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Why is the call-up of Mark Payton, a 30-year-old outfielder with 44 major-league PAs, creating so much excitement in Charlotte?
Because he is adored by his teammates, coaches, and pretty much everyone who spends any time at all with him.
Consider this: Well after midnight last night, when I first tweeted out the unconfirmed rumor of the call-up, one of his teammates — who had never DMed me before — got in touch to say “Don’t get our hopes too high,” followed by four sets of prayer hands and concluded with, “we’d all be thrilled so fingers crossed tonight!”
Payton is popular because he puts his heart and soul into everything he does on the field. He combines this all-out hustle with constant support and encouragement for his teammates and a great baseball IQ.
His 2022 season speaks for itself. From his leadoff position, the lefty leads all regulars in hits (118), home runs (20), doubles (25), RBIs (77), average (.289), slugging (.522) and OPS (.887). Looking under the hood a bit, he has an ISO of .233, a walk rate of .097 and a K rate of .146. He’s also the fastest guy on the team and plays a stellar centerfield.
Mark Payton’s Bio
Payton attended St. Rita High School on Chicago’s southwest side, which also counts former White Sox pitcher and radio broadcaster, Ed Farmer, as its alumni. After an incredible prep career that saw St. Rita retire his number last October, Payton attended the University of Texas, where he played in 234 games over four seasons, hitting .318/.425/.444.
The New York Yankees drafted Payton in the 7th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Three years later, he reached Triple-A and posted two solid seasons, but not enough to retain a coveted spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. He was picked up on waivers by the Reds and played on their Triple-A affiliate from 2018-2021 before being traded to the Mets, where he spent the second half of the 2021 season. Payton elected free agency last winter and signed with the White Sox.
Along the way, he had a couple of brief call-ups with the Reds, with a double, seven singles, and four walks in 44 plate appearances.
What To Expect
The best-case scenario is that Payton takes over the lead-off spot and provides a spark to the White Sox offense while at the same time giving the outfield defense a nice upgrade.
I imagine the odds are against it, or the White Sox would have had him in Chicago a month or two ago. Just don’t ask any of his Charlotte Knights teammates or coaches to bet against him.