What is Tyler Saladino now, and is Jose Rondon still him?

Utility men both exceeding expectations with new teams, so watch as their small sample sizes grow

If you haven’t paid attention to Tyler Saladino since the White Sox sold him to Milwaukee, you may be taken aback by his trajectory with the Brewers.

It’s hard to say the Brewers knew what they had when they acquired him on April 19, because they started by optioning him to Colorado Springs. They him called up from Triple-A on May 9 after hitting .295/.392/.432, although it’s worth noting that Security Service Field is 6,531 feet above sea level.

Originally, Saladino took the place of utility man Nick Franklin, whose trip to the disabled list opened the roster spot. Then he ripped three homers over his first 21 plate appearances with Milwaukee, a staggering number considering Saladino failed to homer in his any of his last 103 games with the White Sox.

On Thursday, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said he needed to get Saladino more playing time. On Friday, the Brewers made it possible by optioning starting shortstop Orlando Arcia to Triple-A. Saladino has now made the lineup card in four consecutive games, including a 2-for-5 day against the Mets that raised his Milwaukee line to .333/.349/.619.

Right now, it’s easiest — and perhaps the likeliest — to call it a crazy small sample. However, Justin Morneau, Saladino’s former teammate who is now an analyst on Minnesota Twins broadcasts, dropped this observation when the Brewers played at Target Field last weekend.

https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/998278558639411200

The good news is that the White Sox are benefiting from their own small-sample success story in Saladino’s spot.

Jose Rondon is hitting .259/.310/.556 with a pair of dingers over his first 10 games with the White Sox. That production will be tested because Rondon isn’t likely to return to Charlotte anytime soon. He’s no longer subject to LIFO because Charlie Tilson has since joined the roster in Leury Garcia’s absence, and Matt Davidson has missed the last four games with a back problem, including a late scratch Saturday that thrust Rondon into the cleanup spot.

It’s worth following this tale of the tape as the two accrue playing time, even if it only rises to the level of a C-plot at most. They’re directly comparable as right-handed utility infielders, and Rondon has some built-in advantages. He holds the edge in age (4½ years younger) and service time (he has at least three more seasons of club control). On Saladino’s side, he has the richer track record, and looked to be an ideal bench player before his back acted up.

He would’ve had a problem fitting the White Sox timeline in the same role, so if he settles into his old numbers — even the ones before his back problems — Rondon won’t have to do much to justify the swap. (The same can be said if Saladino’s back betrays him for a third consecutive season.)

For the time being, it’s this newfound level of production that warrants monitoring. Take both of their track records and Saladino’s injury history, and I’m guessing the Sox made the right call in giving Rondon the priority. However, if Saladino somehow sticks as a starting shortstop for a first-place team, and the swing change was a bigger problem than the back, then the Sox might want to consider what else they’ve fixed.

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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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DrCrawdad

Here’s what I don’t understand, if a player has had success with a certain approach, why would a team change that and why would the player go along with the recommended change? 

I’m happy Saladino is having success.  I liked Saladino when he was with the Sox.  No reason to dislike him now that he’s a Brewer.  I wish I was in town when the Brewers come to Sox Park.  I’d give Saladino a rousing welcome on his first AB.

ParisSox

Yeah, right?   See Collins, Zach

jorgefabregas

Good players make adjustments that make them better all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

zerobs

which White Sox employees are the ones instructing these hitters?  Their batting average of success seems close to the Mendoza line. 

oljeto

Who ever improves under these position coaches?  The definition of insanity is insane loyalty. 

CanOCorn

That!

PopeDonnPall

Tiny thing: *clean up spot” not leadoff.

PauliePaulie

“fixed”

And the anecdotal evidence continues to mount.

jorgefabregas

Curses! Foiled by Milwaukee’s boy-GM again! 🙂

Greg Nix

Great post, Jim.

And to all the folks complaining about how Sox coaching always always always messes up hitters, maybe try and remember the seasons that Sanchez, Davidson, and Anderson are having?

MrStealYoBase

Someone else on here mentioned before that Davidson worked on his swing in AZ in the offseason with a non-Sox coach.

As for Tim and Yolmer, haven’t read anything saying that they’ve made mechanical adjustments that lead to this outburst. Personally I think Anderson always had this potential he just gets into his own head a lot.

sgp2204

I know Davidson spent some time working with Konerko in the offseason. Not sure if he worked with someone else too, but I’d happily let Paulie take over as hitting coach. 

Greg Nix

Davidson has credited Mike Gellinger (the Sox minor league hitting coordinator) for his improvement.

PauliePaulie

We’re counting .246/.309/.451 (.220/.288/.394 vs. RHP) and .272/.311/.394 as a big wins?

jorgefabregas

Anderson with an above league average wRC+? Yes, that is a big win.

Greg Nix

If we’re going to count 35 plate appearances by Saladino, then yes I think we should count those as wins. Sox fans often have extremely selective and self-defeating opinions about what’s exciting and what’s shitty.

PauliePaulie

I hope that my current view of the Sox system as one developing a lot of very incomplete ballplayers is just a case of grading too harshly, too soon.

lil jimmy

Leury came here with no ability to hit at all.

zerobs

Fair enough. 

Meanwhile I’ll be remembering Tyler Flowers, Marcus Semien, and all of Davidson’s at bats outside of Kansas City. 

sgp2204

Semien? Really? He’s pretty much the same exact player he was when we got rid of him… His OPS+ the last year we had him was 93. Since he has been in Oakland, it has gone up to a whopping 98. Not to mention his stone hands haven’t gotten any softer with age. Poor example. 

gibby32

Terrific post. I could not diagree with a word. I hope Tyler has a great year for the Brewers. I doubt that he would have with the Sox, leg kick notwithstanding. Sometimes, players just need a fresh start. And for the reasons you state, Rondon is a better bet for the Sox right now. I am just having a hard time waiting for Eloy, Avi, Leury (in center), Rodon and Kopech.

MrTopaz

I’m having a hard time remembering his swing at all, much less the older one with the leg kick. Was it severe, or maybe it somehow looked like something pitchers could exploit? I know plenty of successful hitters have leg kicks, but if a guy looks like kind of a marginal player to begin with, without the raw talent to paper over mechanical flaws, it’d make sense to try some changes.

This is, of course, invalidated if Saladino’s swing wasn’t any wonkier than usual.

MrTopaz

The one from spring training ’16 is pretty imperceptible. It hardly seems like something a coaching staff would bother addressing (in my amateur opinion). Maybe they felt like it was putting pressure on his back, and wanted him to get away from it when he was hurting. Or maybe he’s a guy with some talent who’s finally healthy and enjoying a change of scenery with a team that’s in it.

karkovice squad

The real tragedy is Saladino’s missed connection as a catcher following Castillo’s suspension.

jorgefabregas

Well, at least Rondon has matched his homer production. Plus, Sally’s inside the parker could’ve easily been a single or double, IIRC.

VAChisox

Nice article and comparison. I’m delighted for Saldino; I always liked him ever since NPR did a series of profiles of him in their occasional story of life in the minor leagues. I hope that he continues to enjoy success in Milwaukee, especially if it can come at the expense of the Cubs.

jorgefabregas

To some extent, it’s a major step forward that a White Sox-drafted/signed as an amateur position player is useful in the league at all. Off the top of my head, there are currently four MI-types who were drafted or signed as an amateur by the Sox who are playing useful roles (Semien, Anderson, Sanchez, Saladino).

metasox

Escobar is another with a decent career. MI has been an ok area for talent.