For my column for The Athletic on Monday, I wrote about the lack of satisfying resolutions to individual White Sox during a season that was supposed to be about discovery, if not winning. And there wasn’t winning.
Case in point: Yoán Moncada’s series at Oriole Park. He opened Friday by going 3-for-4 with a walk and zero strikeouts from the leadoff spot. He closed it out Sunday by going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a pair of defensive miscues.
He’s probably going to need the winter to internalize everything he learned from a long and trying season, with the hope that he shows up in 2019 with an answer for at least one of his fatal flaws. But he’s not the only one whose positive developments always come with strings attached. James Shields is going to blow past 200 innings and lead the American League in losses. It’s just that kind of season.
I went over a handful of them, starting with Moncada above. Lucas Giolito is hellbent on foiling Jeff Sullivan at every turn, this time losing the combination that got him swinging strikes. Jose Abreu in an 0-for-20 slump after his return from testicular torsion. Avisail Garcia figured out how to hit homers but isn’t doing anything else of note.
Even the guys who are performing can’t coast. Daniel Palka showed signs of a more complete offensive profile, walking in five of his last nine games to go along with five September homers. But then he stabbed his foot into Earth’s mantle trying to make a sliding catch, and had to leave the game with what he described as a jammed knee.
And there are players I didn’t mention. A sore calf prevented Matt Davidson from doing any further damage in Kansas City, and he’s in a 2-for-20 slump.
Carlos Rodon goes tonight. He’s walked 10 guys over his last two starts, paying for it against the Angels but getting away with it against the Royals thanks to some unusual double plays. Rodon’s top task was showing he could start every five days, and he’ll be projected into the 2019 rotation if he can survive his last three turns. However, if he doesn’t put a dent into his 4.71 FIP before the end of the season, the Sox can only count on another No. 3 or No. 4 starter until further notice.
Here’s a fun fact about Leury Garcia…
Most Defensive Runs Saved – Outfield Arm
Kyle Schwarber 8
Eddie Rosario 7
Aaron Judge 6
Leury Garcia 5
Derek Dietrich and Christian Yelich -7
— SIS (@SportsInfo_SIS) September 17, 2018
… but he’s not playing due to a hamstring injury, and Abreu’s struggles show the difficulty of coming back without rehab games. Garcia’s injury has allowed Adam Engel to seize center field, and he’s created his own complications by hitting .271/.289/.413 after the break. (He’s struck out 49 times to three walks over his last 50 games, and that’s the better half.)
Outside of Tim Anderson showing he doesn’t need to move from shortstop, Jace Fry turning into a weapon and Omar Narvaez flashing more power, the Sox are short on meaningful conclusions. Outside of a bullpen where relievers are only starting to build cases for April jobs, few conversations can be changed over the final two weeks. Maybe Palka, if he comes back from the knee injury and resumes building on an all-or-something approach. A fine September for Reynaldo Lopez would have roots in August. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jose Rondon starting more often than not around the diamond.
The parallel universe of Minor Keys sometimes provided relief….
I’m hopeful that we are seeing the beginning of a future dominant bullpen. Frye, Hamilton, Burr, Frare, Ruiz?, to be joined in the next year by Burdi and a few other interesting names, along with a failed starter or two. If the bullpen can be dominant and cheap, that opens up some possibilities elsewhere.
I’m hoping for this as well, though they haven’t seemed all that dominant out of the gate. Still, I’d much prefer seeing these guys next year than continuing to grab fliers in hopes of flipping. Two years of that is enough and if the example everyone has used for the last year – Anthony Swarzak – has netted Ryan Cordell, I’m not sure this approach is as fruitful as it once seemed. Let the young guys pitch.
Plenty of significance to be had in these last two weeks. Imagine how many more players of consequence might be seriously injured?
There are a lot of good players that had a worse first full season than Moncada. I am choosing to remain hopeful for him. If he cuts down the K rate, he can probably be a .250 or .260 hitter with a high OBP and good power for 2nd base.
Maybe there is less hope for Giolito, but his walk rate was out of control the first half. I think there is a path to a quality back end of the rotation piece for him. It seems like his TJ surgery had more of an impact on him than most. Another year removed from that I think will lead to better stuff.
Lopez has been a quality pitcher more of the season than not. That’s good! Timmy is clearly a piece going forward. The bullpen will be good.
Yeah, it was kind of a disappointing year. I think it advanced the development curve for a lot of players though, and that needed to happen. In that sense, there was no way to avoid a year like this.
Just about the only compelling storyline I can find is seeing whether Lopez can continue this hot stretch he’s on for another three starts. It’d be nice if this glimpse of success has some staying power.
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad tagline for the 2018 season as a whole.
Even though he was a bit “overexposed” as a full-time regular, Yolmer’s offensive skills didn’t collapse in spectacular fashion.
He’s a solid bench piece on a contending team, and we’re not contending anytime soon. We could keep him because we need position players who can play on the roster, but could he fetch an interesting pitching prospect via trade?
Can TA get to 20/20? That kinda worth following.
Here, here on Rondon! It’s only to save face that Yoyo is still starting. Package him while we can and get a professional hitter.
Here’s hoping your Moncada evaluation works out as well as your projection for Anderson’s defense.
I love Jim’s patented “reasonable burns.”
There aren’t many positives to take away from the season, I do think there is plenty to take away from this year; though most of it consists of “what the Sox need” rather than “what the Sox have”.
-Delmonico and Avi aren’t long term pieces, and it’s fine if the Sox move on from both.
-Palka’s upside is worth keeping him around for at least the start of next year, but he shouldn’t be given too long of a leash.
-Matt Davidson, DH/1B, shouldn’t be a thing next year, but if the Sox could try to turn him into a two way player—even if he’s the 13th arm—that would be worth exploring.
-Adam Engel is, at best, a 4th outfielder.
-Yolmer is a very useful bench player, starts two, maybe three, games a week.
It’s disappointing we end 2018 still needing an entire outfield, a starting catcher, and either a third baseman or a second baseman depending on how they want to deploy Moncada. And if we’re being honest, probably a first baseman in 2020. That’s a lot of holes. While Eloy will fill one of those holes next year, I’m not sure what the plan is for everywhere else in 2019.
As for the pitching… [shrug emoji].
That outfield situation will reverse itself by 2020 . . . great organizational depth there.
I don’t get the hate for Davidson. If this is what he is going forward, that’s a useful (if flawed) player. Let him and Palka split the DH reps to start next year.
That’s probably a better way of saying what I should have said, lol. I’m don’t think they should move on Davidson, but I also don’t necessarily see him as the 1B/DH in 2020. It’s a tough position. And this applies to Palka too.
Of course if Davidson hits .260/.360/.480 next year, I’ll be more than happy to reevaluate. But I really do wonder if Davidson might be able to be a ‘bonus’ arm out of the pen. I guess let me put it this way, if the Rays had Matt Davidson, we’d all be a lot more excited about his future right? Maybe that would be best for him, a trade to an organization that would maximize his talents.
We often talk about the intangibles when judging players, along side actually meaningful stats. While I’d much rather see Palka out there at DH than Davidson, Davidson does hold a lot of important intangible value. For example, while not very noticeable on the field, his penchant for transitioning my partner to a less apathetic state when I drag her along to games makes him a crucial addition to the roster.
I guess I’m rooting for Avi to hit 20 HR’s.
I’d like to see the young players who are playing well continue to play well and the ones that haven’t been playing well start playing well.
Who else is excited to see Daniel Palka make his 3-hole debut tonight against Corey Kluber?
Hey, it wasn’t bad.
Abreu hospitalized with thigh infection (not related to his surgery).
Two groin area maladies in a month. May be time to call it a season for Jose. “Jose’s boys are starting to quit.”