Wake up White Sox fans! Only (approximately) 86 days left until pitchers and catchers report. It is important you have all your roster information memorized before that day comes. Being a White Sox fan in 2017 is like an investment. The ROI better appear in 2020 or all my expectations will be reduced to dust.
Starting Infield-left side
SS Tim Anderson: For some reason that I have yet to come to grips with, Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon (we’ll get to him down the road) are the lynchpins in the rebuild for me. Maybe because they were around before the rebuild became official. Maybe it’s their quick ascent to the major leagues. Maybe it’s the positions they hold; shortstop=captain of the defense, number three draft pick=future ace of the staff.
Tim Anderson is my love-hate relationship on the White Sox. He has every conceivable tool, but we’ve seen this gifted athlete before in the form of Jared Mitchell, Keenyn Walker, Trayce Thompson, Brian Anderson, Joe Borchard, Courtney Hawkins, et al. All the aforementioned have flamed out, or, in the cases of Thompson and Hawkins, the flaming out is still taking place. But Tim Anderson has the opportunity to not only survive at this level, but succeed dramatically.
Watch Tim Anderson come in on a softly hit ball to short, where he has to pick it and throw on the run, off balance. It’s as smooth as silk. It’s ballet. Observe Tim Anderson sit on a 2-0 fastball when he knows the 2-0 fastball is coming. His bat speed is legitimate and yes, he has the ‘launch angle’ all you kids are so fond of. Ever seen Tim Anderson hit a triple? Once he rounds first base, it’s like watching an Olympian about to break the tape. He is gifted.
There is also a guy named Tim Anderson who walks to the dugout after strike three, even when he knows the catcher has dropped the ball. This Tim Anderson also swings at breaking balls literally 6, 7, 8 inches off the outside corner. He often appears to have no approach at the plate. His footwork on in-between hops, despite his athleticism, is often clumsy and sets him up to mishandle the hop or launch the throw to first flat-footed.
So, who is Tim Anderson? Future star or pedestrian starting shortstop on a non-contending team? I am so rooting for the former. I like Tim Anderson. There are too few African-American major league players today. The last numbers I read hovered around 7 to 8% of Major League Baseball. Think of the influence he could have on young African-American baseball players in this city.
Tim, I want you to succeed. 2018 is the year.
3B Yolmer Sanchez (Leury Garcia, Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico, Jake Peter):
Ok, ok. I am wearing my indecisiveness here, but I have an explanation. I LOVE me some Yolmer Sanchez. Why? Because he’s the guy on any baseball field in the U.S., Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, or Japan that you root for wholeheartedly. He seems to outplay his skill set. He always hustles. It looks like he is having as much fun as the five year old kid that plays tee ball just for the post game Swedish Fish!
I think the Sox like him. They finally gave him a chance in 2017, out of necessity, and he responded. .267, .319, 19 doubles, 8 triples, 12 HR, 59 RBI, and solid defense at 3B (and occasionally SS and 2B before Moncada came up). Not bad. Now, are these the numbers you’d expect for a 3B on a contending team? No, they’re not.
So what is Yolmer to the White Sox moving forward? I believe Yolmer is a utility player on a pennant contending team, and his play on the field has done nothing to indicate otherwise. He can pick it anywhere in the infield. He normally gives you competitive at bats. His pitch selection has improved, and, I know this isn’t quantifiable, but his love for the game is infectious. I am not going to trumpet ‘Clubhouse Chemistry’ here, because I believe that to be a type of Maddonism, and Joe Maddon has no place here. But Yolmer has spirit, and even though it is certainly overplayed by the media, there is a place for positive, upbeat players in every dugout.
So, why did I list Garcia, Davidson, Delmonico, and Peter? The Sox seemed to have a little bit of confidence in Yolmer by mid season. After Moncada came up and took 2B, 3B was essentially his. First round pick 3B Jake Burger seems to have a ways to go based solely on the numbers in rookie ball and Kannapolis. I just wonder what the Sox will do if Yolmer struggles. It’s another lost season anyway in 2018, so do they ride him regardless? Perhaps (another Avi reference here) Yolmer has found his next level and will not regress. In any event, I listed the other guys here simply because they are possibilities at the position in 2018 behind Sanchez.
Garcia has a similar skill set (he is able to play a competent OF too), but he’s coming off an injury. Davidson and Delmonico were minor league third basemen, but Davidson is slow laterally, and the White Sox seem to favor Delmonico’s progress in LF. Jake Peter is an older White Sox prospect who deserves a shot to compete with the likes of Yolmer and Leury in the infield, as well as any back up outfielder the Sox have in mind for the beginning of the 2018 season.
My bet is on Yolmer to start the 2018 season where he ended the 2017 season, at 3B. How long will he stay there and what will his role be (if any) when the White Sox turn the corner? I hope he’s on the south side. I have a feeling he is building towards becoming a lasting and memorable fan favorite.
Next time: Catchers and DH
Random Chicago Observation: I miss Jimmy Butler.