Danny Mendick makes himself available for best opportunity yet

Up until Nick Madrigal’s injury, Danny Mendick was caught in an awkward professional space as the last man on the roster of a successful team. He’s a fringe major leaguer who could really use a couple hundred plate appearances in a season, which would at least allow him the opportunity to say he got a chance. It’s just that those opportunities are best afforded by the Tigers, or Pirates, or what the White Sox used to be, because those teams are in a better position to appreciate what he can do. For instance, his strong defense might help a straggler lessen its chances of being outright mocked.

For a team with the White Sox’s aspirations, that particular strength can’t really emerge in a bench role, at least not without a bat that stands out against pitchers of a certain handedness. This situation lends him to be defined by what he doesn’t do, so he’s losing the messaging war. At the same time, he’s winning by pulling down an MLB per diem, because it’s not like he could guarantee himself a forgiving 400-500 plate appearances on a rebuilding team. Reshuffle the deck, and he could be thoroughly blocked at Triple-A.

Now he’s the new Plan A, or at least the Plan A-2, at second base, where he’ll share time with Leury García while Madrigal is out. That time could be short if Rick Hahn finds a more permanent solution on the trade market, but the White Sox are 3-0 since the injury and the trade deadline is a month and a half away, so Rick Hahn might not be in any rush.

Short of 140 starts for a 95-loss team, this is the best possible opportunity for Mendick’s own personal development. Take into account the benefits of first-place life, and bench role for a contender is probably a far more fulfilling professional experience.

It’s just tenuous, requiring Mendick to make the most out of intermittent opportunities after years of playing 125 games year in and year out. The “organizational player” label he received with his 22nd-round signing bonus turned out to be equal parts gift and curse. He might’ve been playing a level too low or at a non-preferred position, but at least he got to play. As a result, he amassed a track record too successful to be ignored.

He hasn’t figured how to sustain such success over sporadic playing time

“One of the hardest things in baseball is coming off the bench,” Mendick said. “The guys that do that super well are just unbelievable because being in that position, I understand how hard it is. So yeah, to get some rhythm, to get some at-bats under my belt, that’s kind of what you want to do. I want to get out there and take advantage of the opportunity.”

… but that’s also something that can be spun positively, because sporadic playing time might be the reason he’s still in Chicago. He has a tendency to make fine first impressions that give way to diminishing returns, but fresh seasons give him a chance of hitting the reset button before he exhausts open minds.

So much of a Mendick-like living relies on such timing. I looked at the .244/.295/.378 line he brought to the table at the time of Madrigal’s injury and thought, “He’s basically Steve Tolleson,” because I apparently have a brain cell devoted to knowing that Tolleson hit .245/.299/.372 over 181 MLB games, none of which came with the White Sox.

Tolleson couldn’t find a steady MLB gig, but Andrew Romine hung on longer while hitting worse. He somehow averaged 109 games for Detroit over Brad Ausmus’ four-year term over the Brad Ausmus era despite a 66 OPS+. Romine was a replacement-level player, but Detroit took its time seeking an upgrade.

MLB careers are capricious like that. All a guy like Mendick can do is show up ready, and he’s been excellent at making himself available. He’s never been hurt and he’s appeared at every position except first base and catcher. Now he’s getting the chance to hold down a position for a team with goals, and he’s aware of the opportunity:

“I definitely think about it,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I can’t really control, you know? The position I’m in, I’ve got options, and it just happens to be that way. I have an opportunity right now to play and help this team. I’m excited to do that, and I’ll leave everything on the line.”

He’s off to a decent start, going 3-for-9 with a double and three walks in his first three starts. Mendick’s history of fading with increased exposure suggests this success will be short-lived, but the stakes are limited in scale. It seems safe to assume that his chief objective is to buy the White Sox time until outside help arrives, which could be days or weeks regardless of how he fares. Mendick’s significance is still highly reliant on external factors, but that’s not a knock. If he plays his cards right, that’s a niche.

(Photo by Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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not suggesting the sox shouldn’t seek an upgrade, but i’ve always been a mendick supporter. he kinda fits the profile that i really like in non-prospects. he’s not a defensive liability, he’s got a good understanding of the strike zone, and he’s got solid contact skills. i think there’s a 2 WAR, league-averageish player in there.

Greg Nix

Mendick’s a nice story and good depth to have, but I think you’re overstating his case a little here. Yolmer topped out at 2 wins and Mendick hasn’t quite demonstrated that caliber of play.


I agree, Market Maker. I’ve always thought Mendick is a solid player. He has a plan when he’s in the batter’s box and he’s a pretty good, versatile defender. I honestly can’t recall for certain if he’s ever gotten a serious look from the Sox in terms of long term playing time. He should get at least 30-40 games of consistent play, so we will know for sure what he is. Hoping for something like a 230/320/400 slash shouldn’t be expecting too much and is exactly what the Sox need to keep going.

Last edited 1 year ago by lifelongjd

If it’s a straight up choice re who I would rather see at 2B while Madrigal is on the IL, then i would rather see Mendick than Garcia. That said, for a team that is trotting out guys like Collins and Eaton regularly there is a limit to how much run you can give a kid like Mendick.


As a hitter, Leury is what he is at this point. Mendick to me seems like with more playing time he could be a much better bench bat than Leury.


Mendick is a solid bench player. It’s also good that both him and Leroy can play SS because it keeps the roster from having to be shuffled if TA gets banged up or whatever.

Ideally neither one would be starting regularly so an upgrade would be nice. I was assuming Frazier wouldn’t be worth trading for so I was into someone cheap like Brock Holt, but looking at the splits for Leroy and Mendick it seems like we’re more in need of a bench bat who can hit LHP.