Over my 63 years writing about the White Sox on a daily basis, I’ve learned to stop trafficking in imperatives and ultimatums. If I say the White Sox should not, can not, or must not do something, I’d assume the White Sox would regard it as a challenge.
For example, when the White Sox were on the verge of hiring Tony La Russa, I took the tone of, “Sure would be great if they didn’t!” If I said “ABSOLUTELY NOT” and they barged ahead, I may as well censure Jerry Reinsdorf for all that good that would do. However, when I present my viewpoint in the form of a “How about no?”, I can treat their subsequent action as an honest answer. The White Sox didn’t ignore me when they hired Tony La Russa. No, we’re just having a dialogue in the marketplace of ideas.
When I wrote that Leury García can’t keep playing the way he had in the first month, well of course he could, as many people informed me on Twitter. Nothing’s going to stop him if that’s what his heart really wants. I meant it more in the larger sense of his tenability as an asset to the White Sox, or any other team for that matter.
I’m pleased to report that García stopped playing the way he was. That post more or less caught him at his early-season nadir. He entered a game against Cleveland as a defensive replacement and went 0-for-2 with a popped-up bunt, which dropped his line to .163/.182/.209. That’s the equivalent of a respectable pitcher batting for himself, and he often looked like a pitcher, in the sense that he bunted at every possible opportunity.
Since April 20, he’s been more or less the Leury García that’s essentially a South Side institution.
And while you can’t adjust his Statcast board by specific time frames, his current array of numbers shows progress digging out of the early hole.
García’s never going to own these charts, partially because his bunt attempts drag his averages down, and partially because his ceiling is fairly low for all of these offensive categories. What’s important is whether García shows the ability to make MLB-grade contact a few times a series.
Early in the season, García looked for every excuse to not swing, as if there were lasting issues from the thumb surgery he had last year. Those bunts dragged down his exit velocity, sure, but there were precious few batted balls on the other side of the spectrum that stood a chance of propping up his approach.
He’s now up to 12 balls hit with an exit velocity of 100 mph or higher, and 10 of them have come in this later span we’re discussing, including one in each game of the Twins series. Here’s Friday’s:
And he also had another double on Friday that rounded up to 100 mph (99.6).
This is the generally acceptable García as a Plan B for up-the-middle positions, and it’s generally one you can trust with your eyes — or distrust, depending on his mode. The pre-2017 García, and the García over the first few weeks of the 2021 season, had a tendency to swing through pitches in the zone as though he were wearing somebody else’s contacts. When he’s in that kind of rut, whatever pitches he can touch go straight into the ground. When he puts the bat on the ball with regularity, the usefulness of his standard contact also increases.
What’s notable is that after his game on April 20, he had the next four full days off. Perhaps there was an injury issue underneath his struggles, or maybe he just needed an extended break to clean up his approach, but either way, he’s returned to the top of the bench after spending the first three weeks looking like somebody to hide.
His adequacy will be sorely needed as the White Sox embark on a stretch of 18 games over 17 days, because with Adam Eaton ineffective against lefties, Andrew Vaughn struggling against righties and Billy Hamiton the only competition in center until Adam Engel can finally go on a rehab assignment, García is likely to appear on the field nearly everyday. He makes it easier to fill out a lineup card no matter how he’s hitting, but it’s a whole lot easier on fans when he puts up a fight in the batter’s box.
Christ, to think there was a time in the offseason when I truly thought we were done seeing him in CF.
Nice to see something reasonably positive written about the longest tenured Sox.
May OPS: Vaughn .656, Garcia .719
I’m willing to die on the hill that Leury can be a two win player over the course of a whole season. Like Yolmer is would take all 162 but he’s a rounded enough player to get there.
I’ve always has a soft spot for him since he provides so much utility, seems to have fun, and is pretty good at Instagram. Long live #LeuryLegend!
His only two seasons approaching 2 WAR were 2017 and 2019 when he accumulated 1.2 fWAR each, but he played about half as much in 2017.
I think that’s about his upper limit. Obviously if you could extrapolate 2017 over a full season, you could meet or exceed 2 WAR, but we saw what happens when he plays a full season in 2019. The highs and lows average out and he provides about the same aggregate value just over a longer period of time.
He’s a proverbial innings eater of a position player. He won’t lose you a lot of games, but he’s not going to win many either.
In other news, White Sox have had the easiest schedule of any MLB team. In better news, the next two teams with easiest schedules are the Giants, Padres and ,amusingly, the Twins. So generally if you’re a team that’s doing good, you push people down the rankings making your schedule easier in the process. In even better news, the remaining Sox schedule is still 3rd easiest in the league as we get to beat down on the Kitties, Roylols and Tloses for the remainder of the season.
It is very nice to see Leury finding his way into replacement level/average player range which makes him a valuable bench player.
Let’s suppose Adam Engel is ready today. Who will be sent down of DFA’ed to open a roster spot?
I think Danny Mendick will be the man out as Engel makes Leury the utility infielder he can perfectly be. Hamilton is also in danger, but I am gonna make a confession, I kinda like Hamilton. He has great value as a pinch runner and as a defensive outfielder.
Don’t look now, but Lamb has a 120 wRC+
It feels weird to be saying this, but I’d like to see more of Lamb with a RHP on the mound. For the time being Vaughn looks like he could stand to take a day off here and there and if you squint you can almost see the player that Lamb used to be. The lineup struggles most against righties, so I don’t want to give up on a LH batter with patience, power, and pedigree.
Not to mention Lamb is the only real 3B back-up plan if Moncada misses time. I like Mendick, but he doesn’t have the arm or the bat to hold down the hot corner for more than a game or two.
This might be controversial but I would say Andrew Vaughn. He’s done decently well for himself but needs a bit more seasoning in the minors. Outfield would rotate between Leury, Engel, Hamilton, Mendick and Eaton. Mendick has about the same WAR total as Vaughn despite playing less than half as many games.
I wouldn’t limit his exposure to MLB pitching to improve his fielding skills which is a temporary condition. He plays 1st base adequately as a backup to Abreu and will improve with opportunities to play that position. His ceiling could be very high and I would give him every opportunity to get there asap. I would swap the other 4 in center and right to give them breaks or match the opposing pitcher as best they can.
I think if Vaughn continues to struggle a bit, then I would agree, send him down when Engel comes back. Additionally, I would play him in RF at AAA. When Eloy comes back, if Yermin is still hitting, Eloy won’t be able to DH, so he will have to man LF. If Vaughn learns RF reasonably well, with his arm, he could probably handle it enough to make benching Eaton worthwhile, especially against Lefties.
I agree it’s Mendick–just because he has options left and with Engel back we’ll struggle to find him at-bats. Lamb and Hamilton are valuable enough that I don’t want to lose them on the waiver wire.
How early is too early to announce my Chris Taylor for super utility guy 2022 campaign?