in LF, Melky at DH, and Bourjos batting ninth in CF. Avi and Asche are the other OF's.

    We'll know soon enough about how competent this management team is. If no other position players get injured and Leury Garcia makes the roster, the entire organization gets a "no confidence" vote from me. The team may not hit much, but the pitchers need the best defense they can put together behind them. The Schaumburg Boomers field players with more baseball instincts than Leury Garcia.

  2. If the goal is the best defensive lineup -- and that's something I generally favor -- I'm not so sure May shouldn't be in CF. I think he might cover more ground than Bourjos, who also is good defensively. I tend to believe Melky is a better OF than both Avi and Asche.

    100 percent agree with you on Leury. He's fundamentally horrible, the type of player the Sox need to move away from.

    1. I'm only giving Bourjos the CF job because May hasn't stayed healthy the last couple seasons. And I've seen Bourjos play more. I wouldn't belabor the point.

      Asche is strictly a 5th OF. But Melky vs. Avi: Fangraphs' defensive data 2015-2106 gives Avi a noticeable edge in UZR and Arm over Melky. And that includes Avi's dreadful defensive start in 2015 coming off injury. Certainly if Avi has ANY value remaining it includes defense - it is his OBP that drags his overall production down.