The White Sox are the new land of opportunity

Matt Skole the latest to receive a surprise call to the majors, but at least he took advantage of it

A line popped in my head on Monday when watching Chris Volstad walk off the mound after Daniel Palka couldn’t close the distance on a pop-up in shallowish right, which scored runs made possible by Matt Skole’s inexperience at first base. It took me a few minutes and searches to source it, and it turned out, like most things, to be a random riff from Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

This one came 26 minutes into “Future War,” to be specific.


“Is this a halfway house for huge guys?”

Skole joined the roster on Monday by replacing another Huge Guy, as Matt Davidson hit the disabled list after succumbing to his back spasms. There are now nine players on the White Sox’ 25-man rsoter who started the season on Charlotte’s Opening Day roster, and that number grows to 10 if you count Jace Fry.

Charlotte entered the season as the White Sox’ third-most exciting affiliate.

On one hand, it’s cool to see stories like Skole’s. He played 781 professional games and accrued 2,500 minor-league plate appearances over eight seasons before making his MLB debut, and it caught him completely by surprise.

Skole signed with the Sox as a minor-league free agent on January 22. He will wear No. 41 and have family in the stands to see his debut. Before calling them to share the news, he said he “had to sit down for about 30 minutes and had to get myself together.”

“I was shaking, I was so excited. It’s been a long journey for me. I’ve been through a lot of stuff: injuries, being in the minor leagues, on and off the roster. It’s been a long road, so just to get that call and make that call to my dad and mom, it was pretty cool.”

Skole shot a single to right on the first pitch he saw, then spanked a 418-foot homer over the right-field wall his second time up. He also drew a walk to cross that often-elusive first off his list.

It was a tremendous story, even if it was eventually consumed by yet another case of White Sox self-sabotage. Skole certainly surpassed the previous MLB debut the White Sox afforded. Alfredo Gonzalez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Saturday, including a three-pitch strikeout in his first plate appearances. All three pitches were low sliders, and he whiffed each time.

But there’s a reason why the promotion surprised Skole. He wasn’t on the 40-man roster, nor was he tearing up the International League. He heaved his OPS over .800 thanks to BB&T Ballpark, but it came with a 28 percent strikeout rate.

Fortunately for Skole, the White Sox are just the halfway house he needed. The 25-man roster is a nonjudgmental space for the previously unloved (Skole, Palka, Gonzalez), as well as those seeking a second chance (Dylan Covey, Charlie Tilson, Jose Rondon), if not an umpteenth (Volstad, Trayce Thompson).

This phase should be ending shortly. There’s Carlos Rodon, who pitches for the Knights tonight after taking a line drive to the forehead his last time out. Assuming he can get through this one without needing staples, it might be the only outing he needs to warrant a return to the White Sox rotation. (Rodon’s schedule might be why Hector Santiago pitched the ninth on Monday).

After that, the arrival of June marks the closing of that pain-in-the-ass Super Two window. As I wrote for The Athletic, this 25-man turmoil is the reason why Eloy Jimenez has stayed in Birmingham despite tremendous production in the Southern League. If he were in Charlotte, there’s no way the Sox could have justified calling up all the bodies around him. As it stands, they’ve successfully used Triple-A as an artificial barrier that keeps this waiting period from being even more of a farce.

Ironically, this roster riptide is the leading reason Jiménez remains sealed in his original Barons packaging. Had Jiménez joined Charlotte in early May and met even bearish expectations, there’d be no way to justify calling up everybody else around him.

As long as Jiménez has yet to play a game in Triple-A, though, the Sox are largely protected from the direct pressure to call him up now. Skipping a level is a form of rushing, and rushing a key prospect is the last thing a team would want to do during a rebuilding season.

This also applies to Michael Kopech, whose secondary pitches aren’t ever going to be truly tested when his fastball is already so devastating to minor-league hitters.

Skole’s first day in the majors was heartwarming, and yet I’m hoping we don’t see another like it for a while. Whether it’s Palka’s defense or Gonzalez’s work as the backup catcher, the roster is already waterlogged with the hangovers from these surprise calls. The standards eventually have to creep upward. Such an aim won’t prevent the White Sox from handing opportunities to prospects over the next two weeks, but maybe they can save the debuts for the ones we’ve been anticipating.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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lil jimmy

Congrats to Matt Skole. Congrats to us. In the next two weeks, 30 some players will be drafted into our Minors system, and Rodon and Kopech should be making starts for your Chicago White Sox.

Reindeer Games

Be careful with your Palka hatred. Josh will come for you.

I'm starting to believe in Daniel Palka.

— Josh Nelson (@soxmachine_josh) May 27, 2018

Greg Nix

Statcast likes him a lot.
– 9th in Barrels/PA for players with 50+ opportunities, right behind Brandon Belt and Mike Trout.
– 11th in hard hit %.
– 10th in avg exit velocity.
– 3rd on the team with a .382 xwOBA.


Great, we’ve got an All-Star for a few years. 

Is that your point?

Reindeer Games

Speaking of All-stars, anyone know if Avi is still alive?

Josh Nelson

He’s alive, but the White Sox are waiting to the end of June to see if he’s ready to play again.


Forgive my ignorance of statcast stats, but ff he is doing all that, why aren’t his numbers better? He is a bit above average with the bat but not much and not enough to make up for defense.


I’ve only caught a few of his games. Is the lack of walks due to a lack of discipline or because he is a rookie / non-prospect so everyone is going right at him?

Patrick Nolan

Lack of discipline. He walked in the minors, so it’s probably a case of him aggressively trying to make an impression quickly, given the uncertain extent of his audition.


I am cautiously optimistic this team will experience a bit of a surge after June when our roster has more talent on the pitching side.  Obviously more talent doesn’t always translate into more wins, but if we can cover 6+ innings with generally competent starting pitching we should be more competitive.  


If we can’t get some fielders who can get to the ball and keep it in the glove, the pitchers won’t provide that competitive edge you are hoping for. The defense was just beyond awful yesterday.


Ah, see the irony is that once the starting pitching gets better, the bullpen will show us that it too is really bad.


Makes sense. The process of assembling the 2018 MLB roster resembles the process of shooting one of the films worthy of MST3000.


There’s a Hardball Times article on Fangraphs about Castillo’s curious use of EPO, as well as their updated Sox Top 25 Prospects write-up.

karkovice squad

Castillo tl;dr: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Possibly used to counter lactic acid buildup or anemia since there’s less need for aerobic performance in baseball. The science supporting EPO benefits for athletes isn’t very conclusive in the first place. And there are serious possible side effects from misuse.


This is probably just a reading comprehension failure on my part, but what was the MST3K quote?


I see it now, but before that space was taken up by an ad. I thought it was weird that the Mystery Science Theater quote you were thinking of was, “Bitcoin is dead.”


Bitcoin is dead!

Or maybe not. 


Lucky. My “ad” was a Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory.


I like Palka. I don’t know if there is room for him on a major league roster nowadays but he could be the next generations Matt Stairs, lefty masher.

Trooper Galactus

I somehow doubt Palka will be good enough (much less around long enough) to wind up on a Hall of Fame ballot.


Well stairs shouldn’t have been either but if you want me to aim lower I’ll go with jack cust. Hangs out ropes every time I see him play.

Greg Nix

He reminds me of Mark Trumbo. 

The Wimperoo

As an athlete all you can ask for is a chance. Guys like Skole and Palka are receiving theirs. My brief experience in coaching tells me that the players cut themselves. Even though this may be their one and only shot (for some), at least they can say they were given an opportunity to make the club. Good luck to all in the sink or swim category.