The Once and FutureSox: What do hot starts lead to?

The Once and FutureSox: What do hot starts lead to?
Nick Delmonico before a Spring Training homer. (Brian Bilek/FutureSox)

It’s Nicky Delmonico’s world, we’re all just living in it. He has blessed us with his very presence; all we do, we do for Lil Nicky. Delmonico is, at the time of this writing, batting .329 with a .434 OBP. He’s been on base in all but one of his 21 games played so far. An over-the-wall and an inside-the-park home run in one game, both to go-ahead? Sure. In short, he is a living legend. If we lived in a pre-industrial society, one which relied on homing pigeons and scrying glasses and breathless recountings from squires in scorched armor, Nicky Delmonico would be sheathed in shadow yet lit with hellacious flames from behind and within; his enchanted sliver of ash (bequeathed unto him by the Lady of Lake Michigan) could pound a baseball into a singularity; perhaps he could even flick a light switch and be in bed before the lights went out. The legends grow.

It’s hard to say if or when the Arthurian magic will wear off Delmonico, but here we are to look at the past, which almost always results in a less-than-ideal outcome! Don’t stop now, boys! It’s time for another look at the PastSox. Who are some other prospects that burst onto the scene, and what happened to them?

Trayce Thompson

Trayce Thompson

Trayce Thompson

Drafted in 2009, Thompson’s Major League debut came with the Sox in 2015, and he hit the ground running. Through his first 20 career games, he slashed .366/.409/.659. Most of the hits were singles with some flashes of power. This hot streak cooled as the season continued, but he still ended up with a line of .295/.363/.533 by the end. Another way to look at it: he batted a cool .400 through the first 22 of his 44 games, then .234 through the last 22.

So how did that work out? It was worked out that this was the perfect moment for a trade, and the Sox sent Thompson out to LA in a three-way trade that landed them the Reds’ Todd Frazier, who then through an elaborate series of ropes and pulleys was transformed into Blake Rutherford and friends.

Thompson, in his first year with the Dodgers, played 80 games and hit .225. This year, in 48 games, the average dropped to .116. He’s now trying to figure things out with their Triple-A club, hitting .212.

Jose Abreu

Oh, we like how this turned out. Abreu never spent any time in the minors, so his inclusion here is dubious, but old friend Alexei Ramirez is down below in a similar situation so I’ll arbitrarily let it slide. El Oso was fresh from Cuba, so a slow April start wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, but Abreu is definitely out of the ordinary. He finished month one of his first season with 10 home runs and eight doubles. His slash line for March and April, 29 games, was .270/.336/.617. He went on to have an even better year, winning Rookie of the Year handily and producing 36 dongs.

Since then, he’s just been doing more of the same. Maybe he’ll have a cold start - I myself have gone to April White Sox games in my trusty parka, with exposed skin taking up 3.5% of my surface area, and am always still freezing, so I don’t blame him there - but he has turned it around each of the four years he’s been with the team. He averages 32 home runs and 107 RBIs a year, with a lifetime batting average of .299. He hits between 32-35 doubles per year. He is a big, strong man, and he is our big, strong man, and he did not come through our big, previously-mediocre development system.

Dayan Viciedo

Hot Hitter: Dayan Viciedo, 1B, Triple-A

Every time Viciedo’s name is brought up here, I feel like I have forgotten about his tenure anew. But, it happened, and it actually started out quite well. The power was lacking and the walks were literally nonexistent until September, but over his first 38 games (all the games he played in 2010), he hit .308 with nine multi-hit efforts and two separate six-game hitting streaks. There was still lots of room for improvement, but he showed that he could hit at a very basic level. Then things got worse™.

His bat never returned to the .300+ level and, in fact, stayed very close to .255 for the rest of his White Sox tenure. He played another four seasons for the team, even with a couple 20+ homer years, but between the defense and the lack of general good hitting, it just wasn’t enough.

Viciedo is in the homestretch of his second season with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League, where he’s hitting .250 with a .319 OBP and 18 home runs.

Sergio Santos

No. 10: Sergio Santos

Who didn’t love Sergio Santos when he was first called up and started doing his thing? He converted from a middle infielder into a pitcher during the 2008 season, and was called up to start in the bullpen in 2010.

Here’s how Sergio’s first month shaped up: 9 G. 8.2 IP. 2 H. 0 R. 11 K.

Here’s his second month: 11 G. 10 IP. 10 H. 1 R. 12 K.

Which leaves us with a first-20-games ERA of 0.48 over 18.2 IP. He walked seven and struck out 23 in that span. Opponents hit .182 against him. He was throwing filth and it was a delight to watch. Eventually, the league caught onto him a bit, and he ended up with a 2.96 ERA over 51.2 IP that season.

The next season, he became the Sox closer, and saved 30 games, striking out 92 in 63.1 IP (including, if my memory serves me right, a few truly beautiful strikeouts to nail down a couple Sox wins against the Cubs at the Cell).

After that season, Santos was traded to the Blue Jays for Nestor Molina, who is currently the ace of the Mexican League’s Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz. Santos immediately ran into myriad health problems that severely limited his playing time for essentially the rest of his career, culminating with Tommy John surgery during the 2015 season for the Yankees. He has not pitched professionally since then.

I’m sad now. I know what will cheer me up, surely...

Chris Sale

Chris Sale draft year

Wouldn’t it have been hilarious if the Sox had actually kept Sale as the closer this whole time? No, probably not. He was drafted in 2010 and made his debut in August that same year, and the American League was never the same. At that point, he was just another bullpen arm, not the closer, but the further into the season he got, the more games he finished.

Sale threw exactly 9 innings in August 2010: 5 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 14 K. Somehow, he earned a loss, furthering the notion that pitcher wins are meaningless (here’s how it happened: Bobby Jenks allowed a runner inherited from Sale to score, which brings up the question, Bobby Jenks was still on the Sox in 2010?!).

In any case, the league didn’t know what hit them. He finished 2010 with a 1.93 ERA in 23.1 IP (32 K). It wasn’t until 2012 that he developed into Chris Sale, destroyer of worlds, and we all know the story after that. I don’t want to talk about it. Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech are really cool. It’s fine, everything’s fine.

This did not cheer me up.

Gordon Beckham

Gordon_Beckham_White_Sox_May_2014

Oh, Bacon. It should have been so good. Unlike the other players on this list, it took him about, well, 20 games to turn on the bat. Over a 34-game stretch from late June to early August of 2009, Beckham went on a tear that had “Rookie of the Year” chants following him around. He slashed .378/.418/.606 over that stretch and did you see that hair?? He was here. The savior. The Answer to the Infield. The chosen one.

Except he wasn’t, and his average slipped from a season high of .316 down to his eventual resting place at .270 (you may remember conspiracy theories that he was pulled from that last game early in order to not risk him dropping down to .269, which would have looked worse in the ROY race, which Andrew Bailey probably rightfully won anyway).

Sox fans and management tried to convince ourselves for years that he’d turn it around, but after years of mediocrity, he was traded to the Angels in 2015 for Yency Almonte. Almonte was then traded to the Rockies for Tommy Kahnle, who, through an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys, was also transformed into Blake Rutherford and friends.

The Beckster is currently with Seattle’s Triple-A team and hasn’t yet seen the majors this year.

Alexei Ramirez

Alexei Ramirez swing

What an exciting year 2008 was. The playoff chase, Jim Thome cranking bombs, and the skeleton from Cuba tumbling around and making plays all over the place — not to mention those four grand slams he hit. But I get ahead of myself.

Alexei, like Beckham, had a cold start to his major league Sox tenure, so we’ll deviate a little from our “burst onto the scene” narrative and edit it to “slid onto the scene and then warmed up out of nowhere and destroyed baseballs.” After a dismal April in which he hit .121, Alexei’s bat heated up until he reached .300 in early June. His June and July were absolutely torrid - he hit his peak average of the season in July at .336 - and hit .348 over 49 games in those two months combined. He ended the season at .290 with just 18 walks on the year, but he did hit 21 homers, 22 doubles, and only struck out 61 times. Did I mention the four grand slams? Including the last and best, this incredibly sweet moment of pure joy.

The Cuban Missile indeed.

He was so much fun to watch while he was with the Sox. Look at the way he made those stands dance. Even as the consistency, power, and defense declined, he could still do something to dazzle you. Alexei was granted free agency in 2015 and signed with the Padres. After a stop with the Rays, he is now a free agent at 35.

There’s no real pattern here; some bombastic newcomers are enjoying a small-sample-size of luck, and some are the real deal. Only time will tell. Now, excuse me, I have to go and… not cry about Sergio Santos.

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Comments

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  • Some beautifully poetic writing, a pleasure to read. Forgot that great moment from Alexie.

  • In reply to Jameson2123:

    Thank you! It's a moment I'm so glad we have in Sox history. It always puts a smile on my face when I watch it. The future was so open.

  • fb_avatar

    Aahhh, me too! I'm remembering now, after the game clicking back and back and back and back, rewatching the swing. The way both hands stay high in the air... Goosebumps.
    Sorta like he knew it before it left Glover's hand.

    Baseball-Reference Fun Fact: That was Gary Glover's last appearance of his 8-year career. (Not so 'Fun' for Gary)

  • In reply to JDH52314:

    Goosebumps indeed! What that youtube video doesn't show was Alexei in the dugout a couple minutes later with his bat as he turned the barrel over in his hands until he found the fresh patch where the grand slam had impacted, and kissed it.

    Alexei Ramirez, slayer of careers.

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