Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt Davidson makes case for more playing time

Matt Davidson
The White Sox leader in home runs and RBIs through 18 games is ... Matt Davidson?

Yes, that's correct.

Davidson went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and his team-best fourth home run of the season Monday, leading the Sox (9-9) to a 12-1 win over the Kansas City Royals (7-12).

The 26-year-old has 14 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead with Avisail Garcia, but Davidson has posted that total in only 40 plate appearances, while Garcia has 72 plate appearances.

Davidson has been the source of much consternation among Sox fans because he hasn't been playing every day. Before Monday's rout, Davidson had not started any of the previous four games.

I can at least understand manager Rick Renteria's logic. In those four games, the Sox faced a strong contingent of right-handed pitchers -- Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, and then Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

None of those pitchers is a good matchup for Davidson, who has struck out 12 times in his 24 plate appearances against right-handers this season. The flip side to that argument? Davidson also has three home runs against righties, so perhaps he's hot enough right now that "handedness" doesn't matter so much.

Davidson was in there Monday against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1), and he laced an opposite field homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps his best swing came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he delivered an RBI double on the ninth pitch of an at-bat against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, who is a side-winding right-hander. Davidson fought off a couple tough 3-2 pitches, then found one that he could shoot into the right-center gap for a hit.

Later in the sixth inning, during which the Sox scored eight runs, Davidson hit a two-run single off the left-field wall that had an exit velocity of 110 mph. He hit the ball so hard that he couldn't make a double out of it. That one was off a left-handed pitcher, reliever Travis Wood.

The question for Renteria is this: Does he continue to spot Davidson in matchups that are favorable for him? Or does he take the training wheels off, throw Davidson in there against everybody -- even tough right-handers -- and find out whether this hot start is for real?

When I look at Davidson's slash line of .368/.375/.789, I can't help but think "small sample size." But the longer this goes on, the more calls we are going to hear for more playing time for Davidson. That especially will be the case if the left-handed side of the DH platoon, Cody Asche, continues to struggle. Asche is 2 for 35 and has yet to record an extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

We won't know Tuesday whether Renteria is going to change course. The Royals are starting their best pitcher, left-hander Danny Duffy, so that means Davidson is going to play. We'll see what the Sox manager does the next time the team faces a less-than-elite right-hander.

Speaking of right-handers, Miguel Gonzalez (3-0) continues to roll for the Sox. He went eight innings Monday, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He struck out five and walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.00 over four starts and 27 innings. He's been the Sox's best pitcher this month. Who would have thought that? 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Surprise! White Sox win a series against defending AL champion Cleveland

Avisail Garcia -- AL's leading hitter as of April 14
We concluded yesterday's blog post by noting that White Sox manager Rick Renteria would be wise to avoid using relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones for a fourth straight game.

Well, guess what? There was never a reason to consider going to high-leverage bullpen guys in Thursday's game, as the Sox rolled to a 10-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Sox (4-4) took two out of three from the defending AL champions and sent the Tribe (4-5) to their fifth loss in their past six games.

Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (0-2) on the first pitch of the game, and that sparked a five-run first inning for the South Siders. The other four runs were scored after two were out. Matt Davidson hit a three-run, opposite-field homer to make it 4-0. Yolmer Sanchez doubled and scored on a single by Omar Narvaez to cap the rally.

The Sox ended up scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs, and the trend continued in the second inning when Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single to make it 7-1 and end Tomlin's night.

Final line for the Cleveland right-hander: 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs

It was nice to see the Sox knock Tomlin around. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts and 19.2 IP against Chicago last year. Hey, it's a new season.

With all the early run support, you would have thought Miguel Gonzalez would have been in line for his second win. Alas, the right-hander ran up a high pitch count, walking four men in the first four innings, and he couldn't make it through the fifth after the Tribe scored two runs to cut the lead to 7-3.

Gonzalez allowed three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

Renteria, as we suggested, went to some of his secondary relievers. Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of one-run relief. Swarzak (1-0) recorded five outs without allowing a run to pick up his first win as a member of the Sox.

The Sox put the game away with three more two-out runs in the eighth on singles by Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia.

Unbelievably, Garcia is leading the league in hitting with a .452 average. He also has eight RBIs. Cue the talk about small sample sizes.

The Sox will continue their nine-game road swing with a three-game weekend series in Minnesota. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Dylan Covey (First appearance of 2017) vs. Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (0-2, 6.17 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Sunday: James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38 ERA)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Derek Holland continues mastery of Cleveland in 2-1 White Sox win

Derek Holland
White Sox left-hander Derek Holland is now 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA over five career starts at Cleveland's Progressive Field, after he tossed six shutout innings Wednesday in Chicago's 2-1 victory over the Indians.

Holland (1-1) limited the Tribe to only one hit -- a leadoff double by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the sixth -- while striking out four and walking four.

The 30-year-old veteran has a 1.50 ERA through 12 innings and two starts, and if you look at some of the pitch charts, it's clear that he's changed his approach after struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness the past three seasons.

Based on my own observations, it has seemed as if Holland is throwing his curveball a lot more this season than he did during his time with the Texas Rangers, and this research conducted by our friends at SouthSideSox confirms my suspicion.

Holland is throwing his curve on 21.1 percent of pitches this season, as compared with 7.5 percent in 2016. He's also using more four-seamers and fewer sinkers. His sinker use has dipped from 58.9 percent of pitches to 13.9 percent, while he's using the four-seamer 29.4 percent of the time, as compared with only 1.4 percent last year. The use of the changeup and the slider has remained status quo.

Give credit to Holland for realizing he needs to make adjustments. His fastball is sitting at 92 mph, as opposed to his pre-injury 94 or 95. That two or three miles per hour can make a big difference, and sometimes a veteran pitcher needs to make some concessions to Father Time.

Is Holland's early success sustainable as the weather warms and the conditions become more hitter friendly? I don't know. We'll have to watch and learn.

As for Wednesday's game, the Sox offense was limited again, but Holland and three relievers made two early runs stand up. Matt Davidson's two-run single in the second inning accounted for the only Sox offense, and it was enough for a rare win in Cleveland.

Something to watch for in Thursday's game: Both closer David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones have worked in three consecutive games. If it's a close game late, will new manager Rick Renteria have the restraint to not overwork Robertson and Jones, who could be valuable trading pieces for the Sox later in the year?

Renteria shouldn't be afraid to allow Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak to pitch. Even if the Sox were expected to contend, it's too early in the season to be going to the whip with the best bullpen guys on the club. Robin Ventura made that mistake last year, and despite early success, the relief corps crumbled with injury and ineffectiveness in May and June.

Soto to DL; Smith recalled

The Sox have placed catcher Geovany Soto on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Kevan Smith has been recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.

It's too bad for Soto, who was off to a good start with three home runs. (The Sox only have six as a team). It's also too bad for the Sox, as their already shaky defense behind the plate just got a little bit worse.

I saw Smith catch a few games during spring ball, and while he hit well in Cactus League play, let's just say he did not impress me with his receiving skills.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

White Sox begin nine-game trip with typical Cleveland loss

Michael Brantley
The White Sox are 12-25 in their past 37 games in Cleveland, so we shouldn't be surprised that their first road game against the Indians this year ended with an archetypal punch to the groin.

Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle (0-1) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 10th inning, but then he walked Francisco Lindor and gave up a game-winning double to Michael Brantley as the Indians came away with a 2-1 victory.

It's too bad, because the Sox wasted a serviceable start by the erstwhile James Shields. The veteran right-hander gave up a solo home run to Lindor in the bottom of the first inning, but nothing more over 5.1 innings. He allowed only two hits, walked two and retired 12 consecutive Cleveland hitters at one point.

Given the garbage we saw from Shields last year, how can we complain about that performance against one of the better lineups in the American League? We can't.

And, the Sox bullpen covered 13 more outs before Kahnle finally cracked in the bottom of the 10th.

Have we mentioned the fact that the Sox can't hit? Yeah, it's becoming a theme. Other than Todd Frazier's solo home run in the fifth inning, the offense generated little. The Sox were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and four of the nine starters finished the game 0 for 4.

The best scoring chance came in the top of the eighth inning against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller, of all people. Geovany Soto walked and advanced to third on a double by pinch-hitter Matt Davidson with one out.

With runners on second and third, Tyler Saladino hit a Miller slider right on the screws, but his line drive landed in the glove of diving Cleveland third baseman Yandy Diaz. Good defense by Diaz, bad luck for Saladino. If that one gets through, the Sox (2-4) take a 3-1 lead. Alas, it did not, and Tim Anderson swung over the top of two Miller sliders and basically struck himself out to end the threat.

The Indians also missed an opportunity in the eighth inning, thanks to some curious managing by Terry Francona. Sox reliever Nate Jones was laboring; he walked the first two hitters. But Francona for some reason ordered the red-hot Lindor to sacrifice bunt, which he did.

Sure, that gave Cleveland (4-3) runners on second and third with one out, but it opened the door for Sox manager Rick Renteria to walk Brantley intentionally and set up the double play. That's precisely what Renteria did. Jones got a righty-on-righty matchup that was favorable for him against Cleveland's Edwin Encarnacion, and he induced a 5-4-3 double play to keep the game tied. Good managing by Renteria, not so good by Francona, who is normally the game's best.

Unfortunately, given a second life, the Sox's offense was too inept to scratch across a run and steal a winnable game.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Surprise, surprise, James Shields secures first White Sox win of 2017

James Shields gave up 40 home runs last year, including 31 in the 22 starts he made after the White Sox acquired him in a midseason deal with the San Diego Padres.

So, I wasn't expecting good results Thursday when Shields took the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field on a day where the winds were gusting out to right field at 25 to 30 mph. I figured the Detroit Tigers would hit at least three home runs off the veteran right-hander.

Matt Davidson
Well, surprise, surprise. Shields hung in there for 5.1 innings and earned the win in an 11-2 White Sox victory. It wasn't the best pitching performance I've ever seen -- Shields walked five and struck out five -- but he allowed only one run on two hits. He gave up one home run -- a solo shot by Tyler Collins in the second inning -- and it was the Sox hitters who best took advantage of the windy conditions.

The South Siders hit three home runs. The biggest one came from catcher Geovany Soto, whose 3-run shot in the bottom of the third inning gave the Sox a 5-1 lead and knocked Detroit starter Matt Boyd out of the game.

Matt Davidson added a long 3-run homer (estimated at 428 feet) in the bottom of the fourth inning -- his first in a Sox uniform -- off Detroit reliever Anibal Sanchez to make the score 9-1.

For good measure, Soto added a solo shot in the seventh inning for his first two-homer game since 2011.

The most eye-opening thing about Thursday's game was the performance of Davidson, who also tripled, walked and scored three runs as part of a 2-for-3 day as designated hitter.

I'm on record as a Davidson nonbeliever. He's 26 years old, and he still strikes out too much -- despite his prodigious power. That said, I've been wrong about people before, and Davidson should be getting at-bats ahead of Cody Asche, lefty-righty matchups be damned.

This is Asche's fifth year in the big leagues. He already has 1,291 plate appearances under his belt. His career slash line is .240/.298/.384. At this point, I think it is safe to say those numbers reflect who he is. Perhaps he'll stick around for a while because he bats left-handed, but he's a fringe player.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that Davidson is a fringe player as well. However, Davidson has made only 93 plate appearances at the big-league level across parts of four seasons. He's struck out 26 times, which is way too much, and has a slash line of .259/.355/.506.

That's not enough sample size to make any firm judgments. I'd be in favor of letting Davidson play. The Sox aren't going anywhere this year. It's as good a time as any to find out what they have in him, if they have anything at all.

The Sox (1-1) will next host the Minnesota Twins (3-0) for a three-game weekend series at Guaranteed Rate Field. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Derek Holland vs. Phil Hughes
Saturday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Adalberto Mejia
Sunday: Jose Quintana (0-1) vs. Ervin Santana (1-0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

White Sox Opening Day roster: What's left to decide?

Cody Asche -- will he make the Sox's roster?
With four days left until the home opener, the White Sox are done playing in Arizona and are bound for Milwaukee to play a couple of exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Brewers.

They won't finalize their 25-man roster for Opening Day until Sunday, but from the looks of things, 23 of the spots are set.

Barring some sort of trade or last-minute acquisition, this will be the 12-man pitching staff:

Starters: Jose Quintana, Miguel Gonzalez, James Shields, Derek Holland, Dylan Covey

Relievers: David Robertson, Nate Jones, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Michael Ynoa, Anthony Swarzak

Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick, takes the rotation spot of Carlos Rodon, who will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Relief pitching prospect Zack Burdi led the team with 17 strikeouts in 12 Cactus League innings, but he said Wednesday he will begin the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

Burdi probably would have made the club had Robertson been traded, but the Sox already have enough right-handers to work in short relief. They needed to keep a couple guys who could throw multiple innings at a time out of the bullpen, because Quintana is the only starting pitcher who can be trusted to get into the seventh inning consistently.

Ynoa, who is out of options, and Swarzak, a veteran with starting experience, are two pitchers who can eat innings on a day where a starter doesn't make it past the fifth inning -- and there likely will be a few of those for the Sox this season.

The Sox decided against keeping a second left-hander in the bullpen, as I thought they might, even though Cory Luebke did all he could to make the club -- a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 spring innings.

Among position players, I'm seeing 11 roster locks for the 13 spots:

Catchers: Omar Narvaez, Geovany Soto

Infielders: Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Tim Anderson, Tyler Saladino, Yolmer Sanchez

Outfielders: Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Jacob May

Utility: Leury Garcia

That leaves Matt Davidson, Cody Asche and Rymer Liriano on the bubble for the final two spots.

Davidson was in line for an extended look at the end of last season, but then he broke his foot running the bases in his first game after being called up to the Sox. He entered camp as a good bet to make the roster, because he's out of options and a lot has been invested in his development.

For those reasons, he still may make the club, but 25 strikeouts in 63 spring plate appearances isn't what the Sox were hoping to see from him this spring, I'm sure. He did hit three home runs and posted a .764 OPS.

Asche struck out 17 times in 52 plate appearances, too, but he was more productive than most, posting a .310/.453/.714 slash line with four home runs, nine RBIs, five doubles and a team-high 10 walks. Asche hits left-handed, which could put him at an advantage.

Liriano fanned 22 times in 53 plate appearances and slashed .170/.264/.340. Hard to see him making the club after that, and he seems to be a better bet to sneak through waivers than Davidson or Asche, but apparently he's still under consideration for a roster spot.


Friday, November 4, 2016

White Sox decline option on Matt Albers, among other roster moves


So long, Matt Albers. We'll always have this photo of me with your jersey at SoxFest.

The first day after the conclusion of the World Series often brings a flurry of minor roster moves around the league, and the White Sox made a handful on Thursday.

Most notably, they declined a $3 million option on Albers for the 2017 season, instead exercising a $250,000 buyout.

Albers, 33, went 2-6 with a 6.31 ERA in 58 appearances this year. He was unscored upon in April, but was absolutely terrible for the rest of the season. Now, he's a free agent, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's spent his last day in the big leagues.

The Sox also reinstated third baseman Matt Davidson (broken foot) and relief pitcher Jake Petricka (hip surgery) from the 60-day disabled list. Outfielder J.B. Shuck was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was given his release.

Somewhat strangely, the whitesox.com article on the moves indicates the Sox's 40-man roster now sits at 37 players. By my count, the Sox added two players to the roster (Davidson and Petricka), while subtracting three (Albers, Shuck and Webb).

That should mean the roster is at 39 players ... hmmmm ...

Worth noting: The Sox have a five-day window to negotiate exclusively with potential free agents Alex Avila and Justin Morneau. Perhaps the team has already decided they have no interest in talking to those two players, and their names will be officially subtracted from the 40-man roster when they become free agents in five days. That would take the roster count down to 37.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

Friday, July 1, 2016

White Sox place Matt Davidson on DL, recall Carlos Sanchez

Matt Davidson
Catching up on roster moves before the White Sox (40-39) face the Houston Astros (42-37) in a three-game weekend series:

After left-hander Matt Purke contributed to the near-meltdown in the ninth inning Wednesday night against Minnesota, he was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Infielder Matt Davidson was called up, and he made an immediate contribution in Thursday's win over the Twins -- an RBI single and a run scored in the fourth inning.

Unfortunately, Davidson broke his right foot while running the bases sometime in that inning, and he has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.

You can't help but feel badly for Davidson, who struggled in Charlotte for two years before turning it around this season. He made the Triple-A All-Star team and earned his call-up. Now, he's looking at some extended time on the sidelines, and you hope the time off doesn't cause him to lose the good swing he's had working for him lately.

His loss, however, is Carlos Sanchez's gain. The infielder has been recalled from Charlotte to fill out the roster. Sanchez appeared in 11 games earlier this season with the Sox, hitting .154 with an RBI in 29 plate appearances. He was hitting .258/.313/.413 with six home runs and 24 RBIs for the Knights.

A few thoughts about Purke, who we may or may not see again in Chicago this year, he's an interesting case study on what happens when you stop throwing strikes.

The lefty reliever made 12 appearances with the Sox, and the first six were remarkably different than the last six. Purke's walk rate rose dramatically in his most recent outings.

First six appearances: 10 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 5 Ks, 3 BBs, 3.60 ERA
Last six appearances: 8 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 10 Ks, 9 BBs, 7.88 ERA

My saying is, "You walk people, you lose." In Purke's case, he walked people, and he found himself on a plane back to Charlotte.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carlos Sanchez, Matt Davidson, Leury Garcia among latest Sox roster cuts

Carlos Sanchez
We are six days away from the start of the 2016 baseball season, and the White Sox are down to 31 players in major league camp after a series of Tuesday roster cuts.

Second baseman Carlos Sanchez, third baseman Matt Davidson, infielder Leury Garcia and relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Outfielder Jason Coats also was reassigned to minor league camp.

Sanchez and Davidson did just about all they could this spring. Sanchez, who appeared in 120 games for the Sox last season, hit .333/.368/.593 with six doubles, two home runs in six RBIs in Cactus League play. He had two home runs in Monday's 11-7 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Davidson was the biggest surprise at camp. After two seasons of hitting around .200 at Charlotte, he showed up in Glendale and hit .413/.438/.783 with a team-high five home runs and nine RBIs.

Unfortunately for these two players, they didn't do enough last season to earn their way into the organization's plans, and they are now blocked by offseason acquisitions Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. Both Sanchez, 23, and Davidson, 25, are still young and would be better off getting everyday at-bats in Charlotte than occupying the 25th spot on the Sox roster.

It's looking like that spot is going to go to veteran 1B/OF Travis Ishikawa, who has posted a .289/.347/.556 slash line in camp, with two home runs and nine RBIs. Ishikawa fills the need for a left-handed bat and backup option at first base after the abrupt retirement of Adam LaRoche earlier this spring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

White Sox bats showing some life in early spring

Avisail Garcia
The White Sox have scored 40 runs through their first six Cactus League games, including 34 runs in their last four games.

I know, it's spring training, so who cares? But the Sox are normally so terrible in spring ball that you can't help but notice when they do well.

Avisail Garcia and Jimmy Rollins both homered in Tuesday's 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, as the Sox improved to 4-1-1 so far in Arizona.

The Sox have 12 home runs by 12 different players through six games. Garcia and Rollins joined a list yesterday that includes Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton, Dioner Navarro, Matt Davidson, Steve Lombardozzi, Adam LaRoche, Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Jason Coats.

The South Siders are leading the Cactus League with a .609 slugging percentage heading into Thursday's game against the Oakland A's. All the usual caveats apply about these games being meaningless, but it's been a long time since the Sox have looked good in spring training.

Do you want to know the last time the Sox had a winning mark in spring games? 2004! Even the 2005 World Series championship team had a losing month of March.

So, while this recent stretch of good offense won't mean a thing when April 4 rolls around, it's refreshing to see some guys getting good results, instead of having to resort to the usual grumping about how early it is, or clinging to the idea that failure is OK because the players are "just getting their work in."

It's never a bad thing to play good baseball.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday thoughts: Matt Davidson, Brad Penny, David Robertson

I was on board with the move last offseason when White Sox GM Rick Hahn traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

In theory, it's a trade I'd still endorse today. Closers have a short shelf life, and while Reed is a solid relief pitcher, he is not All-Star caliber. It's not a bad baseball move to trade a player like that for someone you believe will at some point play every day in your infield.

That said, it's hard not to be discouraged about what we've seen since Davidson joined the White Sox organization. 2014 was a terrible year for him. His slash line at Triple-A Charlotte was .199/.283/.362. His 20 home runs and 55 RBIs hardly made up for the 164 strikeouts in 539 plate appearances.

You'd like to believe it was just a poor season -- it can happen to any player -- and that Davidson will bounce back this year. Maybe he will, but it's been an ugly spring for him so far. He's 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Cactus League, and he committed errors on back-to-back plays Monday that opened the door for the Diamondbacks to score four unearned runs in their 6-2 win over the White Sox.

Davidson continues to struggle both with the bat and with the glove. He turns 24 next week, so you can still say he counts as a prospect, but it will be hard for the Sox to keep him in their plans if he doesn't show anything this year.

Penny getting a long look

Quick quiz: Name the pitcher who has logged the most Cactus League innings for the White Sox this spring.

It's not Jeff Samardzija or Jose Quintana. It's veteran right-hander Brad Penny, who is in camp on a minor-league deal.

Penny has worked 7.2 innings thus far. His results have been mixed. He's allowed three runs on 11 hits, and opponents are hitting a robust .355 against him. But, he has struck out six men, and he's only walked one. Unlike some other pitchers who are trying to make the roster (Daniel Webb, cough, cough), Penny is throwing strikes.

He's been a starter for most of his career, and there is obviously no room for him in the White Sox rotation. But team brass is giving him a long look this spring, perhaps considering whether he can be the 12th man on the pitching staff -- the guy who works in long relief or makes a spot start when needed.

Because of service time rules, five days before opening day, the Sox have to either add Penny to the major league roster, cut him, or give him a $100,000 bonus for staying on the minor league roster.

Every team needs a staff saver. Could Penny be that guy? He hasn't pitched himself out of contention yet.

Robertson working on command issues

Speaking of closers, David Robertson hasn't been sharp in his first few spring outings. He allowed two runs in 2.2 innings pitched, while walking three and striking out just one.

Cause for alarm? No.

I watched Robertson work an inning Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, and by my unofficial count, he threw nothing but fastballs and cutters during his 23-pitch outing. Robertson has a put-away breaking ball in his arsenal, but he didn't use it even once -- despite facing both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in that inning.

Robertson walked two, but got out of trouble when Pujols grounded into a double play.

It was clear from watching the outing that Robertson doesn't have command of his fastball yet, so that's what he was focusing on when he stepped on the mound Sunday -- results be damned.

That's why it doesn't make sense to put too much stock in spring training numbers. Guys might be working on specific things, and they may not be doing things the same way they would in a regular-season game.

It's an important thing to remember as a fan, even though it is sometimes hard not to draw grand conclusions from what you're seeing in spring ball.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Carlos Rodon not among White Sox's September roster additions

The White Sox added seven players to their roster before Tuesday night's 6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins as part of the annual Sept. 1 roster expansion. However, the players who were not included on that list are more notable than the players who were.

The team's No. 1 draft pick in June, left-hander Carlos Rodon, was conspicuous by his absence. Rodon made a quick rise through the Sox's minor-league system and finished the year at Triple-A Charlotte, where he had 18 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched. Rodon struck 38 hitters in 24.2 innings over three minor-league stops this season.

But, he also walked 13 batters over those innings, and all reports indicate his fastball command could use some improvement. Perhaps that's the reason the Sox have decided not to bring him up for the last month.

“We are absolutely thrilled with where he is and how quickly he has progressed through the system,” Sox GM Rick Hahn told CSN Chicago. “Fundamentally the decision came down to it just wasn’t the right time in his development to bring him to the big leagues to continue his development here and ask him to get big league hitters out. He has responded to all the challenges we’ve put in front of him. We’re very pleased with how he’s finished up his first several weeks as a pro and we fully expect him to come to big league camp next year and compete for a spot on the 2015 White Sox, that’s how far along he is in his development.”

Matt Davidson is another notable player who did not get a September call-up. The would-be third baseman of the future had a miserable year in Charlotte. He hit 20 home runs, but his .199/.283/.362 slash line is downright ugly, especially considering his 164 strikeouts in 539 plate appearances.

Davidson's poor performance ranks as one of the biggest disappointments for the Sox organization in 2014, and it's for the best that he was sent home to clear his head. There would be little or no benefit in bringing him to the majors for the final month. The Sox will go into the offseason with some decisions to make at third base. Conor Gillaspie hits right-handed pitching exceptionally well, but he struggles against lefties and is a question mark defensively. But at this point, Davidson is not a candidate to take Gillaspie's job.

Here are the seven guys who joined the Sox on Tuesday. Most are familiar names. Six have been in Chicago before:

Chris Bassitt, RHP: Bassitt made his big-league debut in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday against Detroit. He allowed five runs and took the loss in that game, but he pitched better than his line indicated. He had good life on his fastball and at one point struck out Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera with a knee-buckling curveball. Some bad luck with BABIP doomed Bassitt in his first outing, as the Tigers blooped him to death with well-placed, softly hit singles. After being returned to Charlotte for a couple days, he's back with the Sox and will probably get a couple more starts before the year is over.

Scott Carroll, RHP: The less-than-mediocre right-hander has been in the Sox rotation for much of the year, compiling a 5-9 record with a 5.07 ERA in 22 games. He started a game for Chicago as recently as Friday, but he was sent to the minors briefly in a procedural move that ensured the Sox had enough available arms for the Saturday doubleheader. He has been brought right back with the roster expansion, but may be relegated to long-relief duty for the rest of the year.

Jordan Danks, OF: The 28-year-old veteran remains on the shuttle between Chicago and Charlotte. He played well in his last stint with the Sox while Adam Eaton was on the disabled list. His ceiling is that of a fourth outfielder, but it will be interesting to see if he gets more ABs in September now that Alejandro De Aza is off the roster. Will Danks' strong defense be enough to get him playing time ahead of Dayan Viciedo? We'll see.

Josh Phegley, C: The 38th overall pick in the 2009 draft is being rewarded for a strong season in Charlotte that saw him hit .274/.331/.530 with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs. Questions remain about Phegley's defense. Coaches and pitchers alike were not fond of his work as a receiver during his 2013 stint with the Sox. Phegley's pitch-calling received pointed criticism from Sox bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher, and you wonder if Phegley's defense will ever progress enough to satisfy the Sox.

Marcus Semien, INF: The versatile, athletic Semien came on strong in August, hitting .345 over that span at Charlotte. In 83 games with the Knights, he posted a .267/.380/.502 slash line with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs. You can't help but wonder if Semien would be more useful than Leury Garcia as an all-purpose player, but the University of California product needs to cut down his strikeouts. He's fanned 58 times in the 170 plate appearances he's had with the Sox this season.

Eric Surkamp, LHP: The relief pitcher has joined Danks on the shuttle between Chicago and Charlotte over the past few months. He has a 6.46 ERA in 24 appearances with the Sox this year and will likely continue to receive situational work against left-handed batters late in games.

Michael Taylor, OF: The 28-year-old was once a top-100 prospect in the Oakland organization, but has failed to distinguish himself in the previous limited big-league opportunities he's received. The Sox acquired him from Oakland in June for some guy named Jake Sanchez, and Taylor hit .306 with six home runs and 38 RBIs in 64 games at Charlotte. Like Danks and Moises Sierra, he's likely competing for a spot as the Sox's fourth outfielder in 2015.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

White Sox prospect update

Thursday is an off-day for the White Sox, so let's take a moment to update the activities of some of the top prospects in the organization.

1. Matt Davidson, 3B, Charlotte -- Davidson continued his hottest stretch of the season on Wednesday, going 2-for-5 with two doubles for the Knights. He hit two home runs in the second game of a doubleheader on Monday night, including a walk-off blast in the 10th inning that lifted Charlotte to a 7-5 win. Davidson had an extremely poor first two months, so his overall slash line looks sickly: .206/.282/.419. But he hit .353 over his last 10 games in June. He homered nine times during the month, and now ranks second in the International League with 15 home runs. At least he's trending in the right direction.

2. Micah Johnson, 2B, Charlotte -- The "game changer" started the year at Double-A Birmingham and dominated opposing pitchers, posting a .329/.414/.466 slash with three homers, 16 RBIs and 10 steals in 37 games. Since his promotion to Charlotte, the numbers are a little more modest: .272/.303/.353 with a homer, 15 RBIs and five steals in 31 games. To be fair, there's often an adjustment period when a player is promoted to the next level, and that's been the case for Johnson. He's highly regarded enough that he was named to the U.S. roster for the Futures Game. It wouldn't be shocking if he gets a September callup this year. Scouts rank his speed as an 80 on the 20-to-80 scale, so that tool combined with his decent-to-good bat will likely get him to the majors. The question is, is he a second baseman or an outfielder moving forward?

3. Tim Anderson, SS, Winston-Salem -- The Sox recently got bad news on Anderson, who was hit by a pitch and will miss four to six weeks with a fracture in his right wrist. Anderson continued to play after he was struck, but the pain worsened and he was shut down after an X-ray revealed the fracture. He was hitting .297/.323/.472 at the time of the injury with six home runs, 10 stolen bases, 31 RBIs and 48 runs scored in 68 games. Anderson's glove is a much bigger question mark than his bat. He's committed a whopping 31 errors this season. Still, the Sox have given no indication they plan to move him off shortstop.

4. Tyler Danish, RHP, Winston Salem -- The second-round pick in the 2013 draft started the year in Kannapolis and overmatched opposing hitters, going 3-0 with 0.71 ERA in seven starts. He was elevated to Winston-Salem, which is an aggressive placement for a 19-year-old kid. In seven starts at High-A, he's 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA, but at least he's got 26 strikeouts in 29.2 IP over seven starts. He recently returned from a short stint on the disabled list, and his three-quarters arm slot (think Jake Peavy) has some scouts concerned about his durability. But, Danish has a 95 mph heater with good sink, and the Sox like pitchers with good sinkers. Danish is a longer-term prospect. You won't be seeing him in Chicago this year or next year. Maybe 2016 if all goes well.

5. Courtney Hawkins, OF, Winston-Salem -- I heard a report today that Hawkins might be headed to the seven-day DL after crashing into a wall in left field on Wednesday night. I haven't heard anything about the extent of the injury, but hopefully it is not serious. The 2012 first-round pick dropped on some of the prospect lists after a wretched 2013 that saw him hit .178/.249/.384 in High-A. Again, though, that was an aggressive placement by the Sox. Hawkins was a 19-year-old playing against older guys last summer. This year, he's repeating the same level and has improved. He's hitting .255/.337/.482 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 79 games. That's a good RBI total. He had only 62 in all of 2013. I think 2015 will be the big year for Hawkins. He'll probably be moved up to Double-A, and we'll see if he can keep his career on an upward arc.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

White Sox designate Jeff Keppinger for assignment

In a move that surprised many observers, the White Sox on Wednesday designated infielder Jeff Keppinger for assignment.

Keppinger, 34, hit a career-best .325 two years ago with the Tampa Bay Rays, but he slumped to a .253/.283/.317 slash line for the 2013 White Sox. He was limited by a right shoulder problem, which ultimately cut his season short and required surgery. He was slow to recover from the injury over the offseason and appeared in just six spring training games before being placed on the disabled list on March 30.

Keppinger has been on a rehab assignment since May 2 at Double-A Birmingham, where he hit .256 in 11 games. With the rehab period set to expire, the Sox decided they'd rather cut Keppinger loose than put him on the major league roster.

The decision is surprising because Keppinger is in just the second year of a three-year, $12 million deal he signed with the Sox prior to the start of the 2013 season. With the move, the Sox are opting to eat approximately $7.5 million dollars, which is a departure from business as usual on the South Side.

Typically in situations such as this, you would expect the Sox to trot Keppinger out to third base every day for the next two months, hoping he would play well enough to entice a contending team to take his salary off their hands.

Not this time. Instead, they recognized there is no place for Keppinger on the roster.

Conor Gillaspie has played well at third base for the Sox this season, and the team has hopes that prospect Matt Davidson will reverse his struggles at the plate and eventually become the long-term answer at the position. There's no room at second base for Keppinger, either, with younger players Gordon Beckham, Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia all ahead of him on the organization's depth chart.

Not to mention, the Sox recently promoted second baseman Micah Johnson, one of their better prospects, to Triple-A Charlotte. With Davidson and middle infield prospect Carlos Sanchez also toiling in Charlotte, there isn't even any room for Keppinger in the Triple-A infield. There is no point in giving Keppinger at-bats over any of these younger infielders, at any level, so it is the right baseball decision to send him packing.

In the past, the Sox have at times let economics get in the way of making the right baseball decision. In this case, I applaud GM Rick Hahn and the Sox front office for doing the right thing. At one point in time, signing Keppinger looked like a good move. It just didn't work out, but at least the Sox aren't compounding the mistake by keeping a useless player around because of money.

Keppinger is out of the organization, and the Sox rebuilding plan is better off for it.