The more I think about Andrew Benintendi, the more I like what he brings to the White Sox. He’s a true outfielder with an ability to reach base both through his hit tool and the regular walk. He also stands to benefit from Guaranteed Rate Field without any adjustments, but he’s shown the ability to tailor his swing to his environment.
The only thing I don’t like about him is that he’s left-field-only, which means that the uncomfortable idea of Eloy Jiménez in right field will linger into the season.
There may come a time where a left-to-right outfield of Benintendi, Luis Robert and Oscar Colás is impossible to usurp from any angle no matter how badly Jiménez wants in. That time is a few months away at the earliest. Setting aside standard injury caveats for Benintendi, Colás has to prove he can handle MLB expectations for a majority of the games, and Robert has to avoid getting hurt for months at a time. If either development breaks the wrong way, either Jiménez has to play a fair amount of outfield, or everybody has to commit to Gavin Sheets and a sight-unseen Jake Marisnick to a level that exceeds all comfort.
So, Jiménez must maintain his readiness, and Pedro Grifol must maintain an open mind when it comes to potential alternative outfield alignments because any Plan B is a four-story drop from Plan A. These are truths.
Unfortunately, they’re just truths that shouldn’t be belabored. The further the conversation extends beyond one sentence, the more one risks sounding demoralizing or delusional.
Grifol floated the possibility of Jiménez playing right field back when the Sox signed Benintendi, and he did so again to 670 The Score on last weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Eloy in right field,” Grifol said. “I’m not talking about seeing him there every day, but I’m talking about maybe seeing him there a day or two a week if possible and keeping him athletic and keeping him working on the defensive side, because I know that helps on the offensive side as well.”
Perhaps he looks forward to Jiménez playing right field like I looked forward to Jake Burger turning a double play. I assume his interest is not backhanded because he is tasked with offering public support for the key offensive component of his first-ever lineup, but there comes a point where “generosity of spirit” can start sounding like “out-of-town stupid,” and Grifol has his own first impressions to mind.
The same goes for Jiménez, and one person’s adamancy is another’s obstinacy.
“Last year, when I was DH’ing more than (playing) the outfield, it was because I got surgery,” Jiménez said when asked about accepting a DH role. “And I understand that. But this year, I’ve been working really hard to play the outfield more than DH. So I don’t really think that I’m going to accept it, because if I’m working hard, I’m going to get better, and I want to play in the outfield.”
Nobody should want him to surrender to the DH lifestyle and start ordering Tommy Bahama shirts by the dozen, but it’s also difficult to treat his breakdown of the outfield corners with particular reverence.
“It feels way different because most of the contacts in left field, you don’t know where it’s going to go. Right field is a lot different because every ball the right-handed hitter hits most of the time has some backspin. It’s way better being there.”
Maybe this is true, although I’d say that most true left fielders wouldn’t say “you don’t know where it’s going to go.” Forgive the possibility of imprecise wording in a second language, and Jiménez’s reputation still precedes him.
The thing is, Jiménez isn’t the worst defender the Sox have put in the outfield over the last five years. He actually has the foot speed to make some improbable catches, and while his reads and routes don’t allow him to pull those off with regularity, his arm strength might be the biggest concern when it comes to thinking about him as a right fielder, because that turns two bases into three.
Still, if Jiménez had Sheets’ durability, playing the other corner wouldn’t warrant as much concern. Alas, he has a history of injuries via high-exertion plays and a tendency to end up in physical positions that few outfielders find themselves in. The White Sox produced a bobblehead that shows how he wasn’t to be trusted catching routine flies in his own jurisdiction. Now Jiménez trying to go from class clown to connoisseur without any real evidence of progress, like if Pete Davidson started complaining about an Oscar snub.
Jiménez’s pride may be wounded by this conversation, but he can consider himself fortunate that he’s still in the mix, as more proactive organizations might’ve thoroughly barricaded him from any outfield work. While Rick Hahn noted that Jiménez’s DH production makes it easy to deploy him there regularly, he didn’t do enough work to ensure it. He wouldn’t normally have this kind of opening on a team with ambitions, so he may as well run with it.
The first hope is that Colás will hit well enough to hold down a spot in right field and the bottom half of the lineup card, because that would simplify matters drastically. The other hope is that Jiménez hits well enough to give the Sox top-of-the-line DH production that easily plays whether he has to pick up a glove, like the discussions we used to have during interlague play when the National League forced pitchers to hit for themselves. Hitting on both feels like one of those same-game parlays that wrings money out of novice gamblers, except the Sox have way more money riding on this particular combo than they should.
Ever hear of a guy not being able to handle 3rd or 2nd base being moved to SS? Well how about a guy who couldnt handle LF going to RF…. sure why the hell not, go get em sox another brilliant idea from management
Alexei Ramirez is one.
Alexei handled defense well and moved up to a tougher position. Eloy is bad in lf and going to a harder position rf
It’s not fair to say Eloy “couldn’t handle” LF. If you compare him to other guys with 500+ innings in LF over the last two seasons, he’s middle of the pack or better in pretty much every defensive category (traditional numbers or metrics). He’s not a bad defensive LF. The reason you don’t want him out there is that he’s not a good defensive LF and he’s a major injury risk.
That said, the idea of playing him out there once or twice per week has merit. I don’t love it because I am worried about the injury risk, but I also don’t hate it because, if he can manage it without getting injured, it boosts his value a lot and helps the lineup. Hopefully, Colas mashes and we don’t have to worry about it.
I agree. I personally think watching Leury in the OF is more painful, and especially if Eloy is raking I have zero issues with him playing the OF.
Eloy might be middle of the pack, but certainly not better. All three of OAA, UZR and DRS have him as a -1 or -2 in 2022. Those metrics would be much worse if he had more playing time. Regardless, the real issue here is his arm strength. It had a noticeable decline in 2022 and simply not good enough to keep teams (especially the Guardians) from exposing his arm by going first to third on everything. Statcast / Savant has his arm in the 19th percentile (not the top 19%). Fangraphs has his arm as a -5 and Fielding Bible suggests 6 people took an extra base on him in only 231 innings with zero “kills” or gunning runners down.
RF is actually probably better for Eloy to “cover” simply because less balls are hit to RF, but that arm strength isn’t cutting it and will be exposed.
It’s a little different than that because RF is basically the same as playing LF except for the throwing component. You’re expected to have roughly the same range.
Nice article, Jim. It appears that a lot of this year’s success will depend on Oscar Colas finally being the everyday left-handed power-hitting right fielder that the W Sox seemingly annually search for. For us old-timers, I can remember Floyd Robinson in the early ’60s and Harold Baines in the early ’80s as home-grown RFs that filled that bill. Maybe there’s been others, but there scarce.
Regarding Eloy, I’m gonna be a bit harsh. In the big picture, the Sox absolutely have to field a more competenent defensive outfield than in recent years. Eloy ain’t that. AB, Robert, Colas with whichever AAAA as 4th/5th OF (Marisnik, Hamilton, Reyes, et al) will help the Sox pitchers better glovewise than Jimenez, IMO.
Eloy has premier batting skillss and this year is in a prove-it year in that he needs to be in the lineup 120+ games and replace some of Abreu’s missing production. Eloy has appeared in that many games only once – 2019. If he can stay healthy and accept and relish his DH role, we should expect big numbers from Eloy. The fact that he hasn’t stayed healthy, nor shown more competency in the outfield says to me that he shouldn’t be dictating where and when he should play.
The manager makes out the lineup. Eloy should embrace this opportunity 100%. If Eloy pouts and bitches and gives less than his best effort, I feel the W Sox would be way ahead to move on from him and reap the good return he’d bring in a trade. If Eloy does embrace this opportunity, we’ll all enjoy watching him bat 4th everyday as THE DH.
Eloy, whatcha gonna do?
Apologies for the grammatical and spelling errors…my proof-reader has Sundays off.
So here’s a question to ponder: given that Colás can actually play the outfield and thus should bring defensive value, how poorly would he have to hit for him not to stick, or to make a change even worth it? More importantly, what would be the plan B? Sheets/Leury? Lol. At least Eloy can hit.
That’s a great question that we’ll never get an answer to. Sort of like when Obama telegraphed the pullout date 2 years ahead of time, it benefits no one to publicize this info.
TLR, wouldn’t have an answer, he’d just say he’ll know when he sees it. I would hope, Grifol actually has a plan with a number attached to it so that progress is accounted for and lack of progress would be demonstrated by not achieving the pre planned numbers.
Of course there are plenty of mitigating factors but I would really hope it’s more than a loose outline.
Yes, but Eloy can also hit as the DH. So if you’re moving him from DH to RF, then you have to ask who will DH. Yaz? If it’s Sheets then you might as well have Sheets play RF.
For the love of God, trade for a real 4th OF!
And if they don’t, or if there’s a slew of injuries, Eloy in the OF is just not worth it. He’s in the lineup at DH, so he gets to hit, and that’s all they should be letting him do. As I’ve said before, he shouldn’t even be running hard to first on IF grounders. Just take the out, Eloy. And someone needs to make him understand and accept that this is what it is, it’s what is best for the team, and it isn’t going to change.
If necessary, I fully commit to Gavin Sheets or whoever else they bring up from AAA. With Sheets the defense is probably worse (though I’m not entirely sure), but the risk of injury to Eloy is just too great.
To me, the big picture is that Eloy has to be in the lineup basically the entire year. He just has to be. Trying to eke out some more value defensively while adding to the risk that he’ll miss half a season again is just not worth it at all.
And I’ll add to Jim’s “Eloy in the OF blooper reel” with some more examples of why he cannot be trusted to stay healthy out there: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/white-sox-eloy-jimenez-continues-to-run-into-things-in-left-field-and-that-should-cause-concern-in-chicago/
The Sox also said the trade market would be more productive than free agency, so take anything they say with a grain of salt. I think this is way more saying stuff to not wound Eloy’s pride than a real idea. He probably plays outfield less than JD Martinez a few years ago.
The only “reason” to play Eloy in RF is to patronize him. That’s not a good reason. Unless Colas is terrible, he’s a better fielder than Eloy every day of the week. Perhaps they might sit Colas vs a tough lefty, but other than that, there is no reason Eloy should be in RF, risking an injury every inning he plays.
If they did sit Colas vs a lefty and put Eloy in RF, who would their DH be, Grandal? It won’t be Sheets, who can’t hit lefties either. In addition to not having improved vs righties, they will have gotten a lot worse vs lefties. They have no depth whatsoever, just like the character of the ownership and front office.
Since karma is already biting this team in the ass before pitchers and catchers even report im just going to pencil in 30-50 games for Eloy in right.
Seriously. It was looking like a typical boring and insufficient offseason, and then all of a sudden our closer has cancer and we find out our new starter is an even bigger POS than we thought.
I don’t think Eloy could play 30-50 games in right before getting injured. Seriously.
It’s painful being a fan of a team that refuses to do things the right way. Clearly, Colas needs some more time in AAA. There would be no doubt about that path with almost any other team.
However, I would much prefer Jimenez (actual OFer) playing RF as long as we don’t have to see Sheets or Vaughn there. Not only do I not want to watch 1B/DH types play RF but it messes up other parts of the plan.
Hopefully, the Sox really will give Colas time to get ready. If they do, I’m fine with the Jimenez/Marisnick combo there.
Can’t wait to see the mess that there will be at 2B and what happens when Anderson gets injured. I’m guessing a lot of Leury, Sosa and Romy. Cleveland and Minny must be scared.
Dunno that Colas in AAA will do much. The guy’s gonna swing at a ton of sliders he shouldn’t, but with his pop and lift, he’ll be hitting too many homers in Charlotte’s bandbox to care.
Learning how to strike out less than 4x as much as he walks might be a good lesson in the Minors. If he’s unwilling to do that, or they don’t have a coaching staff to reinforce that, then there are bigger issues, and fast-tracking him to MLB won’t solve them.
What I’m saying is that he may simply be too talented to have a real need to adjust. Development has to happen in the bigs too; Robert didn’t cut his K rates until the bigs, and he still swings at everything and probably always will. He’d be Mike Trout if he did have plus plate discipline, but he doesn’t and that’s okay bc he’s so goddamn talented anyways
Aside from them having no good backup plan, I don’t see it as a negative if Colás starts the year with the Sox and looks completely overmatched. If that happens, you send him down and he should be very aware at that point what his deficiencies are and what he needs to work on. This is a tried and true method for young players, and he deserves a shot with how good he’s looked in the minor leagues so far.
Other teams call up prospects that have “proper seasoning” all the time. I don’t know why there is this perception that Colas is guaranteed to fail because he didn’t have X PAs in AAA before he got to the majors. Luis got 223 PAs in AAA but that didn’t stop him from swinging at bad pitches. It also didn’t stop him from being a good player. I don’t know what benefit Colas can actually get from AAA right now apart from confidence boosting but he doesn’t seem like the kind of player to need that.
If they had turned Charlotte into a legitimate development ground for hitters I could see a case, but they’ll have their 5th hitting coach in 6 years (have we had an announcement?). The last guy to work with Colas is now with the big league club, so (Colas’s agent and union rep: take notes) it’s probably better for the continuity of Colas’s development that he begin the season in Chicago.
Re Eloy saying the reads are easier in RF than LF off a RHB’s bat— that’s been my experience. Throwing’s obv more important in RF, but it doesn’t come up that often such that it’s a serious concern with Eloy playing once or twice a week. The issue is him hurting himself.
I’ll tell you what–I don’t like it!
I always thought the goal was to improve every year; to address obvious deficiencies like poor base running and outfield defense that have been obvious for the last several years. But here we go again, rushing a guy with almost no triple A experience into Rf, making no effort to acquire a competent MLB veteran as a forth outfielder and to project a one dimensional player as the backup RF. I’ll be the Sox pitchers are thrilled.
The small picture of him playing 1-2 games per week to rest Colas against lefties is very sound. Another righty in the lineup until the rookie proves he can hit LHers.
This big picture is they have no depth, and as soon as one guy goes down, now all of a sudden one of Eloy, Leury, Sheets, Billy, Reyes, or Marisnick are out there everyday. Just like you need 6 starters to have 5, you need 4 starting OF to have 3.
The positive side of this is that they were 2 OFers short last year, so only being one guy short is progress.
It is a pleasure to read an article that contains so many apt turns of phrase as in today’s post. Wonderful writing.
And a contemporary pop culture reference, no less!
The sad part is there is at least cheap, playable OFers still available in the free agent market and the sox will add none. Ben Gamel can play both RF/LF spot and has a 112 wRC+ against right handers the last two years. Tyler Naquin can play LF/RF and has an above average wRC+ against right handers the last two years. Gamel and Naquin aren’t anything special but they at least can play defense and provide some value against RHP.
Then there’s David Peralta and Robbie Grossman who may not be the best fit but again at least can provide some depth.