White Sox 2018 Grades – Position Players

This is the first of two installments in which I’ll be looking back and evaluating all of the players that had a significant role as members of the 2018 White Sox. These grades are more art than science due to the subjective nature of how much expectations for a player should affect their grade. My goal is to balance actual player performance against their expectations and probable role (both short-term and long-term) entering the season.

Per usual, I consider an average grade to be someplace on the C/C+ borderline.

This post will include only position players with at least 100 plate appearances, so everyone from Ryan LaMarre on down is getting the axe. In ascending order of plate appearances…

Jose Rondon (INF): 107 PA, .230/.280/.470, 6 HR, 28.0% K, 6.5% BB, 0.1 fwAR / 0.5 bWAR

Rondon was a surprising source of power this season, as he hit 24 home runs across two levels. That’s not something to just ignore from a middle infielder, particularly one who’s capable of handling short. The issue for Rondon is that he doesn’t have a playing time outlet on this team for us to determine whether he’s capable of more, as he’s at-best redundant with Tim Anderson. The right-handed Rondon surprisingly hit right-handers better than lefties in both the minors and majors this year; naturally, Rick Renteria insisted on utilizing him in a platoon capacity. Grade: B-

Charlie Tilson (OF): 121 PA, .261/.331/.292, 0 HR, 16.5% K, 8.3% BB, -0.6 fWAR / -0.9 bWAR

On a roster full of players that get a shot just because it’s a rebuild, Tilson might be the rebuildiest. About the only thing positive you could say about Tilson was that he was a great bet to put the bat on the ball in a strikeout-prone lineup. His defense was disappointing and the fact that a guy with his speed and contact ability could only hit .261 tells you all you need to know about how hard he hits the ball. Regardless, I’m going to tell you one more thing about that anyway. Tilson’s .028 ISO, a product of only two extra-base hits, was the second-lowest in baseball among guys with at least 100 plate appearances, so maybe he should bake Magneuris Sierra a cake or something. Grade: F

Trayce Thompson (OF): 130 PA, .116/.163/.215, 3 HR, 35.4% K, 5.4% BB, -1.3 fWAR, -0.9 bWAR

There was a time when Trayce Thompson was the most exciting player on the White Sox, and despite the bar for that being at its lowest in franchise history, 2018 was not that time. Thompson did hit a walk-off home run and drove in the decisive run of the Dylan Covey / Chris Sale duel (for which I am forever grateful). However, the aggregate facts are ugly. Some wRC+ numbers:

  • Mike Trout: 191
  • League average: 100
  • Chris Davis (the worst qualified hitter in baseball): 46
  • Trayce Thompson: -4

That just about seals it. Grade: F

Welington Castillo (C): 181 PA, .259/.304/.406, 6 HR, 25.4% K, 5.0% BB, -0.2 WARP

I gave the signing of Castillo a strong grade of B+ on the strength of his 2017 improvements at receiving and the associated narrative of his work with Jose Molina suggesting that they might have staying power. I thought that given Omar Narvaez‘ deficiencies at receiving and blocking and Kevan Smith‘s deficiencies at throwing, Castillo might be a way to give the White Sox a catcher who was average-to-good at all three and could help the pitching staff develop.

The grade for the signing would have been an “A” if Castillo’s strong framing in 2017 had a longer track record, because there was lingering fear that it was a blip. That fear turned out to be legitimate, as he was his old, horrible self (-5.5 Framing Runs) behind the dish. Hell, even his usually-strong blocking was bad. This is to say nothing of his 80-game drug suspension (any excuse to link that headline) and unremarkable hitting. Grade: F

Kevan Smith (C): 187 PA, .292/.348/.380, 3 HR, 9.6% K, 5.3% BB,  0.8 WARP

Despite Omar Narvaez’ slugging outburst, Smith’s the not-so-trivial answer to the question of which White Sox catcher was most valuable in 2018. Only two qualified hitters (Michael Brantley, Andrelton Simmons) struck out at a lower rate than Smith, and his ability to spray line drives with just enough power to separate himself from the Tilson tier led to a 104 wRC+. He was easily the best defensive catcher on the team, as he provided above-average framing plus a more competent control of the running game than his disastrous 2017 in that department. The blocking was a disaster, but overall, Smith had a strong season. His reduced exposure limits his assessment. Grade: B

Leury Garcia (UTIL): 275 PA, .271/.303/.376, 4 HR, 25.1% K, 3.3% BB, 0.0 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR

2018 was a step back for the 27-year-old Garcia. Last year, he flashed everyday-starter potential, albeit one that spends a great deal of time on the shelf. I remember him most this season for his returns from the DL, as they were twice the “corresponding move” when hopes were high that it might be one of our favorite prospects coming up instead. Garcia’s a handy guy to have around for roster flexibility, so he’ll probably stick in the league for awhile, but the window has probably closed on regular playing time. Grade: D+

Nicky Delmonico (DH): 318 PA, .215/.296/.373, 8 HR, 25.2% K, 8.5% BB, -0.3 fWAR, -0.7 bWAR

Hopes were high for Delmonico coming into this season, but a disastrous start followed by a DL stint cooled the enthusiasm. His early-season numbers masked it, but Delmonico was swinging a powerful bat for over a month after returning to the lineup in July. Alas, his final month of the season was brutal, all but squashing hopes that he can stick long-term. With the strikeout rates and walk rates moving in the wrong direction and his defense in the outfield failing to improve, Delmonico is beginning to feel like the logical casualty of the impending rise of Eloy JimenezGrade: F

Omar Narvaez (C): 322 PA, .275/.366/.429, 9 HR, 20.2% K, 11.8% BB, 0.4 WARP

Behold, the best hitter on the 2018 White Sox. Narvaez’ sudden power surge turned his eminently watchable at-bats into something even more interesting. Narvaez’ excellent batting eye and bat-to-ball skills are well-documented at this point, but it’s a legitimate question whether he should consider a move from behind the plate. Narvaez’ catching was deplorable, as he hemorrhaged almost 11 runs with his framing and a laughably ridiculous 4.6 runs with his blocking. A 122 wRC+ can play at a lot of positions where you aren’t damaging young pitchers. Unfortunately, Narvaez’ limited athleticism might dampen the scope of that potential. Grade: C+

Avisail Garcia (RF): 385 PA, .236/.281/.438, 19 HR, 26.5% K, 5.2% BB, 0.0 fWAR, 0.3 bWAR

Garcia did a good job of making his breakout 2017 look like just a flash in the pan. An encouraging spike in home runs masked the fact that he actually hit fewer extra-base hits per plate appearance than he did in 2017; it seems like his doubles were simply going over the fence this time around. That’s a good development, of course, but he lost almost 100 points on his batting average thanks to woeful plate discipline and a reversal of his extreme good luck in 2017. This is Garcia’s fifth full season with the White Sox and the fourth in which he’s been some combination of hurt and a drain on the team’s production. Grade: D-

Daniel Palka (DH): 449 PA, .240/.294/.484, 27 HR, 34.1% K, 6.7% BB, 0.7 fWAR, 0.6 bWAR

Palka is a difficult player to grade using an objective framework. If I were to hand these stats to, say, a Philadelphia Phillies fan and ask them to give an unbiased assessment, Palka would seem unremarkable. Such an outside observer would probably see a guy with plenty of pop, but also someone whose value was generally limited by a lack of defensive ability, fewer walks then you’d like for a slugger, and an inability to hit lefties. It’d be a fair assessment, too.

However, for White Sox fans who actually watched this blasted team, Palka was a godsend. He was easily the most clutch player on the team (which isn’t predictive, but is important in considering his 2018 performance). His hard-hit dingers became the stuff of local legend. “PalkSmash” and “Palkamania” became ingrained into the White Sox lexicon, and he developed a special relationship with the White Sox fanbase. Hell, even the plate discipline took an encouraging step forward in September. When the White Sox acquired him, expectations were low and he seemed like something of a square peg, but he’s improbably played himself into a chance to be the team’s platoon DH for the foreseeable future. Whether Palka becomes a future piece or remains a fun sideshow that livened up a disastrous season remains to be seen, but he just might have been the best thing about the 2018 White Sox. Grade: A-

Adam Engel (CF): 463 PA, .235/.279/.336, 6 HR, 27.9% K, 3.9% BB, 0.2 fWAR, 0.6 bWAR

Among defensive metrics, Catch Probability and FRAA loved Engel. UZR and DRS thought he was unremarkable. That dichotomy is a decent reflection of the eye test, as Engel was occasionally homer-robbingly great and sometimes took strange routes, all while being hampered by a sub-par arm. At the plate, the above actually represents a dramatic step forward. He wasn’t a disaster, but neither did he distinguish himself as more than the pinch runner and defensive replacement that we all thought he would be. Grade: D+

Matt Davidson (DH): 496 PA, .228/.319/.419, 20 HR, 33.3% K, 10.5% BB, 0.8 fWAR, 1.1 bWAR

I’m repeating myself, but by correcting his most fixable flaw — plate discipline — Davidson proved those who wanted to simply discard him before the season (such as myself) both wrong and right. Yes, he did make himself into something useful, but he’s essentially reached his potential and it’s nothing a team would greatly lament losing. What no one could have predicted was his emergence as a competent pitcher, and I still believe that the mound is his avenue to a roster space on a team taking itself seriously. Davidson hit .289/.382/.500 against lefties this year and if he can also serve as the last arm out of the pen, carrying him won’t hamstring a roster. Time to start building up that arm strength, Matt. Grade: B

Jose Abreu (1B): 553 PA, .265/.325/.473, 22 HR, 19.7% K, 6.7% BB, 1.2 fWAR, 1.7 bWAR

It was a rough season for the admirable veteran, as Abreu set career-lows in an alarming number of categories. Jose was the reliable slugger we’ve expected him to be for the first two months of the season, as he became the first position-player White Sox to be voted into the All-Star Game since Frank Thomas. He then went into an otherworldly slump that tragicomically led to him playing in the game with replacement-level season-to-date numbers. A variety of injuries prevented what was beginning to look like a second-half comeback, and Abreu’s season never really recovered. Grade: C-

Tim Anderson (SS): 606 PA, .240/.281/.406, 20 HR, 24.6% K, 5.0% BB, 2.0 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR

Throughout the year, Tim Anderson’s season was heralded as a major redemption. Yet, his batting lines between the last two seasons were remarkably similar.

  • 2018: .240/.281/.406
  • 2017: .257/.276/.402

His much-improved walk rate in the first half (6.4%) devolved into same ol’ Timmy in the second half (2.9%), including a walk-less July. At the same time, however, his error-laden glove work in the first couple of months transformed into excellent defense later in the year. If Anderson can ever draw walks and play plus defense at the same time, he might approach an all-star level. As for 2018, he was an average player, which passes for encouraging given all he went through the year before. Grade: B

Yoan Moncada (2B): 650 PA, .235/.315/.400, 17 HR, 33.4% K, 10.3% BB, 2.0 fWAR, 2.0 bWAR

Has there ever been a perfectly-average season in major league history subject to this much hand-wringing and analysis? It seems like overkill, but it’s perfectly understandable given who the White Sox gave up for Moncada and how he finished off 2017. A hot September (.301/.369/.398) made this final line possible, after all, and Moncada spent a large chunk of the year struggling. Poor fortune sapped him of productive results on hard contact early on, and the hard contact dried up before his luck could even out. Moncada’s hit tool remains a concern, his hands were rough at second base, and his overall batting line took a step back from his stub year in 2017. It wasn’t a catastrophic season by any means, but most onlookers — and likely the White Sox — set their sights higher than this. Grade: C

Yolmer Sanchez (3B): 662 PA, .242/.306/.372, 8 HR, 20.8% K, 7.4% BB, 1.7 fWAR, 2.6 bWAR

In his second season as a lineup regular, Sanchez didn’t produce quite as much as he did in 2017, but he brought respectability to the hot corner by playing very good defense and hitting just enough to avoid becoming a liability. He’s a fine second-division starter and would likely thrive in a utility role, should the White Sox ever have the luxury to push him there. Sanchez’ celebration antics and miscellaneous goofs made him very entertaining and as was the case with Palka, I’d be less inclined to mention this here in a season when the White Sox’ overall play was able to provide the joy. Grade: B-

The Class Rank:

  1. Daniel Palka, A-
  2. Tim Anderson, B
  3. Matt Davidson, B
  4. Kevan Smith, B
  5. Yolmer Sanchez, B-
  6. Jose Rondon, B-
  7. Omar Narvaez, C+
  8. Yoan Moncada, C
  9. Jose Abreu, C-
  10. Leury Garcia, D+
  11. Adam Engel, D+
  12. Avisail Garcia, D-
  13. Welington Castillo, F
  14. Nicky Delmonico, F
  15. Charlie Tilson, F
  16. Trayce Thompson, F

What grades would you give these White Sox players?

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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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Greg Nix

I’m pretty much on the same page as you. I might bump Narvaez up a notch, just because of his performance relative to expectations. 

As a side note, I would have guessed Timmy led the team in PA’s. A bit surprising that Moncada beat him out fairly significantly, even with the DL stint. 

As Cirensica

1. Daniel Palka, A- (My grade B => Palka’s general output don’t impress too much, but Palka’s second half numbers were really good), as a DH, Palka has future. You cannot dismiss that quantity of homers in this powerless team.

2. Tim Anderson, B (My grade B – => Anderson appears to be a consistent player, average ML player. Still has potential as his skills mature)

3. Matt Davidson, B (My grade C => Davidson is a very limited player, and we already have Palka)

4. Kevan Smith, B (My grade B => I was impressed by his hitting skills)

5. Yolmer Sanchez, B- (My grade B => Yolmer won’t probably be a must have, but he is playable and won’t disappoint)

6. Jose Rondon, B- (My grade C => I really don’t know what to think of Rondon)

7. Omar Narvaez, C+ (My grade is A => Hitting skills are improving, and he seems to be a great offensive catcher, but his defense is just below average)

8. Yoan Moncada, C (My grade D => Ask yourself this question: Would you trade Chris Sale in a package centered on Kopech and Yolmer? At some times, he showed he could be good, and a lot of the time he was just not good. Considering the price we paid to get him, I would expect Moncada to be substantially better than Yolmer…)

9. Jose Abreu, C- (My grade D => All I am seeing here is an aging large man)

10. Leury Garcia, D+ (My grade: C- => Yes, he stepped back. I think he is just a utility guy at this point)

11. Adam Engel, D+ (My grade F => Nothing to see here)

12. Avisail Garcia, D- (My grade D- => he could be useful next year, but after that, he will have hard times securing employment as a baseball player in USA…so Korea?)

13. Welington Castillo, F (My grade F: PED suspension? No thank you)

14. Nicky Delmonico, F (My grade F => Nothing to see here)

15. Charlie Tilson, F (My grade F => Nothing to see here)
16. Trayce Thompson, F (My grade F => Nothing to see here)

KenWo4LiFe

Nice attempt, kid, but I’m the only one that gives grades for a living.

Daniel Palka, A+ 2000
Tim Anderson, B-
Matt Davidson, C-
Kevan Smith, B
Yolmer Sanchez, C
Jose Rondon, B
Omar Narvaez, B
Yoan Moncada, D
Jose Abreu, C+
Leury Garcia, C
Adam Engel, F
Avisail Garcia, D-
Welington Castillo, F
Nicky Delmonico, F
Charlie Tilson, F
Trayce Thompson, F

KenWo4LiFe

No such thing as too high on Palka 

KenWo4LiFe

I don’t know how you graded Davidson that high. I think I may be generous with a c-. If you take out those Kansas City games he was not good at all in my opinion. I think he’s in the same boat as Nicky. Not the captain of the ship but the first mate.

KenWo4LiFe

And you’re welcome- not many I was really shaking my head about I think you did a decent job.

lil jimmy

Davidson on this team next year tells me they want to lose 100 games again next year. He wasn’t to blame, but he would be an indication. Davidson , Engel, and Delmonico had over 1150 at bats this ear.

bobbysouthsider

I’m disappointed in your grade of Avi. Huge KenWar and you give him a “D-“???

KenWo4LiFe

Injuries curtailed his season and he was disappointing no doubt. I still think he should get one more go in his contract year.

Trooper Galactus

At least he gave Castillo an F. Tired of watching people try to sugar-coat how disastrous that signing has turned out.

Rex Fermier

You only gave Yoan Moncada a D?
You must be going soft! Please re-read your tweets about him.

Otter

I agree with most of them, but a nit pick and three I disagree with:
Adam Engel: C-
I thought Engle was fine this year for what we thought he was and ‘wanted him to be’. It’s not his fault he got so many at bats and if Garcia was healthy, I think he would have seen a lot less.

Omar Narvaez: B
Kavan Smith: C+
Yolmer Sanchez: C

As for the catchers, Narvaez being a legit back up catcher is pretty big for the rebuild. I get the whole “he can’t catch” point and it is important, but I’m less worried about a backup who can’t frame. Smith I’m knocking down because a .350 OBP but hit .292 with a meh walk rate doesn’t pass the smell test for sustainability. He’s also in the future back up catcher conversation, but I’m not as high on him for that roll because of the lack of pop.

I’m sure many will disagree with Yolmer, but he’s a below average third baseman relative to his position. He did a fine job playing there all year, but he too is a utility guy on a contending team, maybe a starting second baseman. Yes he’s fun and I want him on the 2019 and 2020 teams, but I think his 2018 was, if anything, mildly disappointing (ala Moncada).

lil jimmy

Jose Rondon.
I watched a few of the Charlotte games and Jose stood out as a cut above the rest. He held his own in Chicago as well. To me he should be the first back up to Abreu at first.(When not starting at 3rd.)

MrStealYoBase

Surprised to see Leury got that many plate apparences. I can hardly remember seeing him play this year.

knoxfire30

I agree with a lot o what everyone is saying. Omar needs a bump up and palka a bump down but the rest is close.

Not sure I agree with the characterization that rodon doesnt have a spot. He has just as much promise as sanchez with 2 years of age in his favor and moncada could force the issue with his crap defense of being put in the outfield.

asinwreck

These grades are less on the players’ abilities to produce wins in 2018 and more on what steps they have taken to have value (as players or trade bait over the next three years):

Daniel Palka, B-
(Has done one interesting thing in the majors, which means he might have some value going forward.)
Tim Anderson, B+ (Answered the question of whether he has a future at SS; his next step is establishing a consistent offensive approach for a full season.)

Matt Davidson, B-
(Showed more patience and potential as a Brooks Kieschnick piece). Kevan Smith, C+ (Health willing, he should bounce around the majors for 6-7 years as a cromulent backup, but I don’t think he’ll have actual trade value nor potential as a regular.)
Yolmer Sanchez, B-
(I like his future as the kind of player we were hoping we would get out of Leury Garcia, with the bonus that Yolmer could catch in an emergency. +500 PA in a season exposes him.)
Jose Rondon, B
(Would not be surprised to see him get the majority of starts at 3B in 2019.) Omar Narvaez, B- (What a weird player. I could not have predicted his 2018, and all I can say about his 2019 is he has the chance to be valuable to someone.)
Yoan Moncada, C(A season of growing pains, with some adjustments. I’m fine with that, obviously hoping for improvement in 2019.)
Jose Abreu, B-(Some most unfortunate injuries aided the Sox securing the third pick in the draft, but he hasn’t hurt what his value was going into 2018, and hey! All-Star.)
Leury Garcia, D- (He has the chance to add value to a contender, but I can’t see anyone trading for him given the chronic health concerns. Pray I am not writing this about Luis Robert in 2022.)
Adam Engel, C- (He has his uses; starting OF is not among them.)

Avisail Garcia, F (Now worthless. He will not contribute to the next winning Sox team either in the lineup or as trade bait.)

Welington Castillo, D (The silver lining of his suspension was getting to see what Narvaez and Smith could offer. His current value is minimal, but he could improve on that in 2019 and be part of a midseason trade.)
Nicky Delmonico, F
(Has he played his final MLB game?) Charlie Tilson, F (At least he was healthy enough to be activated in the majors, though he showed no reason to actually play.)

Trayce Thompson, F
(Back injuries suck.)

oljeto

So, what you are saying is that there is nothing to build on here. Can’t disagree.
Just became a huge Brewers fan. Now that’s what I call a manager with a brilliant Front Office to support him.

craigws

Well said on Moncada; the context makes it *feel* much worse than it actually was.