Showing posts with label Hector Gimenez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hector Gimenez. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Adrian Nieto not much of a risk for White Sox

Catcher Adrian Nieto's agent broke the news on Twitter the other day that his client would leave spring training as the backup catcher for the White Sox to start the season.

Nieto's victory in the backup catcher derby might not be so surprising considering the other options the Sox had behind anointed starter Tyler Flowers. It's also not surprising considering the roster constraints on each option, namely that as a Rule V pick, Nieto would have to be offered back to the team he was drafted from last winter, while Josh Phegley has options and Hector Gimenez is terrible.

Now all that remains to be seen is if the 24-year-old who has never played above Class A can make the leap to the big leagues.

Nieto's hit .254/.346/.385 in the minors over just more than 1,400 plate appearances, including his .282/.371/.446 line last year that tantalized the Sox enough to grab him from the Nationals' system.

If Nieto just started to put things together as a hitter last year, the Sox are risking his progress by giving him a job where he won't get many reps, and will be getting tossed in the deep end of the talent pool and asked to swim when he does.

You could say that's not the Sox's problem. They only need a capable backstop for the days Flowers isn't in the lineup. And Nieto doesn't seemed all that concerned about this roadblocking his career, either.

Can he handle the job? Maybe we'd have to ask how bad he'd really have to be to not be able to handle it.

Here's a look at what the White Sox have gotten out of their backup catchers over the last two decades, at least the guys who have gotten at least 50 plate appearances:

Phegley: .206/.223/.299
Gimenez: .191/.275/.338

Flowers: .213/.296/.412

Flowers: .209/.310/.409
Ramon Castro: .235/.307/.456

Castro: .278/.328/.506

Castro: .184/.262/.382

Toby Hall: .260/.304/.333

Hall: .207/.225/.241

Sandy Alomar: .217/.255/.348
Chris Widger: .181/.265/.263

Widger: .241/.296/.383

Alomar: .240/.298/.305
Jamie Burke: .333/.386/.402

Alomar: .268/.281/.407

Alomar: .287/.309/.485*
Josh Paul: .240/.302/.279

Mark Johnson: .249/.338/.382
Paul: .266/.327/.410

Brook Fordyce: .272/.313/.464
Paul: .282/.338/.423

Johnson: .227/.344/.338

Charlie O'Brien: .262/.303/.390
Robert Machado: .207/.254/.342

Ron Karkovice: 181/.248/.333*
Tony Pena: .164/.250/.179

Chad Kreuter: .219/.308/.368
Pat Borders: .277/313/.383

Mike LaValliere: .245/.303/.337

LaValliere: .281/.368/.331

* -- Alomar started more games than Johnson through mid-May, but was slowly phased to the bench before being traded to Colorado. Johnson had a solid April, but hit .204/.284/.280 the rest of the year.
** -- Karkovice started 1997 as the starter but was benched after the Sox traded for Jorge Fabregas
who hit .280/.302/.382 in the finest season of his career.

If you think that's a generally depressing list, I'd implore you to get over the idea that your life is miserable if every second isn't packed with happiness. COME ON! THESE ARE BACKUP CATCHERS!

There doesn't even seem to be much correlation between having a good backup catcher and competitive seasons.

Castro is the gold standard for backup catchers of the post-strike Sox, and his talents were wasted on teams from 2009-11 that had stabbed themselves in the heart with daggers like "Josh Fields and Chris Getz, Starting Infielders," not to mention unpredictable events like "Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, Historically Bad Seasons."

Alomar kept turning up, probably because of familiarity with the front office. The Sox tried to work in some prospects, like Flowers, Machado, Paul and Johnson, with none of them panning out unless Flowers gets it together. Then it's whatever journeyman or veteran they could dig up.

The Sox won a World Series with Widger as their backup catcher. They won divisions or were at least competitive competitive with guys on their last legs like Alomar, LaValliere and Hall back there. Not a single season was tanked because a youngster couldn't get his big league legs beneath him.

Of a more pressing concern is what the Sox get from the starting catcher this year. If Flowers falters again, we'll likely see Phegley again before Nieto is pressed into expanded duty. Or if someone like Kevan Smith tears up the minors for a few months, maybe he'll get a turn to be cannon fodder. The pipeline of catching talent is pretty dry, though, thus necessitating the drafting of Nieto and hoping he could stick.

If everyone fails, the future of the position doesn't look all that different than it did before last offseason began. That would be a bummer because that's another year of flailing at catcher, presumably while the Sox are another year closer to (hopefully) being a contender again. Though to be fair to Sox GM Rick Hahn, if there were a better option out there, I don't know what it is, so I can't really fault him for not finding it. They'll just have to try again next offseason.

In the meantime, there's not really much harm in the Sox seeing what they have now in Nieto, even if the only way to do it is to give him a job he might not be ready for.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

White Sox option Josh Phegley, Andre Rienzo to Triple-A

Up until now, all the roster moves the White Sox had made this spring were obvious ones. Every few days, you'd see news of guys you knew weren't going to make the club being reassigned to minor league camp.

But with just 12 days remaining until the home opener, the first significant decisions of the spring were made on Wednesday as catcher Josh Phegley and pitcher Andre Rienzo were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

For better or for worse, the Sox have decided to give it another go with Tyler Flowers as their starting catcher. Manager Robin Ventura named Flowers the starter on Sunday, and that gave Phegley a pretty good idea his season would be starting in Charlotte. He seems to be taking it pretty well, though.

“I believe I'm a starter and I can be a front-line starter in the big leagues, but there just needs to be some improvement,” Phegley told the Chicago Tribune's Colleen Kane. “And I think sitting, catching every four, five days, I don't think that’s going to do me any justice. I want to play every day, and I'd like to help this club. It's everyone's goal to be a big leaguer. I want to be a starter, and going to Charlotte and playing every day is going to help my game out, so I'm all for it.”

That's the approach Phegley needs. This is a big year for him. Unlike Flowers -- who is who he is at this point -- I think Phegley still has some upside in his game both offensively and defensively. But at age 26, he's moving into an area where he's not going to be considered a prospect anymore. He needs to make that step forward and prove he can be a starting catcher in the big leagues, and he needs to do it soon.

With Phegley headed to the minors, that leaves Rule 5 draft pick Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez in camp competing for the backup catching role. I'll bet Nieto sticks, because the Sox would have to offer him back to the Washington Nationals if he doesn't. At age 24, Nieto could develop into a useful player, whereas the 31-year-old Gimenez is nothing more than a career minor leaguer.

Rienzo made 10 starts for the Sox at the end of 2013, but as expected, top prospect Erik Johnson and free-agent acquisition Felipe Paulino have pushed Rienzo out of the starting rotation. I thought Rienzo had a shot at sticking in the big leagues as a long reliever, but perhaps Sox brass sees him as a pitcher who needs to stay stretched out as a starter, so that he can be called up and step into the rotation in the event the team has an injury to one of its starting pitchers.

In other moves, pitcher Eric Surkamp was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitchers Chris Beck and Cody Winiarski and infielder Andy Wilkins were reassigned to minor league camp. All of those moves were expected.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Which White Sox nonroster invitees will be worth watching?

When spring training opens next month, the White Sox will have 21 nonroster invitees in camp.

Several of the players on the list are retread veterans, including five who saw time with the Sox last season -- Dylan Axelrod (pictured), Brian Omogrosso, Hector Gimenez, David Purcey and Blake Tekotte.

Most Sox fans would just assume never see those guys on the South Side again. At best, these players are nothing more than organization depth.

Another group of players on this list are castoffs from other organizations, guys who stand little or no chance of making a big league roster. They include pitchers Parker Frazier, Omar Poveda, Zach Putnam and Mauricio Robles, infielder Alex Liddi and outfielder Denis Phipps.

All that said, one of the best parts of following spring training is seeing how some of the organization's prospects fare. Among those the Sox will be looking at this year are pitchers Chris Bassitt, Chris Beck, Cody Winiarski and Scott Snodgress; infielders Micah Johnson, Mike McDade and Andy Wilkins; catchers Miguel Gonzalez and Kevan Smith; and outfielder Keenyn Walker.

Who on that list will be worth your attention this spring? Well, I'll give you two names: Beck and Johnson.

Beck, 23, is the No. 9 prospect in the Sox organization according to Baseball America. He went 13-10 with a 3.07 ERA in 2013, splitting time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham. He won two playoff starts in helping the Barons to the Southern League championship. He's a strike-thrower with a low-90s fastball, a good sinker, which should help him if he ever plays at U.S. Cellular Field, and a decent changeup. His breaking stuff still needs to be refined, but he could be a reasonable back-of-the-rotation option for the Sox as early as 2015.

Johnson, a 23-year-old second baseman, is the No. 6 prospect in the organization. He is intriguing because he has game-breaking speed. He led all minor leaguers with 84 stolen bases in 2013. He was the MVP of the South Atlantic League All-Star Game before being called up to Birmingham, where he hit .368 in the postseason. We'll have to wait and see whether Johnson's hit tool develops enough to be a major league player. As they say, you can't steal first base. But, this is a player who can steal second and third if he can find a way to get on first consistently.

You never know which prospects will take a leap forward in a given year, but if I were to take an educated guess, Beck and Johnson would be the two I'd pick.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tyler Flowers' disastrous 2013 is thankfully over

It's no secret I was never on board with the White Sox decision to make Tyler Flowers their starting catcher.

Yes, I wanted to keep A.J. Pierzynski for another year or two, and it wasn't because of 2005 nostalgia. It was because Pierzynski is still a far superior player to Flowers, even at his advancing age, and I didn't think it took a brain surgeon to figure that out.

I understood the reasons the Sox cut the cord with Pierzynski. He's a 36-year-old catcher. He wasn't going to duplicate the 27-homer season he had in 2012, and there was talk that he wasn't on the same page with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff last season.

That said, if you are going to jettison a productive player, you better have a replacement lined up. And that somebody needs to be better than Tyler Flowers. I knew going into the season Flowers was incapable of being anything more than a backup at the big-league level. He has tantalizing power, but that's his only real plus. He has holes in his swing like Swiss cheese, strikes out way too much and isn't as good defensively as Sox brass claims he is. I figured given a whole season, Flowers might bat .220. Actually, he batted .195 in 84 games this year before going on the disabled list this week to undergo right shoulder surgery.

Reports indicate Flowers first tweaked the shoulder about a year ago. The pain intensified before spring training, and he found out a couple months ago he would need the surgery.

So, the Sox knew before spring training Flowers wasn't healthy, yet they were willing to start the season with him and career minor-leaguer Hector Gimenez as their two big-league catchers. Given what we know now, it's even less of a surprise that the catching position has been a complete disaster for the 2013 White Sox. An injured Tyler Flowers was considered the best option in the organization. That's brutal.

Meanwhile, Pierzynski (.280 avg., 16 HR, 58 RBIs) continues to display competence as the starting catcher on a Texas Rangers ballclub that is tied for first place in the AL West entering Tuesday's action. Thud.

The Sox are left to hope and pray rookie Josh Phegley shows them something the last month of the season. Since an electric first week that included three home runs, Phegley has slumped to a .214 average. His defense has been poor. He dropped a routine pop up Monday against the Yankees, and I've been unimpressed with his receiving ability. Too many wild pitches and not enough pitches being blocked. Phegley will need to hit a lot to overcome his defensive shortcomings. While I'm more optimistic about his offensive abilities than I was about Flowers, the Sox need to see more before they can comfortably go into 2014 thinking Phegley is their catcher.

No matter what, the Sox would be smart to cut their losses with Flowers. He's damaged goods now, and I wouldn't want him in even a backup role. If they want to give Phegley a full-time shot, fine, but sign a serviceable veteran this offseason just in case Phegley fails as well.

I know the list of potential free agent catchers isn't exciting (except for Brian McCann, who is likely out of the Sox price range), but think about it: Anybody who can hit .230 and catch the ball is an upgrade behind the plate over what the Sox have right now. The standard for improvement at that position is not high.