Zach DeLoach could provide pull-side power, but not in a way White Sox haven’t tried

New White Sox prospect Zach DeLoach
Zach DeLoach (John Williamson/Four Seam Images)

Tony Romo, whose broadcasting chops will be on display this Sunday with CBS’s Super Bowl coverage, was a good quarterback under pressure. So much so that it might have hurt him.

In 2013, Dallas Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones openly used Romo’s prowess in the face of the pass rush as a defense for his own failure to invest in an offensive line. “If you’re going to have a guy… that can handle a porous offensive line, it’s Tony. […] If there were a place theoretically that you had to have a weakness with Tony Romo at quarterback, that might be a place to have it.”

When the Cowboys finally did assemble an elite offensive line in front of Romo for his age 34 season—which corresponded with a gradual ceding of power in football operations from Jones to his son Steven—the QB had the best season of his career. (He also received pain-killing shots before and during games to manage the career’s worth of beatings he had taken.)

Instead of playing into his team’s strength at quarterback, Jerry Jones chose to try to play around their weaknesses, possibly at the expense of more seasons like the one his franchise QB posted in 2014.

I feel similarly about the White Sox’s misuse of their home ballpark’s power advantage. It would seem to be a simple strategic advantage to make use of the short porches at Guaranteed Rate Field by constructing a roster with a pull-heavy power approach.

Rick Hahn’s administration had an apparent deference for players inclined to hit to all fields and for less power, perhaps hoping to luck into stadium-induced power results rather than seeking out batters whose strengths aligned with the ballpark. (Obligatory mention that the largest contract this organization has handed out is to Andrew Benintendi.)

Guaranteed Rate Field’s power alley advantage has not been lost on the opponents. Over the past 5 seasons, no team has seen as many dingers pulled over their home walls by the visiting team as the White Sox.

Pull-side HRs hit by visiting team (2019-2023)

#StadiumHRs
1Guaranteed Rate Field328
2Great American Ball Park317
3Coors Field315
4Citizens Bank Park314
5Chase Field311

By comparison, White Sox hitters have pulled only 240 home runs over their confines’ corners during that time. That discrepancy is an outsized contributor the team’s all-fields-inclusive -81 HR differential at home 2019-2023. (That differential shrinks to -2 on the road.)

New addition Zach DeLoach is a player who, on paper, profiles to hit home runs while dressed in White Sox home colors. His Statcast data from AAA suggest that he pulls the ball (40.2% pull%), hits the ball relatively hard (89.3 average exit velocity), and does so while avoiding worm-burners (34.5% GB%).

If that profile feels un-White Sox, behold the short and unspectacular list of White Sox players since 2019 who have hit the ball with league average or greater pull %, exit velocity, and launch angle in a season (min 100 PAs):

YearPlayerPull %EVLA °
2023Luis Robert Jr.0.46889.116.1
2022Seby Zavala0.42088.822.7
2022Gavin Sheets0.38488.614.8
2021Jake Lamb0.54790.617.6
2021Yasmani Grandal0.46393.114.2
2021Luis Robert Jr.0.43191.113.7
2021Zack Collins0.41791.120.9
2020Yasmani Grandal0.40990.315.6
2019Zack Collins0.42690.715.3
2019Welington Castillo0.41889.513.2
2019Ryan Cordell0.41388.919.5*

(*And boy did 2019 Cordell elevate the ball, hitting an infield fly with a whopping 10.3% of the balls he put in play.)

Unless a healthier, huskier Andrew Bonds-entindi — once regarded as a sort-of batted-ball chameleon — shows up to camp with a novel pull-heavy approach, DeLoach might be the best shot at adding a new name to the list.

Gavin Sheets’ and Zack Collins’ appearances on the list can’t help but serve as a reminder of a time when a faction of the front office fancied players who seemed locks to hit 30 HRs in Guaranteed Rate Field—and an all-too-recent reminder of the flaws that can put a damper on an otherwise favorable profile.

Nick Hostetler’s four drafts brought into the organization the aforementioned Sheets and Collins, in addition to Jake Burger and Steele Walker, all as first day selections under the current format. While Hostetler downplayed drafting for need, the raw talent just so happened to skew left-handed, compensating for the big league team’s tendency to fill 1B and DH with right handed batters.

DeLoach is a flawed hitter, and in ways that feel similar to those White Sox draftees. Zack Collins was also a high BB/high K batter in the minors, that regressed to mid BB/higher K in the majors. Projection systems are in unison expecting DeLoach to do the same.

The Zac(k/h)s’ AAA Statcast data and peripherals from last season are remarkably similar to each other (h/t to Prospects Live‘s valuable AAA Statcast database):

AAA Zac(h/k)s (2023)

DeLoach Collins
89.3EV89.0
9.8%Barrel%10.9%
42.6%Sweet-Spot%45.9%
23.6%Chase%23.0%
31.3%Whiff%32.7%
39.4%Hard Hit%37.8%
27.8%K%32.1%
13.3%BB%14.1%

DeLoach does differentiate himself from Collins in the batter’s box by rarely whiffing on fastballs (10.0% FB SwStr%), and that skill alone could allow him to do more damage in the majors than Collins.

He also benefits, unlike the Hostetler-drafted sluggers, from seemingly being playable at the position he purports to field, and has a path to earn playing time since corner OF is an area of perpetual need for this team.

Chris Getz deserves credit for gambling a reliever into resources that could prove more useful, and if DeLoach is able to handle fastballs from Major League pitching as well as AAA pitching, his production in Chicago could be quite useful. If he isn’t, the results will be nothing White Sox fans haven’t seen before.

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shaggy65

Wonderful, informative analysis! Thank you!

Thinking of Deloach as another Zack Collins at the plate is scary, but being 3.5 years younger at least gives him a runway for development.

And I knew we were being out-homered, but didn’t realize the entire gap was at home. If you were writing a manual on how to not build a winning team…

upnorthsox

I’m think a slightly better Jake Fraley or Luke Raley. It’s hard to say with those 2 because they both had the pandemic during their onboarding where DeLoach is on a clearer path.

LamarJohnson

Interesting analysis that will give me something to watch this Spring, thank you!