The Significant Hurt: White Sox prospect injury updates

It’s almost Opening Day, which means it’s almost time to become emotional hostages to the White Sox for another season! Time to draw that hood of eternal misery again over our faces and wait, grimacing, for what must come to pass. It makes us feel better to talk about the good things about the organization and what looks promising for the future, but let’s satisfy that base part of ourselves that doesn’t care about 2020, the morbid part that soaks up every piece of bad news about the Sox and spits it out with an “I TOLD YOU SO.” Projecting? Who’s projecting?

Let’s talk about injuries!

The White Sox had several high-profile rookie injuries last season, notable because they all happened in the respective rookie’s team debut.

We’ll look at how three of those four (Jason Coats is no longer with the White Sox) might bounce back and talk about a few other prospects who also suffered injuries on the farm last season.

1. Charlie Tilson

Charlie Tilson in his high school days in suburban Chicago (photo via New Trier High School Athletic Dept.)

Charlie Tilson in his high school days in suburban Chicago (photo via New Trier High School Athletic Dept.)

Tilson, who came to the Sox from the Cardinals last July in exchange for Zach Duke, hasn’t even been with the team for a year, yet is already a nigh-tragic figure. You know that Moneyball quote, “How can you not get romantic about baseball?” Charlie Tilson is the flip side of that coin.

The speedy center fielder became the fourth Sox rookie of 2016 to suffer an injury in his debut when he tore his left hamstring trying to run down a fly ball (that rare outfield activity). It was a freak injury, the latest in a litany of bummers.

Tilson, a projected leadoff hitter with good speed and contact skills, had a shot at the 2017 center field starting job until he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot before Cactus League play began this spring. Three weeks later, he experienced a further stress reaction in the foot, one that will cause him to start the season on the disabled list.

Going back into Tilson’s history, he missed the last week of the 2014 season and the Arizona Fall League because of a stress fracture in that same right foot. He also had surgery for a sports hernia that year. Further back, he suffered season-ending surgery on a separated shoulder in 2012.

That kind of injury history on a 24-year-old outfielder who makes his living on his legs isn’t encouraging. The Sox need Tilson to be able to run out doubles and triples and steal bases, which means that he needs a functional lower half. Injuries aside, Tilson seems to be major-league ready, and if he can stay healthy he could be a solid player, if no All Star. But, baseball is a cruel and unfair death machine and it excels at crunching up and throwing away promising careers for literally no reason other than to remind us that life is totally, totally meaningless. Am I projecting again?

2. Matt Davidson

Matt Davidson (FutureSox)

Matt Davidson (FutureSox)

2017 will be Davidson’s fourth year with the White Sox since his trade from the Diamondbacks for Addison Reed. He has shown flashes of promise but has largely underwhelmed, failing to emerge as the Answer To Third Base that the Sox had hoped he would become. Now, Todd Frazier fills that role (until he’s traded, anyway), and Davidson is running out of time to prove himself.

Davidson made his White Sox debut on June 30, 2016, which was the last day he played that season. He immediately broke his right foot and underwent season-ending surgery to repair it.

Ironically, his shot at making the roster this year is higher than it’s ever been, just not at third base. He would most likely be part of a designated hitter rotation between himself, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Frazier. However, it’s possible that Danny Hayes (no relation to Sox insider Dan Hayes) or Cody Asche, both of whom are having impressive springs, will swoop in and take the spot. If so, it’s hard to see Davidson remaining with the team for much longer. He’s not necessarily a re-injury risk, he’s just not the player the Sox had hoped for.

Matt Davidson spoke to FutureSox writer Brian Bilek at SoxFest 2017. You can watch that video here.

3. Kevan Smith

From AZL 2016 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

From AZL 2016 (Kim Contreras / FutureSox)

Smith, a catcher, was scratched with back spasms just before what would have been his debut with the Sox in 2016. Upon recovery, he played one game for the Charlotte Knights before again going on the DL. Unlike Davidson and Tilson, he was able to return before the season ended and appeared in two games for the Sox at the major league level, going 1-5 with two walks.

He was outrighted to AAA during Spring Training, removing him from the 40-man roster and diminishing the likelihood of him seeing regular major-league playing time, barring an injury to Geovany Soto or Omar Narvaez.

4. Micker Adolfo

OF Micker Adolfo in AZL play, 2014. Via Seven Future Hit.

OF Micker Adolfo in AZL play, 2014. Via Seven Future Hit.

It may feel like you’ve been hearing about Adolfo forever. The outfielder signed with the Sox at 16 and is preparing for his fourth season, now age 20. Despite this, he has only played in 137 games in total due to a variety of injuries. Last year, with Kannapolis, he missed almost two months with a fractured hamate bone. The year before that, he had season-ending surgery on a broken leg suffered on a slide.

Adolfo is good in the field and has potential with the bat (although there are a lot of swing-and-misses there), but he’s something of a question mark until he can play with some consistency. Again, though, he’s only 20 years old and can’t be considered a True Sox Disappointment for another three or four seasons. He’s still young for the league at Low-A Kannapolis, where he’s likely to start, and still has time to grow.

5. Courtney Hawkins

Courtney Hawkins, in Spring Training action 2015 (Daniel Shapiro / Future Sox)

Courtney Hawkins, in Spring Training action 2015 (Daniel Shapiro / Future Sox)

A perennial on this kind of list, the Courtney Hawkins era has almost drawn to a close before it ever began. It’s hard to forget Hawkins’ famous backflip after he was drafted in 2012, and it’s even harder to forget his disastrous 2013 season, in which he was ridiculously outmatched in a league much older than him.

Last season with the AA Barons, he missed time early on with an oblique strain. He’s been sidelined in the past to the tune of five separate disabled list stays, although none much longer than a month. However, his main struggle – something that seems to pop up pretty often in Sox position player prospects – is pitch recognition. He’s struck out 100 or more times each of his injury-shortened four seasons in the minors, and last season had an on-base percentage of just .255 in 106 games.

A lot of things need to go right for Hawkins in 2017, health-wise and skill-wise, for him to have any chance at making the majors.

6. Tyler Danish

Tyler Danish - (Image Via Danish's Twitter)

Tyler Danish – (Image Via Danish’s Twitter)

Every article about Tyler Danish includes some variation of “funky delivery,” which alone makes him one of the more exciting Sox prospects. Danish’s 2016 was cut two months short by a knee injury, which he underwent surgery for in August and from which he has reportedly fully recovered.

The righty wowed in the lower minors but hasn’t performed as well in the upper levels, including a brief and inexplicable June call-up by the Sox. Danish has a lot to work on, but the talent is definitely there, and he could contribute more meaningfully in the bullpen as early as this season.

Honorable mentions:

  • Jace Fry, who’s returning from his second Tommy John surgery. The pitcher was on a fast-track through the minors before the first one.
  • Aaron Bummer, who returned late last season from his own TJS but quickly ascended to AA and was a surprise addition to major league camp in Spring Training.
  • Johan Cruz, who’s planned coming out party in full season ball last year was marred by two DL trips. He’s reportedly healthy now and likely returns to Kannapolis.
  • Spencer Adams, if just because of this terrifying ankle injury from last season. He only spent about a week on the minor league DL and did not miss further time.
  • Juan Minaya, who pitched briefly with the big club last season and had an outside shot at a major league bullpen job, will open the season on the DL with an abdominal tear.

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