White Sox fans, do you know who your outfielders are? I think there are two certainties in the outfield for Opening Day 2018, but if you believe the internet machine, our right fielder is not long for the south side. For some reason, I don’t think Avi is going anywhere. Let’s learn about our guys and explore the total and complete uncertainty of center field.
LF Nicky Delmonico: Nicky’s production and Moncada’s promotion were both jolts the White Sox season needed to keep it fun. It’s crazy that a recurring theme with the media while recapping the season is that the White Sox were fun to watch in 2017. It’s crazy because it’s true. 67-95 doesn’t normally come attached to the adjective ‘fun’. Maybe we’re employing the word fun because hope lies beneath.
I digress. Delmonico’s lofty swing is reminiscent of a certain National League champion’s, you know, the guy who hit 39 home runs and won the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Bellinger’s bottom half works and buckles more than Delmonico’s, but there are a lot of similarities otherwise. The loft, the directness to the ball, the follow through. However, I can’t decide if I’m excited about Delmonico moving forward. Is he blossoming late like our Avi, or is he the young, smart, son of a coach who temporarily took advantage of the major league pitchers that didn’t know him?
In 141 at bats he had 9 home runs and 23 walks. He tailed off toward the end of the season, but the line is still affirming, .262, .373, 9, 23. Give him 500 at bats and are we looking at a guy who hits 30 home runs and walks 85 times? I’m skeptical, but even 20 home runs and 65 walks over a full season would be a success for a player the Orioles and Brewers released with little regard.
Remember Carlos Quentin? The Diamondbacks gave up on him and the White Sox picked him up for nothing. Check out his 2007 versus his 2008:
2007 Arizona Diamondbacks- .214 AVG, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 3 times more Ks than BBs
2008 Chicago White Sox- .288 AVG, .394 OBP (!!), 36 HR, 100 RBI
I have my doubts about a full season of Delmonico. There will be others to man LF if he doesn’t produce, although I think the White Sox will be patient with him because they have no reason not to be in a lost 2018. However, how cool would a Carlos Quentin-like breakout be?
CF ???????????? Adam Engel, Charlie Tilson, Ryan Cordell, Leury Garcia:
I bet Rick Hahn and Ricky Renteria are as unsure who the starting CF will be in 2018 as I am. Spring Training will be an audition if my intuition is correct. Now you see why I believe, despite the team’s apparent faith in Delmonico, that LF will be fluid if he doesn’t consistently produce by early June. It is likely any one of these four could capably man left field if need be.
Adam Engel is a very good defensive center fielder. As recent White Sox center fielders go, Jacob May wasn’t bad defensively to start 2017 (but he was so bad at the plate that I won’t include him as a possibility here), Austin Jackson was solid defensively when he was healthy, and Adam Eaton had average range and jumps, with a better than average arm (he was obviously better suited for a corner). Defensively Engel beats all of them. He was a 70 (on a 20-80 scale) rating for speed in his minor league scouting report and that’s exactly what he displayed last year in CF. Great jumps, great closing speed, and fearlessness matched with intelligence on balls near the wall (in other words, unEatonlike).
I don’t think he’ll last because his hit tool is well below average. Well below. He struck out 117 times in only 301 at bats, .166, .235 OBP. These are abysmal numbers and the eye test bears them out. He looked clearly overmatched in at bats against major league pitching throughout the season. There is just no way he survives a full season as a starter. The White Sox will be inclined to give the other three a chance first and have Engel be the fourth outfielder or go back to AAA to restore some semblance of offensive confidence and progress.
Charlie Tilson was the #12 prospect for a prospect rich St. Louis Cardinals system when he came to the White Sox for Zach Duke in 2016 (some might say the unofficial, subtle beginning of the rebuild). Like Engel, the scouting reports trumpet his defensive prowess in center field.
In his last full season of minor league ball with the Cardinals organization in 2015, Tilson had an impressive line of .295, .351, with 9 triples and 46 stolen bases in Double A. The speed number in his scouting report is 65, right behind Engel’s and well above average. He had the inside track to be the 2017 starter in CF for the White Sox, but multiple injuries sidelined him for the end of 2016 and all of 2017. While he did participate in the Arizona Fall League this year, his ability to stay healthy tempers any optimism he’ll begin 2018 in center field for the White Sox.
Leury Garcia finally, like Yolmer Sanchez, was given an extended look in 2017 and he was solid, if unspectacular, with a .270, .316, 9, 33 line. Like Davidson and Anderson, he did strikeout many more times than he walked (65 Ks, 13 BBs), but he did create a place for himself on this White Sox team as the jack-of-all-trades utility player. Garcia could play every position minus P, C, and 1B next year for the White Sox and he’ll do a capable job everywhere if he remains healthy. Yet, if the Sox start him in CF on Opening Day, it means Tilson failed in his spring training audition and the list of fill ins until (if) Luis Robert is ready will be long.
Ryan Cordell was acquired in the trade that sent Anthony Swarzak to the Brewers, around the time when the White Sox were pulling fans out of their seats to pitch the 7th inning. He was the #18 ranked prospect for Milwaukee when he arrived in Charlotte. However, he did not play in the White Sox system last year due to an injury. Like Leury Garcia, he is able to play multiple positions capably. While I don’t see him starting in CF in front of any of the aforementioned candidates, it is possible he could start the season as the White Sox fourth outfielder. He will be 26 years old on Opening Day.
RF Avi Garcia: I will not regurgitate everything you’ve heard and read since August, when a solid season (at least) was assured. Here is the line, and it is extremely impressive:
.330, .380, .506 slugging percentage, 18, 80, 171 hits and noticeably improved defense in RF. Defensive metrics measured Avi as average this year, as opposed to below average in past seasons. For you WAR (Wins Above Replacement) fans, Garcia went from a .8 WAR in 2016 to a 4.5 WAR in 2017.
BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is a stat the Peter Brand’s of the world (another reference to the fictional Moneyball character-watch it if you haven’t) like to cite to illustrate a batting average that probably isn’t sustainable. In layman’s terms, statistically speaking, if you have a high BABIP, you got a lot of lucky hits. Garcia had a very high BABIP (.392), thus many believe his batting average is somewhat of an aberration. I am not one of those people.
According to Garcia’s MSET metrics (Mike Stickann Eye Test), Garcia hit the ball harder with consistency than he ever has before. He took more breaking balls off the outside corner, balls he’d swung at fruitlessly in the past. He worked more counts and hit the ball where it was pitched, Tony Gwynn style. These improvements, in addition to his improved defense (he led the AL in outfield assists with 13), indicate Garcia has turned the corner.
Avi has two years left until he is a free agent, he is inexpensive (he made 3 million dollars in 2017), and he has an old fashioned intangible that can’t be quantified-he always hustles. Name a guy other than Garcia, who is as big and strong as Garcia is, who sprints to first base like his butt is on fire on every, single ground ball. You can’t because there isn’t one.
The guy who was once booed at Sox Fest (how do you boo a guy that ALWAYS hustles?!) is young enough to significantly contribute to the 2020 World Series Champion White Sox. He’ll be 27 years old in June. Unlike Sale, Eaton (Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is going to regret that trade), and Quintana, you aren’t getting two Top 100 prospects for Avi. So why move him?
Random Basketball Observation: Does traveling exist in the NCAA or NBA anymore?
Random Basketball Observation, Part II: Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski makes 7.2 million dollars a year to coach the Blue Devils basketball team. He will not score 1 point, grab 1 rebound, or dish out 1 assist this season.
Marvin Bagley III, the potential first pick in the 2018 NBA draft, makes 0.0 dollars to play for Duke. He is currently averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds per game for the 8-0 Blue Devils. So wrong.