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Rick Hahn dedicated a significant portion of his Friday afternoon to briefing the media on a whole slate of White Sox injuries, and it’s never a good sign when Tim Anderson’s four-to-six-week absence is just about the best news there is.
Outside of Dylan Covey making a successful first step with his rehab stint, everybody else Hahn identified is done for the season. And there was a lot of everybody else. Let’s run them down.
Jimmy Lambert: Tommy John surgery
Why this sucks: With Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning’s Tommy John surgeries opening up some oxygen in the upper minors, Lambert looked like the best candidate to make inroads toward the rotation. Instead, the idea that he could be this year’s Dunning stayed a little bit too close to the script. With Bernado Flores battling an oblique injury of his own, there’s nobody besides Dylan Cease poised to make a dent in the rotation this year.
What now: He’ll miss 12 to 15 months, assuming the White Sox figure out how to rehab Tommy John surgeries between now and then. He’ll have to hope that opportunities remain for him to establish value of some sort, whether inside the White Sox organization or via a trade.
Ryan Burr: Tommy John surgery
Why this sucks: Burr had shown flashes of a better breaking ball in his second attempt at sticking in the White Sox bullpen, although shoulder soreness got in the way earlier this year. He wasn’t specifically a part of long-term plan, but this makes it harder for him to barge into the picture.
What now: Again, 12 to 15 months with caveats. He has all his option years intact.
Ian Hamilton: Multiple facial fractures
Why this sucks: Hamilton already probably figured he endured a season’s worth of bad luck when he was injured in an auto accident before spring training. The subsequent stiffness stunted his spring training, and he hadn’t really found a groove before a foul ball nailed him in the jaw, causing multiple fractures and the loss of a few teeth.
What now: He’ll miss the rest of the season because he has more surgeries ahead of him. I suppose the good news is that it has nothing to do with his arm
Zack Burdi: Torn patellar ligament
Why this sucks: Burdi had already undergone the kind of arduous rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery that makes me skeptical of a tidy “12 to 15 months” idea for anybody else. He hadn’t regained his Louisville velocity, but it was still on the rise, and he was starting to get some of his pitchability back on his secondary pitches.
What now: Like his brother Nick, he’s done for the year. We’re no strangers to waiting for a new season to see if Burdi can get all of his power back, although it’s just as accurate to say questions about his ceiling will be pushed into a fresh decade.
Jake Burger: Left heel bruise
Why this sucks: Burger now stands a chance of missing two full seasons of affiliated ball due to the two Achilles repairs and this injury in the area. Hahn was only “hopeful” that Burger could make an appearance in the Arizona Rookie League. Between Burdi and Burger, it doesn’t make one feel great about meeting any prospect meeting his initial post-surgery timetable.
What now: The White Sox have already moved on by drafting Andrew Vaughn. Anything Burger can provide from here on out would be a pleasant surprise.
* * * * * * * * *
Add it all up, and the White Sox farm system has suffered a ton of damage the last year and a half. Eloy Jiménez is the only one crossed off the list of MLB.com’s top 20 prospects for good reason (graduation). Most of the rest of the list is a mess.
Eloy Jiménez Michael Kopech
- Dylan Cease ?
- Luis Robert ?
- Nick Madrigal ?
- Luis Basabe ?
- Blake Rutherford ☹️
- Luis Gonzalez ☹️
- Steele Walker ?
- Zack Collins ?
Jake Burger Ian Hamilton
- Alec Hansen ?
- Laz Rivera ?
- Gavin Sheets ☹️
- Konnor Pilkington ?
Not that emojis are a standard unit of measurement, but ideally you’d like more than five of your top 20 prospects be on a smiley track. It’s hard to concoct any trades when the White Sox need any and all prospects with visible appeal, and the struggle of non-Robert outfielders in Birmingham really hits hard, because the assumption was that one of them would stand out. Vaughn should improve the picture a little bit, but then again, the Sox have also seen first-round hitters struggle out of the gate.
Really, the Sox haven’t been able to count on much of anything — not polished hitters, not standard recovery timetables, not strength in numbers, and now the Sox look no different than any other team when it comes to team health. Three years into the rebuild, it’s just about impossible to identify an organizational strength, so it’s all running the risk of resulting in the Sox once again trying to piece together a team around the stars who survived it all.