White Sox outfielders jockey for positions before Avisail Garcia returns

It might not qualify as a roster "crunch," but the replacements all have their selling points

The specter of an Avisail Garcia return looms over the White Sox outfield, although maybe not immediately. He’s checked off several boxes over his first two games with the Charlotte Knights since returning on Tuesday:

  • First game
  • First hit
  • First walk
  • First appearance in right field

There are a few more to go — first full game, first full game in right field, first consecutive full games, and maybe a stolen base attempt just to test his acceleration. Also, you’d like to see him do a little more than 1-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts. Performance is never the primary objective in a rehab stint, though, and he does have one more walk in Charlotte than he accrued over his first 18 games in Chicago.

When Garcia does return — I imagine a week from now if all goes well — it’ll mark the start of an outfield crunch. The process will repeat when Leury Garcia is ready to return from a knee sprain later this month.

Trayce Thompson is easily the most vulnerable. His resume includes a walk-off homer, a game-winning single off Chris Sale and a beautiful suicide squeeze, which makes it even more amazing that he’s hitting .120/.169/.222 over 46 games. Missing the cutoff man for no good reason in the eighth inning Wednesday night didn’t help.

That leaves Adam Engel, Charlie Tilson and Daniel Palka battling for two spots in the outfield spots, and they’ve all shown different skills and glaring flaws.

Adam Engel: He was hitting .274/.330/.411 over 105 plate appearances from the start of May through June 6, when he tweaked his hamstring running down a fly in right center against Minnesota. He’s 1-for-9 with an HBP and three strikeouts since returning, which could be any three-game stretch. However, his hitting mechanics are far from ironclad. Like first-generation Sony Discmans on a car dashboard, they’re not pretty even when they work, and the slightest jolt can render them inoperable. I’ll give him another series before forming an opinion, since his May offense and more successful defense of late makes him an easy starter.

Charlie Tilson: He’s redundant with Engel in a lot of ways, even if the production takes a different shape. He’s left-handed and has a better hit tool than Engel. Then again, his ability to put the ball in play results in fewer walks, and his defense takes a back seat to Engel’s. When they’re in the same outfield, you have two guys who can cover ground, but are severely underpowered in the hitting and throwing departments.

Still, he has his standalone assets. A 2-for-3 night — one a lucky infield single, the other a deserved triple — raised his average to .264. As we’re seeing with Kevan Smith, sometimes it’s just nice to watch a guy who doesn’t ask too much from his contact. When the Sox acquired him, he looked like a guy who could hit .280, but maybe lacked the ability to give that average some calories. After spending April removing the rust, he’s pretty much on that same pre-injury track, and I’d like to see him start another week, with a couple games in center.

Daniel Palka: He’s gone a few days without an accident in right field, and he’s drawn three walks over his last seven games, both of which resemble progress. He’s also 2-for-24 with 16 strikeouts over his last seven games, which is the kind of slump you might expect from his brawny swings.

In Palka’s defense, he’s faced Jose Berrios, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Carlos Carrasco, Adam Plutko and Trevor Bauer over that stretch.* Plutko is the only one without name-brand recognition and Palka drew a couple walks that night, so maybe this is just baseball’s food chain in action:

QUALITY PITCHERS
|
|
DANIEL PALKA
|
|
MEDIOCRE PITCHERS

(*It’s impressive that the White Sox are 4-3 over these particular seven games.)

The White Sox face another tough one with Mike Clevinger today, but the Detroit series could offer a respite, depending on how many lefties the in-flux Tigers rotation throws at them. Then again, if Palka isn’t standing a chance against both good righties or ordinary lefties, he’ll have to workshop his approach to be useful. I’d like to see him a start another series.

So that’s 3-for-3 in “let’s see more from him,” and assuming Garcia’s rehab stint is a successful one, this is the last week such a request can be accommodated so easily. Playing Palka every day and giving Tilson a couple starts in center would make the most of it. It’s possible Palka only traffics in extremities, whether it’s exit velocity, defensive reliability or hot streaks/cold spells, so he gets time to get out of this slump. Tilson, meanwhile, would finally give the Sox the Engel alternative they’ve been lacking if 1) Tilson himself is more than a mirage and 2) Engel again requires an alternative.

We should then have a better idea of which player is better suited for bench work. The answer is probably “any of them,” but the fact that it’s up in the air is a small victory among more frequent real ones.

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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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tommytwonines

It looks like the mlb “clock” has started for Palka, though not for Tilson. But I don’t suppose options and the clock are too much of a consideration considering their ages and expected performance ceilings. 

Is there a database online that keeps track of player options?

metasox

I have used rosterresource. Don’t know how official it is, but it seems pretty accurate

metasox

Palka seems to be taking some at bats from Davidson which doesn’t feel right. Davidson should get a chance to show if he has turned a corner and can recapture the start of the season. And I don’t see an outfield with both Avi and Palka.

I would consider if Rondon is also in the pool of candidates for a return to Charlotte when Leury returns. Though I don’t feel Leury’s role should be primarily backup infielder, I suppose he could serve that role and get time in the outfield as well, at least for while. Not advocating this move, but it seems plausible

KenWo4LiFe

Palka is better than davidson and is a lefty in a lineup that needs a power lefty. I think those plate appearances are well deserved as Davidson, other than like three games, has been horse dung.

But, Rondon is the choice if I’m making it. Rondon/Thompson for Avi/Leury

metasox

Well, that’s the thing. Looked to me like a better approach worth seeing more of. But if the Sox have made their determination, then so be it – they need to fish or cut bait on guys eventually. Otherwise, he needs to get at-bats. Or, see if someone else wants to give him an opportunity. Hard to tell what the team thinking is

soxfanpa

My back-of-the-napkin math tells me Davidson is batting .171 against all teams except the Royals.

Take away just those 32 PA, his average is down nearly 50 points, and he only has 5 HRs and 18 RBI. Not exactly forcing his way into the lineup.

Otter

They’re all, obviously, extremely flawed players. I don’t think this will be all that tough of a decision when Garcia is healthy. While not striking out is a good calling card, Tilson hasn’t shown anything else. He reminds me a bit of not-2011 Lillibridge only without the ability to play infield.

Palka’s probably not going to make it, but he’s fun to watch swing and when he does make contact it’s usually pretty awesome. Engel’s showed enough the last month to be kept around imo.

I do feel a little bad for Trayce because the BABIP gods had him this year, but without an elite glove, he doesn’t deserve a roster spot. We’ll always have 2015!

metasox

Another point to consider is who is OK to have on the bench vs who should get everyday at-bats, whether in Chicago or Charlotte. Engel, Leury, Tilson, Palka, Rondon? Someone could end up in Charlotte just to get regular playing time. Maybe Thompson is ok just on the bench for now?

asinwreck

As long as Eloy Jimenez is getting regular playing time in Charlotte very soon, I am agnostic about OF roster decisions.

Jason.Wade17

This is the most depressing positional battle of below replacement crap. Just cut them all.

Otter

Davidson too. Sometimes (a lot of times) it takes some guys (a lot of guys) longer to develop and figure it all out.

Jason.Wade17

Covey was a rule V draft pick with barely any seasoning above A ball.
These are guys with thousands of minor league at bats, who didn’t impress there either. Even if they played above their ceilings, they each still have limited value based on either lack of power or defense.
I’ll take the risk and still cut them.

Otter

Huh? Engel and Palka were solid in the minors. They didn’t dominate at a young age like uber-prospects, but no one is comparing them to uber-prospects.

Greg Nix

He is also a cautionary tale for calling someone the “worst pitcher I’ve ever seen” on a White podcast… which is exactly what I did last year.

ThisReallySox

To be fair, last year you might have been right

ndsoxfan

My preferred outfield would be:

Avi RF
Leury CF
Tilson LF

Go for defense for our pitching and give Tilson a little more run.

Engel and Palka to the bench.  Volstad or Minaya to AAA

oljeto

Leury is a utility infielder.  Yolmer is a Shortstop.  Davidson is 3rd baseman.  Palka is a DH.  Eloy is coming.  And Timmy is a Center Fielder.  Bam!

Right Size Wrong Shape

I love Jeopardy! What would my 4-year old do if she was the manager of the White Sox? Did I get it? Let’s stay with this category and take Stubborn Baseball Thoughts for $400.

Patrick Nolan

Who are six people who have never been in my kitchen?

Lurker Laura

I’ve always thought this would make an excellent bumper sticker.

Trooper Galactus

Nice Cheers reference!

As Cirensica

LOL

Josh Nelson

Lurker Laura

Stay where you are, TA. I like you just fine there.

Nice tweaking, though.

asinwreck

This is fantastic.

AirTrafficAJ

Palka seems like the Midwest version of Dan Voglebach.

Greg Nix

Vogelbach has -2 inches and +40 pounds on Palka.

Lurker Laura

Great analysis and 80s cultural references!

I favor Tilson over Engel at the moment, but have no good reason to back this up. I could easily say the same the other way. Palka scares me every time the ball goes within 100 feet of him. He’s fun at the plate, but some more outfield practice in Charlotte would not be the worst thing. If he becomes competent out there, the Sox could trade him for something.

karkovice squad

I think Engel’s hit himself into the roster spot until he stops or Eloy forces the issue. Which really makes it a decision between Palka’s bat and Tilson’s glove.

And while I’d like to see Tilson get more of a chance to show whether he can produce like he did in the minors, Leury makes him superfluous. So KenWo’s got the better argument for getting more of a look at Palka’s dongs, though I don’t agree with getting rid of Rondon for that.

So Thompson and Tilson are the cuts.

Right Size Wrong Shape

This is pretty much where I am; although I would prefer to see Tilson stay and Engel get sent down. I know he’s been better lately, but I don’t think the bat will ever be consistent enough to play.

lil jimmy

I checked Great Falls this morning. Their first game is tomorrow and the roster had 8 players. I was thinking,… forfeit?

yinkadoubledare

“My team is on the floor”

metasox

Helpful how their acquisition and last team are listed – since I recognize almost none of them

gibby32

My bet is: Avi replaces Thompson; Leury replaces Tilson; and when Eloy arrives, either Palka goes or the team goes to a 12-man pitching staff. The latter would depend on whether the starters are regularly going 6-7. I don’t particularly like 13-man pitching staffs, but I understand why it has been a necessity so far this year. Oh, by the way, Nicky has had his cup of coffee with the Sox. There isn’t any room for an outfielder with no power who can’t catch a fly ball.

Patrick Nolan

Nick at BPSS says that Delmonico was a “juiced ball mirage” last year and I think I subscribe to that theory.

Otter

That makes a lot of sense.

MrTopaz

And as you, said (or maybe it was Josh), guys coming back from broken hands/wrists usually don’t see any real power return for months after they come back, further muddying the waters when it comes to evaluating what we have.

Josh Nelson

I mentioned that on one of the podcasts. That’s my biggest concern when Delmonico comes back. He wasn’t showing a lot of power prior to getting hit.

asinwreck

Worst hangover I ever had was from too many Juiced Ball Mirages back in the late 90s.

lil jimmy

but you got to keep the glass, right?

asinwreck

Yes, along with a complimentary iron sombrero.

metasox

Any word on Cordell making it back so we can see him?