Showing posts with label Avisail Garcia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Avisail Garcia. Show all posts

Thursday, July 19, 2018

White Sox option Charlie Tilson to Triple-A Charlotte

The White Sox on Wednesday optioned outfielder Charlie Tilson to Triple-A Charlotte.

Tilson was hitting .264/.331/.292 with 11 RBIs in 41 games with the Sox since being called up May 24. The batting average and on-base percentage are respectable, but Tilson only has two extra-base hits, resulting in that ghastly low slugging percentage.

The Sox will add an outfielder to the 25-man roster before Friday's game against the Seattle Mariners, and it's likely that one of Avisail Garcia or Nicky Delmonico will be returning from the disabled list.

Garcia has been out of action since July 8 with a strained right hamstring. The injury was not believed to be serious, and reports indicate he has been taking batting practice during the All-Star break. That said, Garcia will need to prove he can run the bases before being activated. Both of his hamstring injuries this season were suffered while running down the first-base line trying to beat out a ground ball.

Garcia was hitting .282/.297/.542 with nine home runs and 17 RBIs in 35 games at the time of his injury.

Delmonico has not played in the majors since May 18, when he broke a bone in his hand when he was struck by a pitch. He has been on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, during which he has hit .400/.500/.600 with four doubles and two RBIs in five games.

As a corner outfielder, Delmonico needs to hit for more power if he's going to stick. At the time of his injury, his slash line was .224/.333/.302 with only one home run and seven RBIs in 37 games.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

White Sox clain Ryan LaMarre off waivers; Avisail Garcia back to the disabled list

Ryan LaMarre
The White Sox on Monday claimed outfielder Ryan LaMarre off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.

I took this move as an ominous sign, after Avisail Garcia left Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros with right hamstring tightness.

Sure enough, Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday. It is the second time this season the hamstring problem has sent him to the sidelines.

It's too bad, too, because Garcia was in the midst of one of the most torrid stretches of his career. He was hitting .333 with a 1.130 OPS in 72 plate appearances since returning to the lineup June 22.

The move is retroactive to Sunday, and with off-days Monday and Thursday and the four-day All-Star break coming up next week, it's possible Garcia only will miss five games. But, since this is the second time this injury has popped up this season, I wouldn't be optimistic about Garcia returning after the minimum 10 days.

Enter LaMarre, 29, who was hitting .263 with five doubles and eight RBIs in 43 games with the Twins this season. He was added to the 25-man roster and immediately activated. He isn't much of a hitter -- a .206 career average in 72 big-league games -- but he can competently handle any of the three outfield positions.

I'm sure the hope is LaMarre can be a better stopgap outfielder than Trayce Thompson was during Garcia's previous DL stint. It's not a high bar to clear, given that Thompson batted .116 in 48 games with the Sox.

The Sox (30-60) are on a five-game losing streak after losing eight out of 10 on a road trip to Texas, Cincinnati and Houston. They open a five-game homestand leading into the All-Star break Tuesday night. The St. Louis Cardinals are in town for a two-game set Tuesday and Wednesday. The Kansas City Royals are here Friday to Sunday for a three-game series.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Avisail Garcia swinging the bat well on current White Sox road trip

Avisail Garcia
We can't say Avisail Garcia wasn't one of the players to blame for the White Sox's miserable start to the 2018 season.

Garcia went on the disabled list April 24 with a hamstring strain, and the Sox were 5-14 at that point. During those first 19 games, Garcia hit .233/.250/.315 with only one home run and four RBIs. Not good.

The former All-Star right fielder returned to the lineup June 22 and didn't produce much his first few games back. However, since June 26, we're seeing a different hitter.

Over his past eight games, Garcia is 16 for 39 (.410 batting average) with six home runs, two triples, two doubles, 11 runs scored and eight RBIs. He even drew his first walk of the season in 129 plate appearances Tuesday in the 12th inning of a 12-8 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

It was a victory Garcia played a major role in -- he homered twice, the second of which tied the game in the top of the ninth inning against Cincinnati closer Raisel Iglesias. Throughout his career, Garcia has struggled to drive good major league fastballs to his pull side, but he had no such trouble against Iglesias, blistering a 96 mph fastball into the second deck in left field.

In Monday's game, a 5-3 loss to the Reds, Garcia homered to right field. It's a promising development to see him using the whole field, and if he can continue to swing the bat well, perhaps he will revive the debate over whether he is the right fielder of the future, in addition to the right fielder of the present.

Friday, June 22, 2018

White Sox activate Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia from disabled list

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox on Friday activated outfielder Avisail Garcia and utility player Leury Garcia from the 10-day disabled list.

To make room on the roster, outfielder Trayce Thompson was designated for assignment and infielder Jose Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

Avisail Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list April 24 with a strained right hamstring, was hitting .360 with three doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in seven games during his rehab assignment with Charlotte.

With wet conditions expected in Chicago for Friday's doubleheader with the Oakland A's, it wouldn't be surprising to see Avisail Garcia in the DH spot. He'll likely return to right field once the weather -- and the outfield grass -- dry out.

Leury Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list May 24 with a sprained left knee, was 6 for 14 with three doubles and an RBI in four games on his rehab assignment.

It's possible Leury Garcia will see a little more time in the infield. With Rondon optioned, he's the fifth infielder, in addition to being the fourth outfielder. Leury Garcia was 9 for 9 in stolen bases before getting injured, so if his legs are healthy, he should provide a good pinch-running option late in games.

These roster moves likely end Thompson's tenure with the Sox, and if so, it will be merciful. The outfielder is 3 for 60 in day games this season, and in 130 plate appearances with the Sox, he posted a slash line of .116/.163/.215.

Thompson cannot say he did not get a fair opportunity -- he has started 13 of the Sox's 21 games in June. He's gotten fairly regular at-bats, but he ended up setting team records for lowest batting average and on-base percentage for a non-pitcher who received more than 100 at-bats in a season.

Yes, indeed, it was time to designate Thompson for assignment. His performance at the plate was making Adam Dunn's 2011 season seem competent by comparison.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

White Sox infielder Matt Davidson hitting better in recent games

Matt Davidson
The White Sox (24-47) have lost five games in a row, and they appear to be descending back into the seventh sector of hell.

But infielder Matt Davidson has provided a bit of a bright spot. He homered for the second consecutive game Monday, his team-leading 13th home run, as the Sox lost, 6-2, to the Cleveland Indians.

It's good to see Davidson hitting for power after returning from the disabled list. He did not play from May 22 to June 5 because of back spasms, and for some reason, he was thrown right back into the major league lineup without the benefit of a rehab assignment.

In his first seven games after coming off the disabled list, Davidson went 2 for 24 with 14 strikeouts. The slump culminated in back-to-back games in which Davidson went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts June 10 and 11.

But in the past six games, Davidson has found his swing again, going 9 for 23 with three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs. He's still struck out nine times, of course, but the high strikeout totals become more palatable when coupled with power production.

The way the Sox have handled rehab assignments, or the lack thereof, has been confusing to me as of late. Davidson came right back into the major leagues, but Avisail Garcia remains at Triple-A Charlotte after five rehab games.

In five games for the Knights, Garcia is slashing .353/.450/.706 with three doubles, three walks, a home run and six RBIs. It seems to me he's ready to return to the lineup, but the Sox are saying Garcia will play two more games in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, before a possible return this weekend against the Oakland A's.

Granted, Garcia hasn't played in the majors since April 23 because of a strained right hamstring. So, he missed much more time than Davidson, but if he's feeling good, it's head-scratching why he hasn't been activated.

The Sox had no problem throwing Davidson right into the mix, but they are taking their time with Garcia, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

White Sox (mercifully) snap 7-game losing streak with win over Mariners

Jose Abreu -- two HRs Monday night
Seven straight hits to start the game. Five runs in the first inning. Eighteen hits overall.

Who would have saw this coming? The White Sox had only two runs on 15 hits in three games over the weekend against the Houston Astros, but they finally found some offense Monday in a 10-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Granted, Mike Leake is not anywhere near as good as Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel, but the Sox have made pitchers worse than Leake look like perennial All-Stars this season.

But not Monday.  

Yoan Moncada opened the game with a triple that led to the five-run rally. The Sox added two runs in the second and another in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead and knock Leake (2-2) out early.

It was a big night for Moncada and Jose Abreu, as the two combined to go 7 for 10 with three home runs, a triple, a double, six runs scored and four RBIs.

Moncada went 3 for 5 and had a triple, a double and a home run in his first three at-bats. He had two opportunities to hit a single to complete the cycle, but he struck out looking on a pitch that appeared to be outside and flew out to left field in his last two at-bats. It probably didn't help that Seattle used left-hander Wade LeBlanc to mop up -- the switch-hitting Moncada is clearly weaker batting right-handed, which was the case for the two plate appearances in which he did not reach base.

Abreu, meanwhile, raised his batting average to .308 by going 4 for 5. He hit a two-run homer off Leake in the second inning and a solo homer off LeBlanc in the sixth. Abreu now has a team-high six home runs on the season.

This time, Carson Fulmer (1-1) held a big lead. The right-hander has been struggling, but he pitched six innings of three-hit ball to earn the win. A two-run homer by Mike Zunino in the fifth was the only blemish on Fulmer's line. He struck out three and walked only one -- a refreshing change from previous wildness.

Chris Beck allowed two runs and six hits over three innings of relief, but he didn't walk anybody while pitching with a big lead, which also is a refreshing change from previous wildness. Beck earned his first career save.

Garcia to DL; Palka called up

Of course, no Sox game recap can be complete this season without some bad news.

Right fielder Avisail Garcia strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball Monday night and has been placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Outfielder Daniel Palka has been called up to take Garcia's place on the 25-man roster.

It has been a slow start for Garcia this season. A 2-for-34 slump has left him with an unimpressive .233/.250/.315 slash line with one home run and four RBIs in 18 games. Garcia is the only qualifying batter in Major League Baseball who has yet to draw a walk this season.

Palka, 26, is a former Minnesota Twins prospect who was claimed off waivers in the offseason. The left-handed hitter was batting .286/.384/.476 with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Charlotte.

Friday, April 20, 2018

White Sox bring back Trayce Thompson, trade Tyler Saladino to Milwaukee

Tyler Saladino
In separate deals Thursday, the White Sox acquired outfielder Trayce Thompson from the Oakland Athletics and traded infielder Tyler Saladino to the Milwaukee Brewers.

No other players were involved, as the Sox received cash from the Brewers and sent cash to the Athletics in the transactions.

Chicago fans already are familiar with Thompson, 27, who was drafted by the Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft and made his debut with the team in 2015.

Thompson hit .295 in 44 games with the 2015 Sox before being shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers the following offseason as part of a three-team trade that brought third baseman Todd Frazier to the South Side.

The move initially was working out well for the Dodgers, as Thompson hit .290 over his first 110 at-bats as a fourth outfielder in Los Angeles, but then back trouble sidelined him and caused him to slump to a .225 average by year's end. Thompson hit only .122 in 27 games with the Dodgers in 2017. Los Angeles designated him for assignment at the end of March.

Thompson appeared in only three games with the A's, going 1 for 7 at the plate. He was designated for assignment earlier this week.

Saladino's story is not much different than Thompson's. The 28-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick of the Sox in 2010, made his major league debut in 2015 and had a respectable season in 2016, when he slashed .282/.315/.409 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 93 games.

But, back trouble ruined Saladino's 2017 season. He slumped to a .178/.254/.229 slash line in 78 games, failed to hit a home run and totaled only 10 RBIs.

He managed to make the Sox's roster coming out of camp this season and was 2 for 8 in six games so far.

Why would the Sox make these moves?

We've touched on it in past blogs. The Sox only had two true outfielders on the 25-man roster -- Avisail Garcia and Adam Engel. They've been plugging left field with a platoon of converted infielders in Nick Delmonico and Leury Garcia, and it's been ugly defensively.

Thompson probably will not hit much, but he can play all three outfield spots, and he serves as an insurance policy for center field if Engel (.179/.283/.205) continues to struggle at the plate. Also, Triple-A outfielder Ryan Cordell recently broke his clavicle and is expected to miss at least eight weeks. He was the outfielder in the system considered closest to big-league ready, and his injury left the Sox perilously thin in the outfield both at the major league level and in the high minors.

Enter Thompson to fill that void.

Saladino's best asset is his defensive versatility. He can competently play any position on the infield, but the Sox had a glut of utility guys, with Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia also on the 25-man roster. Saladino was redundant and expendable.

How will Saladino help the Brewers? For now, he won't, because Milwaukee has optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. 

And, in keeping with tradition, since Thompson has returned for a second tour of duty on the South Side, we would be remiss if we did not welcome him back:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Talk about Yoan Moncada masks slow starts by other White Sox players

Avisail Garcia
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada has put together two good games in a row this week against the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox have been outscored, 18-3, in the first two games of the three-game set, but Moncada has been a bright spot. He has gone
3 for 7 with a double, a home run, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, two RBIs and two stolen bases.

There's no denying the fact that Moncada is off to a slow start this season. He's struck out a lot -- 28 times in 66 plate appearances -- and his .214/.323/.393 slash line is well below par.

However, I think all the Moncada talk has deflected some criticism away from a couple other Sox hitters who deserve more blame for the team's 4-10 start.

Let's take a look at what happened in the first inning each of the past two nights in Oakland.

On Monday night, Moncada hit the first pitch of the game for a base hit to right field. He stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Avisail Garcia grounded out to move Moncada to third. But Jose Abreu struck out swinging at a bad pitch, and after Matt Davidson walked, Nick Delmonico popped out to the catcher.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 8-1.

On Tuesday night, Moncada saw six pitches and opened the game by drawing a walk. Once again, he stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Garcia struck out, while Abreu and Davidson grounded out.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 10-2.

Moncada set the table. The alleged RBI men are not doing their jobs.

Abreu is hitting .200/.250/.600 with runners in scoring position. Granted, two of the three hits he's had in those situations are home runs, but he's also grounded into two double plays and failed to pick up the easy RBI with a man at third and less than two outs, such as the first-inning situation in Monday's game.

That said, Abreu's clutch numbers make him look like Babe Ruth when compared to Garcia.

Thus far, Garcia is 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position this season. His slash line is .067/.118/.067 in those situations.

Small sample sizes, yes, but let's not point too many fingers at the young Sox second baseman at this stage. If you want to know why the offense is struggling, look no further than the slow starts by the Sox's two most established run producers -- Abreu and Garcia.

Friday, March 30, 2018

White Sox tie MLB record with six home runs on Opening Day

Matt Davidson
Let's take a moment to rejoice: It's March 30, and the White Sox are alone in first place in the American League Central Division.

OK, that isn't worth much, but the traditional day off after Opening Day is much more enjoyable when your favorite team's record is 1-0.

I wasn't expecting the Sox to win Thursday, especially with James Shields on the mound, but an offensive onslaught allowed the South Siders to blow out the Kansas City Royals, 14-7.

The Sox hit six home runs on Opening Day, which ties a major league record -- the 1988 New York Mets were the other team to do it. And Matt Davidson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in an opener -- George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) were the others.

Davidson's performance overshadowed a two-homer game for Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu also homered for the Sox.

Indeed, Sox fans are feeling good today, but they weren't feeling so good at 3:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about 13 minutes after the season began. The Sox went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, and Shields put the Sox in a 4-0 hole only four batters into the bottom of the first inning.

Lucas Duda's three-run homer put the Royals ahead 4-0, as the first four Kansas City batters recorded hits. Same old Shields, right.

Well, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the 36-year-old veteran, but after that horrible start, the right-hander settled down and gave up nothing over the next five innings. He got through six innings, allowing only the four runs that came across in the first.

If you would have told me Thursday morning that Shields would get through six innings and give up four runs, I would have taken it. So, I'll take it.

Not to mention, Shields was better than Duffy, who fell apart the second time through the batting order. The Kansas City left-hander battled shoulder problems during spring training, so perhaps he just wasn't ready to go more than a few innings. He limited the Sox to one hit through the first three innings, but the roof caved in on him in the fourth.

Avisail Garcia doubled. Abreu homered. Davidson homered. Anderson homered. Yolmer Sanchez walked. Adam Engel singled. Yoan Moncada doubled. All of a sudden, it was 5-4 Sox, and the rout was on from there.

The Sox added three runs in the fifth, three in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The only concern I have from this game is the struggles of relief pitcher Juan Minaya, who gave up two runs and could not finish the ninth inning. Minaya walked a batter and threw two wild pitches in his two-thirds of an inning, and that wildness has been a pattern going back to his last couple of spring training outings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was 9 for 10 in save opportunities down the stretch in 2017, but I don't think he should be the closer now, with Nate Jones healthy and Joakim Soria also on the roster.

It will be interesting to see how manager Rick Renteria uses the bullpen the first time the Sox are in a late-inning, high-leverage situation.

The Sox have two more games with the Royals this weekend, weather permitting. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will pitch for the Sox at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He'll be opposed by Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy. Reynaldo Lopez gets the start for the Sox at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Random thoughts from the goings-on at SoxFest

Few people spend a whole weekend at SoxFest and come away with zero autographs.

Me, I've been attending the event for the past few years and have never gotten a single signature.

I don't care for standing in line for autographs at all, but I'm not adverse to standing in line to take a picture with a former White Sox player:


Jon Garland was apologetic about forgetting to bring his 2005 World Series ring to SoxFest. I told him my "2005 happened" shirt would make up for it.



SoxFest was as crowded as I've ever seen it Saturday afternoon, so I was stunned to walk past the photo stage and see no line whatsoever to chat with a Hall of Fame player, Tim Raines. That's an opportunity I couldn't pass up as a baseball geek.


Everything they say about Jose Contreras is right: He's one of the nicest people you will ever encounter. He's gracious to fans, much like another former Cuban Sox player, Minnie Minoso. Contreras was hired as a team ambassador for good reason.

Aside from these three pictures, I spent most of my time hanging out in the seminar room, listening, learning and asking questions. A few things I found out:
  1. General manager Rick Hahn said if there's one move left to make this offseason, it would be to add one more relief pitcher to stabilize the bullpen. Hahn said he's looking for the next Anthony Swarzak, who made the Sox's roster last year as a nonroster invitee and ended up being traded for a useful prospect (Ryan Cordell) at midseason. Since Hahn made that comment, the Sox have signed right-hander Bruce Rondon to a minor-league contract. I doubt he's going to pitch like Swarzak did last season, but hey, at this time last year, did any of us think Swarzak would amount to anything?
  2. I asked Hahn how the outfield situation might sort itself out to start the season. Avisail Garcia, of course, is the right fielder. The other two starting spots and the backup outfield spot seem open, with Leury Garcia, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Willy Garcia, Charlie Tilson and Cordell competing. Hahn did not rule out a veteran acquisition when I asked, but the Sox seem content to go with what they have. He noted that Tilson and Cordell missed significant time with injury last year. Both likely need more time at Triple-A, which is good news for the other four men on that list. Interestingly, Hahn said Cordell has been asked about by three different teams during offseason trade talks.
  3. Hahn and Renteria shared some thoughts on relief pitching and bullpen use in response to one of my questions Saturday. Renteria said he tells his relievers not to worry about what inning they are going to be used in. Rather, he wants them to be thinking about getting outs. He doesn't want to place guys in set roles -- a sixth-inning guy, a seventh-inning guy, etc. He did note that he considers himself to be old school in the sense that he wants starting pitchers to go as deep into games as possible. He isn't necessarily going to adhere to the theory that a starter's job is to get through the batting order two times and hand it over to the bullpen. He's aware that batting averages go up the third time through the order, but he's not going make decisions solely upon that. I asked Hahn if the organization in their scouting process is looking for "super relievers," guys who come in and work two or three innings in the middle of game -- the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller, for example -- or do the Sox just try to stockpile starters, and whoever isn't one of the five best ends up in a bullpen role? Hahn's answer: yes and yes. If they find a guy who they think can be a dominant reliever in the middle of a game, they might draft him and try to develop him as such. But it's also likely that a sixth or seventh starter could end being that guy who works in middle relief.
  4. I asked director of player development Chris Getz about outfield prospect Luis Robert, who will be playing in the U.S. for the first time in his life. I'm wondering what minor-league level he'll start at, and Getz said that decision has yet to be determined. It depends on what Robert shows in spring training, of course, but it remains to be seen how the 20-year-old Cuban adjusts to life in a new country and a new culture. Getz said the organization will err on the side of caution with Robert, meaning if there is a debate over whether to start him in Low-A or High-A, they are going to put him in Low-A. The thinking being, if he destroys Low-A pitching, it's an easy adjustment to move him up to High-A. Better that than having him struggle at High-A and face a possible demotion to Low-A. Also, Getz said the organization sees Robert as a center fielder. 
  5. The optimism was overflowing all weekend long. There was one fan who wondered how the Sox could trade Fernando Tatis Jr. in the James Shields deal, but there wasn't a cross word uttered otherwise. Coaches, players and fans alike seem excited for the second year of the rebuild, and there was a lot of talk about how well the current players and prospects in the system enjoy being around each other. Players have an overwhelmingly positive view of Renteria and his leadership capabilities.  I'm not a big believer in chemistry -- I think you win with talent and execution -- but it doesn't hurt that the players in the Sox organization actually want to be with this team and want to win here. Time will tell whether they have enough talent and the ability to execute in pressure situations.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Jose Abreu trade? Never say never, but it's unlikely

Jose Abreu
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has been asked about the possibility of making another big-splash trade this offseason, which would involve dealing either Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia.

Predictably, Hahn didn't rule out anything:

“It has to be in play,” Hahn said to reporters. “Everything is in play. Even a couple of years ago when we come to these meetings, there would be all these Chris Sale rumors. The reason for that was we had to keep our options open. There are simply no untouchables. We have to fully vet and understand our players and make an appropriate decision about what is best for the long-term health of the organization.”

Indeed, the Sox are the organization that traded Chris Sale, and if Sale can be dealt, then anyone can be dealt.

But there a few reasons why I think Abreu is likely to remain with the Sox. First and foremost, if a team needs a first baseman, that's one position where there are some reasonable free agent options: Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso.

Wouldn't a club rather sign one of those guys than deal elite prospects to the Sox in exchange for Abreu? I'm thinking yes.

Also, Abreu will be 31 years old when spring training opens. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down, but the free agent first basemen are either younger than him, or in the same age range. Not sure how many clubs in the current marketplace are going to be willing to give up top-50 prospects for a slugger who plays a corner position.

And from Hahn's perspective, if the market doesn't yield top-50 prospects for Abreu, there isn't any incentive to move.

And then there's this:

“His leadership, his role in the clubhouse, the way he plays the game, the example he sets for everyone is important,” Hahn said of Abreu. “It's something that quite frankly may well tilt it so that we value him more than anyone else in the game because we've had the privilege of having him in our clubhouse and know the value that he adds and others are just speculating on that part. Every team in baseball is able to put a value on him based on what he does between the lines. We increase that value to us based on what he does in the clubhouse.”

Somebody has to be the veteran clubhouse presence during the rebuild. That guy is Abreu. In addition to being a good hitter, Abreu brings intangible value, and he's the sort who just might be more valuable to the Sox on the roster than he would be in a trade.

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Avisail Garcia is hitting a lot of singles since coming off the DL

Avisail Garcia
White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia is second in the American League in hitting with a .322 batting average.

Who would have thought we'd be making that statement on Aug. 29? Garcia continues to perform well above his career norms -- he's a lifetime .272 hitter, and it's not a small sample size. By the end of the week, he will have 2,000 career plate appearances in the big leagues.

Garcia is not going to challenge for the batting title. Houston's Jose Altuve is well ahead of the field with a .356 batting average, but Garcia has been hot since he came off the disabled list Aug. 8.

In his past 16 games, Garcia is 25 for 58. That will pencil out to a .431 batting average. He has at least one hit in 13 of those 16 games. He has eight multi-hit performances, including three three-hit games.

But here's the thing about it: Most of Garcia's hits are singles now. Since coming off the DL, Garcia has only four extra-base hits. All of those are doubles, and the last one came two weeks ago on Aug. 13.

Garcia was sidelined for about two weeks with a sprained thumb, and it's amazing how injuries to hands, thumbs and wrists rob hitters of their power.

Credit Garcia for continuing to get base hits during this period where he likely is not 100 percent healthy, but it's unfortunate that this hot streak has produced only seven RBIs for him.

A modest suggestion for manager Rick Renteria: Flip the batting order and put Garcia third, ahead of Jose Abreu.

For the most part, Abreu has been hitting third, with Garcia fourth. Abreu has seven home runs since Aug. 12, but only 10 RBIs to show for it. The guys hitting first and second haven't been getting on base for Abreu.

Who has been getting on? Well, Garcia has. Put him before Abreu in the lineup, and maybe some of these Garcia singles turn into runs for the Sox, if Abreu can continue to drive the ball off the wall or over it with consistency.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Backtracking a little bit: Avisail Garcia is injured

Avisail Garcia
Amid all the trade news and excessive hype surrounding a noncompetitive Crosstown Classic, I failed to comment on this bit of news: The White Sox's lone All-Star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, went on the disabled list this week with a strained ligament in his right thumb.

We can't say Garcia's absence was the reason the Sox lost, 6-3, to the Cubs on Thursday. His replacement in right field, Willy Garcia, went 1 for 3 with a solo home run off Jon Lester to provide one of the few positives from the game and that series overall.

The bigger issue is we're once again starting to wonder who the real Avisail Garcia is. He had a torrid first two months, but he's been badly regressing in recent weeks. He was in a 1-for-30 slump leading up to his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Immediately after the break, it looked as if he might be emerging from the slump. He went 5 for 13 with a pair of home runs in a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. His swing seemed to be getting back to where it was at the start of the season.

Alas, Garcia went right back into the slump once Seattle left town. He was 3 for 24 with not a single extra-base hit in the six games before he went onto the disabled list.

Here are Garcia's splits by month:

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs
June: .293/.340/.444, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs
July: .216/.259/.333, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs

The July decline in production sticks out like, well, a sore thumb. Could these struggles be the result of a nagging injury? Absolutely. Could these struggles be the return of the old, disappointing Avi? Unfortunately, yes. It's hard to tell.

For me, it's hard to pencil Garcia in as one of the core players to lead the way during the Sox rebuilding phase because he has a habit of ending up on the disabled list. This is his fourth full year in the big leagues, and only once has he played in more than 120 games. He still could surpass that plateau this year -- we'll see how long this injury sidelines him. The Sox say two weeks, but based on their track record of fibbing about injuries, that could mean two months. At that point, the season would be almost over.

The question is, what do you do with Avi? Do you hope he gets healthy, hope he finishes up strong, then trade him as a "sell high" guy this offseason before he regresses or gets hurt again? Do you believe the April, May and June Avi is the real Avi and extend his contract, believing he's a significant piece of the outfield puzzle going forward? Or, do you do nothing, and just allow him to be the placeholder right fielder during the rebuild and then move on from him when (hopefully) one of the prospects is ready to replace him?

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two good months in a row for Avisail Garcia

Avisail Garcia
One quick point about White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia today:

It's June 1, and he's hitting .322/.374/.547 with eight home runs, three triples, a team-best 11 doubles and a team-best 37 RBIs.

He went 2 for 4 on Wednesday in the Sox's 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox to cap a second consecutive month in which he hit .300 or better.

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 2 3Bs, 3 2Bs, 20 RBIs in 93 plate apperances
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 1 3B, 8 2Bs, 17 RBIs in 110 plate appearances

There was no way Garcia was going to sustain that 1.029 OPS he had in April, but that .301 May average and .831 May OPS is still pretty solid work. And it's well above Garcia's career norms of a .267 average and a .722 OPS.

I have to admit, I've been burned by Garcia before. I've had high hopes for him in the past, only to be let down when he goes into one of his patented lengthy slumps. But, this is the first time since he's joined the Sox that he's put together back-to-back months of this quality.

I'm still not 100 percent convinced that he's actually going to be good for a whole season, but let's give credit where credit is due: Garcia has been the most consistent and most productive hitter on the Sox through the first 52 games of the 2017 season.